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21 October 2012

Into the Supercontext part 1: Doom Patrol 54



Hello friends.  Welcome to a series of posts I'm going to call Into the Supercontext.  What does that mean?  I am not sure.  Maybe we will figure it out.  Maybe we will not.  It is probably not important.  What is important is that I explain to you what exactly the Don Heck I plan on doing. 

THE PLAN:  Read the entire run of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles before the world ends on December 22, 2012.  Whatever that means.  The Invisibles is about... a lot of things.  It's about the 90s.  It's about 2012.  It's about the past.  It's about the future.  It's about revolution.  It's aboutt the status quo.  It's about the individual.  It's about the collective.  It's about all of our fears.  It's about all of our hopes and dreams.  It is a comic book.


I invite you to read along.  I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below or tweet them at me on the twitter.


For me, this is a re-read.  Maybe it will be for you as well.  Maybe you have never read it before.  I will be reading it in its original serialized print format.  Maybe you will read it in trade paper backs or in the new Omnibus.  Or maybe you will just read this series of posts without reading The Invisibles at all kind of like  Grandpa reading the TV Guide in The Lost Boys.  That is A Okay.  There are no rules in this thing.  


It is not my intention for this to be a critical analysis of the work or a scholarly investigation.  It is just a re-read.  I know the series well.  It is my all time favorite comic book series.  What I am personally most curious about exploring in this re-read is how it holds up now that we are all currently living in the future the series predicted.  The series ran between 1994 and 2000.  I was a very different person in 2000 than I was in 1994.  The world was very different as well.  The world turned upside down in the late 90s.  Our tools we use to interact with the world changed.  Then in 2001 a year after the series was over the world turned upside down again.  No new normal has yet been established.  Our new normal is constant change.  Now in the year 2012 I am an entirely different person again than I was in 2000. I do believe that perception shapes our reality so I'm curious to see how 2012 me reacts to this work.


Before we start, one small bit of housekeeping.  I intend to lean heavily on the Barbelith library of Invisibles related resources as I go through this.  You can go ahead and assume that anything clever I point out in this series probably came from Barbelith's issue guides.  Thank you very much to Tom Coates and all of the contributors for their thorough study of the work.


So, let's get started.  We will begin at the beginning.  Wait.  That is way to obvious.  Let's start before the beginning.  Let's start with one of the comics Grant Morrison wrote before The Invisibles.  Let's start with  Doom Patrol.  


 "The word 'BARBELiTH' is derived from a dream I had when I was about 20 or 21 and coincided with my first structured 'magical' experiences and a minor nervous breakdown (in the dream, BARBELiTH was the name of some higher dimension or alternate reality). Like a lot of stuff in INVISIBLES I used the name unconsciously when I needed something to call the red circle that represents our Universe's placental twin. I'd taken the etymology as far as 'bearded stone', which seems much less interesting and less weirdly appropriate than 'alien stone'. My real life is getting more like the comic every day (in ways I should have suspected but didn't really expect on this scale). There's more on the red circle and its many meanings in DOOM PATROL #54, I just realised. That issue was written in near-trance so fuck only knows what's been trying to get through all these years."- Grant Morrison, July 7, 1998.


Doom Patrol Issue 54. 
"Aenigma Regis".  Writen by Grant Morrison.  Layouts by Richard Case.  Finishes by Stan Woch.  Cover by Gavin Wilson.  Published by DC Comics in 1992.


It is 1992.  George H. W. Bush is President of the United States.  Boris Yeltsin is President of Russia.  John Major is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  Bush pukes on the Prime Minister of Japan.  Yeltsin pukes on whoever he damn well pleases.  The Soviet Union has collapsed.  Bush and Yeltsin announce that they will no longer point nukes at each other.  The Cold War is over.  The New World Order is in control.  Bill Clinton is running for President.  (SPOILER:  He wins.)  War in Bosnia.  263 dead coal miners in Turkey. South Africa ends apartheid.  LA riots for six days after the Rodney King trial. NAFTA is signed.  A shootout at Ruby Ridge.  Image comics changes everything.  Sinead O'Connor rips up a photo of the Pope.  Batman Returns.  Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs.  Clint Eastwood shoots down the Duck of Death.  Agent Dale Cooper is in the Red Room.  The Singles soundtrack is played in thousands of dorm rooms.  Ozzy Osbourne retires. (SPOILER: It didn't take.)  Nirvana is the biggest band in the world.  (This pisses off Axel Rose.  A lot.)  Kurt and Courtney have a baby.  Johnny Carson says goodbye.  Joe Shuster, Peyo, William Gaines and Martin Goodman die.  Prince Charles and Lady Di separate.  Queen Elizabeth declares the year annus horribillis.  Let's hope she does not read The Invisibles.



