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 Grant Morrison (Part Two)Written: 29 JUN 2001
 
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Grant Morrison (Part Two)Grant Morrison (Part Two) "Initially the idea was to do Jack Kirby's 'Boy Commandos'," he laughs. "I loved that title - I thought it was really William Burroughs. I had this notion that I could do something based on the scout movement. It was to be some dodgy subversive organisation of psychic scouts."

While the idea was still being formed, however, something happened to him. He describes it (with a grin) as a "bizarre experience in Katmandu", as "an encounter - a contact experience - with something else - something from another level of reality".

"The Invisibles is my attempt to try and understand this experience," he explains. "I have read every piece of literature about abductions that I can find. I read Terence McKenna's work - it was the same - and Philip K Dick describes a similar experience. That really became what the Invisibles were about - this event that happened to me."

The series that evolved from these experiences was completely free of psychic boy scouts. Instead - against a background of vast conspiracies, endless wars and alien abductions - a cell of five outrageous and extraordinary characters act out rebellion and disobedience. Our heroes are: Jack Frost - a Liverpudlian teenager who might be the future Buddha; Lord Fanny - a transvestite shaman with 'a XXX line to the death god of the Aztecs'; Ragged Robin - a temporally displaced psychic; and Boy - a New York cop with cover stories inside cover stories. Finally, King Mob (often believed to be a thinly veiled fantasy portrait of Morrison himself) is a musician, horror writer and occasional gun-crazed lunatic, skilled in psychic scorpion martial arts. Over the last five years, this cast has been supplemented by radical lesbians, megalomaniacal multimillionaires and the super-secret Cell 23.

"The characters are really just aspects of myself that I set on the page to play around with these ideas," Morrison explains. "I looked around at people I knew - things that were going on - and tried to create characters that seemed to exemplify people at the end of the century. So there is a little fuck who is as deserving of enlightenment as anyone else, there is a super cool magician guy, a transvestite shaman... The transvestite thing came from the whole fetish culture - I tied that in with the magical idea that magicians used to wear women's clothing to do their magic."

Morrison's fascination with magic extends beyond the plots that he writes. The Invisibles suffered an early slump in sales shortly after its launch. Morrison became concerned that the book he had always wanted to write might not be the book that his audience wanted to read.

"I wanted to talk about difficult subjects," he begins, "but I realised that I wasn't talking about difficult subjects in a way that people could understand. I began to realise that my way of talking to my audience was perhaps overdone."

He began to change the way in which he approached the book - but as a sideline decided to instruct his readers in the art of Chaos Magick. He explained to them that sales would improve if they would visualise a specific sigil at the point of their masturbatory orgasms. As the series is still running forty issues later it seems to have worked. But this is only one element of the magic surrounding the book.

"Right at the beginning - when I started the Invisibles - I sat down and tried to devise it as a spell," he explains. "I even did a bungee jump to try to empower the spell. Now it has taken on a life of its own. Things I have put into the comic have actually happened - to the point where I can put things into the comic and MAKE them happen."

He is more than willing to provide examples: "I gave King Mob a shaved head and then promptly shaved my own. I was hoping some of his magic would rub off. But then I did this story-line in which he is shot, his lungs collapse and he goes through a terrible shamanic trial. Three months after I wrote it, my lung collapses and I end up going through a terrible shamanic trial. Then I got a disease that ate through my face exactly as I described it happening to him."

"It was around then that I decided that I ought to do some nice things to him," he laughs. "So I wrote about him having sex with Ragged Robin. Then I met this girl who was exactly like her. It was great. I am now struggling towards a theory in which we are about to make first contact with fictional reality."
Morrison has a lot of theories, many of which seem extremely plausible while he is explaining them. He seems slightly hurt when I ask him how many of them he actually believes.

"I believe everything that I have had actual experience of," he explains. "Everything else is just something I have read to see if it corroborates my experience. I have found a lot of stuff that does! It might not corroborate exactly, which makes me think that no one knows exactly what is going on - that everyone is interpreting it differently. All I know is that The Invisibles helps me pick over the bones of something that happened to me. And I try to make the series entertaining and talk about questions that are in the air at this time."

