DEMONIAK

June 8, 2009

Demoniak-1

Demoniak1

Demoniak2

 

Gal Yacinthe Galbet? (Frémok)

 

Pedro Moura

 

One way or the other, Fantômas has been a household name that people from all stations of art-making have used in order to delve into evil and anarchy, even if it’s just to give them a flirty look (and no, I am not equating evil and anarchy). We could argue that Fantômas is one of the first (if not the very first) names to make the history of the so-called “pulp fiction” tradition (although we know we’re being anachronistic about the usage of this term here). This tradition began with Fantômas’ original literary authors, of course (or perhaps before, with strands from Moriarty, Lupin, The Scarlet Pimpernel?), but it would expand and gain new qualifications throughout its use and transfiguration by people such as Feuillade, Magritte, Julio Cortázar and the namesake band put together by Mike Patton. Closer to comics, the most important inflection is to be found in 1960s’ Italy, home to the imaginary gialli, with the emergence of the fumetti neri typology, that is to say, a very violent and visually flamboyant type of crime comics in that country, which would produce many variations from the Fantômas mould (crossing the implacable thief with Lee Falk’s The Phantom), a veritable troupe of characters whose names, attires and modus operandi made them a family: Diabolik, Fantax, Fantasm, Kriminal, Satanik, Demoniak, Sadik, and other slightly different word games, such as Zakimort or Jnfernal…

 

The subtitle of the present book (which gathers previously published smaller publications, or episodes) is “protohistoire pour adultes” (“proto-stories for adults”), a play on “photohistoires” (“photonovels”, photo-illustrated stories), reminding us of bundles of black-and-white publications from the 1960’s to the 80’s, truly cheap, in every sense of the word (at the graphical, the printing, the writing, the narrative complexity levels, and dare we even say at the artistic level?), which we could find at every kiosk or newspaper stall. Train station fiction. More often than not, these books were filled with eroticism and violence. Filth. The fumetti we referred above were also part of this mass of little books (actually, the French Wampyr and Satanik were precisely subtitled “photo-histoires pour adultes”). These were undoubtedly, whether in relationship to their methods or their results, a pocket-sized anarchy pill. They provided a portable rebellion, satisfactory enough for the brief moment of its reading, of the experiencing of its power fantasy, its crime fantasy, in the incurrence of the anti-social behaviours one could only dream about – and even so only awaken, momentarily, and restrainedly – but never act out. We could also add that these books provided a politically incorrect, or even horrifying, super-sexist fantasy, for even when the main characters were women, such as Satanika or Zakimort (although the latter was a “heroine”), they still played out a “man’s fantasy”. At the same time, however, there’s a sort of psychological anxiety that is alleviated with these stories, as if they were escape valves (or escapism valves?): fantasies of violence and hate played out towards everything that can wind us up, from the most socially and politically relevant aggravations to the pettiest pet peeves. 

 

It should be obvious that this promise of a pop anarchism paradigm that is brought about by Fantômas and his offspring turns into a different kind of language-use in the hands and minds of the likes of Magritte, Cortázar, Mike Patton, among others. Above all, it’s a parlour game of appropriation and crossbreeding of both lowbrow and highbrow culture (this distinction still holds and you know it), something that can only be fully appreciated by those who participate willingly, knowledgably and delightfully in both, at one time understanding what makes them apart and realizing how illusionary that division is. 

 

This small book belongs to a new series of publications by Frémok, a collection called Flore, and it seems to be part of a project that will continue “in new episodes”. You can even find a specially-dedicated blog at http://demoniak.wordpress.com/. Now, you won’t find any name associated with this book. The publishers themselves seem to imply that this is a collective project. But we believe that behind the machinations of this Démoniak we’ll probably find Yvan Alagbé. Or rather, Gal Yacinthe Galbet (an anagram that turns out an entire cluster of ironic associations with transvestism, disguise, camouflage, dissimulation, a staple in Fantômas & Ca., anarchism and train station fiction).