(Grant Morrison with hair and some unknown writer named Neil.  Image stolen from some guy's myspace page.)

And... if you were alive in 1992 you could buy a hot fresh copy of the Grant Morrison written Doom Patrol complete with freaky photo collage cover boasting that it is suggested for mature readers.  This thing is about as Vertigo as comics get but Vertigo does not exist yet.  Grant Morrison is not Grant Morrison MBE the writer of JlA, X-Men, All-Star Superman or any of that stuff.  He's not even bald yet.   He has Arkham Asylum and Animal Man under his belt and is handed the keys to the C level DC comics property Doom Patrol.  Not a lot of people are paying attention so anything goes.  And it did.  To the dark side of the moon. 

"IAMTHEINVISIBLEFIRETHATWORKSINSECRET"


Well, hi there invisiblefirethatworksinsecret.  How do you do?


This comic is bonkers people.  Maybe, possibly, perhaps if you had read the first 53 issues of Doom Patrol this thing might make some sense but I doubt it.  What we are presented with here is a comic book where Negative Man, you know, the DC comics guy with the spooky black energy powers and the bandages all over his face, yeah, that guy... no wait scratch that.  He's not really Negative Man any more.  The star of this comic is the merging of a man, a woman and that crazy energy stuff.  They are merged together into a "divine hermaphrodite" named Rebis.  


I know.  I know.  I'm right there with ya buddy.  And see, if you picked up this comic in 1992 without being up to date on the latest in hermaphrodite super heroes you would be totally lost.  This is before teh intronets and before comics put those explanatory "our story so far" things at the front of the books.  No, you open this comic up and you get super hermaphrodite floating around on the dark side of the moon.  


Like ya do.


So, Rebis is floating about the moon dealing with all the horrific mental scenarios and split personality issues one must deal with when they are a super freak made up of three beings.  This comic is multiple streams of consciousness at war and love and sex with each other.  Multiple personality hallucinations blending in on each other.  We witness conception and child birth, life and death and everything in between. 


Birth, death and rebirth are ideas we will deal with again (and again) in The Invisibles.  We see an Ouroboros, the symbol of regeneration.  A snake eating itself.  We see snakes on an Apollo moon lander.  Space sex.  Negative being birth.  Double headed hermaphrodite fighting itself.  Negative being transvestite prostitute.


And on page seven we see Barbelith.   A red dot.  A red dot that lives on the dark side of the moon.  Red bleeding into black.  Or is the black bleeding into the red?  


"STOP.  STOP SAYS THE RED LIGHT.  NO, IT'S THE BUTTON.  THIS IS HOW THEY START THE FINAL WAR.  A TOUCH ON THE BUTTON.  TONGUE ON THE BUTTON.  MOTHER'S NIPPLE, LOOMING UP LIKE A SUN.  MATTER DISSOLVING IN THE CORE OF THE SUN, IN THE SOLAR FURNACE.  THE NUCLEAR BRIDAL CHAMBER.  IT'S COMING!"  


It's coming.  It always seems to be coming doesn't it?


After our man Rebis walks through all of this madness he goes beyond the Apollo moon lander to see what is really out there just like the astronauts in an awful Michael Bay movie would years later.  He/she/it finds a crater with a twin tree holding a glowing radiant orb.  There is a gold ring around the tree.  There is a body at the base of the tree.  It is merged with the tree and branches grow form its head.  It has box containing artifacts from all of Rebis' lives.  Rebis digs deeper and on the final page pulls out and holds in the air a giant glowing green egg.  Something will be born.  In a future issue?

What does it all mean?  I have no idea.  But something is coming.  Something will be born.  And Barbelith waits for us on the dark side of the moon.  Barbeltih waits for us in future issues of The Invisibles.


"I FELT HIM IN THE SUN, IN THE COSMIC RAYS.  I COULDN'T CONTROL THE MONSTROSITIES FORM OUTSIDE, THE SPASMS OF THE RAVISHED SOLAR SYSTEM.  MY ASTRONOMY IN HER HOT MOUTH.  THE DREAD MONSTER DISCOVERS THE SEXUAL INTRUDERS.  TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD?  NO.  THERE'S ONLY ME.  NO ONE BUT ME.  THERE WILL BE SOME AMAZING RESULTS..."

Tune in next time dear reader as we explore the first issue of The Invisibles.  "Dead Beatles".     




Your best pal ever,

Shannon Smith

p.s. Say you want a leader but you can't seem to make up your mind. I think you'd better close it and let me guide you to my twitter feed.
p.p.s. Let's pretend we went to high school together on facebook.
p.p.p.s. Google + is another place you can read the same thing I posted here.
p.p.p.p.s. I'll tumblr for ya.
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