The late 1980's and early 1990's. For UK comics it was the best of times and the worst of times. The best because there was a large number of UK comics in print, such as CRISIS, Revolver, The Judge Dredd Megazine and blazing a trail before all of these was Deadline, which blended youth culture commentary with comic strips such as proto-Riot Grrl Tank Girl by Peter Milligan and Jamie Hewlett. It was also the worst of times as the US comic industry was hoovering up artistic and writerly talent as quickly as UK comics could bring people to their attention. By around 1991-2 the best of the best was gone from the UK industry and we were left with the likes of the appalling Toxic comic which pretty much summed up the state of the industry at the time, and soon only 2000AD and the relaunched Megazine were still going (and are with us to this day). But before that happened 2000AD, in the spirit of the times, was more willing to take risks on oddball concepts and art and so in 1990 we got Peter Milligan and Jamie Hewlett's Hewligan's Haircut. A fantastical mish-mash of cubism, pop art and collage alongside Hewlett's very recognisable art style, which tells the tale of a young man's reality warping haircut and his quest to restore sanity to the world...
We start with Hewligan "languishing in the Five Seasons Mental Hospital". Nurse Hatter gives him some plastic scissors so he can trim his nails and look smart for his meeting with "Doctor Proctor" who is going to assess him for possible release. The comic at this point is in black and white.
Nurse Hatter: "Remember, it doesn't matter if you're sane or insane. The important thing is to act sane. To pretend you're sane".
After she has gone, Hewligan says to himself that he doesn't pretend hard enough, he bets other people keep quiet about the "big ugly faces" they see.
|Hewligan sans Haircut.|
He shakes Doctor Proctor's hand and his hairdo springs back up, he thinks to himself "pretend your hair doesn't exist Hewligan. Pretend you're sane." Doctor Proctor confirms that Hewligan hears voices and sees big stony faces, all the while his ears are wandering across his face. Hewligan desperately pretends their is nothing wrong and when asked if he still hears voices and sees the faces he lies and says "no, I don't".
|Hewligan steps out into a mad world|
Hewligan: "Oh dear, I thought. Perhaps I wasn't pretending to be sane hard enough. Or maybe the world of normal people had changed a little since I had been inside the mental hospital."
He wanders through the surreal landscape thinking that this was the most confusing day of his life but "how could I pass judgement on the world when my own hair seemed to defy gravity?" He approachs a policeman, who produces a rabbit from his helmet and asks Hewligan to pick a card.
He walks off and thinks that he's never been mad like this before, just the voice and stone heads, "quite ordinary madness". He sees a chicken crossing the road and follows it, as the road tells him to watch where he is stepping.
|The world is out to get him.|
Later he chances upon a bank robbery, "my day was nothing if not eventful". The robber runs past him and drops the gun by Hewligan who picks it up. Everyone starts accusing him of being the thief. He drops it and runs, being chased by twelce policemen on one bicycle. He runs into a blind alley and the wall speaks to him saying "psst.. in here.. quick!"
He walks through the wall and is confronted by a blonde woman riding a rocking horse who tells him to climb aboard. The horse is called Dada and isn't much use for evading the singing policemen chasing Hewligan so they pick it up and flee. After baffling another wall with an ontological paradox they slip through and into the woman's hideaway.
She says you need hideaways when you're a lawbreaker. Hewligan asks what laws she breaks and she responds, "why the laws of nature of course! They're the best laws of all to break!" She floats and when she holds things she never quite touches them as the is slightly out of sync with the world. Like Hewligan "I'm just plain out of tune".
Things can go out of tune as well, like socks. Always disappearing into other dimensions. Same as umbrellas and doorkeys.
Scarlet: "UFOs are really alien footwear that've have slipped out of tune with their world and tuned into ours. At this very moment an alien astronomer is getting all excited at a Woolworth's cotton sock oscillating above his planet."
Hewligan then sleeps for a while and when he wakes up Scarlet says his pursuers seem to want him. And there are masses of soldiers after him, he doesn't understand why, he's a "nobody!". He says it's mad, she says of course it's mad, the whole world is mad, where's he been? He says in a madhouse, she responds "figures."
Hewligan: "It was a mad mad mad mad world. And getting madder. Don't just take my word for it, ask anyone. Ask that giant polka-dot hamster that keeps following you around. He'll tell you."
