Sunday, December 22, 2019

31 Days Of CCS #22: Jai Granofsky, DW

It's funny; whether or not DW sends me something directly for review, he always winds up in my yearly CCS round-up anyway. That's because he loves collaborating with other CCS folks. This year, it's a comic's worth of collaborations with Jai Granofsky. The sole thing I had reviewed from him was Waiting For Baby, a bracing and frequently grim bit of memoir. It's clear that his real forte' is absurd, weird, and sometimes transgressive vignettes. In Taglianuccis, he and DW switch off on creative duties. "Cerrito" is a surreal account of a film director's life as told by a woman who knew him slightly. DW wrote this and Granofsky drew it, and it's interesting to see how Granofsky drew a lot of extra detail in order to give the reader something to look at. The story itself seems to be about familiar creators until DW threw in weird details about magical beasts. "Home Away" was written by Granofsky and drawn by DW in his stripped-down style that resembles an Ed Emberley drawing. It's every bit as weird as the other comics, as two creatures first discuss scatological functions in a refined manner and then talk about an assassination assigned to them. The rhythm of the whole thing reminded me of a Gerald Jablonski comic.

The humor ranges from absurd to upsetting to things based on misunderstandings, like a DW-written strip about a man who misidentifies the actor Garret Dillahunt as Garrison Keillor in a bar. There's a weird flatness to the work that looks partly deliberately banal and partly sinister. That's true of so much of this comic and Granofsky's work in general. It's mostly naturalistic, so the weird flourishes or monstrous figures are especially disturbing and unexpected. Granofsky's own comic, What The Actual, is every bit as odd as his collaborations with DW. There's a vibe that's sort of a cross between Eric Haven's embrace of mainstream tropes and Paul Hornschemeier's skill in cartooning and rendering in a style the blends naturalism with certain cartoony flourishes.

In "Old Friends," for example, a guy who looks like a drawing out of a Billy DeBeck comic strip meets up with a guy who could be in a Harvey Pekar story. The result of their meeting is a violent fight, a car crash, a decapitation, and a juvenile meta-joke. There's a story about a "party donkey" and the world's most violent game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey as two kids try to one-up each other. There's a story about a kid who gets a guy to come over to play a video game with him as the world is about to end and fried chicken is delivered by helicopter. An astoundingly vicious masked superhero delivers "justice" that's ridiculously disproportionate to the original infraction. Granofsky is deliberately messing with genre tropes here, either by exploding them or taking them to extremes.

In the second issue of What The Actual, Granofsky runs a bunch of different narratives together. It starts with "Midnight Motor Mike," a stunt cyclist who deals with a heckler by pulling him out of the audience and threatening to shit down his throat. There's a funny flatness of affect in the dialogue, as though Granofsky was piecing together terrible grindhouse movies together. Another story features an anthropomorphic duck who loves to text. The next features two women who are running from some kind of invincible zombie creature, ala a standard horror film. All of these storylines then mash together, as the women stumble on Midnight Motor Mike. Several eviscerations later, the original heckler of the cyclist seems like he's about to get his revenge before the masked hero from the first issue shows up out of nowhere. The texting duck is even connected to everyone, as the unseen victims of the zombie are his friends as well. The whole package is just...odd. There's a feeling of stream-of-consciousness at work, but also a creative process akin to long-form improv. There's nothing quite like it in comics at the moment, where Granofsky just goes straight to his id for inspiration and finds it mediated by a variety of pop culture influences.

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