 

Besides the editorial and physical aspects of this publication – that seems to bring together a certain strand of the “comics avant-garde” and a typically low, commercial imaginary, perhaps even with a certain nostalgia factor -, it is quite important for us to understand how the narrative and visual dimension of Mort à Babylone (the title of this particular Démoniak episode, as we can surmise) employs appropriation. The main elements are reportage, contemporary issues, breaking news, collage, transfer, and puns. The text is in French (narrative captions and a few speech balloons) and English (a few speech balloons), but there’s also some random Finnish (a few lines of speech, especially by Démoniak him/herself – the gender is indeterminate). Although we’re able to read this (these) text(s) and, up to a certain point, recreate a linear sense, which follows a clear goal (especially if we don’t miss “the next episodes”), it seems to me that the author(s) aim for the emergence of a rather fantasmatic meaning. The faces of some of the characters are related to real people, but people who inhabit the unreality of mass media: Hollywood movies and CNN/FOX news: John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Ingrid Betancourt, Sarkozy, Bernard Kouchner, Rumsfeld, Saddam Hussein, princess Diana… It’s as if both worlds – the fiction world and the words of news – collapsed one on top of the other or coalesced. We could also add “finally”, for isn’t that the objective of each one of them, in their own relative terms? What is the difference between today’s pervasive infotainment, as those brief news that are news just because there’s a video of it, or celebrity-related happenings, or the personal life of political figures treated as a soap opera (Berlusconi and Sarkozy are huge in this), and those fake newscasts on innumerable TV shows? And aren’t the many movies “based on true facts” trying to force feed us a perspective of truth?  As for the book’s puns – Dirty Diana, Tom Cruz, John Paul Trovalto, Rhumsteak, Soddom Hossein – they’re deployed to emphasize that jumbled perspective. 

 

But there is yet another level of the language of Démoniak to which we have to be attentive: “As in a dream, Flower of the Senses admonishes Damned Soul/and, in the core of her thoughts,/Obscure Matter weeps the loss of her Shékinah”; “Amidst the foolish madness, the Celestial Temptress was gagged and tied up”… [in French in the original, my translation]. Despite the fact that we can interpret some of these sentences in a very literal sense, as following the actions depicted by the images, of the typical police-porn kind, some other are opened to even more obscene readings (as when the image of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs ready to lick a penis has this as its caption: “to drink up the news as if it was mother’s milk…”). But in a deeper sense, if we pay special attention to the names of the characters, sometimes several for one character only, as if what was being stressed was the multiplicity of functions, or faces, or potentialities (Mother-Hostage, The Shadow of the Ages, The Princess of Fevers), we can turn the whole language and the plot into a sort of alchemical, esoteric allegory in which what’s being played is in a cosmic level. Which, in any case, is precisely what conspiracy theories followers tend to think about as the true meaning of whatever event. 

 

In sum, Démoniak can be seen as a form of critical political positioning, albeit after an abstrusely operatic, obscene and hyperbolic fashion. Oppositionist, radical even, but not direct: quite the contrary, it seems to attain its peculiar efficiency through its swerving strategy, and at the same time amassing a certain degree of humour and of pertinence that would not achieve if it had followed a more “appropriate”, “ruled” form of criticism (which we can find within the territory of comics in distinct authors such as Phillipe Squarzoni and Ted Rall). It’s a way to show us, with that humour, that the Babylon they mention is really all around us. 

 

 

familykansi

Merav Salomon, Third Ear Publishing

Pedro Moura

This book has a band around it. There´s nothing written on this band, just a drawn pattern, and its ends are glued to the inner covers of the book. One could only pull it off from the book by ripping both its ends and the paper from the inner covers, which have nothing depicted on them. The publishers guarantee that this was but an option in order for the band not to fall, but it makes one wonder, even if abusing of fantasy, that it is also an integrant part of the book. In my copy, it covers up part of the title, the word Berlin , and the first two letters of the author s given name, “Merav” (in the spine they´re both written in English, not Hebrew, as in the cover). Is this important? If so, why? We´ll come to it in a moment.

