Monday, July 4, 2016

2dcloud: Emilie Gleason

Following up on my recent Minnesota post, let's take a look at one of Minneapolis's finest: 2dcloud. The publisher, Raighne Hogan, is a cartoonist in his own right, but he's made a splash thanks to his willingness to take risks with avant garde, eccentric and boundary-pushing comics. Hogan's put interesting work back in print, printed the work of locals, given homes to more-widely read cartoonists who needed a new publisher, published the work of emerging cartoonists and he's even gone the international route. At the moment, 2dcloud is running a kickstarter in an effort to support publishing some pretty remarkable books. First, here's a review of a recent publication.

Emilie Gleason's English debut, Salz and Pfeffer, is a loony amalgamation of Disney satire, extended fart jokes, a UFO abduction story, and a journey to hell. The Mexico-born and Belgium-raised cartoonist invokes a number of familiar comics characters and styles in telling a story where the protagonists have little to no control over what's happening to them. The first section tells the story of Pfeffer, an ordinary illustrator who is kidnapped by a gang of vicious Mickey Mouse lookalikes. Gleason uses a rough pencil style throughout the book, as she emphasizes the sense that that these are drawings on paper that were labored over and show her hand. Everything about the book is deliberately crude, from the lack of overall polish to the crude nature of the humor. That crudeness stands in direct contrast to the polish and shine of what Disney stands for, from its films to its theme parks.

Pfeffer is taken to another world and subjected to all sorts of humiliations (he's kept on a leash and not allowed to wear pants). What makes this especially funny is that he's built like a muscular athlete; that idealized form is in itself as much a cartoonish creation as our the assorted anthropomorphic animals that he encounters, including an especially foul-mouthed rooster-bro. In order to properly indoctrinate him, he's tied up and forced to view and listen to (Clockwork Orange-style) the "national anthem" of the planet: "It's A Small World" for four days. Anyone who's ever been subjected to that song at Disney World on repeat will instantly understand just how funny that joke is. Poor Pfeffer's eyes get turned into Mickey Mouse heads as he goes home and pencils the most banal drawings possible; indeed, they look like old Art Instruction Schools ads ("Tippy", "Tiny", etc).

The second half of the book concerns Salz the mouse, whose anxiety-induced farts get him thrown into fart jail by order of the king. After busting out, he wants revenge and enlists the help of Gaston and his identical cousins, all of whom are dead ringers for Tintin. He eventually gets sent to hell, which resembles a typical idea of heaven (angels, clouds, etc), except it's mind-boggling annoying and saccharine. After an encounter with Jesus (or was it Tarzan?), Salz gets kicked out of hell and is sent to Hungary, where he changes costumes in every panel thanks to a curse. For all the weird silliness, Gleason's storytelling is entirely straightforward and easy to follow. What makes her work effective is the subversion of images and ideas like Mickey Mouse and heaven and folding them into scatological humor, the arbitrary and often cruel nature of authority, and a point of view that can be described as gleeful nihilism. In a world where artists can be beholden or in fear of cruel, inhumane interests and masters, sometimes the only response that makes sense is a total descent into tearing down every social more and convention in the most juvenile way possible.

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