A Look At… The Invisibles

Imagine for a moment that I were to sit you down and tell you about a series of comic books lasting 59 issues over the span of 6 years that were all written by Grant Morrison and featured art by Chris Weston, Phil Jimenez, Sean Phillips, Philip Bond, Ivan Reis and Frank Quitely, to name a few. Do you think you’d be interested in that sort of comic? Well I should hope so, because it exists and it’s called The Invisibles.

Published by Vertigo/DC Comics from 1994 through 2000, The Invisibles was an early Vertigo flagship title, and while I’ve heard of some very dedicated and devout fans of the book, it always seems to have been dismissed as “that book that doesn’t make any sense.” I had often heard The Invisibles described this way, and combined with my uninformed bias against Vertigo, I never touched the series. But I came to reconsider this decision. While getting a sketch from Phil Jimenez at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2001 (or was it 2002?) somehow the conversation meandered to Grant Morrison. Jimenez was excited because he was about to pencil some work that he couldn’t tell me about (turns out it was his first issues of New X-Men) and he gushed about his experience previously working on The Invisibles. He told me how much he loved that book and those characters and was thankful to have been a part of such a cool and important project. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to talk to or hear Jimenez speak at a con, you’ll soon realize that he is a very passionate and sincere man when it comes to comics. So as he told me of his experience with The Invisibles, it really resonated with me and I never forgot his words.

It still took a few more years before I approached the title for reading. As you can imagine, uninformed biases can be hard to break. But at some point, I ended up on a plane with volume 1 and finally gave it a shot.

Now for those of you who don’t know enough about the man, Grant Morrison, here’s a quick primer. I’m not going to lie to you, he’s into some weird shit. I’m talking Alan Moore level weird shit, but not in the same spooky kind of way. We’ve often described Morrison as the “rock star” comic book writer, and that’s very much the case, but underneath the snazzy dresser and the smoothly shaved head, lies a guy into some weird magic type shit. From what I’ve read and heard, Morrison has spent quite a bit of time in the Far East, studying religions, eastern philosophies and doing a lot of drugs (so I’ve heard). He’s been attributed as a practicer of “chaos magic“, and I have no clue as to what that means. So why is this important?

The Invisibles appears to be a very personal project of Morrison’s, providing intersections for the pop culture aspects that he is interested in, and the metaphysical/magic-esque sub culture that he has studied and supposedly mastered. Throw in a bit of the conspiracy theory craze that swept the world in the mid-1990s, along with some pre-turn of the century paranoia, and you have the mixture that produced The Invisibles.

I’ll my best to describe the first volume, but it really must be read to be believed.  The Invisibles follows a group of people who belong to the Invisible College, and it is their mission to protect the people of the world from conformity by using magic and time travel. The group is led by King Mob, who we see in the beginning of the story channeling the spirit of John Lennon to find a new member of The Invisibles, Jack Frost, a Liverpool hooligan. Along with the other team members, Lord Fanny (a Brazilian transvestite), Boy (former NYPD), and Ragged Robin (the one with the Joker-esque face paint) travel back to the French Revolution to recruit the Marquis De Sade to join the team.

I couldn’t make this up. But damn, if Grant Morrison could.

Normally, I eschew anything with magic and over the top extremism in terms of out there concepts and heady beliefs. While I enjoy an engaging comic book, it shouldn’t have to be work to get through reading it. Reading volume 1 of The Invisibles, despite the insanity that appears to be on every page, I found it wasn’t difficult or too over the top to read. Somehow, Morrison wove a story that seemed perfectly plausible and believable, despite the bizarreness of the events. It’s one of those rare moment where I can do nothing but admit (again) that my uninformed bias kept me, for years, from enjoying a pretty cool book. I will add, that without the layering of music/pop culture references, I probably would have been turned off. But it’s easy to see how Morrison was able to use that as tool to lure innocent readers like myself into the mystical story he wove. He’s been quoted that aliens abducted him in Kathmandu and told him to share their message through comics, specifically this comic. Who knows if that’s true, but something happened in Kathmandu to Morrison that had him walk away with The Invisibles and so far at least, it’s pretty cool.

I’m slowly making my way through the rest of the trade paperbacks and I can see where some people would be confused or struggle with reading it. On the whole, the entire run has the ability to waver at times, but the early work in volume 1 and volume 2 is definitely worth given a shot, especially if you have an open mind to wacky type of stories Morrison can tell.

The Invisibles has definitely been one of the more unique comics to come out of Vertigo, and Morrison even accused the filmmakers of The Matrix to have ripped his story off. Additionally the BBC had optioned the story to be an ongoing TV series, but that has yet to come to fruition. Finally, the bizarre comic, The Filth, has been said by Morrison to be linked to The Invisibles, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how (Look for an article about The Filth later this week).

