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27 November 2012

Into the Supercontext part 11: The Invisibles Vol. 1 No. 10

(Image stolen from ComicVine.)

The Invisibles Vol. 1 No. 10
"Season of Ghouls"
Written by Grant Morrison.  Art by Chris Weston.  Colors by Daniel Vozzo.  Cover by Sean Phillips.
A Vertigo comic book published by DC Comics in 1995.  

(Image stolen from OC Weekly.)

And now one of the more memorable and a personal favorites of the entire run of The Invisibles.  The Jim Crow issue.  Or the Voodoo issue.  (Most all I know about Voodoo is from comic books and that one episode of The Incredible Hulk where David Banner had to fight an evil Voodoo priest but, from Morrison's notes in the letters column and a glance at wikipedia, I'm guessing he's blending West African and Haitian Voodoo references in this thing.)  This issue is a stand alone one-shot that really stands on its own.  It focuses on the Jim Crow character who is more than interesting enough to carry his own comic.  There are only a couple of references to The Invsibles at all.  It is explained that Crow is an Invisible but this story is all his.  And it is great.

This is basically a sorcerer versus zombies horror comic but with a lot of crazy 90s twists.  The zombie twist is that they are people that have been killed by a special blend of crack cocaine which allows the evil white dudes that created the crack to control the zombies' bodies and use them for horrible things like murder and rape. Because evil rich white dudes love the murder and rape.

The sorcerer, Jim Crow, is twisted in all kinds of amazing ways.  He's a bit like Brother Voodoo.  If you've never had a chance to read any Brother Voodoo I highly recommend any of the issues Gene Colan drew.  Brother Voodoo was the black voodoo version of Doctor Strange and he fought zombies.  And it was terrific.  Jim Crow is part Doctor Strange, part Jimi Hendrix, part Michael Jackson, part Ice Cube and part Willy Wonka.  And he fights zombies too.  But really, he's fighting rich white dudes.  Like a lot of Morrison's work, this comic has a lot to say about class.  Jim Crow's name itself is a reference to segregation and when Crow takes down the baddies the turns the tables and paints them up like a minstrel show.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  The story happens in Chicago and is the first issue of The Invisibles without anyone from the UK in the cast.  We start off with a young woman being murdered and raped by some young men with some very zombie like personalities.  One with a scorpion on his tongue!  Then next we get Chicago cops investigating the scene.  Through the magic of police investigation exposition we find out that the rapist was the girl's brother and, stranger than that, we find that the attackers were dead before the event happened.  Dead of crack overdoses.

Next we have a naked old lady performing Voodoo rituals (including a video tape of Jimi Hendrix) to summon up "Papa Guedhe".  (Probably a version of Guede.)  The lady is a grandmother to the dead kids.  I'm guessing "Papa Guedhe" is some sort of Voodoo spirit or god that can help her.  What she gets is Jim Crow in a crazy tuxedo jacket, a top hat, high top tennis shoes, skull codpiece and a talking crow on his shoulder.  Jim Crow tells her that he will take care of it.

(Sidenote:  Today is Jimi Hendrix's birthday.  No coincidences.  Magic!  He would have been 70.  Hendrix had African, Irish and Cherokee ancestry.  Hendrix's great grandmother was a slave named Fanny.)

In Jim Crow's regular life, he is a voodoo rap star.  (Part of the group the "Root Doctaz".  Sidenote:  This comic features and ad for a new CD from the group The Roots.  Sometimes magic just happens people!)  He uses a television showing his own images as a rapper to enter a crazy voodoo world where he shoots magic mirror liquid out of all his orifices.  Then he picks up a puddle of magic mirror like it was a stick-on hole in a Road Runner cartoon and enters the hole.

In the hole world he encounters giant caterpillars and good and bad UFOs.  He feeds of the teat of a good UFO and sucks it dry like a limp balloon.  Yum.  Crow then enters the Scorpion Palace to get to the bottom of all the bad business.  He transforms his face into a horrible spider thing and faces off against the god of that realm, a giant scorpion named Baron Zaraguin.

