Monday, December 20, 2010

Comics I Got in Brooklyn, part 6

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 Chris Day, Second Contact cover, 2009

I got two books of a series by Chis Day.  Missing the first book, Marginal Ecstasy, and the third, Moribund '74, one might get a bit lost trying to make sense of them. But these aren't designed for making sense--they are yet more of those fuzzy-area publications. Is they comics or artist's books or both? Second Contact has an introduction that implies that it is a comic in the sense that it appears to be part of a story. The introduction reads:
This book contains images of, from, pertaining to the statue realm. A half reality. Our reality was burned. Few arrived here. In this realm things may change in an instant or never at all. What is flesh may soon be stone.
But the pages that follow don't tell any kind of comprehensible story. Instead, you get images like this:

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 Chris Day, Second Contact page 8, 2009

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Chris Day, Calf: Scenes From a Marginal Reality cover, 2010

This is the fourth book of the series. Both of the ones I picked up featured silkscreened covers on colored cardstock with photocopied b&w interiors. You can't quite see it in the scanned versions, but Day has carefully chosen a red carstock and a blue silkscreen ink that are almost the same value, which gives it a psychedelic, vibratory look.

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Chris Day, Calf: Scenes From a Marginal Reality p. 12, 2010

Some of Day's imagery, like this one, reminds me a lot of Houston poster artist Give Up. The dark imagery and the high-contrast drawings/photos recall Give Up's posters. It has kind of a heavy metal vibe to it.

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Lisa Hanawalt, I Want You #2 cover, 2010

Lisa Hanawalt is one of the most interesting artists that I discovered at this show. She's someone whose name I had read but just never read until now. I'm glad I did. Her art and comics combine absurdity, surrealism, disgust, and humor. A lot of her pieces remind me of classic 70s National Lampoon in the way that they combine a kind of gnarly obsession with bodily functions (and with bodies in general) with a dry, absurdist tone.

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Lisa Hanawalt, I Want You "How to Flatter a Person" page 3, 2010

The fact that these pieces often feature numbered lists also recalls the Lampoon. This is a kind of humor that I don't see too much in comics today because cartoonists are often stuck on the idea of presenting a narrative. But formally, there is no reason that a comic can't be a list of things. Lists are especially good for humor, and they are also really good for magazines (where you have multiple short features). And that is what Hanawalt is doing with I Want You. It can be described as a one-artist anthology, but I think a better way to think of it would be a one-artist magazine. It's what Dan Clowes used to do with Eightball (and he even included lists, like "I Hate You Deeply"). Pete Bagge's Neat Stuff was structured this way, as well.

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Lisa Hanawalt, I Want You "Extra Egg Room" page 4, 2010

But all her pieces are not straightforward humor pieces. Occasionally she dives right into out-and-out surrealism as in "Extra Egg Room." These bizarre stories (usually starring either He-Horse or She-Moose) also have their own absurd humor, but the real charge is the completely strange drawings.

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Adam Higton, Yule Bringer cover, 2010

Adam Higton's booklet Yule Bringer is not a comic but a series of drawings. A bunch of jolly, cartoony figures inhabiting a dense dark woodland, they remind me a bit of Moomin. Moomin combined with prog rock. I found some photos of Higton online, and he looks perfect.

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Adam Higton (from The Joyful Bewilderment)

His drawings are lovely and magical and fun, perfect for a cold winter's night, listening to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn or Jethro Tull on the headphones.

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Adam Higton, Yule Bringer pages 13-14, 2010

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Tin Can Forest, Baba Yaga and the Wolf cover, 2010

The team of Tin Can Forest (Marek Colek and Pat Shewchuk) produced Baba Yaga and the Wolf, which is absolutely one of the most beautiful things I saw at the Brooklyn Festival. Based on Slavic folklore, it has a story of sorts about a man who beheads his brother and exchanges bodies in order to wed the girl he desires. However, he didn't realize that his brother was a werewolf. When he falls ill from guilt, his wife seeks Baba Yaga, the legendary witch, to cure him. Telling the story this way makes it seem much more straightforward than it actually is. It is being told to a young girl by her great-grandmother. The narration, however, is likely to come out of anyone's mouth (as indicated by the word balloons).

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Tin Can Forest, Baba Yaga and the Wolf page 5, 2010

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Tin Can Forest, Baba Yaga and the Wolf page 12, 2010

For example, the word balloon here is still the great grandmother speaking, even though it seems to be spoken by this utterly irrelevant demon sitting by a camp fire. These little dislocations add to a fantastic, magical quality. It seems that after a long period of realism as an ideal for alternative comics, we're seeing a return of fantasy--with a particular emphasis on folklore and fairy tales. (I wonder if cartoonists are influenced at all by Kiki Smith in this regard?)

Appropriately, I end my reviews of the comics in my Koyama bag with a great one from Koyama. But I still have some graphic novels from the festival to review, so stay tuned.

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