Friday, November 6, 2015

Thirty Days of CCS #6: G.P. Bonesteel

Garry Paul Bonesteel's third volume of his side-scrolling, landscape comic Jason continues to delve deeper into the emotional life and quotidian details of the Friday the 13th boogeyman. Bonesteel's visual flourishes are crisper and clearer in this volume, even as the character design remains iconically simple. Indeed, the designs display people as having entirely blank faces, with points standing in for hands and feet. Only the iconic horror characters that inhabit this world get their own set of features, and even those are greatly stripped down. In this world (as in ours, actually), the best way to determine why something happens is to follow the money. Horror movie villains are expected to make a certain amount of money or else face being forced to retire, and worse, irrelevancy. There's a hilarious sequence in which Jason is a guest speaker at a school for up-and-coming slasher pic stars, displaying a personality that's at once sensitive, withdrawn and undeniably obsessive.

Jason goes to a hardware store to get new items to inspire him and is treated with respect. He returns the favor by not killing the hardware store manager's son. He hangs out with the boorish Ghost Face (from Scream) and the more sensitive Freddy Krueger. He goes to his office and desperately tries to come up with new ideas. His prudishness makes him recoil at offers of sex that come through the mail. He also becomes obsessed with the little girl from whom he stole his pet dog. Bonesteel uses the psychopathic nature of each of his characters as a base, allowing different nuances to emerge from each as a result of simply assuming that every one of them is a crazed killer. It's a story about trying to rekindle one's creativity, how to work among one's peers, the drudgery of a work routine and the lack of attendant dignity often found as one ages.

There are several white-on-black dream sequences which give the book a visual power that's not as pronounced on the other pages. Despite several scenes of grisly violence, the book's real power to disturb lies in its power to make Jason a sympathetic character that we can't help but get behind. Bonesteel portrays him as a haunted character who's enormously lonely and unfulfilled but feels entirely trapped by his circumstances. This is a scenario that many feel in their jobs, and the way Bonesteel meshes this drifting ennui with gags and gore makes for a jarring but amusing combination. The one thing that drives me crazy about his work is his terrible spelling, as there are numerous misspellings that should have been caught. Hopefully, some of the more rushed elements of the work can be cleaned up once Bonesteel reaches the collection phase.

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