The blank badge and everything that surrounds it: an Invisibles reread

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The past while I have been thinking about this incredible series and thinking about my irregular reread (well overdue). Since there are others on here who like The Invisibles, would anyone be interested in a group reread?

We could do 2-3 issues a week (though suggest a different pace if that suits), you do not need to analyse in depth! It can be as simple as “the scene where Jack and Fanny dance is great” (it is) or “Helga’s my fave” (debatable, but debate anyway!) However, if you post Quimper porn I’ll get you threadbanned. Can’t say fairer.

I’m happy to, idk, do weekly posts to summarise up stuff and provide a structure, so what do you say? Anyone interested?

scampo italiano (gyac), Monday, 14 September 2020 19:12 (one week ago) link

nice and smooth

mh, Monday, 14 September 2020 19:13 (one week ago) link

my trades are somewhere in the attic, i think, so I’d need to either dig them out or find an, er, alternative source but i’d be up for this - been a long time since i read it and it’d be interested to see what the series means to me now because it meant a lot to me half a lifetime ago

you are like a scampicane, there's calm in your fries (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 14 September 2020 19:15 (one week ago) link

I was in the midst of typing a reply and I could've sworn the regular ILX interface flickered several times and briefly turned into Barbelith. Spooky doin's a-transpirin'...

Don't be such an idot. (Old Lunch), Monday, 14 September 2020 19:22 (one week ago) link

lol i knew this was gonna be irresistible old lunch-bait

you are like a scampicane, there's calm in your fries (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 14 September 2020 19:27 (one week ago) link

When suits to do this btw?

scampo italiano (gyac), Monday, 14 September 2020 19:29 (one week ago) link

been a long time since i read it and it’d be interested to see what the series means to me now because it meant a lot to me half a lifetime ago

Yeah, same.

2-3 issues a week would be my limit, I am also in a chapter-a-day Gormenghast reading group.

All Quimper (even the name 'Quimper') is Quimper porn.

Andrew Farrell, Monday, 14 September 2020 19:40 (one week ago) link

Archon police, threadban this man.

scampo italiano (gyac), Monday, 14 September 2020 19:42 (one week ago) link

I was never on Barbelith, but I did know a few of them, partly through my ex - I was horrified to realise that I'd tangled with one of them, posting as Tannhauser, in rec.arts.dc.vertigo in the mid 90s.

Andrew Farrell, Monday, 14 September 2020 19:42 (one week ago) link

(we were both arseholes then, we are ... less arseholes now)

Andrew Farrell, Monday, 14 September 2020 19:46 (one week ago) link

Debatable. I was never on Barbelith, though I do own an unofficial guide that I think came off the site affiliated to it?

scampo italiano (gyac), Monday, 14 September 2020 19:52 (one week ago) link

The Disinformation Guide to the Invisibles or whatever it was called? :) I have that too.

Tuomas, Monday, 14 September 2020 20:00 (one week ago) link

xp Anarchy for the Masses?

Andrew Farrell, Monday, 14 September 2020 20:00 (one week ago) link

xposts Oh geez, who didn't tangle with Haus? He'd probably seem completely innocuous were I to encounter him today.

I could get into this reading group/old folks reminiscence of the old 'Lith days.

Don't be such an idot. (Old Lunch), Monday, 14 September 2020 20:00 (one week ago) link

I was on Barbelith, but only for a little while. And I'd be up with joining the reread.

Tuomas, Monday, 14 September 2020 20:01 (one week ago) link

I have Anarchy for the Masses and the much better (read: actually useful) reading guide, Our Sentence is Up.

Don't be such an idot. (Old Lunch), Monday, 14 September 2020 20:02 (one week ago) link

Tho I have reread it maybe 5-10 years ago, and I didn't find as incredible as I did as youngster, it's not even among my top 3 Morrison series anymore... Am I still allowed to join? 😅

Tuomas, Monday, 14 September 2020 20:02 (one week ago) link

Revisitation of the things that pry open your brain is never going to have the same impact as they did when those things first pried your brain open. It's to be expected.

