November 20th, 2015
I might have come away from the Thought Bubble comics convention with a terrible hangover and an overwhelming desire to have a proper rummage through the back issue bins, but I can’t say that I came back short of good zines, great comics and better memories.
Here are five of the most exciting books I picked up last weekend…
1. Jonathan Chandler – Another Blue World (Breakdown Press, 2015)
At last Saturday’s SILENCE! x Breakdown Press interview panel, Jonathan Chandler was discussed as an artist who had staked out territory similar to that which Brian Chippendale had occupied but who had got there before it became a trendy holiday destination for art house cartoonists.
I’m not familiar enough with the man’s work to debate these claims, but reading Another Blue World what struck me was how important Chandler’s elusive sense of space is to communicating this particular set of hostile environments:
It’s not so much that Chandler is limiting what the reader can see to a few tufts of grass or a short stretch of water around his characters that makes his work stand out, more that he seemingly feels no pressure to fill up blank space on the page.
In a Brian Chippendale comic we might find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by the amount of detail, struggling to distinguish signal from noise whether we’re faced with the tiny cramped panels of Maggots or the wider canvases of If’n Oof or Ninja. In Prison Pit we are confronted blocky horror after blocky horror, but we know that this grim escalation will follow proceed through the sort of absurd escalations that are Johnny Ryan’s speciality.
Reading Chandler’s work, meanwhile, we are confronted with an eerie silence. All around us, we find unreadable white space, all of it primed with danger. Forms approach, assaults are perpetrated, sex is weaponised, but we can never be sure whether things are going to get worse or just sort of hang there:
I might crave for something beyond this harsh replication of animalistic imperatives, but there’s no denying that Another Blue World makes them painfully vivid.
October 13th, 2014
RULE NUMBER ONE, PHASERS ON STUN!
Oh hi there! You caught me with my hand in the pickled onion jar! Welcome back DEAR LISTENERS, to this very special* technical-hitch FREE episode of SILENCE! With a rejuvenated The Beast Must Die and Gary Lactus, freshly back from judging the 3rd Annual Electroplegic Bodyshunting Competition. Slipping off their ceremonial robes, the pusillanimous pairsome are hot cocked, and ready to rot! Let’s get podcarousing!
<ITEM> Sponsorshines, Breakdown Press, Thought Bubble…you know the drizzle. And Gary reveals his nefarious plans to sexually entrap all the DEAR LISTENERS!! Who let the dogs in?
<ITEM> Like a perfectly launched stone skipping across a still pond, the two enter the Reviewniverse, a song in their hearts, and their hearts on their sleeves (and their sleeves tucked into their undercrackers). And what a week it’s been. Vivisected this week: Punks, Ed Pinsent, Inkstuds, Rob Liefield, Batgirl, Gotham’s Brooklyn, Gotham Academy, Axis/6xis, Pickled Onions, Sex Criminals, Astro City, Mark Bell RIP, Masterplasty from James Harvey, Courtney Love, Sinestro, and the terrifying Earth 2 weekly challenge!
<ITEM> How could we forget – a guest star studded edition of SILENCE! Because My Mouth Is Full of Delicious Food! The real reason you all came.
Now get out of here before my husband gets home.
This edition of SILENCE! is proudly sponsored by the greatest comics shop on the planet, DAVE’S COMICS of Brighton.
January 5th, 2013
Windowpane #1, by Joe Kessler
There’s a point early on in this comic where you realise that you’re not so much watching characters describe a landscape as watching the landscape try work out how to describe itself. This might seem counter-intuitive but from the end of the first story onward the pattern repeats itself – Joe Kessler’s garish, pastel-hued compositions either break down into their constituent lines after exhaustive exploration or sit there seemingly unaffected by the words and actions that have passed through them.
The best example of the latter category involves a wet-dream about a pig in a dress, whose fall through the night sky is contrasted against an unflinching cityscape with a moment-by-moment precision that does far better justice to the pithy punchline than this description:
In the former category, the Invisible Cities-derived third strip is as close to definitive as Windowpane gets. The way it links its characters shared status as splashes of ink and colour on the page with their philosophising about the interconnected nature of reality — “…a cluster of atoms resembles a cluster of galaxies.”/”Well they’re both clusters” – might seem trite in isolation, but the surrounding stories make these philosophical observations feel more like a little bit of texture on a varied landscape.
All of this might sound a bit chilly and distant, but Kessler’s human figures are depicted with a deceptive sort of ease, as a series of curving lines whose relationships to each other is nevertheless very carefully observed and delineated:
Still, in keeping with Kessler’s paradoxical thematic schemata it’s the backgrounds that are the focus here, existing as they do on the precise point where detail blurs into abstraction. The interaction between text and territory here has a sly kinshsip with Dylan Horrocks writing on maps and comics, and perhaps also with Kevin Huizenga’s conception of the comics page as a place for exploration and discovery, but Kessler’s backgrounds have a forcefulness to them that resists his characters attempts at attaching meaning as much as it encourages them.
This is tricky relationship is most clearly explored in the final two strips. In the penultimate entry, words shrink on the page as Kessler depicts his precarious human figures parachuting in to kindle-worthy hillscape:
Thought and language here is reduced to a form of quaint annotation that is far less effective than the blocky symbols that line these panels in terms of providing a guide to this hazardous landscape.
The final story focuses on a burned lover who – uh, *SPOILERS* – tries to find solace in the freak resemblance between a man and a decapitated bull. It plays out like a sneaky assurance that the process of muck sitting up and looking itself and trying to figure itself out isn’t totally meaningless, but it’s the sort of assurance that’s both underlined and undermined by the fact that, unlike any given sunset, you know this resemblance was put there to be noticed.