Thursday, December 22, 2011

Last night the Invisibles saved my life (One Year To Go Remix)

They said the word is ending next year, but they didn’t tell us how fucking fast it was going to creep up on us.

Sometime in 2000, when 2012 still felt a long way away, 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 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 eat some Hell Pizza 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.

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 as I live on a mate’s sofa for a while.

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.

It's 1999, and the 20th century is coming to an end in suitable tecnocolour and cool Matrix leather. When the Millenium comes, I’m up in the hills tripping balls with my best mates, and spend the rest of the night watching fireworks across the world on a tiny television, and There’s Something About Mary is the first movie I see in the 21st century, and somewhere in there, it all melds together, and I’m sure it would be a good idea to make The Invisibles as a movie starring Cameron Diaz as Jax Frost, because she’s the Day-Glo Messiah of the new…

Hang on, more fireworks, and the Thames is on fire.

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

After all, it’s the most impressionable age a human ever goes through. Most of the tastes are cemented at this age, as you finally become an adult and take your place in the universe.

The Invisibles WAS my early twenties, back when I was trying to figure out how to be a grown-up. I made a tonne of mistakes, and was a right little wanker sometimes, but I got through it. The comics helped.

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 bit surprised by this. I don't give him any more to read. I don't give The Invisibles to anybody else after this, but I’m always up for a conversation about it with anybody, any time.

This is a lesson: everything is not for everybody.

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 dirt on my lips and the horrible sensation that I’ve done something stupid in the usual alcoholic fugue.

When I wake up under a bush with grass in my ear and a bug 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. They were right to do so. This isn’t normal.

It’s all right. I’m young and alive. This is when I was always supposed to do this stuff.

At least I’m not missing it. At least I survive.

For a while there, I buy into the entire philosophy. Wanking for magic and playing around with the esoteric, and if you put some effort into looking good, people will believe any old bollocks you say. It works, just like everybody 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.

“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.

In the years since, I’ve read all sorts of articles and essays and books that look to deconstruct The Invisibles. They’ve ripped it up and put it back together, and answering the all-important question of what it all means.

I don’t really care about What It Means, I’m all about the How Does It Make You Feel?

It’s Audrey’s story that is the most moving, 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. There are still snatches of happiness, and if we can get as many of them as possible, then we’ve lived the good life.

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. The rest of us still need to catch up.

Sitting behind that bus shelter in a particularly comfy piece of grass, staring out over a wide golf course and the sea beyond, high on scrumpy & sunshine 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. Crunching numbers under the eye of the infinite, especially after a few after-work beers.

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 Coleridge, 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-millennial freedom.

Give it all up.

Live on the move for a while.

No pressure.

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 11 years were just an Invisibles illusion, and there is no such thing as time.

No. That’s not it. I am still there.

I’m sitting in an extraordinarily comfortable armchair, with an orange juice and vodka in one hand, some volume two in the other 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 and wondering how Morrison does it.

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

I’m sitting in a beachfront hut in Fiji in mid-2011, reading those last four issues a few more times and drinking ridiculously expensive gin.

I’m on that beach, or this beach, or those beaches.

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.

There is some King Mob graffiti 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.

Whatever happened to Barbelith?

Time is never as flexible as I think it might be, but I still feel like I’m here, there and everywhere sometimes.

Once upon a time, 2012 sounded so sexy and weird and exotic, and now it’s just another shitty Roland Emmerich film. It’s almost here – just over a week away.

I’m still getting over the fact that 2001 was more than a decade ago. Time is slipping by faster than I can adjust, and all I can think of is Fanny: “Do you feel as though time’s speeding up, darling? I mean actually getting faster?”

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.

Weston is a dirty little boy in comparison, and that’s just the way we like it, right readers?

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 conspiracies, 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.

This is an apology:

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 don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.

I still feel guilty about that 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 decade. Thanks, Invisibles!

One great weekend in 2002 climaxes with a screening of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive when I’m all sorts of fucked up on all sorts of highs, and it all seems a bit obvious really.

They’re all just malfunctioning fiction suits, aren’t they?

Even though I’ve read literally dozens of essays and books that have attempted to explain what happens in Mullholland Drive, and even though there is a general consensus over what is real and what is dream in the movie, I still think my initial reaction is a bit right.

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. You still got to pay the bills. You still got to live.

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.

I’ve got a boring job and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m so uncool.

It’ll take me another six years to figure out that there is more to life than this.

Not long after The Invisibles ends, I get the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever had in my entire life (probably due to a dodgy Burger King), and I’m sitting on the couch, feeling delirious and watching the 2000 US Presidential election on the TV.

George Bush comes into power, bad things happen and the promise of a decade of dancing evaporates as greed and fear prove just as powerful in the twenty-first century as they did in the last one.

I should have listened to my gut.

Just last week, US troops pulled out of Iraq, leaving behind the horrible feeling that nobody learned anything at all from the experience, and all that pain and misery was unjustified.

This isn’t the future of The Invisibles, an early 21st century day-glo mess where we all get stoned on media feeds. But who knew that so much effort and time and wealth would be wasted on pointless conflict in the past ten years? The future is always unwritten, and people in general don’t really change, and if there is one thought that convinces me that nothing will happen this time next year is that people don’t change that much, that quickly.

The Invisibles never promised anything, but it did show possibilities. We’re just still a bit too caveman to grasp them.

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.

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.

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.

I might never know what I want.

And then I start up all over again. You can do that if you want. For another year, at least.


Anonymous said...


The Invisibles were my early twenties, showing me that there was something more out there, whether it was Archons from Universe B or a cool 70s British cop show.

I stopped looking a while ago. I've started again.

W I D E F I D E L I T Y said...

"I don’t really care about What It Means, I’m all about the How Does It Make You Feel?"


Thanks for every iteration of this fantastic piece.

AD said...

I enjoyed reading this thanks.