Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Invisibles volume 1 issues 11 to 16

-- These issues are:

The Invisibles volume 1...

Royal Monsters (#11), Best Man Fall (#12), the three-parter SHEMAN (#13, #14, #15) and London (#16).

-- Collected edition:

These six issues are the last six (of the eight) of the second collected edition "Apocalipstick" -  pictured.

(A note on the cover. While the first collected edition is currently being published, with a re-use of, oddly, Brian Bolland's cover for an issue of volume 2 of The Invisibles, this is a wholly new Bolland cover not on any issue of the series.

Another note - just announced - the omnibus edition will be published in August 2012!)


-- Quote of the month:

Edith, on Dane being “spirit” of the five elemental roles of the team...

 “Spirit? Oh well, it's dazzlingly obvious then. The spirit's role's always unpredictable, you know that. It exits to galvanize and revitalise the elements around it. Here's a boy whose hatred of authority is such that he even rebels against us, against the Invisibles. I think he's here to test you to your limits, Gideon. That's what I think. He's here to shake you to the core.

To get him back, you're going to have to enter the labyrinth and face the beast. You must brave the jaws of the dragon, dear.

Each of you in turn, I shouldn't wonder."

(Issue #13, page 20.)

-- Panels of the month:

Issue #13, page 2 - King Mob and Lord Fanny discuss the eschaton.

-- Roots:

Issue #11 Royal Monsters is heavily influenced by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, in basic content (shambling monsters from beyond the stars) and in the tone of gloom.

Issue #12  - not so easy to say but, well, there's definitely a vibe of the films of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, bitter-sweet realism.

Morrison has mentioned the roots of the wildly varying formats of the pages of issues #13, #14, #15 (SHEMAN). Inspired by the way the Oliver Stone film Natural Born Killers used a variety of film stock, there is an intentional bricolage to these issues, and Jill Thompson was asked to draw various pages “in the style of” previous comics.

Although drag queens seem a “very Vertigo” topic (The Sandman got there first) the main character of the arc SHEMAN comes primarily, it seems, from Grant's own experiences. Not that he was raised in South American as a sorcerer but rather his own nightclubbing in ladies' clothes is something he described as an inspiration.

This experimentation seems to come from a period in Grant's life around 1993. A  vague timeline can be discerned from the Grant Morrison interviews of the book Anarchy for the Masses - see month one "Further Reading" - the mini-interview for Chapter 1 and the long interview at the end of the book.

That vague timeline of Grant Morrison's life as he was writing Volume 1: the conception of the series in 1993 during the San Francisco Vertigo tour; the Kathmandu experience sometime after that; then the Scorpion experience (which is around the time of Grant penning the scripts for #10 and #17, #18, #19) sometime after that - but before 1996, when Grant was penning Volume 2.

The Scorpion experience and the Roots of  #17, #18, #19 will be described next month when those issues are covered, in (of course) the “Roots” section.

The Kathmandu experience  recounting this at comics conventions was essentially Grant Morrison's party-piece. The whole thing is described, apparently, in Morrison's chapter of the book Fortune Hotel but to summarise: him and a friend climbed the shrine of Swayambhunath, and on top of the roof garden, he was abducted by aliens, or rather had an out-of-body experience which seemed like that. During this experience the fifth-dimensional reality of our universe was revealed to Morrison (yes, I know, it sounds absurd, but it makes for an attention-grabbing party-piece at comics conventions doesn't it)?

Dane's encounter with BARBELiTH is apparently inspired by this experience of Morrison's though note the next section Everything... and what it has to say about the series Flex Mentallo.

-- "I think that everything I do now is The Invisibles":

Zenith – the idea of Lovecraftian entities using specially created vessels to manifest in a universe. (The Invisibles #11, already seen in #9).

Batman Inc (Volume 1) #5 – the Falklands of The Invisibles #12 also in this issue.

Doom Patrol – Rebus is the “boygirl” (as Hilde of #12, #13, #14) character of that team, and the series also features the flamboyant “Danny the Street”.

JLA World War III / Final Crisis – while the Fourth World is a Jack Kirby creation, Morrison adds to the Forth World saga imagining its end and the dawn of the “Fifth World”. All that seems a curious echo to the South American “Fifth Sun” myths described by issue #13 of The Invisibles.

