Mindless Decade: Finding a Finder

February 25th, 2018

MIndless Decade: Ultimate Classic!

I often find myself being drawn into arguments where I know almost every example of the thing I’m defending is bad yet still feel compelled to argue for what I believe to a worthy principle.

“Text section in comic books” is one example. People can tell me that they’re often bad (they are!) or that good comics writers aren’t always good prose writers (they aren’t!) but no matter how many pointed examples they come up with I’ll still find myself determined to argue that they’re closing off possibilities we can’t afford to lose.

Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder provides a good, if typically atypical, counterargument.  Every time I read the comics sections I find my brain racing in a million new directions, lost, determined to find answers to questions I’m struggling to formulate.  Every time I read McNeil’s annotations I find myself presented with answers to a whole other set of questions, all of which are equally mysterious to me.

This shouldn’t work.

It does.

Finder is two different comics every time I read it…

A thought occurs to me as I drag my sickly drunk head back to Glasgow from the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds: aren’t DECADENCE comics all a bit super-boyish in the end?

My throat too hoarse to speak with due to Saturday night shouting and Sunday con hustle, my brain so detached from its immediate environment that at one point I have to croak at Mister Attack to ask if we are in fact going backwards, the only thing I am able to do properly is comics.  And so, I read through Lando’s Olympic Games, taking in page after page of landscapes that look as bare and arid as my larynx feels, squinting at the characters in survival suits, loving every second of it but questioning myself all the same.

“He’s just ridiculously on, isn’t he?” Mister Attack says.

I wince my agreement and keep on flicking.

It’s the survival suits that give me pause.  As I shift out of Olympic Games and into a couple of comics by Stathis Tsemberlidis, Neptune’s Fungi and Epicurean Paradox, my drunken brain starts to worry that the spacesuits are emblematic of an attempt to build a stylish fictional identity, a barrier between person and world.  My earlier thoughts about this aesthetic being “super-boyish” already seems glib and reductive to me, even if I can see where this thought came from.  Something about the collision of cool influences, the sense that you’re reading the works of people who read only right comics from France and Japan, combined with a knee-jerk panic that aesthetics this good must in some way be suspect.

Where did I get the idea that comics could be cool?  That they could communicate with the world while seeming at ease in it?  From Brandon Graham, maybe, or perhaps just from The Internet.

Why would an encounter with these values provoke scrutiny? Perhaps because these comics do not reflect the values associated with my own formative experiences of the medium, bound up as they are with alt-comics and (sub-)superhero stories that mirror my own awkward, convoluted brand of self-reflection a little bit too clearly.

Comics scholars more erudite than me can argue about which specific artists have influenced Lando, Stathis and co, and armchair psychiatrists can deal with my issues at some later date – in this moment, my bleary brain is only capable of tracking where the lines on my face are going, rather than where they come from.

Thankfully, the view of the future they provide is expansive.

Dead Romance is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, and it’s a novel that will never, ever, reach the readership it deserves.

The problem is this — Dead Romance is a novel that was originally published in the New Adventures series.