Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #66 by Drew Barth
We find ourselves in week three of Diamond Distributors’ hiatus from weekly comics, so it’s time for some catching up. Personally, I’ve been going through a backlog nearing two hundred issues, but during this isolation I’ve also had time to dig through my long boxes. There’s easily a dozen or more series in there that have been forgotten, but one in particular stood out from 1993: Sebastian O. A quick three-issue run from Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell, Sebastian O exists as close to a thematic prequel to The Invisibles as that pair could create without outright calling it a prequel. Touching on themes of alternate realities, dystopia, and societal control, both Sebastian O and The Invisibles explore Morrison and Yeowell’s comic rebellions at Vertigo, but the latter did things a bit more Wilde.
Sebastian O asks an essential question: What if Oscar Wilde was an exquisitely trained killer with a murder mansion? Sebastian O begins with our titular character imprisoned in an asylum in a time vaguely similar to Victorian England with more computers and machines than the time allowed. After breaking out of this asylum, Sebastian takes to committing quite a few murders in order to determine who had him put away and for what reason. The mystery begins to unfold and the world we’re present for takes its shape.
It wouldn’t be a Grant Morrison story if there wasn’t some mention of alternate realities. The story here begins its bloom with the introduction of the Magic Lantern and the idea that this reality isn’t the first or last the characters have experienced. Hence the computers, the teleconferencing with Queen Victoria, and finding out that Queen Victoria is basically just a controlled video on a handheld computer. We have small comments here and there about the oddity of the world, but they’re whisked away like dirt on Sebastian’s suits. Was this reality ever really the one everyone had been born into? We simply don’t know. But knowing Morrison’s past and future work, Sebastian O could very well be a part of the many multiverses and realities he’s conjured over the years.
As good of a story Sebastian O is, nothing is more enjoyable than digging around in a pile of comics and pulling out something neglected and forgotten for so long. And there is also little more enjoyable than opening up a comic from the 90s and seeing ads for already doomed products (oh Coneheads: The Movie, did anyone want you?) because hindsight is fun. But as we wait to hear more from the monthly comics world, we all have books we’ve yet to get through. Let’s make a small dent in that TBR pile.
Get excited. Get dandy.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.