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08 November 2012

Into the Supercontext part 7: The Invisibles Vol. 1 No. 6

The Invisibles Vo. 1 No. 6
"Arcadia Part 2 Mysteries Of The Guillotine"
Written by Grant Morrison.  Pencils by Jill Thompson.  Inks by Dennis Cramer.  Colors by Daniel Vozzo.  Cover by Sean Phillips.
A Vertigo comic book published by DC Comics in 1995.  

 "I don't believe in average people.  SANDMAN does very well, and while I recon it's unlikely that anybody, including I suspect Neil himself, will ever repeat the SANDMAN sales-with integrity phenomenon, I'd like to think that there are enough readers both within the traditional comics audience and outside to keep something like THE INVISIBLES on its feet." -Grant Morrison.

Hi friends.  I had some further delays but I'm back at it, hoping to get caught up and on track to get through the complete The Invisibles before the end of the world

Again, I'd like to look at this cover for a bit.  Its a nice one by Sean Phillips.  A bit more subdued than other colors.  Very minimal pallet.  It reminds me of the type of cover you would see on a mass market mystery/thriller novel at a book store.  I think it is a very good representation of the changes DC and specifically Vertigo were making in the 90s as to how they package and market their books to audiences outside of the super hero devotees.  Look at how the creators names are listed in much the same way you would see names printed on a genre novel.  And the simple design that looks about the same from 10 feet away from a book store table as it does close up.  DC was way ahead of the competition as far as this kind of design sense goes.  They were ahead then and they are ahead now.  Although I'd argue that they have lost a lot of their good taste in the past couple of years.

The color is a bit drab compared to the very colorful team that makes up The Invisibles and compared to previous covers but it is focused on one of the bad guys (a Cypherman) and I think it does sell that idea of ethereal mystery that the series is trying to sell.  Morrison is still building the world at this early stage and the cover does a good job of playing up the horror elements.

The comic picks up where issue 5 left off in the shadow of the guillotine in France 1793.  "Christ!  I always forget just how bad the past smells," says time windmill time travel King Mob.  The team begin looking for clues as to the whereabouts of a local agent that will lead them to the one they have been sent to extract.  Mob reveals that it is non other than the Marquis de Sade that they are there to rescue.  "Oh terrific, first time travel.  Now S and M." says Boy.

The local agent Etienne summons the team through some incantation and is shocked when they show up.  "Somehow it's always a surprise when it actually works isn't it?" says Mob.  Local guy takes them in a horse drawn wagon which allows some exposition as he gives them a tour of Paris.  Etienne tells them about some crazy monsters eating the bodies out of the mass graves.  The Invisibles don't have to wear period clothes because people's brains just fill in the holes and make them think they fit in.  Very Doctor Who of people's brains.  But Jack Frost's brains are not working so great.  All the time travel business is making him sick.

Next we get a beautifully drawn Jill Thompson page of Mary Shelley traveling in a coach and reading a letter from her husband Percy.  A mysterious dark haired man hands her an apple. Shelley.  Poets. Apple. Beatles. Etc.

Back in Paris, Etienne is talking about the Invisible College.  Morrison is developing that idea that The Invisibles have been around forever and there are ways for individuals to join without having been recruited.

Meanwhile back to the future of 1995 (or 94 maybe) bad guy Outer Church agent Orland is being creepy and disturbing nailing dogs to doors, putting heads on lamp posts, wearing someone else's face and playing "Pop goes the Weasel" on a record player.  Like ya do.  Orlando gets a call about the time travel wind mill.  Uh oh!

Back in Paris past Etienne goes on about all the weird goings on and creatures and Mob finally pieces together that the monsters are Cyphermen.  (Rhymes with Cybermen.  Again with the Doctor Who.)  Cyphermen are "humans who've been modified by high frequency subliminal transmissions" to be loyal to a hive mind.  Bad biscuits!  But don't worry, Mob is excited because it gives him a chance to play with his cool looking space ray gun he calls the "Ghostbuster".

Then we are finally with the Marquis in some awful hospital where the living share beds with the dead.  The Marquis is short and sixteen years in prison have left him fat and angry.  "Hurry? By fuck, citizen!  I'll hurry for no man!"  Thompson's drawings of the Marquis are great in this thing.  The Marquis stumbles upon three Cyphermen feasting upon some poor naked dead lady's guts.

Back in the coach with Mary Shelley and the mysterious stranger.  The stranger has recently read Frankenstein.  The stranger talks about the Invisible College.  Shelly has heard about them and says that she heard they were behind the revolutions in American and France.  (This scene is years after the revolution where Mob's team is hanging out.)  The stranger says that "we need our poets and dreamers" and wishes Shelley to be strong and take care.  He never reveals his name.  Let me just say that these Mary Shelley pages are beautifully drawn and colored.

Back in Paris the Marquis is watching the Cyphermen feast on naked lady guts.  They want de Sade to join them in the feast but he is paralyzed with shock.  "I've imagined the human body, the female body, subject to every outrage... but this... to see this... here... real..."  But just as the Marquis gives in and begins to touch the lady buts, the door busts open from the force of King Mob's book as Mob yells "Bollocks!"  Mob uses his Ghostbuster gun to take out the baddies.

