Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thirty Days of CCS #22: Simon Reinhardt

Simon Reinhardt has been learning, little by little, how to tell a compelling story with limited drafting skills. By simplifying and stylizing everything and incorporating a more poetic approach to his comics, he's created some compelling recent work. Starting with Trash Ghost, Reinhardt confounds expectations regarding rock band road trip stories. Using a scribbly line, Reinhardt relates a road trip undertaken by Trash Ghost, "New England's Premier Ghost Rock Band!". The put-upon drummer who's driving the band's van is confounded by the fog, as the lead singer and drummer make up excuses as to why they can't drive. When the lead singer goes out and sucks up the ghostly fog, her head swells comically, as though it were to float away like a balloon. It works, and it inspires the band's song for their recording session. This is a silly comic that nonetheless has its own punk style, as the furious scribbles and strange events create their own visual logic and establish a world.

That world is the same as is presented in Reinhardt's Mystery Town comics. This is a Pickle-style zine that purports to be an official town newsletter with a variety of story types. It begins with a funny contest regarding decorated mailboxes and then switches to a running series called "Nite Time Music", involving someone trying to chase down a tune they hear in the night. The first one features a record executive trying to chase it down and getting clubbed for his troubles. There's the dread of the "Endless Hallway" serial that resembles an EC story and the gleeful nihilism of "Savage Skies", which resembles a Blobby Boys comic with its vicious and hilarious "Drone Gang" fulfilling one man's existential dread in a way he never expected.

The second issue touches more on the absurdly Lovecraftian nature of Mystery Town, with the two ice cream trucks whose clashing jingles cause madness. There's more Drone Gang silliness, more Endless Hallway dread, but also some poetic comics in the form of Nite Time Music, catching the powerful and immediate feeling of the sentence "All My Favorite DJs Are Passing Cars" as we see a dancer next to a window, music blasting through. There's also a strip about a man who studies the human face at mural sizes to the exclusion of all else. Mystery Town is all about extremes, obsessions, absurdity writ large and life as both a horrifying mystery that is to be dreaded and a fascinating mystery that is to be gratefully explored. It's a grab-bag of cliches turned on their head, of feeling horrified at funny things and laughing at the horrific.

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