Flex Mentallo – the red/green “cosmic traffic lights” of BARBELiTH can also be seen in the pages of this. As this other series seems semi-autobiographical was BARBELiTH “revealed” to Morrison before Kathmandu?

Animal Man – mysterious (yellow) “aliens” are involved in the Secret Origin of Animal Man, just as “aliens” are with the Secret Origin of Jack Frost. “Aliens” which exist outside the “bubble” of their world.

-- Thoughts:

So, issues #11 to 16: two one-off stories, a three-parter (SHEMAN), and one more issue, London.

A welcome return for Jill Thompson, again drawing the main arc, with John Ridgway the perfect artist for Royal Monsters, Steve Parkhouse illustrating Best Man Fall tenderly,  Paul Johnson the artist for London giving it a gritty glow.

The previous two blogposts have covered, respectively, the run of the first four issues (Dane's initiation into the Invisibles) and the next six issues: the main team adventuring through the four-part ARCADIA storyline and a coda-issue, plus one issue that's a one-issue tale of an Invisible beyond the central team.

For all its UFO-Voodoo and zombies-on-crack weirdness, that issue, #10, is remarkably straightforward when these next two one-off tales are considered. That issue has the confident super-hero figure of Jim Crow triumphing over the bad guys (who are presumably on the same “side” as Sir Miles).

Both these new issues feature confused people encountering a monster.

Issue #11 Royal Monsters has as its “hero” Sutton, another Invisible operative, though one that has drifted into inaction and routine, who has delayed his mission to kill the star-beast as he believes the monster “likes him”.

Sutton isn't quite sure what side is which any more, his dilemma illustrated as he literally stands between two sides of the river – refer to the panel shown in the “Panels of the Month” section.

Bobby Murray of issue #12 Best Man Fall doesn't even realise there's a “war” between two sides, and his taking the job of a Harmony House security guard is just one element of a whole life told - in a non-linear fashion - over 24 pages.

The “monster” of  issue #12 is actually King Mob. It means we have a different perspective on the events of issue #1, and the series as a whole.

Royal Monsters in probably the most beautifully written of the issues so far, and stands as its own Lovecraftian short-story, but also progresses the wider plot-lines of The Invisibles. There's a focus on Sir Miles, the main villain of the series, (and after the next issue there's more of Sir Miles for the next four issues).

Best Man Fall is told in comics panels that constantly change from one time of Bobby's life to another – a story presented as a restless wandering across time is also how the next  three issues SHEMAN is told.

If you thought Pulp Fiction had a complicated time-hopping narrative then SHEMAN and London are even more complicated. During the three-parter, Sir Miles is complaining of Dane having bested him: London is effectively a flashback for the reader, and also it contains flashbacks to Dane's encounter with BARBELiTH of the first four issues of the series.

With SHEMAN, it's Lord Fanny's life-experiences that are jumbled so as to be non-linear though - King Mob and Edith, Boy and Ragged Robin, their search for Dane progresses over each issue.

The point of the non-linear jumble of Lord Fanny's (or rather Hilde's) story is that three times of stress are told together to signify the revelation to Hilde that everything happens together, she can observe with the Magic Mirror the whole of her life: it's her own encounter with BARBELiTH and each of these three times of her life are seemingly somehow all the same “initiation”, the same task to gain wisdom.

Edith says to King Mob in issue #13 - “To get him back, you're going to have to enter the labyrinth and face the beast. You must brave the jaws of the dragon, dear.

Each of you in turn, I shouldn't wonder”. (The full quote is the “Quote of the Month” section.) T

Entering “the labyrinth” then is what Dane flashes back to in London, his endurance of his “abduction” by “aliens”, and the South American gods are the equivalent of the “aliens” for Hilde.

“Show me what you really are” Hilde literally says and Dane effectively says, and the answer each time is the mysterious red/green disc of BARBELiTH.

If The Invisibles is essentially a super-hero series, then DOWN AND OUT IN HEAVEN AND HELL was the Secret Origin of Jack Frost (Dane), just as SHEMAN is the Secret Origin of Lord Fanny (Hilde). As I say, I've read the first 30 issues of this 59-issue series already, and I will say the next three issues are the Secret Origin of King Mob (Gideon), I won't tend to speak of future issues – mentioning this specifically though to make the point that “How  They Became Invisible” seems to be inextricably tied to Edith's idea that each must “enter the labyrinth and face the beast. You must brave the jaws of the dragon”.