The first drawing (within the book, within the text) is that of a borderless image of a train locomotive, seen from afar and surrounded by whiteness, spewing smoke and advancing towards the left (the same direction as in reading Hebrew). After this, all 33 images are depicted inside a simple border, as in a regular comic strip book. But this is not a regular comic strip book. There is one image every odd page. We see the wavy ocean, a string of triangular flags against a black sky, a white fence, a close-up of an open mouth sporting a broken tooth, a sleeping woman, a barbed wire fence, the bowels of a person, bread and cakes for sale, a hand hovering above the flame of a candle, a Lufthansa meal, a finger dipped in water, and many other images… To come up with an unwavering, linear connection of all of them is not easy.

Writing by fragmentation is a staple of modernity. Merav Salomon seems to know that, as her strategies carry the echo of past experiences of illustrated books. One finds in “A family visit to Berlin” less a narrative (with all its constitutive parts) than an apparently series of unrelated drawings: objects, people, places, are never represented more than once. In “Understanding Comics”, Scott McCloud proposed a typology of panel transitions in which the last was called non-sequitur, “which offers no logical relationship between panels whatsoever”. Granted, McCloud admits that it is very difficult to really come up with non-relationships between images found in any given “text” (I´m using the word as loosely as possible), precisely because they are presented as a text, that is, an organized unity within a certain vehicle: in this case, a book. Classical Chinese (and Korean and Japanese) landscape painting could be presented in small collections of folios, a “book” of sorts, that were organized according to a certain principles  the seasons, a certain area of the country, a common theme. Hiroshige´s or Hokusai´s famous Views offer a comprehensive depiction of a same space entity across time, angles and distances, portraying that same space as a whole through fragmentary attention t its constitutive parts (both spatial and chronological). “A family visit to Berlin” seems to act the same way. It is not a series of drawings, but a sequence: an organizing principle does emerge from its completeness. In Salomon´s book, the first instance of that completeness is the book itself, with its title, its format, and the binding band. Moreover, the word visit in the title puts it also into a respectable tradition of illustrated books that depict and tell of journeys, whether as comic fictions (such as Rodolphe Topffer´s books) or actually representing a true experiences (such as Richard Doyle´s “Brown, Jones and Robinson”). But the most aggregative factor of all is recollection. If we look back at the book, we can actually perceive some recurrences. There are several modes of transportation, even if only hinted at: the locomotive (in the beginning, but perhaps also in the image of the jalousie window), the plane (the in-flight meal), a ship (the sea). Movement, journey, visit. The stay in Berlin is represented by the presence of German words in several places (the ticket office, the bread and cake stall, the railway station at Eberswalder street, the fact that the flight is a Lufthansa one, maybe). The visited place, the site of return. But this is not all. We also see a sleeping woman, a man apparently lying down with his eyes open, the insides of a belly. Many of the pictures show a sky wholly black or wholly white, reminding one of a dusk or an early morning effect. The hand over the flame recalls the Shabbat ritual of lightning the candles, just before Friday´s sunset. I grant you that the candles should be two, so perhaps this is a childish dare, to see how close to or how long near the flame one could stand, but this reading seems to be off from the rest of the images, whereas considering it as a metonymia of the ritual helps underlining a continuous, yet elusive, effect.

It is as if we were given to see the elements with which to understand the insomnia, the anguish, the sleepless nights, that come when one is assailed by ghosts, by memories, by recollections (the fourth commandment is, in fact, “remember the Shabbat”). Remembrance, thus, seems to be the red thread of the book, made out of unthreaded recollections. And they do not seem to be comfortable memories. Quite the contrary: melancholy and zeroing in on small details seem to take the entire span of attention of the book´s focalizor, and therefore, of the memory it represents.

