Thursday, August 18, 2016

Foxing Reprints #18: Oily Comics: Nick Drnaso, Sacha Goerg, Benjamin Urkowitz, Scott Longo

The Grassy Knoll, by Nick Drnaso. This one's in full color and 7 x 8.5". It makes sense, because Drnaso's work looks best in the slightly bland color palette that he selects to create the slightly deadened, inert feeling he goes for on each page. That inertness matches and is in tension with the deadened or heightened emotions of each character he introduces and the sense of social awkwardness he explores in his work. Drnaso excels at writing about outcasts, weirdos and the socially inadept, not so much to laugh at them but instead to investigate the rules that put them on the outside in the first place. 

In this story, we meet Bill, a new employee of a company that cleans up a park. He's assigned to work with Sal and immediately warned not to talk about Sal's father if it comes up. Sal is hyperarticulate in a sort of Asperger's way but clearly lacks an awareness of certain social cues. Bill is just a guy who has a new job and notices that some of his co-workers are attractive young women his own age, and wonders how he met get assigned to hang around them. While Sal does go on about some video game he's just mastered and is mildly annoying, he's mostly harmless. Meanwhile, when Bill gets to hang out with the girls and another male friend of theirs, talk mostly centers around how drunk they were last night: banal, puerile chatter at its shallowest. Of course, Bill's boss misconstrues his interest in hanging out with pretty girls to being yet another person who can't deal with Sal, leading him to fire him. There's a wonderful moment at the end when Sal and Bill lock eyes for a moment, with a slightly sad look of betrayal on Sal's face and a blank but glum look on Bill's, after all of this occurs. Drnaso's suggestion that just because certain social cues are acceptable doesn't make them hard and fast laws is done with restraint, especially since he doesn't show Sal as an entirely sympathetic character. He's annoying, but certainly no better nor worse than the other employees. He's simply not as "normal" as they are, which Drnaso shows isn't the same thing as "admirable". 

Nu #1, by Sacha Goerg. This is another Oily comic that's longer and printed at a larger size than the norm. Goerg is a Swiss-Belgian cartoonist with the kind of slightly ratty and expressive line that's similar to Forsman and Max De Radigues. Goerg treads on some familiar ground here in a story about an art school student who develops a huge crush on a model, to the point where he follows her home and surreptitiously draws her. When her dog finds him and grabs his sketchbook, she's able to turn the tables on him. Goerg excels at drawing loose and sloppy lines that zip the story along and perfectly capture emotion. There's one panel where Ielena, the object of the protagonist's obsession, is sneering at the mere concept of her voyeur. Goerg throws a funny twist at the reader at the end of the story, as the protagonist manages to get off scot-free while one of his friends accidentally gets caught. This is a funny and slightly demented take on obsessions, secrets and desires that is perfectly suited for this format. 

"Duh Studge" In Real Rap #1-3, by Benjamin Urkowitz. Urkowitz is an artist I discovered through Oily and has proven to be a delightful revelation. These comics are what I would call "stupid-smart", as the initial trappings of the slightly idiotic Caucasian rapper Stu  "Da Studge" slowly reveal a series of complex and funny character interactions, especially with his friend Nicky. She's an amazing character: an androgynous singer who's clearly smitten with Stu on some level, but uses a hyper-aggro approach with everyone else. Stu is trying to bring the "real" back to rap with absolutely no sense of fakeness or irony whatsoever, which is what makes him such a great character. He's a Candide in New York City, as one strip where a woman takes him home in hopes of a three-way with her husband reveals; pure Stu is absolutely mystified at all of this. At the same time, he is the least judgmental person around, as his friendship with Nikki reveals. Urkowitz's weird, curvy line reminds me a little of Skip Williamson at some points, and his page design is remarkably eye-catching. This is one of my favorite continuing series in all of comics at the moment.

The Virgin, by Scott Longo. This is a stream of consciousness project done in a variety of fonts to differentiate the deepest, darkest and weirdest thoughts of the unnamed character who is traveling on an airplane. The thoughts cut between the basest of desires to the hopes of selling books at a show. The figures veer from cartoony to naturalistic to simple doodles,  all reflecting various states of consciousness, experience and perception.

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