Don't be such an idot. (Old Lunch), Monday, 14 September 2020 20:05 (one week ago) link

It pried my brain open so hard that my ability to properly conjugate a sentence spilled out onto the sidewalk. Alas.

Don't be such an idot. (Old Lunch), Monday, 14 September 2020 20:06 (one week ago) link

Yeah anyone is welcome Tuomas!

scampo italiano (gyac), Monday, 14 September 2020 20:23 (one week ago) link

i said john, john ... hiding in plain sight ... that's not playing the game.

and then edith said to call on buddha, but he didn't hear her properly.

and now it's a rescue mission ... they're trying to unhypnotize him out of his prison ...

i'm trying to explain as best i can

the late great, Tuesday, 15 September 2020 00:04 (one week ago) link

I'd have to get my trades out of the storage unit, but I would be game. It is one I would like to re-read again and would fit in with some other things I have re-read in the past couple of years.

earlnash, Tuesday, 15 September 2020 00:19 (one week ago) link

I’m thinking of starting the reread this Sunday, to run for a week on the first two issues, and then next Sunday three more. Hopefully, earlnash, you can join in at this pace, and you can always backread and contribute?

Thoughts on pace? I’d like to start this as soon as just so I have to hold myself to doing it, lol.

scampo italiano (gyac), Tuesday, 15 September 2020 08:39 (one week ago) link

I definitely understand that impulse, and would be up for that speed. The one thing is that the first story is 4 issues long?

Andrew Farrell, Tuesday, 15 September 2020 09:49 (one week ago) link

That’s fine though, it’s a reread and going issue by issue forces you to focus on the granular while already being aware of the whole.

scampo italiano (gyac), Tuesday, 15 September 2020 10:12 (one week ago) link

That pace sounds fine.

lol, along with seemingly everyone else itt, I will need to dig these out from storage (99% certain the box in question is in the very back and on the very bottom).

Don't be such an idot. (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 15 September 2020 11:12 (one week ago) link

So.

When I was little and wanking about twenty times a day Back in the early 90s, I had a best friend, Simon - he's still a good friend, but I'm here now and he's there. Simon was a Mac fan, a graphic designer and a fast talker. And at one point in 1994, he convinced the Dublin branch of Forbidden Planet that they needed a web presence, and that he could provide it in the shape of one page with contact information for their shops, and as many reviews as we could provide from our payment of £25 of free comics per week.

This went on for a while - July 1994-December 1995 at a rough measure - until someone at FP realised that what they were getting for their money was frequently plot-summary level stuff of the comics we liked and full excoriations of the ones we didn't. Neither of these were a good return on investment for them, so they pulled the plug.

I've found the remains of the site on archive.org, but annoyingly I can't find the only editorial-type thing I wrote, which was about how the world was holding its breath - Grant Morrison was going to have a new ongoing series coming out soon. Zenith and Doom Patrol had finished in 1992, there'd just been Sebastian O and The Mystery Play since then, and now something was going to come which Grant, in full hype-man radiance, had declared was going to be his magnum opus, and my body was READY!

It's not a co-incidence that this was also the first time since I'd started reading comics weekly (as opposed to borrowing them by the careful bagful from Simon) that any of my favourite creators had started a new thing.

Anyway, there's the link to the rest of it - I cannot emphasise enough that I'll deny writing any of it if pressed.

Andrew Farrell, Wednesday, 16 September 2020 13:35 (one week ago) link

It's sad on the one hand that Barbelith collapsed in on itself but on the other hand it's nice to have gotten most of my more embarrassing youthful online posting out of my system on a platform that's basically disappeared.

I hadn't read much Morrison when the series started but I started picking it up from issue 1. And that first issue is probably the most battered comic in my collection (from my own overuse and from passing it around). Pretty much just a sheaf of disconnected pages at this point iirc.

Don't be such an idot. (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 16 September 2020 13:42 (one week ago) link

OL - does your webmail work? I sent you one the other day, it’s rtyi.

scampo italiano (gyac), Wednesday, 16 September 2020 13:43 (one week ago) link

i'm into this, so bookmarking. i can actually see the trades from my desk.

