Strange. Very strange.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I’ve been rereading Xombi, a 1994 series from DC’s Milestone imprint. I’m impressed with how weird both the original and the recent revival are (regrettably, it won’t survive DC’s upcoming reboot).
One of the first horrors David Kim encounters as a “xombi” is the rustling husks, homunculi animated by the angry ghosts of insects that died trapped between two panes of glass. In the first few issues, he battles clouds with teeth, a conceptual assassin (he kills you by crushing your mind under the weight of everything you regret) and the Four Stableboys of the Apocalypse (plus some less impressive foes——The Lord of Fumes comes off as a dull knockoff of the Metal Men foe Chemo). For sidekicks he has super-powered Catholic Girl and Nun of the Above (a clairvoyant nun who can see anything within 30 miles as if she were looking down on it).
It reminds me a lot of Grant Morrison’s 1980s take on the Doom Patrol, which included the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse flying out of an accursed painting; a villain exploiting a bicycle ridden by the creator of LSD to give the entire country an acid trip; and such throwaway bits as the Dresden Madonna, a statue which weeps sour milk every 28 days.
I love stuff like that. In a lot of fantasy, magic comes off as alt.science: It has rules, causes and effects, costs and benefits. Which can work fine, but sometimes gets a little drab.
Weirdness of the Xombi/DP sort, by contrast, fascinates me. It’s magic, but it’s refreshingly non-linear: There’s a feeling that things make sense but nothing about it is nice and orderly or comprehensible, it just … is.
Patricia McKillip captures some of this feeling in her fantasy——she’s never comparably bizarre, but her magic tends to be wild, unrestrained and mysterious.
The Twilight Zone did too, sometimes. For example, the episode World of Difference, in which a businessman discovers, with no explanation whatsoever, that he’s just an actor in a TV series and his “real” self is his role.
I’ve occasionally done a little in that vein myself. My short story One Hand Washes the Other has a wizard who constantly changes appearance (Latino sexpot, gaunt Goth, plump redhead). Why? She just does. How? See first answer.
I think this sort of thing works particularly well in a modern setting because the difference from our sensible, orderly reality leaps out at us. It’s not psionics, it’s not some kind of alien energy, it’s something alien. Crazy. Non-logical. I like it.
Weird is the new black.

3 Comments

Filed under Comics, Short Stories, Writing

3 responses to “Strange. Very strange.

  1. Pingback: Is Our Writers Learning? Six-Gun Tarot (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Escher: The thrill of the strange (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Weird for weird’s sake: Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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