The Empire of Chairs

“There is another world. There is a better world. Well, there must be.” Those are the last lines from the final issue of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. What story is being told?

This is the story, as unadorned as I can make it. Jane has been sent to a drab world. Without Cliff she falls into manic depression. This, combined with her stories of her superhero world of origin, gets her committed to a mental health institution. She is cured, but ends up flat. One day she goes for a walk and is found by Cliff.

This is the story, as hysterical as I can make it. Jane gets sent to our world. Mental illness is a creative lifestyle choice. In our world we stamp out all imagination and difference. Psychiatry is torture. Jane commits suicide.

There is no death on the page in this story. It is not about suicide on the face of it. There may be death under the page, between the panels, in the allusions. It may be an allegory about suicide. Or perhaps… it might be an allegory about being suicidal…

Because say you are suicidal. Say you do walk out on that bridge. Say that all you can hope for is a better world, another world, beyond death. Say there is nothing in this world for you. You walk out on that bridge… and find a friend waiting. Someone who has been there, someone who has been through it all, someone who has been there for you before, and is there now. It makes me cry just thinking about it. Stories of suicidal ideation need not end in suicide.

When its blackest you can’t see beyond your feet. If the light comes on, you might look back and see you were cared for all along. The light of Danny the Street comes on for Jane. The light came on for me on Sunday, and I looked back at the preceding 44 issues of Doom Patrol and saw a rescue mission.

“There is another world. There is a better world. Well, there must be.” The last lines are those of Jane’s sympathetic doctor. She suspects Jane committed suicide, but she hopes that perhaps Jane’s friends came for her. There is another world. It is this world. Friends make it better. They must, because without them there is nothing.

2 thoughts on “The Empire of Chairs

  1. Glad to see you came around a bit on this issue. I agree that on a literal level, the events can be a bit dodgy. For people on the outside watching someone like Jane, it would be excruciating to see her spin off into this reality in her mind while you’re stuck in the regular world, watching her deteriorate.

    But, the story is really about the way we all can ignore the magic of the world around us, and the emotional connections that make things so special. I totally agree with you on the idea that the emotional impact of the last page isn’t so much that the Doom Patrol world was real, it’s that Cliff is there for her, he’s not gone away. Taken on a metaphorical level, Cliff is the person who’s like her, the only one she can understand in a world that doesn’t get her, and now she’s able to go back to a world that accepts her for who she is, and doesn’t try to change her into someone else’s idea of “normal.”

    Grant always closes out his series with fantastic issues, this is definitely my favorite issue of Doom Patrol.

  2. It’s not the literal level, the level of narrative presentation, that is dodgy. Everything you say about Cliff and Jane is on the literal level of the narrative, it isn’t metaphorical. Even for Marcia (Jane’s sympathetic psychiatrist) Jane’s rescue is a possibility, not a metaphor. It’s when the story is treated as a metaphor that the problems begin. This comes from an insistence to jettison 44 issues as “imaginary” and focus on a “real world”—my insistence, but also a common problem I think, when dealing with such material.

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