Mob explains that they need the Marquis (or at least his astral projection) to come with them to the future.  He reveals that the naked lady was never a lady at all but a rat.  He had been manipulated by the Cyphermen.  But no time to be freaked out.  Ragged Robin is getting bad vibes.  Something is wrong.  They need to go.  They focus on the Arcadia postcard to go back but it all goes wrong.  Instead they find themselves stuck in the postcard!  But that's not the worst part.  Orlando is in the time windmill with their real bodies.  We see panels featuring the guillotine chopping off heads mixed in with panels showing Orlando cut off the tip of Jack Frost's finger with garden shears.  Eww.

That scene has a lot of impact.  Something about chopping off a finger tip that is more tangible than more serious injuries or even death in fiction. Yep, there is no way around it.  Orlando is bad biscuits.

Annotations at The Bomb.

Up next "120 Days of Sod All"!

But first, letters in another Invisible Ink column.

(This Invisible Ink column starts off with a letter as opposed to Grant himself.  The first letter talks a lot about the Illuminati and Roshaniya and asks some questions about Morrison's plans with these secret societies.)

Thanks for bringing the Roshaniya to my attention, Rux.  These days, Islam has become so thoroughly identified with fantatical fundamentalism that people tend to forget the Mohammedan religion's mystical and esoteric fringes.  One of the upcoming story lines for the third year of this book brings in a great deal of material from the Moslem world, and I'll definitely add the "illuminated Ones" to that spikey eastern stew of a story arc.  As for catching the buzz, I think that's exactly what I'm doing as the following letter, one of an outrageously high number of very similar letters, may indicate:

(The next letter is full of praise, Knights Templar and how aliens may want to take Morrison away.  Standard stuff.)

They want me, they're gonna have to go through my ultra dimensional scorpion sorcerer pals, and those fuckers can rip the shit out of any ol' ET.  Like I said, I've had tons of letters from people telling me that they've been working on, or planning to publish, projects very like THE INVISIBLES.  Perhaps it's just millennium fever, but something major seems to be stirring in the human collective unconscious.

(A long letter full of praise.)

Blab all you like, Greame.  This here's Blab City.

(The next letter has some praise then pulls out a soap box to talk about hypocrisy and chaos and evil and all that jazz.)

I don't think we're evil at all, Alexander, just stupid and scared.  And some of us have more power than stupid and scared people can be trusted with.

(The next letter talks about how dense the series seems to be and asks some questions.)

Fnord yourself, although I wouldn't agree that Dane was brainwashed.  As far a I'm concerned, breaking down buried psychological blocks (such as those surrounding Dane's long-suppressed feelings for his absent dad), is a de-conditioning strategy rather than a brainwashing technique.  I can vouch for this, as I've had it done to me quite recently by a therapist using a system based partly on the theories of Wilhelm Reich.  (Reich believed that traumatic and emotionally-unresolved experiences are stored in the body where they manifest themselves in the form of recurring health problems, such as asthma, migraine, chronic muscular armoring, and even cancer and heart disease.  Release of the tensions locked up in our bodies "unfreezes" the withheld emotions and we re experience and integrate the original hurtful event.   This leads to a release of bound-up energy with corresponding feelings of well-being and bliss.  It also breaks the cycle of pointlessly repetitive behavioural and emotional patterns.  Incidentally, these and other ideas were considered so dangerous by the U.S. government that, in 1956, the had Reichs's laboratory destroyed and his books burned.)  As for the "average" reader, who needs him?  I don't believe in average people.  SANDMAN does very well, and while I recon it's unlikely that anybody, including, I suspect Neil himself, will ever repeat the SANDMAN sales-with integrity phenomenon, I'd like to think that there are enough readers both within the traditional comics audience and outside to keep something like THE INVISIBLES on its feet.  I could be wrong, of course.  It wouldnt' be the first time.  Having said that, the "Arcadia" storyline is as "difficult" as the book will get, so if people can handle this, the shouldnt' have too much trouble with the upcoming feast of gore, guns, bombs, and metaphysics.
1) The King Mob character appeared in some of my earlier published and unpublished work under his real name.  He has since shaved his head and taken to wearing clothes you may have seen in fetish magazines like Skin Two and .
2) I'm not allowed to answer this one for copyright reasons (Crazy Jane belongs to DC, Ragged Robin belongs to me), but I'm sure you've thought long and hard about what happened to Kay Challis after she left Danny the World.
3) Blank badges are cheap and easy to make.  Go to it.
4)  They're not Lobster Men and they're not from Venus.

(And the last letter is a long one from Charles J. Sperling and is mostly praise with a few bits to point out how clever he is.)

Julie!  Julie!  Charles J. Sperling just called you an orangutan!  Hope you enjoyed your trip to Southeast Asia, Charles.  I spent a couple of weeks in Malaysia when I was doing my round the-globe bit but i was mostly in Penang and Singapore on the buses and trains. By now, you'll have realized that the hunters didnt' kill Dane because they were King Mob's group pretending to be hunters.  (For more on the real homeless-hunters, as seen in #2, you'll have to wait for the upcoming INVISIBLES #11.)  As for the couple preparing the Hand of Glory, they'll make a lot more sense when you've read the story arc "Sensitive Criminals" next year.  It may help to tell yo that the "Hand of Glory" scene was not the first appearance of those two in these pages.  One of the problems of doing a long story in monthly parts is that some elements may appear to be arbitrary and inexplicable but, res assured, everything will come together if you keep reading.

Next Issue:
Cruelty, perversion, degradation, innocence defiled, and vice triumphant.  Welcome to the wonderful world of the Marquis de Sade as the Invisibles endure "120 Days of Sod All."

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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