ARCADIA casts a disturbing shadow over the middle time-frame of the jumble of Hilde's story in SHEMAN, the time when she is 18 and encounters the Sade-esque group. There's an echo of the Castle of Silling sequence of ARCADIA, but also of the final pages, that show Sade in the 20th Century assembling his (hopefully different to the Castle) Châteaux “utopia”, supposedly though one of the “good guys” - as he's an Invisible.

At the end of ARCADIA a streetwalker is scooped into Sade's car and given a blank badge (joining the Invisibles), and in SHEMAN: immediately after her own encounter began by the Sade-esque character in the car, Hilde is asked to join the Invisibles by John-A-Dreams.

So does this mean all three times of stress for Lord Fanny are all equally part of the initiation into The Invisibles? That is a disturbing thought.

So what is BARBELiTH exactly?

Something communicating to both Dane and Hilde that much is clear. The “Magic Mirror” fluid is part of this same mystery too it seems, and Hilde says it's from “outside the bubble”.

What is BARBELiTH trying to say?

We read on. Next month's blogpost is ENTROPY IN THE UK and How I Became Invisible...

-- Annotations:

Royal Monsters, issue #11, page 21 - Sutton between Miles and the monster that "likes him" (he believes).

Best Man Fall, issue #12, page 4 - a curious echo in these panels of the balloon of issue #8.


Issue #15, page 11 - John-A-Dreams asks Hilde if she's heard of The Invisibles.

London, Issue #16, page 12 – are the “aliens” alien?

Issue #16 the whole of page 13 – BARBELiTH.

Royal Monsters is issue #11.

#11 page 1 – A Lovecraftian tale from page 1 onwards. (Continuing this influence from the first few pages of issue #9.) The way Sutton is drawn, he recalls H.P. Lovecraft himself, in appearance. Five hand movements: the recurring motif of the number 5. “Magic Mirror” has appeared in this series before, but is it connected to this magical mirror?

#11 page 2 - “And beauty becomes the Beast”, an oblique nod to the Cocteau films mentioned on the previous page (the film “Beauty and the Beast”.)

#11 page 6 – Haunted Britain by Hippisley Coxe – actually exists as an actual book.

#11 page 7 – the Diana mentioned here is of course Princess Diana, whose actual firstborn is William, first in line for the actual throne after the Queen and Prince Charles.

#11 page 12 – Killing Moon by Kirk Morrison, not an actual book.

#11 page 21 – one of the “Panels of the Month”.

Best Man Fall is issue #12.

#12 page 4 – Highlighted in the “Panels of the Month” section, it's the image of a balloon rising up again.

#12 page 7 – the only inexplicable element of this issue: “Edith says to call him Boody”. It makes slightly more sense after Edith is introduced in issue #13 and #16 page 13 has the line “We spoke through your /(toys)/”, though not much more sense.

#12 page 20 – the events of King Mob at Harmony House of issue #1 from a different perspective, which will be told again in issue #13, page 10.

SHEMAN is issues #13, #14, #15. (Note, as the “Roots” section explains, various pages are drawn “in the style of”.)

Venus as a Boy

#13 page 1 and 2 – The myth of the Five Suns is directly from the myths of South America, except there would seem to be an emphasis on certain aspects by Grant to fit in with the themes of The Invisibles.

The sequence Suns (and gods) that is: Sun of Earth, Sun of Wind, Sun of  Rain, Sun of Water - for the previous four Suns -  is as the myths.

They also map onto the four of the five elements (as Rain is in the myths a Rain-of-Fire). This fits with the themes of The Invisibles: fifth element Spirit (Dane's role in the team of five) fits with the fifth Sun, “Sun of Motion”, and “Sun of Motion” fits with idea of the Terence McKenna's Timewave (mentioned in #8), of time speeding up to December 2012. (Some interpretations of the Mayan Calendar give the end of the Fifth Sun as December 2012.)

I believed the phrase "Sun of Motion" might be a Morrison invention, but it's actually from the myths too.

The rest of the South American gods described by SHEMAN are all part of the actual myths, even the idea of “celestial monsters”, the “star demons”, the Tzitzimime.

