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.

Because everything is entropy right? It’s always all downhill. Part of our ten-year challenge has been to find old posts that we like and can bear to  bring up and choke on again.

This is where I realised that the first post I wrote for the site was my best and favourite, and also offers an excellent opportunity to rededicate myself to John [E.] Smith -  comics greatest lostest poet, who even pops up in the comments on the original because blogs make dreams come true.

Apologies for my bad writing and any broken 10 y.o. pic links or whatever. “Enjoy.”

Dee do dough don’t dee dough? or why Hellblazer #51 is the title’s best issue

If I have to make up a bloggy reason why this post was written, it’s recent noise from the Factual Opinion that Andy Diggle’s current run on Hellblazer is the best it’s been in years. I picked one up, saw with relish that the colour palette they’re using still contains every conceivable shade of mud, put it down. To say it’s currently firing on all cylinders isn’t saying much, as Vertigo’s old horror warhorse is a perpetual disappointment, which it shouldn’t, because the basic ingredients are so solid. It’s about the street-sorcerer John Constantine, magic, and a bit of London grime, all mixed together with a quip and a crafty fag. Despite these perfect alchemical elements something inevitably goes wrong with the final potion, which rarely drips the creep and splatter I hunger for from anything so keen to proclaim itself a horror comic.

More after the jump