Thursday, January 19, 2012

Invisibles 1.1 - 1.4 "You Joined A Long Time Ago..."

Notes towards a re-engagement with THE INVISIBLES hyper-sigil // a few thoughts on a quick reading of DEAD BEATLES and the DOWN & OUT IN HEAVEN & HELL story arc // (working from the TPB SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION)

DEAD BEATLES page 29, judge sentencing Dane: “senseless crime which went far beyond the limits of what might be regarded as legitimate youthful rebellion against authority”. Implies the existence of sensible crimes and affirms the existence of a legitimate, Machine-approved “rebellion”. When everyone’s a rebel (or, alternatively “special/awesome!” and if you haven’t read ‘HELLO I’M SPECIAL: How Individuality Became the New Conformity’ by Hal Niedzviecki yet, do so!) how can true rebellion be achieved?

Throughout the DOWN & OUT story arc, there are a number of comparitively subtle 4th wall breakages that, taken in context with the series as a whole, and GMs statements re: THE INVISIBLES as a hyper-sigil/call-to-arms to create/recruit (existing) Invisibles, are in fact quite punchy. Outstanding examples: first splash page in Part 1, Dane: “Got any change, Mister?”, KM in Part 2 (TPB p76, middle panel): “One day, when you least expect it, we’ll be there,” as in ‘how bout right now, as you’re reading this?’, Tom with a threat/promise (p91) “I’m a nightmare, boy... one holy fucking terror”, as good a descriptor (Holy. Fucking. Terror.) for THE INVISIBLES as I can imagine, and of course, the readers own initiatory experience with the white/blank page as Dane looks into the badge that’s bloodying his palm. That’s ours as much as his, and perhaps not subtle at all, UNTIL you compare and contrast with Dane and KM (p120) in the top panel: “What if I don’t want to join?” “You joined a long time ago. But if you don’t want to come with us now, if you don’t want to find out more about what this is all about, you’re free to go your own way. You might just survive.” Yeah, we could put the book down, but then again, he’s stating a truth: we joined all right, back on p95. If not long before, when THE INVISIBLES was just a fever gleam in GMs eye.

“Carlos Casteneda, these are your children,” Boy says, ages away in Volume 2, and here in DOWN & OUT Part 2 we see Don Juan rearing his inscrutable old head in Tom’s sorcerous teaching methods, from the “assemblage point shift” accomplished with a blow to Dane’s back (or that point on his ‘luminous egg body’, perhaps? p80) to the first panel (p85): “All of my teachings are done on this level of consciousness,” to the remarkable sequence of three panels (p90) in which Tom tweaks Dane’s path down to the riverbed confrontation with subtle hand gestures. I can’t imagine that these are just the random interpretations of the illustrator, as we know GM plans out his panels with some precision. Now, this I find interesting, because unless you’ve gorged on Casteneda, all these little touches mean nothing: it’s a call-out, a secret-ish handshake across the page barrier, and a reminder to perhaps read THE INVISIBLES as you would read Castaneda? Not as anthropology text/gospel or god forbid a literal grimoire, but as a framework of sociological questions? Either that, or, to paraphrase Jolly Roger (again, ages away in Volume 2) “It just means you’ve read the same stupid paperbacks they have.” Well, it’s both: Dane & Tom in the abandoned underground tunnels (p64) “What’s that there? Ah, somebody’s been down here before us. That’s crap.” “Guardian of this shrine. Totem and protector...”

Stylistic notes: I’ve never been keen on Yeowell’s art (too what’s-the-word? sketchy? When I feel like I could maybe draw about as well with some practice, I tend not to like the artist, but that’s my own Outer Church self-loathing program running, probably), but the covers for DOWN & OUT are brilliant. If I’d seen these covers on the racks, nothing would have stopped me from picking them up. I’ve read since that GM wanted KM to look like the actor Daniel Day Lewis at the start and I can really see that now upon re-reading, particularly in the final panels of Part 3. Which to me says that GM had not yet grokked what he was trying to do with the series. He’s yet to inhabit the fiction-suit of King Mob. Now I’ll be looking for that moment when he does. Which could imply that all those ‘subtle 4th wall breaks’ I was talking about earlier were not, in fact, deliberate, and I am merely seeing pattern and meaning because I want to. Or is it the story that manifests itself as a gestalt even before the writer/channel is aware of it? I’d like to think the latter, myself, ‘cuz apophenia just makes me mad.

Davis, thanks for a) getting me to look up apophenia and for b) getting this rolling! I think we can all have some fun here. Peace, gentlemen.


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Scott R Jones -- writer, spoken word artist, naturalized sorcerer
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  1. "Illumination is only the other side of absolute terror. And the only terror that is truly absolute is the horror of realizing that you can't believe anything you've ever been told." - Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy

    Came across that quote on the bus ride to work, after reading your post this morning, and couldn't help but think of the "holy fucking terror" of The Invisibles. I keep coming back to the performative aspects of The Invisibles, how it acts instead of (or as well as) tells, and you've hit the nail on the head here. Tom's hand gestures tweaking Dane's path, in conjunction with the heiroglyphs prominently on display (always back to Egypt, eh?) makes me think of nothing less than Yeowell drawing the comic itself, tweaking the reader's path. The pigeon POV Tom forces on Dane is placed no less equally on the reader, as well. Huh.

    I think I've just come across my in for Down & Out In Heaven & Hell, because I've been circling the damn arc for the last two weeks, reading it and trying to figure out my tactic, my approach. Unfortunately I have maybe a dozen pages or so of experience with Castaneda's work, so while I can recognize his hand in all this, that's the extent of my involvement there.

    (“What’s that there? Ah, somebody’s been down here before us. That’s crap.” is hilarious to me when juxtaposed with the panel I celebrated so much from the first volume.)

    Thanks for the perspective, Scott!

  2. Also, hey, don't sweat apophenia. I prefer to think of it as emancipatory. The text as meaning-making instead of meaning-matching (spontaneous generation of meaning, like flies in medieval shit). The reader as artist! Fertile noise! Death of the author, all that jazz. Anyway, just another lens through which to goggle. Useful at times, less so at others.

    Oh, and no thanks needed for me. RFB was put together for the purely self-serving purposes of getting me to write and extend my own thoughts on The Invisibles, and to assemble perspectives that I, alone, would not be able to assemble. Purely self-serving.

  3. Re: sweating apophenia. Nah, no sweat. Just one of those things that I knew but didn't know I knew, you know? I spend a good percentage of my life walking around feeling dumb as a post, until I engage on/with something and then whaddayaknow! Turns out I know something. It's weird. I just needed re-acquaintance with the definition of the word.

    So far, looks like perspectives be assemblin'. And I'll admit to a certain jazzy 'let's get writing!' vibe coming offa the screen here that I could do with a liberal dose of myself. Your writing (on this and elsewhere) is really good, Davis. Business is self-serving and business is good! So, a little thanks are in order, I figure.