I am quickly becoming a huge fan of Dover's graphic novels, also called "comic books."
That's a misleading title, of course, because it implies "funny" which most of these are certainly not. I was never a comic book fan, in fact I
am not sure I ever read one in my life. Dover's reissues are anything but the flimsy magazines one often associates with the genre, in fact they range
from the typical heavy cardboard which is Dover's trademark, to really hardback. I just bought another one that I swear must weigh five pounds!
The subject matter of the reissues ranges from horror, fantasy, heroic, dystopian, and yes, also funny. But this one, perhaps a stranger direction for a graphic novel, is distinctly spiritual, and it moved me to the depth of my soul. In addition, this particular Dover edition also contains extra materials, such as correspondence and an interview between the writer and artist. As is often the case, these graphic novels are done by two or more people. Here, the writer is J.M. DeMatteis and the artist Paul Johnson. Amazingly, they were not in the same geographical place as they co-created this gorgeous work of art, but they seemed to be of one mind and spirit as to its nature. DeMatteis conceived Mercy as a sort of Hindu Goddess, but yet universal, and Johnson's art subtly conveys that idea. One of the awesome features of graphic novels is that they may be perceived and interpreted in a wide variety of ways, simply because one is reading words, but not too many, while looking at images. Both offer suggestions as to the meaning of the story. In this edition, there are snatches of correspondence between the two creators, which enlighten the reader further as to their ideas. In all, this one is rich and deep, especially to those on the path towards consciousness. It was originally published in 1993.
In brief, here is an outline of the story. A well-off man in his fifties, Joshua Rose, has had a stroke and is in a coma, hovering between life and death. He is out of his body, viewing his situation in the hospital from above. But he begins to wander across the globe, and all through his journeys, he keeps seeing a figure, whom he calls Mercy. She is a female, often resembling one from India, but changes her form to meet the needs of those she helps. She has a hint of wings and a halo, and is seen by Joshua as a spirit, battling demons, and as an everyday person, descended into the physical world to become a homeless person on the streets, a ballet dancer on stage, a rice-gatherer in China, a child in Italy, a starving African baby—come to earth to bear the sufferings of humanity, and wash their souls clean. No matter what her guise, she is always recognizable. She gives courage to a young tribal boy in the Amazon, whose father, the chief, has suddenly died. Now the boy must go through a painful initiation, which will kill him if he is not worthy. She does not take away his pain but gives him strength to bear it and be victorious. She visits a teenage daughter of parents who hate each other and have created a monstrous creature that now preys on the daughter, giving her suicidal thoughts. Mercy battles with it in the dark, and as always, though she suffers as a warrior, she triumphs.
People might see her as a "Jesus figure," a guardian angel, or any number of highly enlightened entities, no matter what their spiritual background. But I, however, saw her as myself! There are those who flaunt their "holiness" to the public in order to become rich and famous as gurus or leaders of a particular sect. They excel in fakery and little else. But there are those of us who quietly go about our work, on planet and off, bearing the wounds of our battles silently. I never speak of what I really do in my articles or elsewhere, but let it suffice to say that I recognize the character of Mercy as a mirror of myself. I was so moved by this novel perhaps because it clarified and confirmed who I am and what I do.
I want to now include some quotes from the book and their corresponding artwork. The pages are not numbered. In the first quote, Joshua is floating around out of his body, not really understanding or even caring. He does not want to return. He says:
Far preferable to what I left behind: stinking cesspool of a planet. Created by God? Vomited up by the devil, is more like it.
I never met a man without lies on his lips, pain in his heart, chaos in his mind. Never saw a day pass without human suffering screaming at me from every corner of the world.
This second quote is when Joshua views the husband and wife in Richmond, a suburb near London. The man does a crossword puzzle and she reads. But suddenly their inner thoughts become hateful. Joshua sees an evil entity appear and wonders:
Were these thoughts always there? Or did the thing call them out? Invoke them? Create them?
I wonder about stuff like that, too.
In the next quote, Mercy has allowed—no, taken on—an evil entity in all its horror.
All that ugliness and agony, all that sin and disease—is flooded over into her! And it's not the creature's doing—it's Mercy's.
But what she has done is washed it clean and set it free. It had originally been a death by suicide.
But there was no freedom, not even death; just Limbo. Trapped between two worlds—unable to move on. Unable to do anything—but feed on its own despair. And ultimately become it.
All through the story, Joshua is angry and frustrated because he cannot figure our Mercy. He even wants to see her hurt. He cannot believe in her goodness, and wonders why she should take such care to help even the seemingly most "worthless" of human beings. Then he finally "gets it," and he himself is transformed and healed.
There's no great or small! No question of size or importance! Each act of compassion—however minor it may appear to our blind eyes—affects all Creation; shakes it to its roots!
At the end, Paul Johnson supplies some inside information on how the artwork evolved. Wow—all the
different mediums and methods he used, which beautifully paid off. Pages of original sketches are also included. And like DeMatteis, he also had an
interest in the spiritual realms. He says: " I liked working on things that were esoteric and spiritual at that time. I've always been interested in
what lies between the world as we perceive it and what really exists."
To the people who regularly read my website, I cannot begin to tell you how highly I recommend this book. These graphic novels are pricey, but once you open your (free) account with Dover, you will find you get more books free than you actually pay for!! Stock your wishlist and you will immediately know when books go on sale. Then add that to the usual discounts and coupons available and you will soon see that Dover is by far the best company from which to buy books.
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