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Wednesday, 16 September 2020 16:19 (one week ago) link

Should be no problem, I've been moving back my comics after I got them sorted at home. I got an idea where the box-o-Morrison is located.

I re-read the Illuminatus Trilogy last year, then Valis/Radio Free Albemuth earlier this year; so re-read of the Invisibles should fit well in this current days/daze.

earlnash, Wednesday, 16 September 2020 22:51 (one week ago) link

I’m definitely up for this. I bought the first four issues from Comic Showcase in Covent Garden, liked but didn’t love them despite being a GM superfan (I had cut up the Animal Man panels from UK reprint “DC ACTION!” and blue-tacked them over my bedroom wall) and then quit comics until Seaguy came out a decade later. I read Invisibles in the mid-2000s after interviewing, er, Cameron Stewart.

2-3 issues a week sounds doable!

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 19 September 2020 22:28 (five days ago) link

Excellent. I’ll do the first post tomorrow, those two issues are the ones we’ll discuss for the week, then do three following week and alternate to let people catch up.

scampo italiano (gyac), Saturday, 19 September 2020 22:32 (five days ago) link

Cool. Just spent an hour this afternoon digging these out of storage. It better be worth my while, Morrison!

Wessonality Crisis (Old Lunch), Saturday, 19 September 2020 22:41 (five days ago) link

Here's how I'll do this: I'll make a post like this with some basic framing and then we can discuss the issues in question. You ex-Barbelith types will no doubt find some of my insights very amateurish but it is what it is.

And so we return and begin again.

Week 1: Vol 1, issue 1, Dead Beatles and issue 2, Down and Out In Heaven & Hell.

https://i.imgur.com/URwsv6n.jpg

People always say the series starts slow but I have never thought this. The first time I read this, it hit with a bang - all these disparate ideas and images and characters colliding and you don't quite know what's happening yet but you like it. First line is spoken by El Fayed, who I've always loved, and
our first "nice and smooth". Flashes of King Mob graffiti as though dreamed. Yeah, I knew instantly this series was for me.

The teaching in this in 2020 is darkly funny - imagine the absolute dogshit coverage you'd get nowadays teaching kids about communism and anarchism as ideas. Three of my favourites right from the start in this issue - Edith and Mister Six.

I really like how Yeowell drew Lennon's face as he lit the cigarette, all long nose and hollows and angles. The invocation of Lennon is classic, and Revolution 9 is a really great song for this issue: all cacophony, reversals and time skips. Side note: I am making a playlist for this as we go, feel Revolution 9 and David Watts are nailed on for this issue, but let me know if I missed any others.

"It was Kropotkin. And you'll never fucking understand me." combined with Dane's bared teeth is a frame that haunts me.

Miss Dwyer and Mr Gelt. Monsters with holes for eyes and glasses that reflect the blankness. Harmony House is a horror.

Dane hears The-King-In-Chains breathing through Gelt's door, the scene that follows is disturbing but also in a very mundane way?

King Mob showing up to rescue Dane from the brain room, like a god into the machine. "Goodbye Mr Chips," makes me giggle every time. The first time you read this, you don't care about the guards, the second and subsequent times, you see Bobby. Dane alone in London ends the issue.

https://i.imgur.com/CDYt2UB.jpg

This is actually one of my favourite issues, I love Tom and the initiation in some ways is very standard origin story but it's the details that stick with me.

The first time I read this, in early 2007, I had never been to London. The first time I went was a few months later, after reading this, and until after I'd moved over here a couple of years later, I had never seen homeless people with the regularity that you do in this issue. There is a lot about this series that comes from you, the reader, and your perceptions at time of reading, but reality changes all the time. Tories then, Tories now. We return and begin again.

Tom in the underground declaiming poetry. Nobody looks at this homeless person, not even other homeless people.

"And see, the rain's off too. That's me that did that." Keep thinking about how Freddie becomes one of the greatest magicians in the history of their species, after Edith had finished burning him in the fire. She was right on that.

Tom pissing on the Churchill monument! Couldn't do that these days.

Fanny is our second Invisible to give Jack money.

How Sir Miles and his mob go unremarked in tearing through the streets in full hunting gear was probably pretty dead on in 1994, but it feels outright painful in 2020.

