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The Invisibles

What if every conspiracy theory you ever heard was true?

No, wait, what if every crackpot idea you ever heard, conspiracy or not, was true?

No, no, wait! What if every idea, period, you ever heard was true?

If you can stretch your brain around that concept, you would probably enjoy comic book auteur Grant Morrison's epic series, "The Invisibles."

The Invisibles is a mind-blowing mix of drugs, occultism, UFOs, voodoo, sexual excess, Witchcraft, sadomasochism, body modification, movies, government conspiracies, Lovecraftian horror, numerology, Gnostic cosmologies, anarchy, Mad Science, time travel, superheroes, Freemasonry, the Apocalypse, plus some stuff that's just plain weird.

Characters appearing in the story include (among others):

  • A foul-mouthed messiah from Liverpool.
  • A heavily pierced assassin, who moonlights as a horror novelist and ontological terrorist.
  • A Brazilian transvestite Shaman.
  • John Lennon.
  • A clown-faced, red-haired sex goddess.
  • A billionaire playboy who may or may not be Bruce Wayne.
  • The Marquis de Sade.
  • William Butler Yeats.
  • Percy and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein).
  • Jesus Christ (sort of).
  • Robert Oppenheimer.
  • The Roswell aliens.
  • A lesbian with an eye patch.
  • A rap-star voodoo houngan.
  • Princess Di.
The Invisibles is named for the secret society to which our heroes, such as they are, belong. The comic series was published from 1994 to 2000, with collected editions coming after. Issues of The Invisibles were kept on the set of The Matrix during filming, a fact which would be apparent to anyone who's familiar with both.

The story... well, the story is better experienced than summarized, but it has to do with the nature of the universe and the meaning of life. There's kind of a substructure that deals with the whole "good vs. evil" dilemma, but not in the usual way. Religion is deconstructed, reality is warped, and it's difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. The Apocalypse also makes an appearance.

The Invisibles is also designed to change the reader, so be forewarned. If you stick with it, by the end you might find that it's less fiction than it is biography... Your biography.

Morrison (who has moved on to do mainstream comics like the X-Men and the Justice League) drew on an extremely diverse set of sources for his epic, including the Gnostic writings of early Christianity, the drug-fueled speculations of Terence McKenna, Mayan and Aztec religions, the Roswell crash, the Holy Grail, the Cathars, legends of the Knights Templar, the rituals of Freemasonry, Maya Deren's writings on Voudoun, the mad science of Wilhelm Reich and Jack Parsons, the cool '60s spy stylings of The Prisoner, the metaphysical posturings of Aleister Crowley... well, the list goes on.

One highlight of the series is a restaging of the Marquis de Sade's "120 Days of Sodom" as "120 Days of Sod All," which includes Pederasty, Rape, Bestiality, and references to Necrophilia, Incest, Castration, hermaphrotisim... Anyway, it's quite a read, and does not resemble those comic books you used to buy at the corner store for 25 cents when you were a kid.

Morrison's current comic project, "The Filth," revisits on many of the above themes and goes a few steps further, with tales of a porn star shooting black semen that is magically transformed into giant disemboweling search-and-destroy sperms, graphic depictions of nose-picking, loss of identity, compulsive consumption of pornography, a talking chimp, dolphin commandos, and other fun for the whole family (if your family happens to be the Manson family).

I know what you're thinking at this stage, but I swear to God the whole thing is intellectually complex and philosophically profound (well, The Invisibles anyway, I'm not so sure about The Filth). There's a reason for everything, and the experience of being overwhelmed and repulsed helps prime the brain for the transmission of certain kinds of information. But then, you already knew that, didn't you?

The Invisibles was an interactive experiment as well. In one letter column, Morrison called on readers to take part in a magic activity designed to boost sales and keep the series alive, which involved charging a magical symbol (sigil) by masturbating. As he explained, "the good thing about the Masturbation method of sigil-charging is that it allows you to jerk off in the name of spiritual advancement." (The series made it all the way through the end, so presumably the experiment worked.)

Morrison explains his creation in a number of different ways, always colorful and surprisingly consistent.

At the beginning of the series, he wrote: "This is the comic I've wanted to write all my life--a comic about everything: action, philosophy, paranoia, sex, magic, biography, travel, drugs, religion, UFOs... you can make your own list. And when it reaches its conclusion, somewhere down the line, I promise to reveal who runs the world, why our lives are the way they are and exactly what happens to us when we die."

All these promises were actually fulfilled (some more obliquely than others) by the end of the book. In his final coda to the series, Morrison explained more and revealed less, explaining the genesis of the book and something of its purpose:

"In Katmandu, much to my shock and surprise, I experienced [...] a full-on, Tibetan, Sci-Fi Vision of All SpaceTimeMind As A Single Complexifying Iteration Which Is The Larval Form Of A 5th Dimensional Adult Entity."

The fun thing is that if you read the entire series, that statement will not only make perfect sense, but you'll probably believe it's true as well. He also adds that the series is designed to make your mind bleed, another statement which makes more sense after reading it.

So if you're getting fed up with the day-to-day grind, just remember that reality is a multiple choice question. You always have options. One of those options is to go on a spirit-quest through the ancient monastaries of Tibet, take a vow of silence, eat brown rice for 30 years, learn to speak fluent Sansrkit, and achieve ultimate enlightenment. Another option is to check out the 50-some issues of The Invisibles. Either way, odds are you'll start looking at the world a little differently...

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