Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last night The Invisibles saved my life (24-month countdown remix)

They said that this was the way the word is supposed to end, but you never have to do what you’re told.


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 and catch a shitty movie 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.


The shitty movie was Dogma. It was pretty shitty.


A year or so earlier than that night, 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 in this poverty.

Philip Bond is the sexiest artist alive and everything is coming to a head, just like we were promised. Life is just as hectic, and giving it all away and starting over again is the only obvious solution to all of this.

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 and he didn’t want to read any more.

He’s slightly Christian, but I’m still a but surprised by this. I don't give him any more to read. I don't give The Invisibles to anybody else after this.

Let them find out how evil it is for themselves.


At this point in the story, I keep getting too drunk and wake up under bushes at four in the morning, more often than I would like. There is always the sour acidic taste in the back of my mouth, and the horrible sensation that I’ve done something stupid in the usual alcoholic fugue.

When I wake up under a bush with dirt in my ear and a bugs in my pants, often the last thing I remember is blathering on about the Supercontext or the Hand of Glory with somebody who just looks at me like I’m mental.

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 everubody said it would. The everyday starts dripping with significance. Every morning, noon and night 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 and become boring. It’s for the best.

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


“No,” whined Bob, as she skimmed through the pages. “You don’t understand. I really, really like it. More than anything.”

She just sighed and dropped the comic on the coffee table and Bob knew he had blown a definite shag.


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.

It all goes together. The Invisibles mixes with anything. It’s the vodka of the comic world.


Best Man Fall:

It’s Audrey I still feel sorry for, when all is said and done, and her kind decency changes everything in the final pages. 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, high on scrumpy and I know that Britpop is dead, and I don’t know whether to blame Pulp for This is Hardcore, 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.


“Some people will say anything to be thought of as clever and interesting.”


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.

No. That’s not it. I’m sitting in an extraordinarily comfortable armchair, with an orange juice and vodka in one hand and Buffy on the television. There’s a hole in the ceiling, and if I reach for it, it’ll pull me through into the infinite. I know it.

Or I’m on that park bench in the Dunedin botanical gardens, with half a $1 pie and 17 pages of a movie script about somebody going mental.

I’m in front of a computer, gushing about the Pander Brothers art when everybody else is spitting on it.

I’m in a hallway at Aoraki Polytechnic, listening to people talk about the shiny and new concept of internet chat rooms, with the fourth issue of the Invisibles in my bag, fresh in the mail.


Two months before that, no difference, same thing. 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.


There is some King Mob grafitti on the wall of a building that used to house a second hand bookstore. I’m sure of it. I see it as I’m walking home from the Empire, with another dose of feedback rock bouncing around my head and some poisonous gutrot in my stomach.

But it’s not there in the cold light of the next day, so it probably wasn’t real in the first place.


A month or so before that very 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.


Still: Once upon a time, 2012 sounded so sexy and weird and exotic, and now it’s just another shitty Roland Emmerich film.


Phil Jiminez’s art takes a while to get used to, his art like flexible bodies made out of water, 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. Jiminez almost captures this horror out of the corner of the eye, and makes everything suitably sick and slick.


When I try to explain the Invisibles and why I love it so much, it all comes out wrong. It sounds like the stupidest thing in the world when I start blubbering about the End of the Aeon and the secret universes between the cracks in the sidewalk.

I’m still struggling, but the whole glorious mess still thrills. The dialogue is as sharp as ever, and while we’ve all moved on from those oh-so-‘90s conspirancies, there is still terror in these dark, unknowable plans for humanity. It’s funnier than it looks, and anybody who gets too deep into it starts wanting to write their own languages. It’s hot and humid and there is a smear in the membrane of space time, there at the edge of all things.

This is the kind of rubbish I start saying when I read too much Invisibles. I’m not sorry.


There’s something wrong with Fanny’s trip to the other side in Sheman. It feels sick and wrong, even though it’s just another rite.

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!


It’s cold on the roof, but I’m wrapped up warm. There is beer here and 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.


Suddenly …


I read most of The Last Temptation of Jack while standing in line for a quarter pounder at McDonald’s and it all feels a bit weird. Something is going on in my head, and I can barely order the food. I’ll have some enlightenment with my cheeseburger, thanks.

I still manage, because that’s one of the few things I learn about magic – you can travel into vast and intricate realities within your own mind, but you still need to eat.


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 in 1997. The adolescent drive fading and I’m still just as stupid.

There must be more to life than this.


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 it 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 in Farmer’s book, 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 now and again. The conversation has died down, but there are always replacement interests.


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 and I’m trying to catch its attention.

It’s okay to let it all go on the dancefloor. Even if the music is terrible. It’s okay.


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.

It’s a trial for the writer as he faces his own mortality, and winks at the abyss. After that kind of thing, it’s hard not to laugh at the seriousness of it all.


I started reading the Invisibles again two nights ago and everything feels a bit strange again.

Life is just a ride.


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.

I still don’t know what I want.


And then I start up all over again. You can do that if you want.