"As to the series itself: since I have been writing it I get letters from real anarchists in America - letters from real shamanic transvestites telling me how to throw a Molotov cocktail wearing a Dior cocktail dress. All the characters that I have described have turned up in places. Neil Gaiman told me these things happened to him as well when he was doing Sandman. Alan Moore said it happened to him too when he was doing Watchmen."

Morrison contends that the Invisibles expresses a part of the Millennium fever. Indeed, far from being the only series about conspiracies and aliens that appeared in the mid-90s, the title was launched within months of the first appearance of the X-files. Morrison finds this fascinating, if a little galling.

"In 1990 I went to the BBC with the Division X characters who appear in the Invisibles," he says. "I wanted to do a series about the Sweeney coming back out of retirement to solve occult crimes. I was told that there was no way that something like that could ever appear on television - and then of course the X-files appeared."

"The X-files and The Invisibles were obviously part of the same current. But then all through my work I have written about conspiracies and secrets. That was a theme that ran all through The Doom Patrol - the Pentagon stories were the conspiracy angle taken to its logical extreme. Unlike the X-files, my stories usually lead to some kind of illumination - I don't think it is enough to just have bad guys in control."

"There are things that exist that just don't jibe with what we are told about the world. The alien image and ideas of world-wide conspiracies are myths that explain a things that people need to have explained. It was a secular myth whose time had come."

In the Invisibles, the end of the universe is scheduled to occur on the 22nd of December 2012. Only at this point will it become clear which 'side' in the great conflict has won. Despite this approaching Armageddon, Morrison is fascinated by the future and eager to discuss his ideas.

"We are at the end of the Millennium and we have forced ourselves to think that something important is going to happen. By doing that I think we will make something happen. At the end of the last century we had the decadent movement. They thought nothing new could ever happen again, that all we could do was recycle the past. That is what we are doing now - Oasis are the Beatles. Everything is nostalgia."

"It is pretty easy to work out what happens next," he continues. "The summer of 1999 will see the rise of a massive youth movement. It will probably be pretty punky in spirit. The nihilist spirit will return and there will be an end to things like Cool Britannia and nostalgia. Then there will be a hangover for a few years and then by 2010 Psychedelia will be back in fashion. That's just how it works - we'll all get interested in aliens again."

He gets a glint in his eye and launches into another theory: "I have read that youth rebellion repeats itself on eleven year solar cycles - it is caused by sunspots. They noticed it first in 1955, the year Rock and Roll came about. Then they noticed it again in 1966, which is when the opposite spirit came in with Psychedelia. And then in 1977 there was Punk, and in 1988 there was Rave Culture. That brings us around to 1999, which also has an eclipse! Watch out for the Children of the Black Sun."

"Clothes will get tighter, hair will get shorter, things will be repressive rather than expansive. These kids will find 1984 and Big Brother funny. They'll be saying 'CCTV is great! The Police are great! Helicopters are great!' It'll drive their parents mad."

Whether or not his predictions come to pass, one deadline is fast approaching. The Invisibles is scheduled to end in January 2000. In his final issue of Animal Man, a wan and troubled Grant Morrison is asked by his creation why his life is so haphazard. Morrison replies: "That's the trouble with my stories - they always seem to build up to something that never actually happens. That's the trouble with my life too."

He doesn't have this fear with The Invisibles.

"If people have really put that much of their lives into it then they've missed the point. The Invisibles is the beginning - the moment you start talking about these people then suddenly you are one of them. I am sending out a telegram saying these are the methods - I have found that they work. This is where I am - send me back your stuff."

"Anyway, hopefully the series won't let you down. At the end I am going to tell you something amazing."

He pauses for effect.

"Something REALLY amazing..."

With these words, the man who made the Pentagon into a circle, introduced the world to The Brotherhood of Dada and created the Decreator begins to assemble his belongings for a lunch with his agent. As we shake hands he glances down to my Dictaphone with a grin.

"You should be careful," he says conspiratorially. "My voice often doesn't show up on tape."

Tom Coates

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