He and Scarlet escape on a flying pig who used to be a cricketter called Mike Gatting. Not to be confused by the other cricketter called Mike Gatting. It was a karma exchange, cricketter Mike used to be a pig in a previous life.
|The world steps up its assault on Hewligan.|
Then things turn cubist, a wavelength from one of the "art dimensions". The army are still chasing them because "cubism is an intellectualised and conceptual realism. Rather than an optical and instinctive realism". As Hewligan says "I thought as much" it wears off...
...only to change to an attack from the Warhol dimension. As we get a full page of the same repeated images and a discussion on the power of boredom, it wears off "probably looking for some suckers who take it seriously". They are left in a white space, so Scarlet draws a door and they go through and Scarlet asks if he has ever had a girlfriend as they make it back to the mad world, "not unless I had one without knowing" says Hewligan.
|A tedious dimension invades.|
But she likes him and they share a kiss. Then they go back on the run as the world starts picking up broadcasts from enigmatic sixties TV shows. In this case "The Prisoner". They try to escape, but a huge beach ball chases them down the beach, they leap on it and get sucked inside.
|Time stops for a kiss.|
They get out of the balloon and find themselves in Stevenage. The airforce is still chasing them. Scarlet says if they find what's making the world out of tune they can find out why it hates Hewligan. They walks into a travel agent and Hewligan sees a advert on the wall, it shows a huge stone head. It's for Easter Island. "There they are!" he says excitedly.
|Hewligan spots the Giant Heads.|
It travels across the ocean, and Hewligan asks if this is an irrational persecution complex or guilt trip? "No, I really think it's your fault. Somehow or other your to blame for all this" says Scarlet. The navy and airforce are catching up and the skeleton driving won't speed up, so Scarlet takes over driving.
The bus ends up getting sunk, so they swim the rest of the way. They reach Easter Island but all the giant heads are fast asleep. Then it starts raining missiles, but they turn into mushrooms as they hit the ground. Then one of the stone heads wakes up and tells them to step in its mouth. And then:
Hewligan: "...I saw it. Glowing softly in the centre of his forehead. Unmistakeable. Unforgetable. Born of a pair of plastic N.H.S scissors. My haircut. Hewligan's Haircut!"
Scarlet voices what we're all thinking... how does the shape of the most absurb haircut ever also be a symbol on an Easter Island statue?
|The Haircut is the Key.|
They find themselves in a place solely populated by giant stone heads. They are between dimensions now "You are in the blue limbo of the zonal frequency modulations" says the head that brought them there. Their job is to keep worlds they are assigned to in tune and Hewligan's haircut is to blame for what happened:
Giant Stone Head: "You see your haircut is the shutdown signal to turn off the zonal freqency modulators. If the shape of that symbol appears in a dimension all frequency modulators in that dimension go to sleep."
All that madness caused by one haircut. Hewligan is to return via the head and undo the damage, but Scarlet won't be coming with him.
She says all her life she has been out of tune, "all my life I've felt I don't belong". She's going to use the giant heads to travel to different dimensions so one day she'll find a world she'll feel at home in. Hewligan says he'll come with her, but the stone head says "absolutely not". He has to come back and undo the damage his haircut did.
|The Giant head explains all.|
As he falls through the world of colour and tries not to think of Scarlet, he decides to become a monk as he's "had it with women. I'd had it with life". He comes out of the head and the world is back to normal and in black and white again. It's in the middle if Trafalgar Square that they land. Hewligan tells the stone head he'll stand out there.
Giant Stone Head: "Frequency modulators are never out of place. Reality is always slightly altered to accomodate us. Ask anyone and they'll tell you there was always a giant head in Trafalgar Square. Now you better go and stop speaking to me. People will think you're mad."
So Hewligan mooches off, he's hungry, thirsty, wet, miserable and penniless. Then suddenly he sees a man with "my haircut! Hewligan's haircut!" He runs over to tell the man how dangerous it is and gets told to get lost.
So he starts ripping the man's hair out until the police drag him off. And he ends up in a straitjacket, in a mental hospital in a padded cell. He tells the doctors the full story of why he ripped the man's hair out expecting to be believed and let go, but he gets booted back into the cell.
|Back in the loony bin again.|
Hewligan: "Scarlet, is this really happening? I mean is this just my madness? Is the world still out of tune?
Scarlet: Stop worrying Hewligan. What does it matter?"
|But after all Scarlet returns for him.|