Oh Shit, Comics!

May 14th, 2020

Short and to the pointless, here are a few comics you might want to check out online if you haven’t done so already…

Erika Price – Disorder

A series of experiments in unmaking, Disorder doesn’t need me laying it on thick, a quick glance at a couple of pages will tell you that you need to read more.

What impressed me most my second time through the series as it currently stands was the range of approaches Price adopts from a strip-to-strip basis.  Episode 2 achieves a sense of real vulnerability by showing us a figure in motion, its shifts in mood and physicality tracked in great detail panel-to-panel:

Episode 3, meanwhile, plays out a similar drama in a totally different format.  Here, whatever pain happens is framed by a writhing, corporeal, semi-expressive landscape, inner space projected outward until the difference between self and world is obliviated:

The next six strips see Price trying out a variety of different approaches to narrative, image making and panel layout without every blurring her vision of what Disorder is.  It’s remarkable work.  It’ll get under your skin.  You’ll want it there.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Target 2012

May 12th, 2020

Paul Jon Milne – Guts Power #1-6

Dan Cox and John Riordan – Hitsville UK

The gospel was told, some souls it swallowed whole
Mentally they fold and they eventually sold
Their life and times, deadly like the virus design
But too minute to dilute the scientist mind

Wu-Tang Clan – ‘A Better Tomorrow‘ 

Spacing (notice that this word speaks the articulation of space and time, the becoming-space of time and the becoming-time of space) is always the unperceived, the non-present, and the non-conscious. As such, if one can still use that expression in a non-phenomenological way; for here we pass the very limits of phenomenology.

Jacques Derrida – Of Grammatology

Two comic book series, both started before the world ended in December 2012, both completed some time after the apocalypse.  So far so standard. What makes them both remarkable is how prescient they are about all the ways the world has continued to end and about how we might continue to live regardless.

To be brief: they reek not just of knowledge but of foresight.

The sixth and final issue of Paul Jon Milne’s Guts Power spends most of its time getting ready to go out for the party.  When I last reviewed this series, only the first four issues had been published but the mood of the comic was well established, its grimly eroticised kitchen sink misery distinguished from all the other neurotic indie comics out there by virtue of Milne’s seeping imagination:

I’m stuck on Milne’s style, on the use of that old fashioned alt-comix grossness not as a mode for outrageous straight white guy funtimes, but as a way to genuinely queer the Sex-Men experience.

With its tentative dance floor adventures, “Pepto-bawbag particles” and alluringly grotesque cast, Guts Power manages the rare trick of making one man’s whims, stray thoughts and fancies seem like a genuine delight, probably because the combination feels fresh and true; would that the same could be said of all such ventures.

By the time issue #6 starts, death and romance have already happened and everyone is gearing up for some sort of revolution.  You can practically feel the wee white dots form around you in the air, feel yourself being drawn back into the radiant possibility of a blank page, right up until the moment your cat farts and you’re left sitting on your couch alone with your own misery.

Having sprinted through enough dodgy deals, guilty secrets, Beatific visions and nazi incursions to fill 23 issues of a normal comic, Hitsville UK crosses the finish line of its seventh issues with a sense of perspective that’s bound to baffle all traditional metrics.  Last time I checked in on the comic, I found myself racing to keep up with its evolution, with the way that it had left my initial concept of the series as a referential but not reverential pop fun somewhere way off in the distance:

What I will say is that the issues of Hitsville that have been published since then have had an increased sense of urgency to them.  The boys may not have set out to create a fantasy of communal resilience in an age that seems increasingly under threat by undead attitudes, shambling zombie racism, and the endless monetization of your every passing daydream, but fuck me if they didn’t do it anyway!

The conclusion of Hitsville UK gives you some sense as to who’s pulling (or should that be playing?) the strings and some idea as to why.  We still don’t know why the world ended in 2012, or why it persists in this form, why even blogs have somehow been allowed to continue, but all of this prompts a question: why did the children of The Invisibles decide to persist in their endeavours, knowing that the end would come before anyone could finish their stories?

BEATS ME FOLKS! BETTER CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT!

PRELUDE

In times like these as in all other times, you are allowed to be relieved when someone else has done the heavy lifting for you.  As such, it’s comforting to find that Clark has put together not only a series of thoughtful posts on the immediate impacts of Covid-19 on the comics industry, but also a run of weekly link blogs to keep folk up-to-date on what’s going on in this little corner of the world.