Most of the drawings are rather simple, as if in-between a quick sketch on location and symbolic shorthand: waves are curly, the human faces and body parts are rough, some buildings are only drawn in their contours, while shadows and textures are presented in simple crosshatching. But this simplicity cannot be seen as an underachievement. It is the very trace of its spirit of prickly recollecting. It s as if instead of an obsessive and possessive traveler taking pictures of everything he or she could in order to prove that he or she were there, we had someone took their time to cherish their moments during that journey, spending time with the places and people surrounding her, and then came back to us with snippets of feelings, remembrances, tokens of each experience. And then drew them, simply but effectively, as small mnemonic traces. Which is but the best way to make those experiences ours too, as an alternative to the distance-creating photo albums (who cries “you were not there”).

In between a broken tooth, the savage grin of a dog, the billowing smoke of factory chimneys, fences of all kinds, symbols of distance and separation, others bring about a sense of peace and proximity. In one of the images, we see a cup of coffee on a table. The tablecloth s pattern resembles that of the binding band. The last image, here represented, seems to imitate partially that same pattern. It could be a ruler set against a checkered cloth or sheet of paper. Or it could be an abstract, geometric drawing (which it is). Or it could be a grid, locking the end of the sequence, and making the reader/spectator go back to the binding band. Now, even though I know that this band should not be considered a part of the text, the very fact that it is glued on to it makes me think that there is at least a slight possibility of considering as part of the paratext, Genette´s concept of the informational context or framework of any given text (literary, but beyond them too). A sort of threshold, as it were. And the band fulfills this role perfectly. Such is the reason why, although I realize I am taking too many liberties upon its interpretation, going beyond the intention of the author (and publishers)  but, then again, the moment a book exists in the world, it becomes to a certain degree autonomous to its creators -, I find it is possible to relate this book to the category, even if ever so slightly, of “mechanical books”. This is an umbrella term for book which incorporate devices that take them beyond being a vehicle for two-dimensional matters (text and image): flaps, sliding panels, volvelles, parallel slids, pop-up books, harlequinade and/or pantomime toy books, transparency sheets, etc. However, it is only through its reading that this becomes apparent. It becomes three-dimensional, furthering the inclusion of the depicted recollections as a personal experience.

If there is any limitation to every and each language, whether “artistic” or not, in representing the reality of our own empirical experience, one way to achieve a wider and more profound possibility is by the acceptance of those same limitations and, therefore, conscious of that limitation, by experimenting the constraints and self-limitations, by embracing that less than, one is able to reach somewhere that is wholly on the side of representation, to reach a certain nature that is far more powerful than a more illusory path (i.e., the path of the illusion to one could somehow tell or relate reality and truth). It is in that sense that I read the limitations (or rather, the constraints) of “A family visit to Berlin”. Take another look at the title. It speaks of a “family visit”, but it is not clear if the family is travelling together to Berlin, or if it is some family members that someone (the author?) visits in Berlin, or if both. Or if something altogether different. We never see more than one person (or part of a person). There are no traces of the collective. We become drawn towards that solitude too. And it is in that same solitude, of the few figures that appear here and there throughout the book that the collective brand of family, of the blood that is kept in a name, of an imaginary, of rituals, is kept, just as small recollections are kept in a book, adding up to an uncanny experience.

Note: thanks are due to Shelly Duvilanski, from Third Ear, for the review copy of the book, and the brief explanations.