Luan-Dun, city of the moon. This immediately read as Irish to me, Morrison being Scottish is probably pulling from Gaelic? Or not, because we have another reference to Irish in this part of the story, next issue maybe. Although looking it up, the word luan, is old Irish though the original word survives in Dé Luain (Monday). It is a very glancing reference, I know, but it hooked me and drew me in further, whereas before it had just been a good story.

First meeting with Barbelith. Traffic lights and wet paint under the ground. Cities have their own magic.

Issue ends with Dane being abandoned again - the next part of it is on. The hunters' look is deliberately referencing Harmony House. Onward!

scampo italiano (gyac), Sunday, 20 September 2020 14:33 (four days ago) link

That is some excellent framing!

Yeah, for all that me at 19 was "Oh they say it'll explode your mind but actually they just explode some heads", there's a lot of genuinely weird stuff in the first one - along with the adventures of a supercool bald mod spy.

The world wasn't short of Beatles fans in the 90s, but it's interesting to think about the idea of this total immersion in the time of twitter and tumblr fandoms. That said, I'm glad that I don't know Morrison's views on it - one thing that I like (er, unless I'm wrong) is that he seems to have retired from any attempt at being current - he's happy being DeSade at the disco.

I stared at the phrase 'video card' (as in "Mum, give us the video card, will you?") for a bit until memories of Xtra-vision returned with a thump!

Andrew Farrell, Sunday, 20 September 2020 20:55 (four days ago) link

You've inspired me to re-read along with you online. Tbh, I barely remember the details of this series compared to Morrison's other works. So I'm welcoming all your exposition explaining what the heck is going on!

Interesting that Gaiman's Neverwhere series shares some of the "spooky magical hidden London" vibe, which was probably made around the same time or soon after. It's all alien to me, I've never been to Europe. (Also recently watched the original House of Cards so I suppose a lot of this is in reaction to post-Thatcher UK society?

Nhex, Sunday, 20 September 2020 22:25 (four days ago) link

It is yeah but because there’s gaps of time in between issues there’s also some anti-Blair stuff... mainly as you say though. Original HoC is incredible, btw.

scampo italiano (gyac), Sunday, 20 September 2020 22:27 (four days ago) link

I memorised the membership number on our family video card (I think it was 9713!) because I’d always forget to bring it with me. Inevitably there’d always be some tough-ass clerk who wouldn’t let you rent Tremors on a Saturday night if you didn’t bring the plastic.

The opening arc is fantastic. The first time around, I quit after a couple of issues of the second arc, which iirc was disappointingly Gaiman-y (i.e. long captions written in hard-to-read joined-up handwriting).

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 20 September 2020 22:33 (four days ago) link

Now that I think about it the original Books of Magic also trafficks in this vibe, and that was around 1990; guessing something occulty was in-fashion at the time in London.

xp gyac yeah HoC was great, the ending of the first series is so entertaining. (2nd and 3rd series probably unnecessary but still fun.) I heard the US Netflix version slows everything down and takes a few years to go to that point lol

...not a fan of big pages filled with scrawled cursive, but let's see how it goes...

Nhex, Sunday, 20 September 2020 23:08 (four days ago) link

Some Iain Sinclair / Peter Ackroyd influence in the air too, perhaps, mid 90s onwards.

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 20 September 2020 23:14 (four days ago) link

And V for Vendetta too, obvs.

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 20 September 2020 23:16 (four days ago) link

People always say the series starts slow but I have never thought this.

This was definitely the case for me when I first read this in the '90s, in fact reading the first issue almost put me off of reading the rest of the series. By the time I got to the Inivisibles, the first couple of trades had come out. I was an anarchist/activist, into techno and drum'n'bass and rap, and I was under the impression this series would be exactly for someone like me, but then the first issue has... John Lennon and several pages of some psychedelic bullshit prose accompanied by similarly hippie imagery. I was like, fuck that boomer shit, but thankfully I did continue reading it, and issue 2 was already much better. But judging by the first issue it definitely didn't feel like the sort of zeitgeisty "this is '90s" comic that it had the reputation of being.

