Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Here I've put some light finishing touches upon an unused Brain Bolland INVISIBLES Sketch. (Nicked from the master's own weblog)

Thus finally answering the clarion call of Radio Free Barbelith!

I was entirely delighted by a 2012 re-reading of THE INVISIBLES, though found I hadn't much to say about it, but rather quite a bit to DO.

Particularly re-inspired by Morrison's parting remarks:
"I've shown you mine.  Now show me yours.
I anticipate fireworks."

And then further by a more recent sentiment:
"If I want something to look at, I draw it.  If I want music to listen to, I create it.  If I want something to read, I write it."


I met Grant Morrison briefly at a signing in Philadelphia in 2002.  I was 21, hungover, sleep deprived, and rather well in tune w/ the dune.  I'd brought a small collection of my comix to show him, which I clutched nervously.

I was trying to think of ways to communicate quickly and clearly that I was hip to the real shit.  My skepticism about the explanatory power of a few brief words, esp. in matters zen, led me to briefly entertain the harebrained notion that a hearty "THUMBS UP" might somehow be the ticket.  As the line shuffled forward I decided the more practical approach wd be to ask him if he read Robert Anton Wilson.

Along my way to the front of the line my shyness and introversion also changed my mind about showing him my comix.  Which suddenly seemed like a stupid and embarrassing thing to do.

Frank Quietly was at the signing too, parked right next to GM.  I got to him first and gave him a copy of Earth 2 to sign.  While exchanging pleasantries w/ FQ I heard someone say, "Did you make these?"

I look over and Grant Morrison is happily flipping through the comix I had decided not to give him!

Mind you, I was in a few altered states at the time, but my genuine experience was/is of having no clue when/how he got those comix.

He was indeed a reader of Robert Anton Wilson, brief encouragement for my work was offered, and off I went.

Though just as I was stumbling away I heard a booming voice call "Oi!"

I turn around and GM is beaming a huge grin and pointing at the hand lettered title block on one of the covers. (Which read: "SUBURBAN LEGEND COMIX: Sort of like Alan Moore before he stopped selling drugs and read all them books) Thence he gave me a hearty "THUMBS UP."

Hero worship is bullshit, but impetus is as good as gold, and so I offer my most sincere gratitude to the #blankbadge for helping me return to and begin my work again.

Having seen GM's, here's mine:

(I'd apologize for shameless self-promotion, but this is an entirely free comic, and I hope very much in the spirit of invisibility.)


New episodes every Monday and Wednesday morning.

The story so far...
AGNOSIS! #01 "Last of the Discordians"
AGNOSIS! #02 "The Call to Adventure"

AGNOSIS! #03 "No Bunny"
AGNOSIS! #04 "Alchemical Dream"
AGNOSIS! #05 "1904"
AGNOSIS! #06 "Flower Power"
AGNOSIS! #07 "Prometheus Arisen"

"It's too late in the day for literature.  This is magic!"
 – Bob Shea



Friday, June 29, 2012


Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.
Jorge Luis Borges,  Labyrinths

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Of all the story arcs in all the series, I had to try to find an insertion point into this one: ARCADIA, The Invisibles Volume 1 issues 5 - 8... the hot mess, the near series-killer, ruled over by the twin fey poet-Archons of Byron/Shelley, its secluded Silling-hells skulking with the wretched detritus of De Sade and his snickering pull@yerpud4enlightenment™ philosophy, while to the right and the left and left again we find time machine windmills and face-wearing star demons and the Gnostic Lucifer-figure busy at his chessboard and his teasing: the whole of it rendered by one of my least favourite artists on the series, Jill Thompson*.

Yet the glossolaliac head of John the Baptist babbles away here, and that babbling covers a multitude of sins. Sweet Essene-Jesus-bot, I love that thing! What a centrepiece for your Thanksgiving slaughter-fest, no? Looming over the ham there, delicate spray of zombie-saliva catching the candlelight as the sweet potatoes n StoveTop get passed round to the chittering syllables of whatever-it-is-that-YOU-want-to-hear. Lovely.

That’s a Hallmark moment right there. That’s fucking ROCKWELL.

Anyway. ARCADIA: it’s enough to make one want to select a different stress point on the space-time supersphere, vanish in a wailing rain of coloured cubes, and move in to attack “The Invisibles” somewhere in the future. Which may in fact happen by the time I’m done.

But for now, instead, we’re bogged down with Poussin’s painfully slow shepherds examining the tombstone as King Mob informs us that...
... we’re at the mercy of the way the ontic highway chooses to manifest itself in response to our subconscious requirements, dig?
Oh, we dig, we dig, though it’s not really our requirements the book is worried about: Morrison is feeling his way out into the rest of the series and we can only follow. In my case, reluctantly, and so apologies for getting behind on this thing. As it is, the following observations will tend towards incoherency.

This was the bit where you could feel Morrison still fleshing it out, trying on a couple of different faces for comfort and ease of use. If the entire arc could be boiled down (and quite successfully at that) to the first page of #5, why was this not done? This was also the bit where, here in 3D real-woild comic-reading land, Morrison initiated the famous sigilized wank-a-thon effort to save the book from plummeting sales, of which much too much has been written elsewhere already. So I’ll digress.

