In last week’s instalment of THE FUNCTION OF THE FILTH, we skipped straight to the “violence” part of the equation.  This time round, we’re dealing with sex, because sex is always important in this sort of story.

This sort of story?  Well, try not to stop me if you’ve heard this one before!

There’s this guy who wakes up from his mundane life to discover he’s really a disturbingly important human being – maybe the most disturbingly important human being – rather than just another boring arsehole with bad hair. Inevitably, he’s a little incredulous about the whole thing to begin with, but as one world crumbles away he soon starts to find himself more at home in his new reality – and it’s almost always his new reality, whatever complications may arise further down the line. 

This detail tends to narrow down the rest of the possibilities of the story so that at least one attractive woman will usually be involved – the idea of “normal” being what it is, can you think of a better way to ensure that the transition from the “real” world to another, more overdetermined world goes well?  Cosmic purpose on its own isn’t enough: if the switch over is to be successful then the deal must be sealed with flesh.  For this price, plus teleological extras, our hero finds it within himself to be all that he can be.

This story is called The Matrix, or maybe Star Wars, or maybe even Wanted. For all their differences, these stories are all equally at home in the pages of comics and on cinema screens, in visual media where they can best present the  dreams of their audience back to them as a dressing up kit, a series of moves or tools or attitudes that can be easily copped and used to remake the world. These stories represent the transformation of dreams into merchandising, and as such their tropes are as easy to critique as they are hard to resist .

But did I say we would be talking about sex instead of violence this time?  Yeah… let’s do that!


No matter how many garish and unlikely feathers it might shed along the way – and it’s perhaps worth noting in passing that research indicates that bright parrot feathers have flourished at least in part because they are bacterially resistant  – the slick, smudgy horror of tabloid life is coded into the DNA of The Filth.  There’s a commitment to punishing sensationalism running through the whole thing, one that would be immediately recognisable to headline writers around the western world, and it finds its perfect expression in the intertwined helices of Chris Weston’s art and Grant Morrison’s words.

As his earlier work with Morrison on The Invisibles attests Weston has generally struggled to draw pretty or stylish or stylish people throughout his career, but he’s an auteur of the ugly and in this respect The Filth is his unquestionable masterpiece.   The bulging, unseemly quality that he gives his characters has never been more fitting than it is here here – his figures are beaten down and out-of-shape, no match for the overwhelmingly detailed and deeply unreasonable world they live in.

Here’s a little example of a stylish character from The Invisibles (Grant Morrison’s morally ponderous avatar King Mob) getting bogged down in the Westonian murk:

And here’s our man, Greg Feely (another, less glamorous insert character?) trying to suck it up and save the day in The Filth:

No Rocky Horror dressing up box can save these men from their fetid physicality.  Looking at these figures as Weston depicts them on the page, you might even start to believe that they’d flake off bits of rotten skin if you scratched them hard enough, reality be damned.

We’ll discuss the nature of the outfits Greg finds hanging in his wardrobe later on – like most every in this comic, the escapism is tainted by the condition.  For now, let’s get to the blue bits!

The purest expression of The Filth‘s non-more-mucky aesthetic comes in the scene where Greg is alerted to his destiny in the middle of the first issue.  His activation as an agent of The Hand comes in the form of a sexual encounter with another agent.  As previously noted, fantastic adventures like this one have the promise of female flesh written into their DNA, a holdover from their precursors’ destiny as fodder for the feverish imaginations of teenage boys who could retreat under the duvet to dream of alien princesses and saucy elves.

So it comes to pass that Greg informed that he’s only a dank holiday home for someone called Ned Slade – a “para-personality” to use the book’s language, a parallel life, a manifestation of a ghost persona – this information is imparted on him by a fellow agent of The Hand who just so happens to be waiting naked and willing in his shower for him when he comes home.  This doesn’t so much border on the typical as batter it, hammering down the typical mechanics of boy’s adventure past the thin veneer of pretence to the promise underneath: if you are the hero of the story sexy women will want to sleep with you just because you managed to be there.

Or at least, that’s how it would play if it weren’t for the details of the scene.  The agent in question (Miami/Nil) has given herself a decrepit comb over to match Greg’s, and while that may or may not be your thing it’s certainly to the left of the traditional male fantasy catered to by her buff, buxom body and instantaneous accessibility. What’s more, Nil’s appearance in his shower, stripped of all clothes as the script demands, has the effect of knocking the panels themselves off kilter.

Noticing that the shower is already on when he gets back into his house after his day’s work, Greg bombs his way towards the bathroom like an extra in an old episode of Star Trek, clinging to doorways and railings as though the tilt of the panels has thrown him off balance.  The composition of the page conspires to tell us that something is wrong with this scene, which somehow manages not to feel like the culmination of a long held fantasy even as it plays out an inter-racial sex scenario that Grant Morrison has previously questioned himself on in The Invisibles.

As Greg wobbles his way up the stairs the panels that frame him abandon their previous commitment to straightness.  Jagged yellow lightning bolts cut into the edges of the panels  so that the page itself is practically screaming at the reader in excitement:

When Nil starts to pleasure Greg in the shower, the panels warp in on themselves. in a crude parody of three-dimensionality.  By the time this messy congress has been consummated, panel borders are abandoned entirely in favour of a series of overlaid images of the lucky couple fucking in the sickly light of the rainbow-toned goop that started to run out of Greg’s nose with life as he knew it.  These images don’t pop alluringly on the page as you might expect – instead, they droop down the page like soggy cardboard.

While the page designs realign themselves after this encounter, the fact that everything that follows is tainted by the colours of Greg’s nasal mucus is indicative: there are no ruby slippers here, and if home ever existed, there were a few too many creepy magazines poking out from under mummy and daddy’s bed for you to ever truly romanticise it. Our protagonists (meaning both Greg Feely and you, dear reader) are not so lucky as the typical applicants for the heroes journey; the chaos of The Crack is not just sitting there waiting for us to arrive and bring order to it.

Time to face facts: there is a hole inside you that may never be filled, and while that special suit helped you get in the mood, some of those stains will never wash out.

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