The Tzitzimime are, in the actual myths, the doom of the Fifth Sun.

(It should be noted that the idea “celestial monsters” chime with the idea of the Lovecraftian monsters seen in issues #9 and #11.)

#13 page 2 –  Lord Fanny and King Mob's discussion on time speeding up is one of the “Panels of the Month”: “the Apocalypse or the Eschaton or whatever you want to call it”, (refer to the “Panels of the Month” of last month for more on this idea).

#13 page 9 – Lord Fanny spewing Magic Mirror.

#13 page 10 -  the events of King Mob at Harmony House of issue #1 from a different perspective, as retold by Gideon to Edith, drawn by Jill Thompson in the style of Rob Liefield (!).

#13 page 11 – this page has mention of Invisibles operatives beyond King Mob's current team of five, (as well as mentioning King Mob's name is Gideon),  the lost team-member “John-A-Dreams” plus a mysterious new character “Mr Six”.

#13 page 15 – From Rio to Mexico. Teotihuacan, the City of the Gods. This panel is in the style of “Ripley's Believe it or Not”.

#13 pages 16 and 17 – in the style of Frank Miller's “Sin City”.

#13 page 18 – the red disc of BARBELiTH.

#13 page 20 – as the “Quote of the Month” section. “Each of you in turn”, would seem to allude to Dane's and Hilde's troubles and by the end of #15, Gideon's too. (That is to say, Jack Frost's and Lord Fanny's and King Mob's troubles.)

Day of Nine Dogs

#14 page 5 – some more on Magic Mirror: “It's the time stuff, isn't it? The mirror stuff comes from outside the bubble and reflects it...”

“Lewis Brodie” seems to be an echo of the TV show  The Professionals.

#14 page 6 – comics page in style of: prose over a full-page illustration.

#14 page 9 - “Jack Flint” of the re-activated Division X introduced, who doesn't appear on any other pages on the six issues thought about this month. 

#14 pages 10 and 11, 14 and 15 – comics pages (the lowest panels) in the style of a Newspaper Cartoon: “Boy & Ragged Robin”.

#14 page 11 – mention of Roswell and UFOs. Remember this was published in 1995 and the X-Files began broadcast in September 1993, about a year before The Invisibles, Morrison and Chris Carter are both tapping into the modern myths of UFOs.


#15 page 9 – comics page in the style of Frank Miller's “The Dark Knight Returns”.

#15 page 11 – Lord Fanny seems to be about to be asked to join the Invisibles, the John-A-Dreams panel is one of the “Panels of the Month”.

#15 page 16 – “Show me what you really are”, the red disc of BARBELiTH again. (Whatever BARBELiTH is.)

London is issue #16.

#16 page 7 – Jim Crow's Hip-Hop group “Root Doctaz” (of issue #10) feature on the posters as well as actual groups of the Nineties: Supergrass and Underworld and Pulp.

#16 page 12 – Dane is effectively asking, as Hilde did, “Show me what you really are”, of BARBELiTH.

#16 page 13 – the whole page is shown in the “Panels of the Month” section of this blogpost.


“Which side are you on?” - a running theme of The Invisibles, over an illustration of a Möbius strip (which just has one side).

“The body is inside the soul” - not immediately apparently by issue #16 what this means exactly.

“Look. We are you” - Dane is gazing into the Magic Mirror that's previously seen to be spewed by Jim Crow (issue #10) and Lord Fanny (issue #13).

“Try to remember” - Brodie and Lord Fanny forgot the Magic Mirror. Also this is the phrase that begins and ends “Best Man Fall”, issue #12.

Dane gazing at the BARBELiTH graffiti – it's London, the “now” of issues #16, but he's remembering seeing the same graffiti during his time with Tom in the London underground, (issues #2, #3, #4) and his encounter with BARBELiTH itself.


-- Blank badge:

-- Song of the month:

Underworld - Dirty Epic

(Underworld being one of the bands featured on the posters of the issue London. The lyrics conjure up London too.)

-- Synchronicity - the UK March 2012:

More on Occupy London with a curious picture - "Occupy and the Arab spring will continue to revitalise political protest" (

-- Further reading:

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

(Another story inspired by the New Sun mythology of South America. It's a great and epic read, comparable in depth to The Invisibles. Actually four books which form the whole.)

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