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Enigma

Art by Duncan Fegredo
Art by Duncan Fegredo

Contributed by Bill Reid

We meet Michael Smith, a compulsive, late-20’s, heterosexual phone repairman living a highly-structured life in Pacific City, California. We’re told he knows he’ll be having sex with his girlfriend tonight because it’s Tuesday, and they always and only have sex on Tuesday.Other characters include Titus Bird, the queer writer of the superhero comic book series “The Enigma,” which stopped after three issues when the publisher folded.

Characters from the series start appearing in Pacific City, over 25 years after the series ended. The title character of “The Enigma” was a major part of young Michael’s life, “a man in a mask and a cloak who was his mysterious friend. . . glimpsed in the unlit alleyways of his childhood,” (Michael’s father was killed in an earthquake, and he was abandoned by his mother around age 9).

Shortly after the series abruptly ended, an infant is born who is an extraordinary leap forward in human evolution. He causes his father’s face to be disfigured. His horrified mother throws the baby down an almost-dry well and shoots the father’s head off with a shotgun. The baby is able to survive on his own and lives in the well for 25 years. After he is discovered, he wanders the Southwest, eventually finding the ruins of Michael’s childhood home and, of course, copies of “The Enigma.” He adopts the identify of The Enigma, and causes other people to adopt the identities of the villains from the books he found.

Michael tracks down Titus in Texas and rescues him from a group of crazed fans, The Enigmatics, who consider Titus to be “some kinda guru.” Neither can understand how or why these characters are suddenly appearing, but they are sure that Michael is somehow directly linked to the events. They decide do some investigating.

In a bar they stop at on their way back to California, Titus makes a pass at Michael, who in turn floors Titus with a punch. Titus apologizes, and Michael is shocked that Titus assumed he was queer. Michael’s violent reaction to Titus’ offer of sex is later revealed to be because he is starting to realize that perhaps he is indeed sexually attracted to men and was “scared of the truth.” He succumbs to this desire when he finally meets The Enigma, who is an essentially emotionless being of incredible powers and unfamiliar with the concepts of right and wrong.

In the final issue we learn that The Enigma caused Michael to become homosexual because he needed to experience emotions, to learn to “be a little more . . . human. To feel a little love and compassion. . .” because he knows he needs this to defeat his most powerful enemy, his mother, who had gone insane after she discovered what a freak he was. The Enigma had sought out Michael specifically because he could tell how much the comic books had meant to young Michael when he found them. The Enigma offers to change Michael back to the way he was, (a heterosexual), but Michael declines the offer. The series ends just as Michael, Titus, and The Enigma go off to meet The Enigma’s mother, who had recently been transformed into a monstrosity.

Like the Sebastian O mini series by Grant Morrison, The Enigma was originally part of Disney’s planned line of mature comics that never appeared. Karen Berger picked up the two series and used them in Vertigo’s launch.

The Engima: The Definitive Edition with 50 new pages of art and material arrives in comic and book shops in November, 2021.

Created by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo. Art by Fegredo and Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh.

Smith and The Enigma first appear in Enigma #1, Titus in Enigma #3. Titus is outed in #3, Michael and The Enigma in #6.

All rights reserved Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo. Originally published by DC Comics.

July 11, 2021
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