I went to RIPE this weekend. Here are some stray thoughts on a few of the comics i got.
Presence- MJ Robinson
While traveling too RIPE I was reading the recently deceased David Carr’s auto-biography. In a passage towards the end he speaks about his treatment for cancer, and the increasing use of “it” as a way for other people to distance themselves from the actual disease he was suffering from:
“There was enough evidence in all that concern that I began to think I had a case of ‘It’, instead of cancer. How is It going? Did they get all of It? What’s Its status? Oh, do you mean this giant cancerous tumor on my neck that is tipping my head over? ‘It’ seems to be doing fine.”
Presence is a four page comic revolving around the idea of “It” invading one's world and of the possibility of "It" leaving one's life. Of trying to deal with an outside force as it becomes all consuming to you. “It” is never defined, and every time that “it” is mentioned the word appears to be muddled by Robinson through the overlaying of the words “She & He” on top of “It”. Whenever some sense of clarity is about to become apparent a thick black line appears over the word in question and creates a murky sense of unknowing, until most of the panels in the comic, and in the end an entire page, becomes one giant blend of crossed out lines.
By injecting “She" and "He” into the coldness of “It” Robinson is creating an attempt at intimacy that the rest of the narrative is folding in on itself to avoid. “Love” is crossed out to “Rely On” because “Rely On” removes the intimacy that Love does, although there duties seem to overlap with each other to a great extent.
Presence isn’t about cancer though, it’s about a breakup. Or a future breakup. But doubt is a cancer all its own. It festers and grows and at the end it becomes something else. Presence captures this and attempts to grow upon it as an idea to great effect.
Small Talk - Benjamin Urkowitz
On the second page of Small Talk a figure states “ I saw everything too correctly, so i had to invent an insane language.” Urkowitz’s collection of sketchbook pages and finished drawings skirts between the line of decadent and minimalist, pornographic and wholesome, abstract and representative. While he may not have created a new language Urkowitz certainly pushes his own ideas to a point where he very well may have created his own dialect.
Pageant - Audrey Helen Weber
A mini comic of one page paintings. Each image shows the inversion of the next, so that the figure dressed as the moon is flanked by a figure dressed as the sun and the figure dressed as the sea is followed by a figure dressed as a fish.
Pageant as a title brings to mind a childrens school recital, which Weber’s drawings further evoke by emphasizing the handmade qualities of these costumes. Instead of mocking the limits of these costumes though Weber creates a sincerity within her paintings that reminds me of Maurice Sendak's WIld the Things Are. You can see the artistic seams, but those seams seem to be a central part of the work.
Gardens - Rachel Schapira & Audrey H. Weber
Opening on what seems to be a prison camp and then quickly moving to an underwater seabed Gardens evokes, across every page, the feeling of what a garden is while constantly changing the geographical context that an actual garden can be found in.
Weber’s plump figures and water colors create an odd intimacy. A spread showing a sunlight yellow creates the feeling of spring almost immediately upon viewing it, while the larger than lifeness of her figures and flowers create a childlike viewing of nature. Flowers, trees and adults are impossibly tall, yet feel perfectly in concert with each other.
Top of the Mountin’ Mountin - Sarah Crowe
Top of the Mountin’ Mountin is a superhero comic of sorts. Opening on a foreign circular object coming from space and reshaping a mountain into a cylindrical shape until a superhero begins to fight it off. Each page results in the grid of the page doubling, so that the first pages four panel grid becomes an eight on the next eventually resulting in a sixty-four panel final page that replicates the dislocated and frantic nature of most modern super-hero comics where the narrative becomes muddled and leaves the reader confused and dissociated.
I am glad Crowe, in a throwaway joke, pointed out the phallic nature of the aliens mountain transformation too.
Sex Fantasy #4 - Sophia Foster-Dimino
(Still the best webcomic of 2014. What follows is a reposting of what i wrote about it last year)
The previous three issues of Sex Fantasy could be seen as a set up for this issue, lulling the reader into a false sense of knowing. What started as a gag comic about outlandish sex fantasies slowly transformed over its previous three issues into a exploration as to what those fantasies reveal about the person acting them out, and what ones inner thoughts and anxieties play into them.
Sex Fantasy #4 opens with an unnamed female sitting on a couch, wearing a black sweater and reading a book. Quickly though a pair of arms shoot through the left panel border and another female, this one wearing glasses, begins to rest her head on the woman on the couches right shoulder and lock her hands together around the woman's neck in a loose hug of sorts. The intimacy of this gesture seems to implicate a closeness between the two figures, and as the previous three issues have conditioned you to expect, you await the figure in glasses to begin whispering her odd sex fantasies into the sitting womans ear.
The fantasies you expect to see here though never come, although the intimacy of the statements are nonetheless present, as the figure in glasses begins to reveal the deeply held thoughts and anxieties of the woman on the couch. These thoughts though are couched (ha ha) by the phrasing “have you ever…” at the beginning of each statement, creating the illusion of a question being asked, when in reality none is.
As each word piles up the woman on the couch begins to sob uncontrollably. This reaction doesn’t seem to affect the woman in glasses though, as her body language and facial expression never changes over the course of the comic. That is except for the ever so slightest raising and lowering of her eyebrows. These movements are meant more to telegraph how each new bit of information will hit her target though, rather then show characterization. So as her eyebrows move upwards you see her words begin leading towards something, until they snap back down into a focused and flat lined stare as she delivers the crushing conclusion to the newest perverse iteration of “have you ever…”.
It isn’t until the comics final page, when a new and grotesque looking figure enters through the right side of the panel that the woman in glasses leaves. Mirroring the woman in glasses movements, only this time in reverse, this new figure rests her head on the sitting womans left shoulder and begins to comfort her instead of emotionally abusing her. Gently placing her left hand on the sitting womens shoulder and, after a brief hug, telling her to “go to bed.” in the narratives only thought to end in a period.
The angel/devil paradigm this story is evoking is interesting, first in the flipping of the imagery of each player (the devil character being depicted as a well dressed 20-something female and the angel being represented by a ghoulish looking woman), but also by subverting the roles each play. While the devil in this classic scenario tends to whisper evil ideas into the main characters ear and push them to do something outwardly bad, here she whispers ideas that sink the character deeper into herself; and while the angel typically counteracts these ideas by explaining the harm they would cause to others, here all she can do is bring her back to her normal state of mind. This leaves the experience feeling not so much as a resolution to the devils words, but rather a momentary respite.
Sadly that tends to be how mental turmoil works though.