(Why did I just flash on the scene in Casablanca where everyone in Rick’s sings La Marseillaise? Single tear tracing silver path down Bergman’s cheek. Oh, I’m choking up heah. I’ve some glitter in my glitch, a real RKO archeo-spasm. A moment, please...)

In any case, wank-a-thon successful (insert un-ironic fist pump here), it's the start of a beeyootiful friendship and thank god, because, though at the time it was clearly maybe not-worth-saving, a number of the elements given form here played out well later on. Without ARCADIA, we would not have been treated to Edith Manning’s brilliant deconstruction of De Sade’s laughable orgone-fuelled Transynthesis commune in Volume 3 #8 (as with our poets here, I simply cannot lay down the cash to purchase the idea of the Marquis as a psychic liberator) or enjoy the little Castaneda kicks of Fanny’s temporal loop-de-loop initiatory experience in the SheMan arc. These among others.

But “there is only the dalang”. And, as Davis has mentioned previously, the dalang has us by the dangly parts (the medulla oblongata, natch! autonomic functions only, as we respirate from frame to frame) and leads us where he wants us to go. And we are going to hang with Shelley and Byron! Yay! If it KILLS US and almost kills the book (it's these two bundles of fun that are to blame, no matter how much you wanna pin it to the degenerates in 120 Days of Sod All), that’s where we’re going.

(Note: Morrison has never tried to pull this again, anywhere. For the lessons learned here alone, ARCADIA had to happen. Or perhaps it’s less a case of Morrison taking his lumps and becoming a better storyteller and more that of his audience being trained to know what constitutes “good Morrison”? Hmm.)

Well, it’s the poets I have the real problem with. Life imitates Art here fo sho: do NOT tell me what they are doing, please. Watching these two engage in their proto-emo shenanigans: drinkin’ and musin’ and visitin’ madhouses, while their more practical friends and relations pick up after them: irritating. Just... irritating. Shelley loses a child because he’s a pretentious... oh! IRRITATING. Worse than the noble monsters in Castle Silling, worse than useless, because they aspire to nobility and ruin lives just as easily in the process.

But then, perhaps that’s where GM is taking us with this stodgy and overblown narrative? In #8, towards the end of the magical mystery tour, there is a panel... well, Shelley has just had an imaginary conversation with Imaginary Byron, and then declares to the air: “I know where Utopia (Gr. ‘no place’) lies.” Then, in the next panel, as he points a finger to his forehead, with an expression on his face that can only be described as idiotic (and this in both the vernacular sense and the original Gr. idios ‘trapped in a private world’):
It is here. Where is the love, beauty, and truth we seek but in our mind? The golden country, forever new? The home of all hearts, untouched by time and pain? Here. Waiting for us to grow up and recognize it and come home.
Well, thank you Mr Fancy Pants. The text here may as well be switched out for a big DERP. I'd settle for a duh-doy, though. It applies! Goddamnit, my kingdom for a decent scanner so I could SHOW YOU THIS PANEL!

Hoo. You'll have to look it up.

OK. This panel, coming after long speeches about saving the world with words, of speaking to future generations of solutions that won’t apply, won’t even come close to applying... friends! It’s Coloured-Cube-Rain Time! Can you hear that wailing?! It's me becoming sick of ARCADIA! And we re-enter with considerable relief into the final pages of Volume 3, the first and final issue GLITTERDAMERUNG! King Mob to the Jack Frost of 2012:
I saw Boy in New York the other day. She looks great, does karate three times a week. Says she’s stopped trying to save the world, because saving is what misers do.
Which is why Imaginary Byron in that final scene starring ‘The Poets!’ comes off better than Shelley ever will: he’s Boy’s practical precursor. “Stop talking to the future, Shiloh,” he advises. “Go to your wife and child, who need you more.”

Why talk to it at all? Just GO THERE. Take your family on the package tour; the kids’ll LOVE IT. I think that may be the point. Everybody talks about the future, but nobody DOES ANYTHING about it.

Except the Invisible Army. Maybe.

On a personal note: Davis, all your recent examination of Morrison-as-writer-as-slavemaster wigged me out to such a degree that I actually removed the Blank Badge from my black pea-coat! Gah.

(I left the one pinned to the sporty windbreaker, though...)

And finally: Jack’s finger, severed and consumed by Orlando during that nifty set-to in the windmill. Question: does the Buddha Matreya evidence regenerative powers in the traditional texts? Because sure as shit that digit is back on and wagging in later issues!

LATER ISSUES! Next up for me (we live in hope): those three tasty one-off issues, easily some of my fave stories. As in ever.

* * * * *

* I know she’s produced incredible work since, particularly the totally fun Beasts of Burden, but her efforts here I find blocky, sketchy, etc... but really I’m being unfair. I know it. Look, don't listen to me. My development vis a vis funny books is severely arrested. The problem is I respond to comic art on some atavistic-teenage level: give me flash! gloss! cool! Almost nobody beats Jimenez or Phillip Bond, in my book. And Morrison’s long-time collaboration with Quitely gets me wet every. goddamn. time.

