[12 November 2009]
The twin themes of identity and individuality have been persistent, domineering forces in storytelling, and, indeed, everyday life since the days of cave paintings in the cradle of civilization. For good or for ill, these twin aspects define humanity and don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
The slave trade? Segregation? What ended up happening to the persons involved was entirely dependent on their skin color.
The Crusades? The Inquisition? One’s personal religion either vilified or redeemed them.
McCarthyism? Rigged elections? Dependent on one’s perceived political proclivities.
One needs to do no more than research the Indian caste system, South African apartheid, American marriage laws and health care concerns and the various attempted genocides in the Middle East and Africa to know that identity-based persecution isn’t going to go the way of the dinosaurs anytime soon.
Though it takes place in 1994 and is loosely based on H.G. Wells’s 1897 classic The Invisible Man, Jeff Lemire’s insightful and touching new graphic novel The Nobody is both timely and timeless, its artwork and narrative lending a haunting air to a world on a slightly different vibrational frequency from our own. In this version of the tale, ostensibly occurring pre-9/11 but obviously created many years after the attacks that changed the world forever, a small town’s concern over a man garbed head-to-toe in bandages is palpable, but only serves as a potent reminder of the secrets that every resident of every small town on this planet has. This version of the transparent strange, here called “John Griffen” as opposed to “Doctor Griffin” (no doubt as an homage to “Jack Griffin”, as in the 1933 James Whale film of The Invisible Man) is feared not necessarily because he could have a terrible communicable disease, an upsetting, scarred visage or even a record of dire criminal activities; he is feared because his very physical essence is a reminder of humanity’s own deep, dark hearts and minds, and the secrets carried beneath every individual’s “bandages”.