Peripheral Versions

February 8th, 2018

(or ‘How the Mindless Ones Probably Saved my life’)
(and/or also maybe ‘How the Invisibles Spell Failed But Also Kinda Worked’)

by Erstlaub

I had in my head that it was our benevolent Pope, Robert Anton Wilson that had said ‘find the others’, of course, it wasn’t, or rather it was, but he was directly quoting Timothy Leary in Quantum Trigger I when he did. Of course once I finally got round to reading Wilson, I already kind of knew it all via Morrison’s reseeding and threading but there you go. Anyway, it seems sort of apt to chuck this out epigraphically as the rest of the text is concerned with how connections are important and how although The Invisibles didn’t quite pan out the way it was intended in our universe, that maybe in some respects it did.

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…”

My own journey feels distinctly tangential to the standard secret origins of most of the Mindless Ones (not that they all have a shared cosmic space ray explosion origin to the best of my knowledge). I only really know the Barbelith message boards vicariously through the whispered gossip of the past and the occasional shit talk about the latest awful comics person that it turns out is a horrible sexist/racist/arsehole that someone called out way back then (usually Bobsy or Botswana Beast it seems).

So anyway. I was something of late convert to Morrison (I wasn’t, I was actually indoctrinated ridiculously early by somehow convincing my mum around 1988 that, at the age of 8, a weekly subscription to 2000AD would be a fantastic idea and as such was inoculated against The Achrons through the immense and terrifying weekly download of Zenith in its pages through my letterbox along with the Saturday papers) but acted as a sort of sleeper cell eventually reconnecting somewhere in the mid 2000’s I’d guess, picking up the trades of 52 and then grabbing the baton and running with it like the Black Racer. (of course I owned and knew Arkham Asylum from probably around the time it came out but who didn’t?).

So this technically isn’t another bit of writing on the internet about how good big Granto is (well, it sort of is but there’s context, plus, y’know, he really IS pretty damn good and eventually I will reach a point but hey, just go with it)

There are various things that are crucial to understanding Dave Sim’s work, but which the essays on the phonebooks themselves won’t give me enough time to discuss. So after every two phonebooks we cover, I’m going to take time out to look at these subjects. The plan as of this writing is that there will be essays on Oscar Wilde, Sandman, Sim’s misogyny, Warner Brothers cartoons, the self-publishing field in the 80s and 90s, and the documentary hypothesis of the writing of the Old Testament.

And this, Illuminatus!