Saturday, December 30, 2017

Thirty Days of CCS #30: dw

dw is at the most extreme end of mark-makers to emerge from CCS, defying narrative and conventional comics layouts on every page. Which is not to say his comics are abstract, per se. Rather than attempt a straight review, here’s what I’m looking for and looking at when I read one of dw’s comics, and that certainly applies to his book with Fantagraphics Underground, Mountebank.

·        The Title. A mountebank is a snake oil salesman, a charlatan, a fraud, a trickster. Someone who makes big promises and doesn’t deliver on them while still profiting. Is this perhaps a playful self-critique or anticipatory critique of the kinds of comics that he does in relation to other kinds of comics, and how others might perceive him as a cartoonist as a result?

·        Gestalt vs Microimage. The design of this book is meant to resemble a small, personal notebook, complete with lined/graph paper to construct his small blocks. These are meant to resemble 8-bit images on the page and create whorls of black and white cascading across and around the page. Don’t concentrate too much on the individual images, because there are simply too many to take in. I try to take in the gestalt, the larger image that is created by the patterns while still understanding the hermeneutic relationship it has with the smaller images. This isn’t a Seurat painting, where the individual dots only have meaning when seen in the larger context. Instead, it’s more like using a microscope to example a cell sample and understand that the ways in which both views are different and true at the same time.

·        Black vs White, Dark vs Light. dw relies on these contrasts above all else in his comics to create patterns, shapes, paths and interruptions. The stark white boxes that appear on his page almost act as impenetrable borders, but not in the traditional sense of comics borders and gutters. The contrasts rise again and again, as the decorative and narrative aspects of his comics are often one and the same. Not every page is meant to be interpreted; some are simply meant to be seen and enjoyed for what they are.
·        Text vs Image. dw’s go-to image is a simple rendering of an animal of some kind: a cat, a dog, a pig, a stag, a deer or something hard to identify. They live in and on his pages. They are not simply decorative. There are times when there’s some sequential movement with them within each page and across pages. There are also times when dw uses collage to insert found text, which is sometimes used as dialog, and sometimes used as random commentary on the page by himself as author or by an animal. Sometimes the text is upside down, and sometimes it’s not in English. A lot of it concerns sex, which is interesting because I wouldn’t say the rest of his work touches on sex that much in terms of imagery, at least not on a literal level. I wouldn’t be surprised if these references were a textual representation of the id he may be exploring abstractly in the rest of his work.

·        Narrative vs Static Image. Is there a journey that takes place from the first page to the last? To be sure. Does this journey have narrative meaning? I’m not sure that this is an important question to ask, any more than if a walk in the forest has narrative meaning, or a trip on a boat. It just sort of is, and the key is let each page wash over you without thinking about them too hard.

·        I use a different strategy with his little minicomics; I like to look hard at the details of each image, like one mini where each creature is describing a fantastic-looking creature using images alone. 

No comments:

Post a Comment