Life in Plastic

January 24th, 2019

Go-Bots #1-3, by Tom Scioli

You Can Be Anything™, by Sophie Bainbridge

You’ve mounted me and there you sit,
you rotten shit!
You’ve mounted me an there you sit,
but even that won’t really make me think like you.

For the horse thinks one way as he strides;
thoughts quite different from the one who rides” – Alexandre O’Neill, The History of Morality

“We are what we’re supposed to be
Illusions of your fantasy
All dots and lines that speak and say
What we do is what you wish to do” – Aqua, Cartoon Heroes

If I’m honest I never really gave a fuck about the Go-Bots. I was always aware of them, but only to the extent that the shapes Tom Scioli draws here are familiar from my childhood, albeit they’re not the most familiar shapes in their own comic:

As a measure of my unfamiliarity, consider the fact that I’ve had to edit this piece twice now because I got confused about whether I should be writing “Gobots” or “Go-Bots” throughout. Unlike Scioli’s previous work on Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, then, Go-Bots provides me with a deeply unsettled experience rather than a complex nostalgic one – where I was able to process that earlier series’ abundant exuberance as both a celebration and détournement of a lifetime’s worth of merchandising that I had somehow mistaken for my soul, this latest project has a more genuinely uncanny quality to it.

The figure-work here is similar to Scioli’s previous work in this arena, similarly true to ’80s toys and box art, the (crayon? pencil?) colour tones still evocative of everything from old tie-in comics to the adventures you’d draw yourself if you were an abnormally talented kid. As in TF/Joe, there’s a sense of play to every page of the comic, the sort of play that thrives on the creation and destruction of relationships – any order that is established is soon found to be ripe with chaos, and all chaos comes complete with the threat of latent order.

This drama is played out in Scioli’s page layouts, which tease the possibility of a break from the two-dimensionality of the comics page…

…while also constantly reveling in the expressive possibilities of that same flatness, stacking images on top of each other, keeping just enough of a sense of narrative coherence while pushing ever closer to the joyous impurity of collage:

Given the nature of these franchise comics, their origins as indifferent product, this flatness extends to the narrative ruptures and inversions. Are the Go-Bots loyal friends or alien monsters? Is treating them like chatty tools justification for a bloody revolution or yet another example of bad dating etiquette? Are any of these binaries any more real than the shite we were sold as children?

Like the best of Scioli’s TF/Joe work or his Super Powers strips for Young Animal, Go-Bots creates the illusion of real freedom for the time it takes to read any given page.

Kathryn Briggs – Story(Cycle); Magpie; Triskelion 

First things first: if you’ve not done so already, I’d highly recommend that you go back the Kickstarter for the complete edition of Kathryn Briggs’ Triskelion, which has a week to go and could really do with your support.


As to why, well… there’s a specific challenge that comes with writing about art that is so obviously accomplished, so unashamed of its ambitions, so confident in the way it ranges across styles and subjects. The fear of showing your whole arse is strong, but the temptation to overcompensate by dressing yourself up in all your finery… that’s the one that’ll get you in the end.

“This supreme quality is felt by the artist when the esthetic image is first conceived in his imagination. The mind in that mysterious instant Shelley likened beautifully to a fading coal. The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to that cardiac condition which the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani, using a phrase almost as beautiful as Shelley’s, called the enchantment of the heart…”

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

It should come as no surprise that Kathryn Briggs comes from a fine arts background. The most immediately appealing element of her work is its painterly aspect, which is equally well applied to the depiction of classically composed scenes…

…as it is to more intimate portraits:

This is a million miles away from overworked heavy metal style of a million sub-par Simon Bisleys, thought still recognisably in the tradition of comic book artists from Eddie Campbell to JH Williams III, artists who have brought a range of effects to the comics page that are more at home on canvas:


From The Fate of the Artist, by Eddie Campbell

We should be careful that in making such comparisons we aren’t just trying to box an artist in, especially when we’re comparing a women with their older male peers. So for the avoidance of doubt: those references are broad brush strokes, while the real story in Briggs’ work is in the details, all of which are very much her own.

Kathryn Briggs knows more about the visual arts than me.  If I try to pretend otherwise it will end badly for all of us.

All I can really talk about is the experience of actually reading the damn things!