Thursday, February 4, 2016

Let's Get Lost

Ding Dong Circus
by Sasaki Maki

I keep thinking about this book, even after putting it away over a month ago.

It’s the first Ryan Holmberg manga project i'm genuinely confused by, but that makes it even more interesting. Holmberg always digs up challenging work but Ding Dong Circus is something else, it is such an out-of-left-field take on comics that it immediately made me start to rethink what i believed the term to even mean.

Almost every panel in Ding Dong Circus plays off each other to create a feeling, and every page plays off each other to create a theme, but at no point is a narrative, or anything that could be called a narrative, taking place. Even in the rare examples of panels that feature the same character you are left feeling like these are just threads left for the reader to attempt to hang the hope of story on, rather than an actual story devices. They exists as a trail of breadcrumbs left to nudge you along to the end. It undercuts the basic premise of comics, sequential panels, for something else. Panels that live and die on their own, but when collected form something greater than themselves.  Not a story, but a thought that’s built on and undermined on every page.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thought It Was A Drought

Summer Carnival
By Jake Terrell

Terrell cuts immediately to a problem I find in most stories centering around parties; the linearity of the narrative experience. A and B plot lines intermingle and culminate in a satisfactory resolution. I have never been to a party like this, nor has anyone else to my knowledge. Parties tend to fizzle out, or someone gets too drunk and everyone has to leave suddenly after they try and set the couch on fire. They are jumbled moments of great detail and waxy nothingness.

Summer Carnival though breaks down the-party-of-the-year into a series of elliptical vignettes, re-creating the sensation of a blackout slowly coming back to you the day after. So that the reader begins to gather a sense of what the party was, in spirit, while keeping a wide breadth of ascribing to it any singular quality. It is a truer version of events, although one that doesn’t attempt to tell you what happened. 


Terrell’s line has a playfulness to it. It’s light and fragile, but equally energetic - like the party it is illustrating. 



The grid is almost nonexistent in Summer Carnival, scenes are allowed to start and conclude within the time it takes Terrell to draw a stray hair. This overlapping of images creates a dizzying effect, as no cuts exist everything seems to be happening at once.


What dialogue exists, after the party starts, is half heard and devoid of context. It reads almost like you’re eavesdropping on someone else's conversation, but one that you didn’t hear the beginning or end of. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Do My Dance

by Lale Westvind

I burnt my copy of HAX. Not completely, but after reading it for the fifth or sixth time since CAB i placed it on my nightstand next to a candle which promptly charred a bit of the upper right corner. Even looking at it a few weeks later, burn mark and all, i can’t help but laugh at the overt symbolism of burning a copy of HAX.

HAX, a 24 page silent comic, follows a group of females moving against an opposing force. The narrative is still a bit jumbled to me, the panels form sequences at times, and at others exist as stand alone images. It reminds me a bit of reading bronze age Jack Kirby comics simply as images. The individual panels are strong enough to convey what is going on in them, but when sequenced they go from narrative delivery devices to abstractions of the shifting power dynamics between images. From right to left, and up to down, an equilibrium is formed, for every spark and surge in one panel the same is found in the next. The eye is drawn from one panel to the next, various laws of thermodynamics are upkept, but that doesn't always mean you know whats going on, or should.

This energy is most evident in the weight Westvind gives her figures, even when they don’t seem to be doing anything the power of her line still shines through. So that when you see her characters move through space, panel to panel, you can almost hear their feet stomping down on the ground as lightning bolts of excess energy fill the air around them. For a comic that lacks sound effects, you can still hear every panel.


With all the mark making going on in each panel the addition of color could easily overwhelm the whole comic, turning figures and shapes into blobs of nothingness, but, and what initially brought me to think about this comic in line with Kirby and the Bronze-Age, Westvind scales her color scheme back to just four (red/orange/blue/yellow). Of these four red and blue, the strongest contrasting colors, are given the job of being the primary colors for each character. This allows for the delineation of foreground and background figures by giving them to a consistent color scheme, the red group and the blue group can always be seen in relation to each other in space by the colors they are comprised of. Orange and Yellow, the two remaining colors, are then left the job of showing depth between objects and terrains, which, due to the similarities between them, allows for a great number of objects to be placed near each other in the panel, but still be read as far away by shifting between the two colors in quick succession.

While these color rules are subtle, and change at times, their continued use trains the eye to view each two dimensional image as three dimensional. Even while restricting itself to such a limited palette Hax bursts with color, but by leaving them few and flat, every packed image remains readable.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Laugh Now Cry Later


Werewolf Jones and Sons
By Simon Hanselmann and HTML Flowers

Werewolf Jones is the most depraved, disgusting and vile member of Simon Hanselmann’s stoner comedy Megg, Mogg and Owl. He is also the funniest. And while the best moments of Hanselmann’s comics are the exploration of the psychological roots that lead to each character's eccentricities, primarily those based in loss, depression, addiction and anxiety, Werewolf Jones exists outside of these moments of characterization. Even in flashbacks to high school the teenage Werewolf seems almost identical to the one currently slated to die of an overdose sometime next year. So that as fucked up as the rest of the cast is, they can always be judged against Werewolf.

Werewolf Jones and Sons is the first prolonged narrative centering on Werewolf Jones, clocking in at 52 pages, it is an anthology of sorts, a series of five short stories drawn by either Hanselmann or HTMLFlowers. These long form stories tend to be platforms for Hanselmann to delve deeper into a character's persona, but in Werewolf Jones and Sons there doesn’t seem to be anything to delve into. In story after story you see Werewolf do the worst things imaginable, try to smuggle his children through airport security in garbage bags after giving them sleeping pills, trash a principal's office who questions his parenting skills, and again and again Werewolf learns no lesson. After his arrest in the first story he simply asks about his ETSY hat store.

While Werewolf Jones and Sons does not directly reference it, the lingering knowledge of Werewolf's death begins to take on more and more emotional weight as this book goes on. That this is by far one of the funniest books Hanselmann and HTML Flowers have produced so far seems almost secondary after the initial read, because the lack of any change in Werewolf Jones starts to burrow into your brain. You are seeing a character kill himself, slowly and over an ever diminishing number of pages.Every laugh is leading up to the call Megg and Mogg get while sitting on there couch next year...