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 12:43 (three days ago) link

Issue ends with Dane being abandoned again - the next part of it is on.

This interesting, because a later storyline involving Boy has a very obvious criticism of V for Vendetta's idea of forcing someone to have an anarchist enlightenment through cruel manipulation, as Morrison (quite accurately) understands that forcibly pushing someone into anarchism goes against the very idea of it. Yet here the Invisibles cell is doing almost the same to Dane... Did Morrison's own ideas regarding this change between this and the later story, or are we to think the Invisibles are wrong to treat Dane like this?

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 12:49 (three days ago) link

The series ultimately (and fairly explicitly) lands on option b. Forces of control inhabit each end of the spectrum.

Wessonality Crisis (Old Lunch), Monday, 21 September 2020 12:53 (three days ago) link

Also, the very first page of the very first issue seems to imply this is sort of a circular story, where in the end we return to the beginning, so I was waiting for the series to end like that. But as far as I can tell, the actual ending has little to do with the beginning, the line of the story is continously rising and not a circle that returns to itself... Unless we accept the interpretation that the entire story is the virtual reality video game King Mob developed in the final issue, and the ending of that issue is the ending of the first playthrough, after which you can return to the beginning and play it again on a harder difficulty?

(xpost)

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 12:55 (three days ago) link

About Barbelith: Morrison has admitted that some parts of Doom Patrol bled into this series, with Ragged Robin being an alternate version of Crazy Jane... So with that in mind, Barbelith also seems to be a variation of the similar shape Rebis sees in Doom Patrol when they have their final enlightenment. But what that is supposed to tell us about the connections between the two series, I have no idea.

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 13:04 (three days ago) link

Or actually I do have sort of a universal theory of how every one of Morrison major DC works are connected to each other, dunno if I've shared it here?

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 13:05 (three days ago) link

morrison was explicitly trying to make the dc universe literally a self-aware magickal entity in his superhero run iirc but i'd be interested to hear your theory for sure

you are like a scampicane, there's calm in your fries (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 21 September 2020 13:08 (three days ago) link

i still haven't started my invisibles re-read but my current theory is that morrison's chaos magick 'every reader must have a wank to save the series' ritual did indeed save the series but unfortunately it created qanon as a side-effect

you are like a scampicane, there's calm in your fries (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 21 September 2020 13:09 (three days ago) link

Okay, I posted this a long time ago on TVTropes.org, so I'm just gonna copy-paste it from there... I'll put it in spoiler tags, cos it has spoilers for All-Star Superman, Seven Soldiers, and DC One Million:

Almost all of Morrison's DC works are tied to each other, as well to the real world, forming a big "Morrisonverse". Here's how it goes: In All-Star Superman Superman creates the infant universe Qwewq. In JLA we see the heroes discover (a version of) Qwewq. Both in ASS and in JLA: Confidential we see that Qwewq actually contains "our" Earth, i.e. a realistic Earth with no superheroes. The final Morrison-penned issues of Doom Patrol and Animal Man take place in a realistic world with no superheroes (and they both share the same colour scheme, meaning it's the same world in both), which is presumably Qwewq, i.e. "our" world.

In Seven Soldiers we find out the ultimate fate of Qwewq (or at least one version of it). Final Crisis (which takes place in the same universe as JLA) refers to Bleed (the "sea" that separates different universes in the DC multiverse) as "ultramenstruum", and the same term is used is The Invisibles, implying that the Invisibles universe is a part of the larger DC multiverse. If we accept that Qwewq is "our" universe, this means our universe exists inside a larger universe populated by superheroes. Both Flex Mentallo and The Filth feature the "real" world to which superheroes from outside this world burst in; thus, the real world in both these comics could be (a version of) Qwewq. Lastly it also seems that DC One Million takes place in the future of All Star Superman as Solaris and Kal Kent appear and happens to be the story of how Superman ended up having to fix the sun.

Or to sum up just the Invisibles connection: in Final Crisis Morrison calls the Bleed (the space between alternate universes created by Warren Ellis) "ultramenstruum", which is the same term Invisibles uses about the weird floating mirror substance we see several times, which would imply the Invisibles universe is one of the alternate universes in the DC multiverse.

