Friday, January 10, 2014

Stylizations: Life Through The Lens and Revolver

Life Through The Lens #1, by Kent Olsen and Sabine ten Lohuis. There are a lot of interesting ideas in this comic about two TV film critics who also happen to share an apartment together in Chicago. The writer of this comic, Olsen (curiously, he doesn't credit illustrator ten Lohuis on the cover), holds a degree in philosophy and film studies and originally wrote this as a screenplay. This is the first of what promises to be a dozen or so issues, and as such, doesn't really cohere into much beyond setting up the initial friendship and fracture between the two men. Hilariously, ten Lohuis depicts the two men as being model-handsome, which is not exactly the rule in the critic business. Of course, ten Lohuis makes all sorts of curious choices with regard to the art, starting with the cheesecake drawings of the woman who shared the apartment with them on New Year's Eve and went down on one of them while they were cracking wise and watching movies. The scene was pitched in part to get across the sense that their relationship was uncrackable by outsiders (and especially girlfriends), but the casual nature of the drawing and the repartee that wasn't exactly deep or obscure made it feel more misogynistic than anything. Similarly, their on-air tiff about a disagreement regarding a film that sounds very much like the crazy Southland Tales eventually resolves itself as a bare-chested tickle/wrestling match. There's homoerotic subtext, and then there's the sort of pointless homoeroticism as depicted here. Of course, another problem with this issue is that the conflict promised on the back cover "Their intense film watching begins to erode their hold on reality. Jerald succumbs to the extremities of delusion putting pressure on Richard to maintain a balance." doesn't unfold in this actual comic book. I'd say telegraphing the entire premise of the comic in such a way is a dubious idea to begin with, but doing so without actually having the story unfold in that manner is simply confusing. That said, the relationship between Jerald and Richard is an interesting one, as the latter's formal training makes the former both jealous and frustrated. On the whole, the writer and artist seemed poorly matched to each other, while Olsen seemed to have trouble settling down on his many ideas regarding the nature of watching stories unfold.

Revolver One, by Salgood Sam. Max Douglas, who goes by the nom de plume Salgood Sam, has always employed art that's dense and naturalistic, yet carries dreamy fantasy qualities as well. Similar artists might include Farel Dalrymple and others from the illustration-heavy Meathaus collective. Revolver is a collection of his heavily stylized stories, many of which he did not write himself. Despite that, they are all very much him: open layout, intense and heavily packed city scenes, odd character angles designed as though he was playing around with a camera, and an overall sense of even the most real experiences having a slightly fantastic edge. My favorite story in the book is Salgood Sam's own "Pin City", which is about a man arriving by airship to a city with no memories of how or why he got there, but he found that he was expected and given opportunities to thrive. The beauty of the story was that the character bereft of memory chose to record the memories of a city, as he wrote down all that he observed. It was less about himself than what he saw, but it was all an attempt to externalize the memories he never had.

John O'Brien's "The Rise and Fall of It All" similarly takes on a man negotiating a city alone, but this time it's a man who's been abjected from a position of comfortability at a job. Both stories make great use of a restrained color palette, shifting from blue to brown to green. The stories he adapts from A.J. Duric feel a bit more cramped, as there are more panels on the page on his other stories. "Misplaced" lacks the color accents that did so much to guide the reader through the story. Most of the rest of the book consists of visual poem adaptations, jam work and other short material. "Where The Wild Things Went" is notable for the artist's particular deftness in depicting motion through dance and expressing it in such a way that one can't take one's eyes off the page. This comic in general is the kind of odds and ends an illustrator without a particular long-form project on their drawing table winds up with, but it still reflects the restlessness and fascination with time and place the artist is known for.

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