Free from any delusions of being thorough, I figured I’d write a short post drawing attention to a few free comics / comics related videos closer to home, and maybe highlight a couple of ways you can help the artists involved along the way if you’ve got the cash to do so.

PART 1 – FREE COMICS!

Lockdown has seen a number of comics artists giving away their work for free, or at a discount.  Here are a few such works that we’ve reviewed before, if you’re stuck in the house and want a sense of what you might want to amuse and enervate yourself without splurging your last few iso-bucks!

Sarah Broadhurst, Jules Scheele and an army of sharp feminist voices – Identity: An Anthology (One Beat Zines, originally reviewed November 2015)

DOWNLOAD IT FOR FREE HERE

This is not only a truly beautiful object but a useful one too.  From Sabba Khan‘s elegant self-reflections to Alia Wilhelm‘s too-close photography by way of Sammy Boras‘ more traditional use of the comic book form to explore difficult questions of sexuality, Identity always makes intersectional feminism feel as natural as it really is, despite what some commentators might have you believe, arranging all of these disparate voices and means of expression together in one powerful volume.

This might sound like damning with faint praise but it’s meant sincerely.   Seemingly taking its cue from the punchy, “here’s my point and I dare you not to take it” expressiveness of Scheele’s cover design, this collection of comics and essays transforms lived experience into a rallying cry against complacency, against the possibility of mistaking your own experience for the only one worth listening to.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Have a Nice Day

April 28th, 2020

On the night our young decade was trying to be born, those trapped in the ritual of havering between TV channels in the UK might have found themselves wondering which century they were in.  On one channel, Travis, the slightly more nimble proto-Coldplay.  On the other, the Stereophonics, Oasis without the world-threatening streak of experimentalism.

The only sign that this wasn’t 1999 was the beard on Travis singer Fran Healy’s face, a mass of hair that would have made it impossible for Healy to perform ‘U16 Girls’ without being arrested on sight, even in the ’90s.

So we were living in the future after all. It didn’t feel like it, but then it rarely had before either.

Near the top of Zach Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, ‘Have a Nice Day’ by the Stereophonics plays in a pre-carnage sequence where Anna drives away from her prophetically long hospital shift and towards the last glimmering daylight of suburban comfort.  Cynics would say that this is just an early example of Snyder’s penchant for the obvious, a tendency that would see him hose every scene in Sucker Punch and Watchmen with big classic massive anthems until all ambiguity is blasted from the frame.  True believers know otherwise.  Those of us who have studied the sacred texts know that Snyder works on a mystic level – this is the man who anticipated 9-11 a mere twelve years after it happened in Man of Steel, after all.  No mere filmmaker, Snyder is an occult operator who predicted his own Man of Steel three years after it happened in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, thus ensuring that pop culture and pop reality were caught up in a perpetual feedback loop.

So while to the uninitiated the use of ‘Have a Nice Day’ at the top of Dawn of the Dead might seem to be the sign of a filmmaker battering you with dramatic irony, to those attuned to the Snyderverse it will be apparent that this move was really part of an effort to reprogram the world, a slow spell that has really started to take effect in the year 2020.

Coincidentally, Snyder’s Army of the Dead has a tentative release date of winter 2020.

Post, Human

April 21st, 2020

(CN: Rape)

When the sixth issue of Providence came out we talked about not wanting it in our houses.  We made nervy comments about custom raids, then talked about taboos and how sometimes – just sometimes – they were there to serve a valid social function.  We said the usual stuff about how the culture warriors of the ’60s and ’70s might find themselves fighting for the other side now without even realising it, and we mocked ourselves for saying it too.

We acknowledged that saying there was a lot of rape in Alan Moore’s comics didn’t really constitute new information at this point, but agreed that this was no excuse for ignoring it.  We talked about the way Providence #6 played with perspective on a visual and narrative level on a way that made us complicit while also putting us in the role of the victim, comparing the derangement of time in the issue to the derangements of character and culpability experienced by the protagonist.  We weighed the argument for the book’s implicit condemnation of authority, and came back again and again to the potential impact of all its cleverness on survivors.  We made defenses then talked ourselves out of them.

We were rattled, shook.

Mostly though we talked about how we didn’t want it hanging around our living rooms and how we were going to burn it/chuck it into a charity bag/hurl it deep into the pit.

Quick Snacks

April 21st, 2020

Sophie B – Last Orders (self published, picked up at Thought Bubble comic con, 2019)

A confident comic book debut from the talent behind 2018′s You Can Be Anything, Last Orders gives you attractive characters in an attractive setting then works to show you how much flavour can be achieved with just the right combination of ingredients.

