There Is Nothing Left to Say On the Invisibles
I Was a Librarian’s Assistant Pt 2
by Travis Hedge Coke
Page of Swords
Late 1994, with a cover date of January, 1995, Jill Thompson penciled an arc which took our Invisibles to a windmill and through the windmill back in time to the French Revolution, where they rescued the spirit of the Marquis de Sade and where some of them got stuck in fiction and the woman named, Ragged Robin, got stuck in a postcard.
That was it. I was sold. I was there. The issue, H.E.A.D., grabbed me in an embrace, and I was there.
A successive arc, after a dead man’s hat trick of short single issue stories, was Sheman, dealing with time travel of a different kind. As time moves around Lord Fanny, a trans Indigenous woman who was also a man and was also both and neither, I was there. Fanny had a rough life, like Dane/Jack, but unlike his brief bout of homelessness, Fanny was assured a pretty excellent future, if you disregard how often she’d be assaulted, lied to, manipulated, broke, struggling and threatened with death.
Fanny did not fear death, because she told death a joke once, and death laughed.
I understand tea with the dead. Jokes with death. Sitting at a table outside a tourist attraction with the Devil.
Soon shuffling from contents to portents for a ten of wands you may never be ready for.
These arcs, moving through time with your hands linked as a found family, recognizing that tense in narrative and life is an effort you can make but nothing you have to, time moving around some central you as you are alone and with everyone, those arcs moved me as poetry. They reflected for me a lived experience that was mine and not just a brother’s, a cousin’s.
In 2008, Aaron gave me his lucky charm, a two inch doll, and told me he put all his luck for the rest of his life in the doll, because he was worried about me traveling. Shortly after, attacked by flesh eating bacteria and then secondary infections, he began a hospital stay that lasted until the end of his life. He would joke it was because I had left with all his luck, but he would not take the doll back.
He made his decision to give me his luck the same way he made the decision when he would walk up to someone and declare a friendship. Aaron made bonds happen like that.
In 2008, I probably made a bad decision, but maybe not.
2013. I screw up and hurt someone’s feelings.
2017. I hurt someone’s feelings.
1994. You get the picture.
1994. Don’t make me repeat myself.
1994. Know yourself.
In 2005, thinking I am moving to Los Angeles full-time, I sit on my partner’s bed and we read The Invisibles simultaneously, not side by side, but one looking at it right side up, one upside down, and then switching with each issue.
Eight of Pentacles
1996. Winter. I moved back to South Dakota, my mom going through cancer we were not sure she would survive. We lived in a basement apartment with carpet samples layered over a dirt floor and neighbors brought soup and frybread, especially if it was just me there alone.
Stuck in a blizzard, on foot, trying to mail something for my mom, one afternoon, I was rescued from the blowing cold by a friend who just happened to be driving by. They could not even tell I was me, at first.
Synchronicity and compassion got me through that year and many.
I am religious and spiritual and had commitments that year, which I did my best to satisfy without treating anything as only something to satisfy. I wanted to do right by the world, a world which has largely done right by me.
That summer, I move out to California, again, to stay with my brother, Aaron and his parents. Aaron, a Norwegian-American giant, now passed, who would just gregariously introduce himself and decide a friendship, an ability which fastened us together.
Late Summer, 1997, I attended a summer school for the arts, where I met future celebrities, was stuck in an elevator with two dancers who tried out every corny joke they could before we were freed, and shocked a sophisticated, wealthy-family boy with the secret truth: You could use a rock to prop the door so it did not auto-lock, and even if you were stuck outside for the night, nobody cared.
One friend I made at summer school would mail back and forth with me, cassette tapes, letters, cards, until one day she did not. Years later, I found out my grandma, whose address I was using, confused her for my aunt, as they had the same first name, and was just saving the letters she could not make sense of, so the friend stopped reaching out.
Another friend did not talk to me, or acknowledge me when I saw him in Los Angeles, for over ten years, because he harbored a huge crush on someone with a boyfriend and towards the end of the program, discovering her boyfriend cheated on her, she and a mutual friend decided we should have a girls night in the woods, which was mostly just making out and going, eeww, when one of us would touch something mucky in the dark.
The High Priestess
To orient you, by Fall of 1997, I was a freshman at California Institute of the Arts, still sixteen, weird, and queer, and tiny, and unable to read a room to save a life.
For the rest of The Invisibles, I would often be at the mercy of what was reprinted in trade paperbacks. The series was collected this way out of order, but I did not care. Order matters to me as a matter of artistry, for the ease of indexing or structural elegance, but reading order, viewing or listening order? It was too easy to miss episodes of television shows, to miss issues of comics, to not have a book series available in order. I do not and never did care.
The omnibus edition, a hardback brick suitable for psychic defense if you whapped someone in the face with it, is missing the paper dolls and accompanying pithy commentary. Some editions present different artwork, some print some art full size and some print it reduced to fit more on one page’s space. There are no complete editions.
Much of The Invisibles cannot be printed on its pages. The interaction of readers, of players and other players, or people who know people and people meeting people, are also part of The Invisibles.
2022. I do not really feel I am the same age as Jack Frost.
2023. If The Invisibles is a comic about everything, what of everything the comic does not have room to address?
2017. I laugh at the gap I assume between how childish and how worldly Jack is and how I am.
In 2012, we have an Invisibles party at a KTV in Weihai to celebrate and to forget people like Neil deGrasse Tyson being racist. 2012 is maybe the end of the world in The Invisibles, but it could simply be a sequence of acid flashbacks, an alien embroidery, a fictive conceit.
In 2013, an old friend makes a joke about feeling like Edith in her nineties while we are in bed. She reminds me that she published sex poems about us, and could publish a memoir, but that I am nothing like King Mob or Tom O’Bedlam. She calls me Robin for the rest of the day while we wear each other’s clothes.
2004. A square shop deliberately overcharges me for the final, sequential, collection of The Invisibles, gathering Volume Three with new story pages. I buy it anyway, but decide to never come back.
1997. I cannot believe Jack Frost and I were born around the same time. I think I am so adult, but Wizard feels worldly and smarter than me. I am so pretentious. [We still luv ya, Trav. – Matt]
In 2006, someone offers to read The Invisibles if I will blow them. How can I ever turn this offer down?
1994. I am not yet fourteen, with a chip on my shoulder I will carry and feed until it becomes vaguely the dimensions of Noah’s ark.
NEXT: Robin Roundabout
There is Nothing Left to Say (On the Invisibles) chapter links:
Nothing in There is Nothing Left to Say (On The Invisibles) is guaranteed factually correct, in part or in toto, nor aroused or recommended as ethically or metaphysically sound, and the same is true of the following recommendations we hope will nonetheless be illuminating to you, our most discriminating audience.
Morrison, Grant. The Invisibles. Jill Thompson, Chris Weston, et al. DC Comics. 1994-2000.
Blonde on Blonde. Bob Dylan, et al. 1966.
Rock Lobster. Schneider, Fred and Ricky Wilson. Performed by the B-52s. 1979.
Giovanni, Nikki. Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why). 1972.
I Was a Librarian’s Assistant (cont’d)
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