A principal character in Grant Morrison's The Invisibles.


Ragged Robin is tall and thin, with lots of curly red hair and a delicate, elegant mien. She usually makes her face up like a white mask, with red discs on her cheekbones, and her catchphrase - if you can call it a catchphrase - is "Hi. I'm Ragged Robin. I'm nuts.".


The name comes from the Cardamine Pratensis, "a cruciferous meadow plant with pale lilac flowers.", also known as a cuckoo flower1. Tennyson used it to mean a pretty damsel in ragged clothes.2

“The prince
Hath picked a ragged robin from the hedge.”

Tennyson: Idylls of the King; Enid.

I guess, if one were bored or desperate, one could read 'the prince' as Mason Lang, or even the Harlequin (to the extent that they are different people)

Life and times

Rags' story is pretty convoluted, as it involves some pretty heavy duty time-travel, and, while the net has some excellent issue synopses3, analysis4 and character profiles5, I have never been able to find a decent exposition of the storyline.

So, for the benefit of mankind, there now follows a brief summary of her life and times.
Obviously, this might spoil the story for you a bit.

Ragged Robin is born to nice, normal parents. Her 'real' name is Kay. She is one of the few characters whose original surname is never revealed6.

Kay and her parents visit Dulce, New Mexico, and Kay has her photo taken. (I know, it doesn't sound like much, but things like this become important in retrospect.)

Kay is at college in San Fransisco. She is obsessed with a story called 'The Invisibles', and she sets about writing herself into it, augmenting her natural skill as a writer with a mind-expanding drug called sky, and state-of-the-art technology at Berkeley University. The result is that she is able to compose her new version of the story in a physical environment of living language.

Kay is discovered by Mason Lang in a mental health institution in Portland, Oregon. She has been scoring high on random ESP tests.

After a bit of a world trip/love affair, Mason introduces Rags to the invisible army: Jack, Fanny, Takashi, Helga and the rest. Takashi shows her a photograph taken in Queenstown, New Zealand in 1990. The cloud formation shown in the photo matches exactly with the one in the background of that photo we mentioned earlier on, of Kay in New Mexico. Takashi explains that this is the confirmation of his theory of time.

Sometime around now, Robin gets an implant in her forehead which intensifies her latent psychic ability. Apparently, this sort of thing is quite common in the future.

Robin gets a nanomachine-repelling wristband, as do many other people I think, to guard against a rogue nanomachine swarm that threatens to cause an epidemic.

2012 (t i m e m a c h i n e g o)
At 7:15 on the 12th of December, Robin is sent back in time, using Takashi's time machine.

1988 (again)
Robin arrives in the past sometime around the year of her birth7. From this point on, there are two of her in the world. She meets John A'Dreams and is introduced to his invisibles cell, which at this point consists of himself, King Mob, Lord Fanny and Boy.

At this point, Robin's history and that of the cell as a whole run parallel for a while, so I'll skip through: John disappears, KM takes over as leader, they recruit Dane, they astrally project themselves into the past and fetch the Marquis de Sade, Jack runs off, KM and Fanny get captured, Boy and Robin get Jack back, they all rescue KM and Fanny, they all retire to New York to recover.

Now then. Jolly Roger enlists the help of the team to rescue her own team from a bad-guy installation in Dulce, New Mexico. During their preparations, Robin watches her younger self having her photo taken by her parents. Maybe she suspects that her dad knew what he was doing - that's just my suspicion. Later, Robin takes over as leader of the cell, and the team bust in to the base. They are anticipated and ambushed by Mister Quimper, the scary mind-controlling dwarf who has been psychically controlling Jolly Roger. Robin manages to sort all this out, but her psychic tangle with Quimper leaves her scarred - Quimper gains a foothold in her mind.

Having escaped OK, and having resolved to return to the base at a later date, the team go to hook up with Mason and meet Takashi. This doesn't turn out to be as simple as it sounds, and KM has to knock Robin into another plane of reality to save her getting blown up. Thus Robin makes her first visit to the Invisible College.

While King Mob is visiting Edith in 1924 (another story), Robin shows Takashi the two photos.

The team re-enter the Dulce installation. While it seems that Robin, under the control of Quimper, is leading the team into a trap, it transpires that she was trapping Quimper all along. This is part of her mission from 2012.

Having defeated Quimper, and delivered the timesuit and the photos to Takashi, Robin's final task is to travel back to 2012 and complete the loop in time that she has started.

As she launches, she intersects with the 1920's Invisibles as they open a gateway into the Outer Church. This confuses the hell out of King Mob.

2012 (Back to the Future)
Robin returns to the future just a moment after she left, and is there to enjoy the end of the universe with everyone else. It's a happy ending though - the good guys win (whoever the hell they turned out be in the end), and everyone gets what they wanted (even the bad guys).

1 Thanks to atesh.

2 I took John A'Dreams' advice and looked it up in Brewer's: http://www.bibliomania.com/2/3/255/1183/23905/1/frameset.html.

3 Issue synopses - http://www.jaybabcock.com/annot.html

4 Annotations and analysis - http://www.lunabase.org/~faber/Vault/invisibles

5 Character profiles - http://www.barbelith.com/bomb/character.htm

6 Robin's character is very similar to one of Grant's other characters, Crazy Jane in Doom Patrol, whose real name is Kay Challis. So you might use Challis, in a life-or-death comic-book-character-surname emergency.

7 One of the points of connection between Ragged Robin and Crazy Jane is that the latter passes into our reality at the same time as Rags is born. Knowing Grant, I suspect that the point of Robin's 'rebirth' - the point at which she arrives back in time from 2012 - might well be exactly the same. He's not allowed to officially connect the two stories, for copyright reasons.

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