The latest installment in our series where we mercilessly strand a comicker on one of our lovely FPI desert islands. Lost, alone, no hope of rescue….. what could they possibly be cheering about?
Could it be that they’ve just found the crate containing their favourite eight comics of all time? Paradise is so, so easy to find (well, it is until you run out of drinking water and the hallucinations start).
This weeks strandee is artist Laurie J. Proud, whose Peepholes was released in 2012 to considerable acclaim, not least from us here at the FPI Blog. We reviewed the book here, previewed it here, and Laurie was kind enough to do a great Director’s Commentary piece for us here.
Peepholes really was a great piece of work, dark and disturbing, yet full of beauty in a twisted grotesque fashion.
Really, this is seriously dark stuff, here’s a little from the review:
This really is your revealing look into the psyche sort of thing; all deep suppressed desires, furtive looks, flashes of stockinged legs, unattainable femme fatales, a dissection of the deep yearnings of a series of intensely strange characters; Werewolves at the cinema (late night showings a must), a reluctant mob hitman trying to save the girl of his dreams, pumpkin abuse in a twisted Pied Piper scenario, the comical tragedy of Harold Lloyd-a-like Hotel Charlie where ending up as deep fried sausage is merely a temporary problem.
Now go buy the book, and then settle back and enjoy Laurie’s choices….
Desert Island Comics – Episode 49 – Laurie J. Proud
I was about 17 and hadn’t been into comics very long when i first saw Stray Toasters. I loved it instantly, yet oddly, what amazed me then – the sheer stylistic experimentation and decorative excess – now seems over the top and the story often struggles to get through the surface noise. The comic certainly no longer fits with the current zeitgeisty clean and flat coloured look that came with Chris Ware, Clowes et al, but i’m glad that someone went that far; to stick a train set onto a page in a Rauschenberg-like assemblage for instance, just because they could. I find it difficult to see Stray Toasters afresh now, because i pored over it so much (like when you listen to your favourite album too often until it feels part of your DNA) but it was a very important part of my youthful comic baptism.
The Biologic Show by Al Columbia.
I first picked up Al Columbia’s ‘Doghead’ because it resembled Bill Sienkiewicz and 4AD covers, and Lynch and Burroughs were name-checked in there. It seems ironic now that Columbia replaced Sienkiewicz as my favourite artist, but with his later cleaner Biologic Show style, when you know that Al also worked as Bill’s assistant on the abandoned Big Numbers (which i didn’t know until later). A case of the entered apprentice stealing the master mason’s mojo ? Bill seemed to fizzle out and Al became red hot. People often assume i’m influenced by Al when they look at my work. I prefer to think of it as inspiration rather than influence. I feel that Al is a kindred spirit; we’re the same age, weened on David Lynch, William Burroughs, the Pixies, Kafka etc. Al was the first to bring the dark and surreal Eraserhead-like arthouse mood to comics. He beat me to it by some way, and for that he will always be king.
Like a Velvet Glove Cast In Iron by Dan Clowes.
I don’t love Clowes’ art. I think it does the job and tells the story, but this book also leans heavily on my dark and surreal buttons. It reads like one long anxiety dream full of abject characters, taking place in a seedy neo-noir America. Very bleak but with a gallows humour too.
I don’t claim to ‘understand’ all of Jim’s work, but it’s more important to me to see an artist who possesses a singular vision than read a cracking good yarn (i’m not a ‘story’ person). With Frank you’re straight into a fantasy world which has it’s own rules and it’s up to you to find your own bearings. There are moments in Jim’s work that affect me deeply but it’s hard to say why, such as in the story ‘Frank in The Wilderness’ when Frank looks into the empty crane cabin and sheds a tear. There are moments that also disturb profoundly such as ‘The River’ when Frank feels compelled to kill all of the creatures that emerge from the river, a job which takes him all night. The logic of the stories doesn’t make sense in a rational way, yet on a deeper level, something clicks.
I love the sheer audacity of this comic. The way it looks so normal at first; a big colourful 1960s teen annual, but how the meaning disintegrates as you read it. One trick Hensley uses and i think is brilliant, is the lack of background continuity. Props continually shift around and i think ” of course… why shouldn’t they ?” The stylised dialogue is hilarious too.
Murmur by Lorenzo Mattotti / Kramski.
A man wakes up in an unknown ‘zone’ and begins to piece together the events that left him with a strange mark on his face which sometimes burns. The dreamlike ominous setting, the gentleness of approach and Mattotti’s willingness to push his art to the edge of abstraction (without it ever become decorative for the sake of it) turns this slight tale into something haunting and melancholic.
Mauretania by Chris Reynolds (Penguin collection).
I haven’t read this book in many years but the atmosphere stays with me. If you’ve ever traveled England by train and looked out the window at those strange industrial / rural hinterlands you’re not usually allowed access to; cooling towers, water treatment plants, railway depots and electricity substations. Or if you’ve ever noticed the alien beauty of pylons across a field when you were playing as a child, then that feeling is (for me) Mauretania.
Joe’s Bar by Munoz and Sampayo.
This is the only book in my list which takes place in a more or less straightforward recognisable reality (i’m not a ‘reality’ person either). I think that few comics really approach the quality of writing you find in the best fiction, and that is a problem, because comics will always be seen as something of an adolescent art form unless they can compete with other works in other mediums on an equal level. This comic, for me, is as good as the short stories of Raymond Carver, or ‘The New York Trilogy’ by Paul Auster, both of which it reminds me of because of the similar themes of loneliness and human frailty in a modern city setting. I like to look at Munoz’s art whenever i feel mine is becoming too slick. It’s not pretty. It’s raw and sometimes savage, but quiet and tender too.
My one allowed luxury: a bottle of red wine.
Well, frankly, we may be the sort of people to maroon comickers on a desert island, but we’re not completely evil. Just a bottle of wine? Oh, far too modest a request! I think we’ll be able to get Laurie a good selection, maybe even a few cases of wine, not just a bottle.