Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Minis: M.Hoey & P.Hoey, C.Cass, W.Taylor

Time for some more mini talk:

Coin Op: Project Gemini (Musical Twins) and Coin Op: Chuck Berry's Revenge (Afro-Futurist Re-Mix), by Peter & Maria Hoey. The Hoey siblings have always been interesting in exploring music on the comics page, and their "45 RPM comics" are shaped like the old 45 sleeves: an aesthetically pleasing square. Project Gemini is one of their comics that combines historical research and straight-up illustration, juxtaposing interesting anecdotes about famous musical twins with vintage imagery of casinos, countrysides and gas stations that all use a twin theme.

On the other hand, Chuck Berry's Revenge is hilariously deranged, working in themes, quotes and lyrics from a number of artists into this unexpected sequel to Back To The Future. As you may recall, Marty McFly passes off Chuck Berry's work as his own, to the point where Chuck's "cousin" Marvin plays him some of the music. We see the other end of that conversation, as a furious Chuck slams the phone into the wall. However, he seeks out avant garde jazz maestro Sun Ra, who sends rock pioneer Ike Turner with him to alter the course of history. Turner kills Henry Ford, uses his assembly line idea, and becomes America's premier industrialist, only with a diverse workforce. Chuck goes back to 1955 and seduces Marty's mom ("she's too cute to be a minute over seventeen"), causing Marty to disappear. This twelve-page comic features an avalanche of ideas, jokes, references, puns and history, and it's astonishing just how much havoc the Hoeys wreaked in the course of the story. The mix of naturalism and psychedelia (the "Afro-Futurist Remake") were perfectly balanced for a comics story, as both made sense right away, given the story's absurd premise.

The Once Great Auk, by Caitlin Cass. As far as Cass's comics go, this one is pretty grimly straightforward. The Great Auk was a bird that had no natural fear of man, was plentifully found on small islands, and exceedingly easy to kill. It was like they were a litmus test for humanity's capacity for mercy that it wildly failed. With each page a single panel, Cass zeroes in on the escalating hilarious and horrible circumstances surrounding the eventual total extinction of this species. Cass indulges in some detailed cross-hatching in this comic, emphasizing the utterly benign quality of the bird and its utter lack of a survival instinct. From an evolutionary perspective, it's a simple case of a species getting wiped out because it had no way of dealing with its predator. From a human perspective, it's an extreme example of the way we take advantage of nature without fully thinking of the consequences, like an exceedingly long game of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Fizzle #1, by Whit Taylor. Taylor has really come into her own in the past year or two doing autobiography and journalism. This series represents her best slice-of-life work to date, and she really stands out in terms of character design and expression. Always great at drawing side-eye and creating expressions with scrunched-up mouths, Taylor really goes to town with those expressions in this comic in panel after panel. In a story that's mostly a series of talking heads, Taylor creates action and tension in each panel because of the frequently seething and hidden character of emotions that are hinted at by facial expressions. This story follows a young woman named Claire who is questioning her life's choices. She has a stoner boyfriend with a rich family that he's rebelling against, finding him complaining about having to hang out with his dad and brother at a posh steakhouse. She has a job at a boutique tea "lounge" with a hilariously obnoxious boss named Poppy who is obsessively focused with her business. Her glasses and sort of mop-top haircut are a great example of the way Taylor used character design to sum up her characters without saying a word. This is a character who isn't suffering: she has a job, a relatively cushy life and a boyfriend--yet it's clear that she's deeply depressed, her life the titular "fizzle" as she has no creative outlet. The verisimilitude of the dialogue and the story's tiniest details are elements that help it stand out, as well as variations in page design that reflect Claire's disorientation and ennui. The cover image reflects the overall cleverness of the comic. It's exciting to see how Taylor has come into her mature style as an artist and is doing it across the board with all of her various projects.

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