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Sebastian O

Set in a steampunk version of Britain where modern day technology exists in Victorian times, Morrison’s Sebastian O is an analog or inspiration of real world Oscar Wilde. Like Wilde, Sebastian has been imprisoned for his debauched morality resulting from a raid on Club de Paradis Artificiel. A judge deemed O immoral based on a small book of poems and essays he’d written based on the theme of Uranian love (see below note). While others had been arrested during the raid, only O and a young man named Arnold Truro were sent to prison. O was put into solitary confinement from which he escapes by resorting to a gruesome means.

Lord Lavender, whose first name is Theo, was involved in the scandal following the club raid. He emerged from the scandal with his reputation intact. In fact, he rose to a place of power as Queen Victoria’s chief scientific advisor while he threatened others or had them maimed or murdered. Upon learning of O’s escape, Lavender and his nephew Piers plot his capture.

Meanwhile, as befits a self-styled dandy, Sebastian has returned home to clean up. A small contingent of police push their way into O’s home determined to apprehend the man. The house as designed by architect Lord Carhaix has hidden rooms and other devices that engage the police until O is dressed and ready to confront the police. After shooting the sergeant, O escapes into the sewer system. Lord Lavender decides to use extreme measures and sends a young servant boy to enlist the services of the ruthless Roaring Boys to capture O.

O dispatches the first of the three Roaring Boys with a bullet in the head while travelling through the sewers. As expected by Lord Lavender, O makes his way to the estate of Abbé , another Club regular, who became a model prisoner, offering the Lord’s guidance to other prisoners. Abbé offers O hospitality and champagne, but O wants to know how Lavender was able to buy Abbé’s silence during the Club scandal affair. Before O can learn anything from Abbé, the two remaining Roaring Boys burst into the mansion intent on capturing the dandy. O survives the encounter with cunning and luck while Abbé is not so fortunate. He barely is able to utter the words “magic lantern” as a clue to Lavender’s plans when O realizes the police have spotted him from one of their flying gun ships.

On the run, O has the good luck to run into George and Phoebe on an impromptu hunt. George is a woman who dresses in Victorian male drag, and Phoebe wears a grand hoop skirt. In George’s study, O recounts the story of the club raid, his suspicion the charges were trumped up by Lavender for unknown reasons, and of Arnold Truro’s fate in prison. George shares that she and Abbé were blackmailed into silence and cooperation with Lavender. George reveals his plan involved the use of magic lantern technology (virtual reality), but for what purposes she does not know.

Still on the hunt for O, a half dozen police arrive at George’s estate. The two women hand in hand greet the officers. In a small gambit, George admits to knowing who Sebastian is, but cautions the officers about entering with the confession the she and Phoebe “suffer” from tribadism (see below note), and it cannot be guaranteed the “disease” will not be carried back to their wives and loved ones.

The penultimate scene finds O jumping onto the roof of a train car as the train enters a tunnel. Sebastian enters Lavender’s private compartment while the interior lights are momentarily out, and deftly dispatches nephew Piers with a quick slash to the throat. Sebastian informs Lavender he wants a full pardon. Pushing a few buttons on his Victorian-era computer, Theo states the pardon is granted. In that statement, however, a greater truth is revealed: Queen Victoria has been dead some months and it is he that rules England through the use of computer generated imagery of the deceased monarch. A fight ensues when Lavender thrusts a blade tipped cane at O. The altercation continues on to the train car roof. The matter of Lavender’s treachery is settled when Sebastian fires a bullet into the man, loosening his grip, and sending him to his death on the pavement far below.

Sebastian eludes the bumbling police a final time, and upon returning home, is confronted with the last of the Roaring Boys. Thankfully, O dispatches this last threat in very little time before settling back into the debauched routines of his old life.

Additional notes – “Urning” is a term coined in the 19th century by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, considered to be the first modern theorist of homosexuality. “Tribadism” is a precursor to the word lesbianism. Tribad corresponds to lesbian.

Out of print copies of the first trade are inexpensive on Amazon. A new Vertigo trade that also collects Morrison’s The Mystery Play is available too.

Read the related bios for George Harkness and Abbe.

Created by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell. Art by Steve Yeowell.

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