Those elements being “Gays, Ghosts and Grub”, obviously.

Even a passing glance will tell you that every aspect of this comic has style to spare, but a more attentive eye will reveal a sense of purpose underpinning the design. After all, it’s not just the info boxes that tell us who Robin and Esther are.  The way their outfits reflect each other’s haircuts, the way their conversations move from friendly sparring to sparkling monologue by way of shared glances, the way that those info boxes drop down into the story itself as it progresses – all of this tells us the same story, with no single aspect overpowering the light feast of narrative detail.

That it manages all this and plot about unfinished business almost seems like too much to ask from a first issue…

Dis-orientation

March 28th, 2020

Esther McManus – Windows (See You at the Potluck, 2018)

This one comes from what my partner calls the “They Saw You Coming” side of the comic/zine world.  Every time I visit a comics festival or zine fair I come back home with at least 2-3 books full of pictures of buildings, or parts of buildings, or spaces where buildings used to be.  I rarely regret it.

Esther McManus’ Windows is an excellent example of the form, a series of portals that have been removed from any supporting context in a way that serves as startling prompt to the imagination:

The work demanded by this zine doesn’t just come in the form of having to reconstruct the urban environment – that’s the most immediately striking element, of course, a natural by-product of the composition of the piece, but it’s the start of a process rather than its final conclusion.

In its gradual blurring of the distinction between windows and the shapes that frame them, its removal of the human from the urban environment, and its finding of new ways to recombine familiar shapes, Windows is ultimately more Ballardian in its effects than it may initially appear.

Moving beyond brutalist cliches, this is a work that re-imagines the city as something that is no longer for us – a space that exists on the other side of the portal, where there is nothing to be reflected except windows looking on windows looking on windows all the way down.

It is March 2020.  I suspect that this scene is more familiar to many of us now than it would have been at any previous point in my lifetime.

Suds McKenna – Bunged (O Panda Gordo, 2018)

True to its origins as ‘an ongoing series of urban sketches’, Bunged looks like something that you might encounter in scraps, as a series of drawings that had been left around the house, flat share fragments that tell the story of a busy mind in a busy world. Thankfully for your future prospects of cohabitation, this mind seems to be a little bit scared of what it sees, but not to the point where the idea of humour has been made to seem miraculous:

You would feel puzzled but not deeply perturbed by these portraits.  You wouldn’t mention them to anyone, wouldn’t deem them any more necessary of commentary than the fact that a bar was crowded on a Friday.  Or indeed, that some of the streets pictured here – like Buchanan Street, above – were filled with bodies at the weekend.

It’s the distortions of the human form that give this work its non-banal aspect, suggestive as they are of both a deep subjectivity (as drawn into the page by your mystery flatmate/as read into the page by you) and of the fact that these people have more going on than you can fathom (as drawn into the page by your flatmate/as recognised from the world you’ve seen with your own damn eyes). This is itself is hardly a startling realisation, of course, but it’s vividly expressed here and comforting in context.

Monstrous as we are, it’s good to know that we’re not alone.

Gareth A. Hopkins – Petrichor

November 14th, 2019

The images in Petrichor look like a series of portraits of a flight of stairs as seen by someone in the process of falling down them.

The images in Petrichor are black and white except for those that are in colour.

Individual panels do not contain any words, except from when they do. These words form a non-linear narrative, except for the ones that are drawn on the images themselves, which form a different part of that narrative.

The narrative comes crashing in and out like waves.

This does not mean that it always starts or ends in the same place.

The visual parts of this narrative look like portraits of these waves as seen from the perspective of the sand the waves are breaking on.

Each panel is a wave.  Each page is a wave.  Each wave is…

Every element of the narrative is a grain of sand.  The waves are crashing over.

***

Petrichor is a book about dying.

Petrichor is a book for the dead.

Petrichor is a book about life, for the living.

It’s a book about how ghosts are made up and why we need them anyway. It’s a book about how ghosts are real.

Petrichor is a book of stray thoughts, abstract images, brand names, missing people, scenes repeating as the waves crash over.  It’s a book about love and loss and family.  All of this feels like an accident.  Everything in this books seems carefully put together and well maintained.

Petrichor is a black and white comic except when it’s in colour.

And you are still falling down the stairs.  And the waves are crashing over.  Ghosts and sand.  Missing people.  People who are here.

And the waves crash over.