I feel as if as time progresses, The Invisibles seems to be the forgotten piece of work by Morrison, overshadowed by his work on New X-Men or all of his DC work. But given the roots in his beliefs and the draw of the artists who worked on it, any fan of Morrison simply has to add this to their library. 


  1. The Invisibles was the first work I remember reading of Morrison’s and it always struck me as bat-sh!t crazy. not bad really from what I understood of it but really really out there. this might have been why I liked the New X-Men I read because at least I understood it.

  2. Who else is LOVING Grant Morrison Week. Two articles from Ron in as many days. Spectacular!

  3. I’ve tried getting into this series a few times, but around issue 4 or so my interest starts to wane. I’ve heard that it gets better after volume 1 (sort of like Fables). Hopefully this is the case. Articles like this one make me want to try the series again.

  4. @DaveCarr: OH! OH! ME! I’m loving this stuff. Morrison is quite possibly my favorite writer. The David Lynch of comics! The Invisibles is indeed fucked up and not for everybody. But people who love Morrison’s big ideas, this is the perfect book. I’ve only read the first two trades so far but i can’t wait to continue on to the third. The best part of the first book? Cities are virus that has infected earth. That blew my mind!

  5. @DaveCarr – I’m with you, mate! Apart from celebrating his amazing work, I’m also learning about stuff he did that I’d never heard of before. If that ain’t a good time, I don’t know what is.

    @The iFanboys – Thank you for doing a Grant Morrison week! But be honest, is it just because you’re as terrified of him as we are and want to stay on his good side? Never mind Hulk, I wouldn’t wanna make Morrison angry! 🙂

  6. "And so we return and begin again." I love it that The Invisibles starts this way. If you make it through, no doubt you’ll want to read it again at some point. This series had a powerful effect on me during its run in the 90’s. I couldn’t wait for new issues to come out (which wasn’t always regularly). When people talk about, "I wish comics would try something different," this is what they’re talking about; it’s always reaching for something big yet remains intimate and personal at the same time.

    I definitely have friends who fall into the "this make no sense" camp, but I feel like it’s all there if you sort of let go and let it all soak in. Admittedly there are parts that end up a bit muddled. There’s also a ton of background info that can be distracting. It’s all important, but if you try to put it all together at once it can seem overwhelming. The Invisibles is about the characters more than any of the high concepts, though. And in so far as it makes you really care about this team, it succeeds in spades. I haven’t read it in years and I still love King Mob, Fanny, Boy, Robin, and Jack. I still feel sad for Sir Miles in the end, and I’m still really scared of the Blind Chessman.

    Good call on Grant Morrison week. Modern comics would not be what they are without him.

  7. It’s nice to see some of Morrison’s other work see the lime light, but I’ll admit that I probably won’t be checking this out.  I get the feeling that if I thought his Batman run was too weird that this is probably going to be wwwwaaayyy too weird.  If I can find it at the library or something, I’ll probably give it a whirl.

  8. I this sound like somthig i might like i like crazy wackness .

  9. @ron: great article — I too have been hearing that The Invinsibles and Filth are just way too crazy.  Well, now I think I might check it out, despite the risk of me feeling dumb after reading his over-my-head material (i.e. Seaguy)

  10. Seaguy’s not the best comparison. Although, that did have a certain amount of internal logic.

  11. Are you guys going to spotlight We3? I love that book and it doesn’t seem to be getting mentioned in the podcast or in the spotlights so far.

  12. @Tork – Did you watch the Saturday show?

  13. The one with Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Invisibles, JLA, Nex X-Men, and All-Star Superman? I did.. unless you mean another Saturday show… heh.  I don’t remember We3 being mentioned.  Maybe I missed something.  I know you said you weren’t going to highlight EVERYthing, but I was curious if We3 was going to be spotlighted.

  14. @Tork – Go back and check out 00:26:47.

  15. Okay-Dokey

  16. I bought a collection of trades in search of kingdom come on ebay about a year ago, and among the trades was vol. 1 of the invisibles. As I read it I was thinking matrix all the way, and what do u know??? he thought they stole his idea too. Anyway, don’t let anyone tell you that good things can’t come from comic lots on ebay. This was an awesome read, and I highly reccomend it to anyone looking to branch out a bit from the capes. 



    P.S- If you liked this, try transmetropolitan. It’s pretty out there as well.

  17. so… The Invisables is one of my favourite comic runs. I first picked it up when i was 15-ish. It’s the perfect book for a teen who thinks the world is against him. I feel like The Invisables defined my teens as well as any ablum, film or tv show.

    I’ll say this, I don’t entirely understand the story and that’s a good thing. It allows for repeat readings. Morrison creates very engaging characters, I definitely felt for the heroes; Jack, King Mob and the others. The villains of the book was also cool, the creepy Mister Quimber was rad.

    Ipso Facto, Read the book people!

  18. Yay!  Spotlight for We3!