 

ILAN MANOUACH

May 11, 2009

Ilankansi

Ilan Manouach, Opuntia Books

Pedro Moura

Opuntia books is a wonderful small publisher of high-end fanzines from Portugal, steered by artist André Lemos. Each new book is increasingly better in terms of production, but the artists published in its catalogue are all fresh, innovative and, even when it’s people with some degree of “career”, they attempt something new for them in Opuntia. Feel free to visit its official blog

 

However, we will focus here on the last book published, Ilan Manouach’s a vara do açúcar… Manouach is a young Greek comics artist, and you may look for his work in the third issue of L’Éprouvette (L’Association), La Mort du Cycliste and Les lieux et les choses qui entouraient les gens, desormais (both in La Cinquième Couche), among collective projects and other smaller stuff elsewhere (lately, he’s very dedicated to variations upon Hansens’ Petzi). Be ready also for his next book, Frag (also C.C.), which will be available in a few weeks, hopefully. His work is a continuous and increasingly wider, wilder and more complex exploration of the limits of the narrative quality of comics. Most of the books mentioned are definitely comics, with varied degrees of narrativity (Frag will be the least common), but he also publishes things that one would feel more comfortable in calling a “series of drawings” or a “bunch of odd stuff”, and forget about the potentiality of reading it as an organised whole, as something that carries a unified meaning.

 

Well, this book is exactly that. Apparently, due to the lack of an immediate common trait of techniques, style, theme or a plain plot, one who say that this book is a collection of independent drawings. A series, as I said before, not a sequence. (the difference, of course, is that the latter has an organization principle of some sort that the former lacks). I won’t say that considering this book that way is wrong. Actually, for a so-called “objective description” that would be quite accurate. However, I feel that there’s something more beneath that surface, even if this is a surface that is hard to break through, and even if the ocean it hides is impassable.

 

I believe deeply that in a work or art one cannot dissolute what some people call “form” and “content”. In analytical terms, it is possible to go up to a certain point, hesitantly, describing and studying only the formal presentation of a work, and then moving on to its themes, subject matter, contents, and so on. Nonetheless, it is only when we absorb the holistic sense of the work of art that that work become alive again: it’s as if it lived during the time of its creation, then it crosses for a short moment a limbo of the passage to the universe of the reader and then, finally, when the reader, or spectator, or listener, has the pleasure of enjoying the work, it blossoms completely, it gains the whole span of the life it was promised to it. With each new reading, across time, across readers, it regains and recreates that life.

 

Accoding to George Steiner (Real Presences), there is no real cumulative movement in works of art, that is to say, there’s no crescendo of the constitutive and (partially) analysable elements (say, phonemes, sentences, lines and blots) until you reach the whole of the work. In other words, there is no traceable and visible shift of differences of degree, but rather a sudden, unanalysable change of nature: in the words of the philosopher, the “gap” between the analysis and the “process of understanding”. He also mentions the “incommensurability of the semantic”.

 

A vara do açúcar da meia noite e nos bordos dos peixes (I’ll explain the title below) is one of those works of art from our little invisible territory – invisible within the larger dialog of the arts – which carries in itself that same incommensurability in such a way that, despite its character, makes us understand, makes us look that invisibility. It’s as a shining intense white that marks the placement of an absence. This does not mean that there is no meaning in this book. It only means that there is an impossibility of enclosing that meaning.

 

Still according to the same quoted author, before the crisis which emerged with Modernity, and with the notion that rationality would explain everything and that all the shadows would be dismissed, “Logos and cosmos met”. That is to say, there was a somewhat almost direct correspondence between the naming word and the named object. Afterwards, language started to seep into reality as an independent beast, distinguishing everything, explaining everything (i.e., “removing the pleats”, the fold, the intervals of knowledgibility): “This voyage is made in and through speech”. Ilan Manouach seems to be interested, continuously and cumulatively, in crossing back and forth that language filter in order to reach a semantic space in which those correspondences still (or once again) hold. In historical, cultural terms, it’s impossible to do it innocently, without going through the ideas with which we have been trained all our lives, without using language as an instrument of explanation, even if a metaphorical one (which is always, more than an escape from language, an elucidation). For that reason the Greek author does so in the first place through a deconstruction of language: the tile of this book is the extratextual element through which we first approach any book…

 

