Thursday, July 27, 2017

Minis: M.Aushenker and M.Collar

Michael Aushenker and Marcus Collar have worked together before, but let's take a look at some recent solo projects and collaborations with others:

Pool Care Handbook, by Marcus Collar and Joe Collar. The central narrative that runs through the book is that a version of the Creature From The Black Lagoon has taken a job as a swimming pool cleaner. He's friends with various other monsters, all of whom inhabit a typically drab suburban neighborhood that freaks out when they appear. There's also a running narrative that follows a family that goes camping and encounters a benevolent bigfoot. Video games later get interpolated into rock 'n roll dreams with Funkadelic references and laser shootouts with aliens, and the kid from the family is later hunted by actual werewolves and saved by the yeti. It's a weird and wacky series of events that's mostly played straight, which is to the benefit of the material. The art is almost entirely naturalistic, with even eyeball monsters rendered with the same kind of detail as people and buildings.

The fact that the Collars never wink at the reader in telling these nonsensical stories is what makes them work, even as the pacing of the stories is sometimes a little wonky. There are also points where I'm not sure whether the reader's knowledge of what is about to happen matters much, like in a drawn-out story involving a fishing expedition and the yeti. The tone of the book is clearly comedic, but it's written almost like a slice-of-life comic, only with monsters interacting with often-terrified humans. There's also a clear narrative through-line that is mostly just hinted at in this issue, as the Collars were more interested in establishing tone and character than anything else. Overall, this is a well-produced, quirky comic that isn't quite sure what it's going to be just yet, which is both intriguing and distracting at the same time.

The War On Dental, by Michael Aushenker. When Aushenker grabs hold of a concept, no matter how silly it may be, he goes all the way with it. In this completely wacko comic, he riffs off the infamous story of the American dentist who killed a beloved, protected lion named Cecil and turns it into an apocalyptic tale. The story begins with a dentist stealing the teeth from Cecil, father of dragons, and taking them home as a trophy. From the very first page, Aushenker assaults the reader with a garish color scheme designed to make the whole book look larger than life. As the narrative begins, he switches from a thin line to his usual ultra-thick line that is matched in his lettering, with every panel being composed conservatively but featuring highly stylized images. In the story, the rest of earth's dragons decide to get even with the dentist. The way he depicts the dragons is hilarious, as a cross between a biker gang and a hipster enclave. Aushenker's style of humor is almost entirely visual, as there aren't so much jokes or even a funny story as there is something weird and humorous in every panel, often as a sidebar to the actual narrative. An example is the absurdity of the Pacific Palisades community in California, going to extremes in depicting its bizarre "small-town charms".

After getting revenge on the dentist and his family with fiery righteousness, the dragons decide to destroy the entire city. Then they decide to kill every dentist on earth, just in case. That leads to various militaries and the usual Aushenker weirdo-characters (this time around, it's "Jump Boy Olson" and "Fancy Youngin") getting into the fight. They wind up deciding to destroy Korea and Iraq, sparking an all-out war that destroys everything. There's something satisfying about the lunacy of this comic. Aushenker never lets up, but he does allow for enough silly moments to make the comic more than a simple exercise in drawing mayhem. Although to be sure, there's plenty of that as well. Aushenker had a vision of complete ridiculousness when he started this comic, and he more than lived up to that goal with page after page of brightly-colored, silly and frequently nonsensical mayhem.

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