Saturday, December 28, 2019

31 Days Of CCS #28: Liam McTaggart

Liam McTaggart is a first-year CCS student with a scribbly, scratchy minimalist style. His work reminds me a little of Emma Hunsinger's (although she uses more loopy lines), and both of their comics remind me of Jules Feiffer's comics.  By is a short comic depicting the heart-rending visit of a man and his elderly grandmother who has dementia. Every day is the same series of emotionally draining conversations and then a return to a hotel and anesthesizing routine until the next round of hard conversations. The next day is even more difficult, as his attempt at roleplaying his father (playing into his grandmother's delusions) is somehow even more painful. The spare drawings contrast the complexity of the emotions at work.

Picking Up Scorpions seems to be McTaggart's Aesop assignment, a variation on the old The Scorpion And The Frog story. A man asks a man for a ride through the desert, promising money. He refuses to show it first, telling the other man to trust reason--why would he doom himself? Well, when the car broke down, the man didn't have any money. It was his nature to be untrustworthy. There's a stink of desperation in this story conveyed through gesture and a minimum of lines. Their First Album is about a husband and wife who find reasons and excuses to be away from each other. While she's out walking for hours, he goes to a bar. It's not clear why they have so much trouble communicating, but her attempt to reach out at the end, after they've shared a moment together with music, is telling. This is an interesting comic because the main narrative details everything but the core emotional problems of the couple.

The Matter is a fascinating look at the end of a teenage relationship. McTaggart is aces at depicting both desperation and indifference. In this case, it was indifference on the part of a girl and desperation on the part of a guy. She had her head in the clouds as to what a relationship should be and was almost revolted by the idea of any kind of physical contact or physicality in general ("because I'm not a slut") because it went against her own personal aesthetic. For his part, he just wanted someone to love, (even if he clearly didn't understand her) but he knew what was happening and walked away. Her response was to go back to listening to pop music that drew her back to the clouds.

Simple, Stupid is the best of McTaggart's work. McTaggart has an ear for dialogue, and the verisimilitude of the conversations in this book allows him to subtly explore male toxicity and the awkwardness of desire. The story revolves around two male friends named Dean and Ted, and it's clear that Dean is in love with Ted. However, the two dance around his attraction until a drunken game of Truth or Dare, which leads to some awkward silences in the group. Later, when Dean stays over at Ted's house and strips down in front of him, he becomes embarrassed, leaves, and stops talking to his friend. Dean later enters into a romance with a girl named Sarah and approaches it with the same kind of emotional earnestness that he did with Ted, only this time he allows himself to pursue these feelings. There's a fascinating, intimate scene where McTaggart zooms in and all the reader sees are lips and a couple of other portions of the face. When Dean sees Ted at a party and Ted is clearly friendly, he realizes that his homophobia was entirely internalized. It's a rare event to read a story featuring bisexual characters, but McTaggart nails every how masculinity interferes with one's ability to express affection and attraction. McTaggart does have a few things to refine (especially his lettering), but he's found a style and tone that work well for him.

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