Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Thirty One Days Of CCS #26: Brainworm 1-2

Anthologies have always been the lifeblood of CCS. In addition to work that's assigned to the students, there have often been cartoonists who have chosen to put together work with fellow students and alums. How the work is put together is often up to whichever cartoonist takes it upon themselves to edit the anthology, and in the case of the two recent volumes of Brainworm, that person is Kat Ghastly. She billed this anthology as "a catalog of obsessions for the obsessed" and themed both issues, giving them a nice sense of loose coherence. The table of contents in the first issue contains a sign-up sheet where most artists who said yes agreed at the expense of sleep or possibly quality, which speaks to the work ethic of the average CCS cartoonist.

The theme of the first issue is Endings. Tim Patton's stylish strip is about a couple of friends who visit an out-of-the-way coffee shop on its last day, and it's all about that sense of wistfulness that one feels in moments like that. The use of steam lines speaks to the ephemeral nature of the moment and then the memory. Hachem Reslan's silent strip is clever; it starts from heavily rendered as we see two hands: one holding a knife and other other an orange. As there is a surprise thing that is cut, the rendering and lighting gets lighter and less distinct, as though the cut hand is the one that's drawing the strip. Kristen Shull's cartoonish line is a delight in her story about songs that she can't get out of her head; it's a bit of fun that she braces with the final observation that banishing lingering thoughts is much more difficult. Sage Persing makes use of the dark in talking about their childhood OCD thoughts. Leise Hook's obsession with knowing how stories end was also cleverly drawn, with literalizations of the metaphors she was using. Bailey Johnson's drawing of a camera they took apart spoke to the way that working with its parts was soothing.

Unsurprisingly, CCS fellow Keren Katz's contribution was hilarious, odd and unsettling. It mixes drawings and photos (with a curly mustache drawn on Katz's face!) as the story follows a curator trying to figure out how to display the new heads. Each image is very typical of Katz, in that she's interested in exploring the way images in motion flatten themselves vs the ways in which still images can be arranged so as to create a strange synthesis. Ghastly's own strip is an amusingly cathartic story where she imagines people she hates falling into an open sewer grate, and then she thinks about what that fate may be. Her use of blobby figures reminiscent of Keith Haring drawings gives her story a strong visual charge.

The second issue isn't quite as interesting, in part because the topic ("The Undead") is a bit played out, and thus there was less variety on display. Katz once again takes an eccentric approach to an idea by taking three different documents (instructions for taking care of a cat, an origami instruction book and a book on making bubbles) and challenges people to come up with the first sentence of each book. It's all for reviving a monster. Katz is a walking idea machine, her brain and/or her body in constant motion as part of her relentless project to brighten the world with whimsical, bizarre and thought-provoking art.

There are some nice illustrations provided throughout by CCS instructor and horror master Steve Bissette, but they clashed with the generally lighthearted fare in the rest of the anthology. For example, Kurt Shaffert's "Bioethics and Zombie-care" is a funny take on how the rules of research (autonomy, beneficence, etc) would apply to dealing with zombies. Ghastly's own strip is about her own actual fear of zombies, or rather, that someone she loved would try to destroy her unexpectedly. Reslan and Persing's collaboration follows a sort of mannered, doomed romance, only one half of the couple is a zombie. Andres Catter's zombie gag is a funny one, using an image per page for maximum impact. Leise Hook's comic about a plant she revived and then might have killed again is a clever take on the theme, and its understated visual approach blends nicely with the text.

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