Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Last night The Invisibles saved my life.

This is the way the word ends.

* * *

Sometime in 2000, I make my friend Brian drive me 200 kilometres one wet Friday night after work, so I can get the last issue of The Invisibles. Working on a delivery dock at the town’s biggest department store lets me get away early if I need to and we’re in Christchurch by seven.

I get drunk in the car on wine with a Millennium label and we all get stoned in the Port Hills as usual before heading back home. I’m saving the comic for the right moment.

When we get back, I lose it in the back seat of the car and panic, before finding it under a blanket. I take it inside and think about reading it.

I don't want to.

I don't want it to be over.

* * *

I don't have a job, or a girlfriend, or a home. But I do have the first three issues of volume three and read them over and over and over again.

Philip Bond is the sexiest artist alive and I feel free.

It's 1999.

* * *

The first issue of The Invisibles was released in mid-1994. I was 19 at the time. This explains a lot.

* * *

I give all of volume one to one of my best friends after he has devoured Watchmen and Sandman and all the usual suspects.

When he gives it back to me, he tells me his entire flat thought the comic was evil.

I don't give him any more to read. I don't give The Invisibles to anybody else after this. 

Let them find out for themselves.

 * * *

Walking to work on a cold winter morning, and the streets are empty and slick with last night’s rain. A taxi goes past and I see the reflection of its sign in the shop window of a second hand bookstore. It all comes flooding back and I arrive at work a bit dazed.

It’s all right. I’m young and alive.

* * *

 “Ha ha! Not today, you bastards! Not today.”

* * *

For a while there, I buy into the entire philosophy. Wanking for magic and playing around with the esoteric. It works, just like they said it would. The everyday starts dripping with significance. Every morning there is a turbocharge of unlikeliness and I drink it all up.

But, as usual, I take it all a bit far. I become convinced that the awful things that are happening to good people I know are a direct result of this dicking about.

So I stop.

I still won't have an Ouija board in the house.

* * *

Morrison turns me on to all sorts of music, and most of the time he’s right. Except for Kula Shakur, who are fucking rubbish.

I’ll read his stuff until the day I die, but I honestly did think a little less of Morrison when he said My Chemical Romance were one of his favourite bands. They’re fine lads and all, they’ve just got a ways to go yet.

* * *

All things considered, The Invisibles is the best three in the morning comic I’ve ever read.

* * *

I’m genuinely and profoundly moved by that bit where Superman Gold turns back and winks at the end of DC: 1,000,000. It’s all the fucking Invisibles, it’s all fucking connected.

In fact, an issue of JLA that features an explosion in San Francisco is mirrored by the same thing happening in The Invisibles. In two comics I got on the same fucking day. This must have been planned.

* * *

I like Preacher a lot more to start off with, there is a lot less pretension in the Ennis/ Dillon comic. The two comics start up at the same time and Preacher has Arseface and TC and Cody, while The Invisibles has only got smelly France and that bald git. It’s Best Man Fall that does it.

When this comic comes out, the local Film Society is having a Lindsay Anderson retrospective. The White Bus, This Sporting Life, If… and the transcendental O Lucky Man. Two great tastes that go together.

It’s Audrey I still feel sorry for, even though I know it all works out for her. Poor Bobby never stood a chance. Ordinary people, their lives all messed about and chopped up by forces happening far beyond their comprehension.

Every henchmen has a story, every dead body had its dreams. It takes King Mob a long, long time to realise this and think of something better.

* * *

Sitting on the beach, staring out to sea and I know that Britpop is dead, and I don’t know whether to blame Pulp for This is Hardcore, a song that strangely horrifies me, or Grant Morrison for v2 #16.

I staple a photocopy of the cover of that issue to my work cubicle, along with a couple of panels from Flex Mentallo.

I’m convinced that King Mob is going to die some time in the last half of volume two and am genuinely concerned for Morrison’s health if that happens. I really am taking this all too seriously.

* * *

And in the park, down by the duck pond where I memorised bits of Kublai Khan, I read about King Mob blowing up a mansion and giving ontological terrorism a go. For some reason, I've never felt more alone, but I’m glad to see Mob is still here. The wretched paranoia that soaked the series gives way to pre-millenial freedom.

All I want to do is dance.

* * *

Sometimes I think I'm still there in that park, and on that beach. Any second now I'm going to realise the last 10 years were just an Invisibles illusion, and there is no such thing as time.

* * *

It's six o'clock on a Sunday morning, and Steve Yeowell is making me feel a little sick. I've got the second issue on my lap as I sit in my car, but I haven't turned the page. The sun is coming up over a silent Dunedin, and every time I look down, a poor homeless girl is horribly murdered.

My future is unwritten, but I don't feel right.

* * *

A month or so before that last issue, I'm sitting on a bench in the centre of town, reading the penultimate comic. The street is busy, with hundreds of people walking around in all their beautiful, stinking glory. I finish the comic in 10 minutes and have to sit there and have a think about it.

Two hours later I'm driving home and I realise who saved King Mob in the phone booth, and a new pattern is formed.

* * *

Time is never as flexible as I think it might be.

* * * 

Phil Jiminez’s art takes a while to get used to, his art like flexible waterbodies, flowing through the story. When things break down and the Hand of Glory is activated, his work goes with it.

Sometimes, it feels like the story is all happening around the edges of something big and wonderful, something that is never quite seen. It moves through the narrative like the ghost of a whale, occasionally bumping up against the narrative and sending everything apeshit.

* * *

There’s something wrong with Fanny’s trip to the other side in Sheman. I still feel guilty about my initial reaction to the story, when I got confused and sickened by stupid stuff, back before I stopped being a dick.