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 13:15 (three days ago) link

Whoop's I messed up the spoiler tags there...

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 13:16 (three days ago) link

The first few issues still give me "CBBC 5.05pm drama, but with much more swearing and violence" vibes. There was talk of a BBC Scotland adaptation, if I remember right?

carson dial, Monday, 21 September 2020 13:16 (three days ago) link

The series ultimately (and fairly explicitly) lands on option b. Forces of control inhabit each end of the spectrum.


Otm, Dane going back to Liverpool and Boy leaving are both fairly explicitly about this in their separate ways. I don’t think that Fanny’s recruitment (while she’s recovering from assault and bleeding) is portrayed neutrally either. John-a-Dreams recruiting her at her lowest point has always sat uneasily with me.

scampo italiano (gyac), Monday, 21 September 2020 13:18 (three days ago) link

i still haven't started my invisibles re-read but my current theory is that morrison's chaos magick 'every reader must have a wank to save the series' ritual did indeed save the series but unfortunately it created qanon as a side-effect

― you are like a scampicane, there's calm in your fries (bizarro gazzara), Monday, September 21, 2020 8:09 AM (four minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

Plus the thing where we never escaped/must constantly relive 2012

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4__NWrfejTg&t=194

Wessonality Crisis (Old Lunch), Monday, 21 September 2020 13:20 (three days ago) link

The first few issues still give me "CBBC 5.05pm drama, but with much more swearing and violence" vibes.


Don’t think I’ve ever empathised with Jolly Roger listening to Mason shite on about Speed as much as I just did reading this. Totally bizarre.

scampo italiano (gyac), Monday, 21 September 2020 13:21 (three days ago) link

There's more than a passing similarity (specifically, the focus on am underground "magipunk" world hidden beneath real London) between the first storyline and Gaiman's Neverwhere, which was a BBC drama first. Maybe the BBC commissioned Gaiman to do something similar to Invisibles, but more feasible for TV?

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 13:23 (three days ago) link

Otm, Dane going back to Liverpool and Boy leaving are both fairly explicitly about this in their separate ways. I don’t think that Fanny’s recruitment (while she’s recovering from assault and bleeding) is portrayed neutrally either. John-a-Dreams recruiting her at her lowest point has always sat uneasily

The problem here is that Mister Six is supposed to have been enlightened beyond the Invisibles/Archons dichotomy, yet he seems to be a part of the plan for Dane, or at least does nothing to stop it? This is one of the reasons why I feel Morrison changed his mind about the Invisibles and their moral justification at some point.

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 13:26 (three days ago) link

There's more than a passing similarity (specifically, the focus on an underground "magipunk" world hidden beneath real London) between the first storyline and Gaiman's Neverwhere, which was a BBC drama first. Maybe the BBC commissioned Gaiman to do something similar to Invisibles, but more feasible for TV?

Sorry, I didn't notice Nhex already mentioned this connection upthread.

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 13:29 (three days ago) link

Plus the thing where we never escaped/must constantly relive 2012

well, yeah

promethea also goes full 2012 apocalypse at the end iirc, it was def in the air for comics' two magick uncles

you are like a scampicane, there's calm in your fries (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 21 September 2020 14:01 (three days ago) link

Didn't they both get the 2012 date from the Mayan calendar entering a new cycle in that year? IIRC that was explicitly referenced in the Invisibles?

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 14:04 (three days ago) link

yeah, the mayan calendar ended on 21/12/2012, as did our reality

sorry to break it to you like this but we've been living in hell ever since

you are like a scampicane, there's calm in your fries (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 21 September 2020 14:10 (three days ago) link

Mods please ban Tuomas

Andrew Farrell, Monday, 21 September 2020 14:51 (three days ago) link

?

Tuomas, Monday, 21 September 2020 15:04 (three days ago) link

I will be posting my thoughts on the first two issues of The Invisibles early this week!

Can’t wait to catch up on the thread and see what people are saying about those first two issues of The Invisibles

mh, Monday, 21 September 2020 15:52 (three days ago) link


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