Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thirty Days of CCS, Day 25: Luke Healy and Simon Reinhardt

Luke Healy is one of my favorite of the recent CCS grads, both in terms of his line and his dark sense of humor. Like many recent CCS grads, he often reaches into genre tropes to generate ideas. One such example is the first chapter (of three) of The Exquisite Corpse. The high concept is ingenious: personal fitness trainers literally swap consciousnesses with clients so that they can get their bodies fit over a several month period. The trainer in this story also has the difficulty of dealing with his client's smoking addiction, which leads him to violate some rules before he's accused of murdering his client. Healy sticks to a crisp 3 x 2 grid on each page, giving this story a steady rhythm with a simple line. Starlight doubles as a fan club publication for the world's #1 pop star, one who is obsessed with cake and her missing mother. This mini veers off into some truly weird directions as it explores fame, memory and what it means to be stricken from the public record. Both of these stories can be found in anthologies; the former will be in Maple Key volume 4 and the latter in Dog City 3.

Mountain, Take Me is a story about a group of teens who follow a woman who predicts that the end of the world will occur on that particular day. It's really about a girl who returns to her small town after several years away, and how difficult it is to integrate herself back into the community. In many ways, she clearly feels for this outcast woman who hikes to the top of a mountain in order to meet her maker. It's also pitch-perfect in the way he gets at the way teens talk. LCD finds Healy satirizing blogger culture in a hilarious but dark manner, as a stand-in character moves to a new city and finds it hard to meet people and generate material for his blog. A TV with a particular, pornographic image burned into that he received for free stops becoming a conversation piece and takes over his life bit by bit, until the final, inevitable scene. The superimposition of images from the TV that then starts superimposing itself on his consciousness and vision is a clever visual conceit, especially thanks to Healy's slightly smudged pencils.

Bob is my favorite of Healy's comics. It's the one that stretched him the most as a draftsman, as he worked a number of different styles into this Walter Mitty-esque story of a man who imagined himself as the protagonist in all kinds of different scenarios: a worker clone whose DNA was based on Jackie Gleason, a Seinfeld-style sitcom, a tavern-based soap opera and several other TV-related tropes. It's a sad and funny story about a man trying to break out of his shell who gets his heart a little broke, but in the end gets something from the experience. The drawing is excellent, as Healy is enough of a style mimic to make the transition from trope to trope easily understandable and leave quite an impact.

Simon Reinhardt's recent work is clearly the best of his young career. While always conceptually interesting, his minis suffered from some of his technical limitations. Take At The DJ Screw Museum, for example. His rendering is once again crude, but his use of color to create both positive and negative space brings this mutation of a story by Donald Barthelme to life. It's a hilarious send-up of museum design as well as a loving tribute to the mixtape master. On the other hand, his collection of his absurdist strip Detectives doesn't quite work because the color seems more perfunctory here, and the crudeness of the rendering combined with the aimlessness of the humor give the whole thing an undercooked quality.

On the other hand, that loose crudeness actually aids Superstition, the story about what happened when James Kidd disappeared. A quiet man, he simply disappeared on a trip one day and had no heirs or relatives. Eventually, a will was found in his effects that left his money to whomever could prove that the soul was real and could be photographed when leaving the body at death. Reinhardt actually clips a copy of his will inside the comic on yellow paper, adding a nice primary source touch. Reinhardt gives the facts as they were known, but he also muses on the nature of mysteries in general, relishing their existence.

The best mini in his bunch, the excellent Lost Films, picks up on this film of what is lost and unknown in a fascinating way. A writer is recruited by an eccentric and wealthy man for a mysterious project. He's informed that most silent films from the 1920s and 1930s no longer exist, but that it's his mission to recreate these films with his own director, cast and crew. It's an incredible concept that's visually exciting, as each character is more or less represented by a color form in all but close-up panels. It's a sort of visual shorthand that makes instant sense, as do other uses of this sort of shorthand in the rest of the comic. That use of color extends to the narrative captions, instantly cluing the reader in on who's speaking. Reinhardt gets across the central theme of this comic (longing for what cannot be attained) quite clearly and forcefully while spinning a clever fantasy built out of actual facts.

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