* * *

Not being a dick has worked out surprisingly well in the past five years. Thanks, Invisibles!

* * *

The three covers for Entropy in the UK remain my favourite covers of the entire 1990s.

* * *

It’s cold on the roof, but I’m wrapped up warm. There is beer here and a the bass beat from a live band coming through the building and good conversation and I can just about read about Boy’s origin in the orange glow of the street light.

It’s How I Became Invisible and the chills and conspiracies in the story seep into my bones. In three hours I’ve passed out in the hallway again and I’m so ashamed. I just can’t do anything about it.

Then I’m going home again, counting off the steps and pavement slabs to keep the legs moving. I’ve lost my glasses and my booze and I think I gave my wallet to Greg earlier, but I’m not sure. I have an iron grip on The Invisibles #20. Dignity comes and goes, unlike comic books. 

Some things are worth holding on to.

* * *

I started thinking about The Invisibles again a couple of days ago and ever since then fate has been fucking with me, unlikely coincidences are all over the bloody place. This is usually what happens.

* * *

Suddenly …

* * *

I read most of The Last Temptation of Jack while standing in line for a quarter pounder at McDonald’s. It’s all so transcendent and I forget how to order when I get to the front of the queue. How can you decide what burger to eat when it feels like a road map for time travel has just downloaded into your head?

* * *

It’s hot and humid and Lord Fanny never looked sexier than on the cover to #14 of the second volume. This one is all about the sex and I’m still a bit messed up about that stuff. The adolescent drive fading and I’m still just as stupid.

* * *

When I’m 15, I make the conscious decision not to skip to the end of a novel for the first time, halfway through A Feast Unknown by Philip Jose Farmer. Before this, I’d ruined the ending for myself in nearly every book I’ve read up till then. I knew who fell in battle at the end of The Hobbit, three hundred pages before I got there.

And then I realized that is was better to read all the way through and it made reading a lot more enjoyable. I still have to stop myself from spoiling too much, but I’ve been getting better.

Ten years after Tarzan and Doc savage crossed cocks, I realize that while it takes a week for the comics to get to me, the internet has information right fucking now and I have to stop myself from looking at The Bomb to see how volume two ends. I manage, most of the time.

Ten years after that again, and I still check in on Barbelith in a twice-weekly basis. There is some marvellous conversation there, even if I could never figure out the politics.

* * *

I must be fucked up, because that Backstreet Boys song is actually all right and I want to dance to it. I look like a dick, but that’s because I keep seeing the Harlequin out of the corner of my eye.

What the hell was in that tab anyway?

* * *

I’ve just pissed off another friend who won’t speak to me for another eight years and Grant Morrison might be dead tomorrow. Mark Millar has taken over the comic's letter page, providing regular updates and it’s a good shot of mortality for this 22-year-old reader. For a while there, it really looks like he might not make it as his face is eaten by a virus.

What would have happened to comics then?

* * *

Last night, The Invisibles saved my life. It’s made me a better person and while there are a lot of comics that have done that, nobody does it better.

* * *

 “What's this?”

“It's a new comic by Grant Morrison. A Vertigo ongoing.”

“I loved Zenith.”

“Steve Yeowell is doing the first couple of issues.”

“I'll get that.”

Peaking on life, off to the pub every weekend, out and about, shaking it all around. If you don't have the best time of your life getting out there at 19, you missed a lot.

Need new comics fix, X-Men just not doing it for me any more. Discovered Love and Rockets last year, got a little obsessive over that, and looking for something good and new.

The Invisibles? Shit yeah, I'll give that a go.

* * *

I cave in and read the last issue in half an hour, savouring every crinkle in Quietly's art, drinking in the talk of a narrative you can catch like a cold. I feel the love of the AllNOW and reach out for that last full stop that goes right off the page.

It's four o’clock in the morning when I finish, and the house, the town, the whole fucking world is quiet. I sit there for another three hours, patting my cat, and by the end of it, he’s so floppy his bones must have turned to mush.

I don't want to go to bed.

I don't want to do anything.

I don't know what I want.

* * *

And then I start up all over again.


Anonymous said...

Invisibles via Watchmen

I have to say I really like the structure of this post. I might have to try something similar.

On Barbelith’s politics, it’s a tricky one to explain, mainly because all outsiders tend to see is people getting bollocked, but the general idea is to create somewhere in the whole wide Internet where all forms of discrimination are rejected and all forms of privilege are open to examination, which, you know, is kind of okay in my book. If you want something different there’s an entire cybersphere to explore.

The thing is, after spending many years on Barbelith, I’m happy to report that it’s poltical edge has done me a lot of good. I’m much better at interrogating my own beliefs and the motives behind those beliefs than I was before I joined, and I’m considerably more thoughtful about how the world seems to others who don’t happen to be male, white, western and middle class.

Bob Temuka said...

I totally get that, but I'm useless at working out when people are being sarcastic or not on the internet, which makes things a lot harder to get to grips with.

And a well-established message board will always have a large number of personalities who will slap you down if you say something wrong, especially when you don't realise you did it. . (And rightly so, I still feel intense shame at bad-taste jokes I made about deaf people, not realising that a good friend I knew online had been deaf since birth.)

It's not just Barbelith, it's all message boards. I was a regular poster at CBR in the late '90s and I've been too scared to post anything there for a good five years.

I still like to lurk. Everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I still feel intense shame at bad-taste jokes I made about deaf people, not realising that a good friend I knew online had been deaf since birth

A bad day

Bob Temuka said...

A bad person.

But I'm getting better.