Sorry Jill.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Swarm of Readers

Behead yourself! Dissolve your whole body into Vision: become seeing, seeing, seeing!
- Rumi

 The mechanisms of identification frustrated, the reader beheaded - one has no option left but to SWARM, to infest the text. Parallel (and perpendicular) venues of entry are sought. Instead of pushing the reader back into the distanced point of view of the objective and omniscient Scientist-Godhead-Reader ("the Third Person" - reeks of moralism, doesn't it?), The Invisibles presents a plenum of perspectives. The Third Person, the omniscient & featureless God-Sphere, is already present within The Invisibles, as BARBELITH. The position is occupied, outered and made explicitly alien and inaccessible. In place of a single satellite-probe circumambulating the work, the reader is injected as a swarm of autonomous nano-probes, suffusing the flesh and coursing through the blood of the world. Denied the position of privilege, he must shift and slide through whichever points of vantage that are presented and accessible.


Life in the late 20th century is a supermarket stocked with appealing self-images. Why not shop instead of hanging around outside, trying to maintain a cool, "detached" attitude?
- Grant Morrison

  Characters themselves mimic the flow of reading - entering nested realities from a higher level (gods and demons entering our world, operatives traveling back in time, magicians negotiating with cultural operating systems), always willingly and willfully reducing themselves, taking on the grammar of a system, the dynamics of dominance and submission, the sadomasochism of drama, in order to interact within it. Bernard Suits, in The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia, defines a game as "the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles". To play a game is to put on its rituals, to operate within its boundaries, to enter a virtual reality. Reading is a game.

 All play moves and has its being within a play-ground marked off beforehand either materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course. Just as there is no formal difference between play and ritual, so the ‘consecrated spot’ cannot be formally distinguished from the play-ground. The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice, etc, are all in form and function play-grounds, i.e. forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart.
- Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Double Oh Nothing

A monk once asked Ummon, "What is the Buddha?" Ummon answered thus: "A dried shit-stick!"

 The Invisibles tosses you into the maelstrom, the clamorous sea of a world hungry for bodies. Pulled swirling into this vortex, the reader seeks the support of a familiar flotation device: the Protagonist, the Everyman, fiction's life raft. The protagonist is a form of insulation between the reader and the fictive reality,  a mechanism of orientation, a ficto-symbolic body simulation through which the reader inhabits the text in a proscribed manner. Your fingers brush against him in the noisome clamour, and as you try to grasp his position as center of a heroic narrative, to cling tightly to the buoyant force of his "journey" and let yourself be carried passively along a well-worn trail of growth, you come across an issue.

He is a shithead.

Your hands slip.

 We have been led to think of virtual realities as something on the screen of a computer, or presented through a headset, but that's an electronic virtual reality. The primary technology for the building of virtual realities is language. Once you start talking about race pride, loyalty, our destiny, our God, our mission, it's like building virtual realities; and people begin to treat these things as though they had the substantiality of real objects, and to build their lives as though these things are real.  
- Terence McKenna

 Hero and Anti-Hero collide and annihilate each other in a burst of hot white light.

 Narrative is a technology. Story frames time and space according to certain rules and rubrics, providing a sense of perspective and progress. As a technology it is also a distinct argument, a rhetoric shaped by boundaries or rules defining what is meaningful and what is not within its discourse. Within this discourse, actions in accordance with rules, or rituals, generate readable and substantial meaning. Outside of this discourse is the realm of the meaningless and the unknowable. Interplay between these realms, between symbolic life and symbolic death, is fruitful. The Invisibles aims to push, pull, shatter, recast, dissolve and transcend these boundaries. It is a probe injected into the environment of narrative, as you are a player injected into the game of The Invisibles.

 It’s ragged at the edges but you can play any of 300 characters, some more involving than others. It’s a thriller, it’s a romance, it’s a tragedy, it’s a porno, it’s neo-modernist kitchen sink science fiction that you catch, like a cold.

The Invisibles is a virtual reality that is shaken, not stirred.

Monday, January 30, 2012



 You are enchanted. The Invisibles places you, plays you, works you over, wears you like a skin. It is prison warden and puppeteer, set and stage director.
 "LOOK IN THE MIRROR," Tom commands, dictating Dane's gaze and our own. We stare into the blank space of nothing and are told that we are nothing. This is theater. The reader submits to being processed by the writer, the artist, the inker, the colorist, the editor, etc.  The reader becomes content as sensory order is tweaked and tuned - palettes color the reader, words grip and constrain as spells and curses, panels and pages become the sacred geometries of a magic of boundaries, of constraints, of the collapse of potentialities into the actualities of print.
 All of the violence in The Invisibles is against the reader - to read the page is to have it inflicted upon us. The page is a death sentence - awareness is drawn across the surface almost by rote, quartered by each panel. The reader haunts the page, but not as free spirit. Rather, every line and color are gestures in a grand ritual of summoning, every panel a circle of power framing the reader's space. The reader is not in control here, but awash in the mysteries of submission.