He finds out that Zaraguin had given the evil rich white dues the magic for the zombie crack.  (We also learn that King Mob owes a debt of some sort to Baron Zaraguin.  Foreshadowing alert!)  Crow cuts him a deal to free the souls of the young people that had been murdered in exchange for more powerful souls.

He is of course talking about the evil rich white dudes who are about to use their zombie surrogate bodies to murderape the old lady.  Jim Crow appears and ehFs those dudes up real bad.  He blows holes through them with his super cool bone gun.  (Which turns sexual thoughts into death.  Fun!)

Back in the evil rich white dudes' board room, there is confusion as some of them begin to die.  Then Crow appears to wipe them out.  When the police arrive the evil white dudes are dressed and painted up in minstrel garb and are feeding on the guts of their evil white dude leader, zombie buffet style.

This comic has so much great stuff in it.  Jim Crow is an amazing character that I really can't do any justice to in this post.  Every word that comes out of his mouth is amazing.  The story has zombies, voodoo, police procedural stuff, crazy Doctor Strange alternate realities complete with giant talking scorpion, talking crows... just everything a good wholesome American comic book can contain.

Chris Weston's art is perfect for this issue.  It is so slimy and gooey and bubbly and gross that it is beautiful.  In a lot of ways, this comic is a one issue American version of the story Weston and Morrison would tell again years later in The Filth.  As a stand alone horror comic book, this thing is just perfect.

Annotations at The Bomb.

As we enter into this issue's Invisible Ink column I am mindful of all the hubbub on teh intronets about Grant Morrison versus Alan Moore and vice versa.  I'll probably talk about it more this weekend in my Other Comics News Parade-O-Links but for now I'll just say this;  I've been reading Grant Morrison comics for decades now.  If Grant Morrison steals then tells you who he stole from.  The man seems to be obsessed with knowledge and the sharing of knowledge.  If someone thinks Morrison is not giving credit where credit is due, then they just have not been paying attention.  Case in point...

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For elements of this month's story I am indebted to Divine Horsemen - Maya Deren;  Voodoo and Hoodoo - Jim Haskins;  Mama Lola - Karen McCarthy Brown;  The Voudoun Gnostic Workbook - Michael Bertiaux;  and personal researches in the creepy world of les Mysteres.

And now, because you demanded it...

(The first letter is about Morrison's previous mention of Wilhelm Reich.)

I'm afraid I can't promise to explain the true nature of the conspiracy until the very last issue of this title, Sky, but the second year of story lines will examine a number of different interpretations of the forces behind the conspiracy.
My Reichian therapy is still ongoing and I'm finding it fascinating and productive.  Reich's ideas seem to me to be eminently sane and thoroughly practical, and I believe that 21st-century medicine will accord him the respect and renown he deserves.

(The next letter is full of praise and talks a bit about Lord Fanny.)

Tragically, this month's letters were sent to me by fax and the photograph of Mason appears as no more than a black oblong on the page, otherwise I'd have stuck him up there along with Cat of the Month "Silver" on my Cat's Protection League calendar.
Much more on Lord Fanny in the upcoming "Sheman" story arc which begins in issue #13, Cody.

(The last letter is full of praise and rambles on about Doom Patrol and asks about Flex Mentallo.)

The Flex Mentallo series shouldn't be too long in coming, Sven.  The first issue has already been drawn by Scottish artist Frank Quitely.  Very possibly the most beautiful artwork to grace one of my scripts.

NEXT ISSUE: Remember those vicious homeless-huntin' hombres from #2?  Well, they're back!  In the second of our one-off stories we discover why Diana split from Charles, meet the Thing that haunts Glamis Castle and find out what happens when you mate with ultraterrestrials.  One man's nightmares become 23 pages of fun in "Royal Monsters" next month!
-Grant

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Next time the baddies go a huntin' humans. 

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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