I can’t stand Morrissey, but when I was between the ages of, say, 16 and 19, I thought he was pretty cool—which is precisely what I was supposed to think, given that his music has always been targeted to that particular demographic. That’s gotta be getting to be tougher and tougher for him now that he’s—what, sixty years old?—but when he was still in his 20s, and probably even into his early 30s, he could still claim at least some tenuous connection to youth culture, and of course, “Every Day Is Like Sunday” may as well have been the musical rallying cry for every single “outsider”—type kid who came of age in the late 80s and early 90s, particularly in the UK. One nice thing about getting older is that we come to realize how painfully self-absorbed and, frankly, pathetic most of the former Smiths’ front man’s sonic oeuvre is, and most kids here in the US, who remained convinced that they had it rough living in the world’s richest country, ended up “graduating” to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and other “grunge” bands, while in Britain you could take your pick between Oasis and Blur—a division that largely fell along socio-economic lines, with Oasis coming from, and having more appeal to, working class youth, while Blur came from, and marketed their music more directly to, the privileged class.
Of course, these are just generalizations and there are millions of young people—and, let’s be fair, some older ones—who liked all the bands just mentioned, and probably still dug Morrissey, as well, but by the time all of those acts started hitting it big I was more interested in Emperor, Mayhem, Dark Throne, Satyricon, and the other seminal acts that would come to comprise the initial, tremendously exciting wave of Black Metal to emerge from the frozen hinterlands of Scandinavia. And I guess I haven’t been doing too good a job at this whole “growing up” thing because ya know what? I still dig all of that music.
Now that I’ve gotten completely off track, let’s get back on it, shall we? And that means back to Morrissey, who was probably on the mind of Grant Morrison on at least some level when he wrote St. Swithin’s Day because some of the lines in this comic sound like they could have come from the pen of the master of moping himself “I hate the rain. Everything Bad happens in the rain,” “I hate being 19. I want to be 19 forever,” “Wettest July on record. It always is,” and, finally, “Sometimes I could just scream,” all might as well be Morrissey lyrics, but here’s the thing—they do at least work within the context of this story.
When that story begins (with part four—the chapters count down rather than up in order to emphasize that the “big day” for our protagonist is approaching, but I can easily imagine more than a few readers of Trident #1 being confused by this contrivance and wondering where they could find the first three segments), the forever-nameless 19-year-old whose exploits we’re following is shoplifting a copy of The Catcher In The Rye, and claiming he wants them to “find it in my pocket when this is all over.” We’re not sure what the “this” he’s referring to is—at least not at first—but by page six, when he’s casing out a technical school and telling us via his internal monologue that “ she’ll be here. It said so in the paper. The grocer’s daughter. Mrs. Tee,” it becomes pretty obvious, and for the well and truly thick-skulled, he drives the point home by brandishing a gun in the final panel while making the frighteningly pedestrian determination to pick up some oranges tomorrow because he’s not feeling so hot. In the pages in between, he does what many of us did at his age—wanders around town aimlessly and reads some Rimbaud while he waits out the rain. About the only thing that seems to set our guy apart from his contemporaries is that he appears to have a richly-detailed fantasy life, and may even be prone to waking dreams and/or hallucinations, as when he imagines his screaming tearing apart the buildings and streets around him. Some might call that “mental illness” but I’m not so sure—after all, if you don’t matter to anyone else, you’d damn well at least better matter to yourself.
It’s really in the second chapter, though, that St. Swithin’s Day finds it legs and gets rolling in anything like a “direction.” Sure, the overall tone is still unassuming, breezy, even disturbingly nonchalant given what Mr. No Name is about to do, but after an opening installment devoted almost solely to cataloguing a laundry-list of items he doesn’t like, we at least finally learn something he does like—trains. In fact, he’s taking one back to the town of Winchester, which is where we say him doing his “recon” work in part one. Only this time he’s not intending to ever leave.
I haven’t bothered to look up the exact whereabouts of Winchester on a map, but if it’s “a coastal town that they forgot to close down” I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. We’re informed that “everything’s so clean. Everybody’s so clean” there, but it certainly looks a dreary, dime-a-dozen-type place, even on a sunny day. Yes, friends, the sun is shining here in our second part (numbered as “three” on the title page), and we get treated to a bit more “nowhere to go, nothing to do” sightseeing, learning on a visit to the town cemetery that St. Swithin is buried there (hence our title), taking a stroll through a cathedral, and finally bailing into a little café for lunch, whereupon our “hero” sees a young lady that catches his fancy and imagines a whole relationship with her in the space of about four panels—before being rudely interrupted by another fetching young lass who sits down with him and tells him that he’s got no chance with the blonde sitting across the way all by her lonesome because “you’re so antisocial.”
Whoever this equally-nameless interloper is, she seems to have caught wind of what’s going down in the bigger scheme of things and presses Da Kid on his plans—“you’re still going through with it, then?”—but her casual approach to such heavy subjects doesn’t seem to faze him the least. Perhaps because she isn’t really there.
Yup, friends, she’s all a figment of No Name’s imagination, and a few short panels after “she’ shows up, we see that he’s clearly having a conversation with nothing but thin air. Oh, and that other girl? The one he was pining for with all of the sincerity and angst and longing that only a kid his age can muster up? Turns out she was waiting for her boyfriend to meet her. Wouldn’t ya just know it?
Early on in this installment our protagonist asks himself “why am I such a wanker?,” and by the time it ends we’re ready to say “dude, you just are, now get over yourself,” but at least he’s something of an endearing, relatable wanker, which means that his endless reverie is more quaint to an older, more jaded reader (like I am here in 2015) than it is annoying. When we take our leave of him, he’s broken into a disused rail car to crash for the night with his (stolen, it should be noted) Walkman on. He hasn’t got any tapes (remember those?) with him, but he can pick up the radio just fine, and falls asleep listening to an interview with Glenda Jackson on the BBC late-night show, closing by asking us “well—wouldn’t you?”
Indeed I would, Grant. Indeed I would. Sweet dreams, tomorrow’s a big day—and the day after is going to be even bigger. I’m told it’s best to go into an assassination attempt on a world leader with a good night’s sleep behind you.