In the cover, what you read is “AAAOCCRA/EAOENSODS/OPIE”, letters placed in an odd way. When you turn the cover, you’ll find in the first page a variation of the cover’s drawing (some sort of stony cloud, our cloudy stone) and another bunch of disconnected letters, some of them covered by a massive blot of ink. Then you turn to the second page, and you find a second title of sorts: “VRDAUAD/MINTEOBRO/DSEXS”. Right. Only if you check carefully the “book credits” will you understand that those letters are the disarrayed letters that spell the full title, in Portuguese, which reads:  A vara do açúcar da meia noite e nos bordos dos peixes. Well, grammatically speaking it works in Portuguese but it does not mean a thing, or at least it does not sound it means something in which we can all (the Portuguese-speakers, that is) agree. This is the first step towards deconstruction. Or perhaps it is already the second, given the fact that this is a literal translation of an obscene English sentence. Literally it reads: “the stick of sugar of midnight and in the rims of fishes”. But it comes from Midnight sugar sticks in fish lips. If you don’t understand, I won’t explain either. Well, it’s slightly racist, sexist, obscene and even a little stupid. But funny too. Just as obscene and a little stupid as Marcel Duchamp’s play in L.H.O.O.Q.

 

What we follow in this book is the series (or sequence) of drawing depicting several objects, landscapes, faces, animals, in many techniques where line, colour or printing is concerned. We find human bodies, bath tubs, bodies in tubs, but it seems that none of these characters are, well, characters. They do appear more than once, there seems to be no contact whatsoever between these creatures, the kind of contact that most ordinary styles of comics have used us to. This, though, does not mean that there is no contact.

 

In the middle of the book, the very central pages, there is a colour drawing (which we reproduce here) of a pair of legs sticking out a bath tub. This drawing in printed in a transparent sheet, so you can see the drawings beneath this one, on one side you see a man (?) with a cloth/mask on top of his head, on the other a smiling woman caressing the chin of what seems to be a tapir. The kind of contact that these images have (and which the reproduction fairly show) is not only two-dimensional, but of the same nature of the contact that is possible between all the images within this booklet. There are lines and blots and colours and figures that seem to reflect each other, that echo in each other, in a muted though direct dialog. It’s as if they were compressed not only on the physical space of the book but also in a world in which the meaning they carry is wholesome. The ocean which we mentioned in the opening of this text. We have to sail against the wind with Manouach, against the winds of a more literal, immediate meaning. We try – perhaps failing now, sometimes doing it right – to follow his zigzag movement that escapes that influence of the normalization. Of course, to attempt this sort of navigation will leave us a little seasick in the beginning, but only after the voyage is finished we will realize how its elements fall into place, crossing the gap, and bring home the notion of its own semantic incommensurability. Even if verbal language fails to cross it and explain it alone. 

 

PASCAL EST ENFONCÉ

May 11, 2009

pascalkansi

Pascal Matthey, L Employé du Moi

Pedro Moura

If one goes about the signs of this book in order to find something that helps one to say, “this is autobiography”, good luck. That, however, does not mean that there are no visible hints. The first and foremost is the blatant coincidence between the given names of both author and main character, right there written side by side on the cover. The second is the full name of the author scribbled in the cover of the school book that, within the representation of the story, on the very first page, the character holds in hands (which leads to the mingling of authors and protagonist, halfway then into the “autobiographical pact” as delineated by Ph. Lejeune). This is a fashion after which we are entitled to not only understand what happens to or is conducted by the character in terms of events but also allows us enter the realm of his soul, procuring aspects of his morale, his humour, his affections. There is no text in this book, whether in speech balloon or recitative caption forms, or if it does appear it is so objectified in itself, so constrained within the specific action that they do not become speech (as you can check within the image included in this article). Therefore, we cannot get any help from the text to answer that autobiographical conundrum.

Pascal Matthey had published a book before, entitled Le verre de lait, and along with a handful of pretty interesting and varied friends, he puts out a monthly zine called Soap (with a blog: http://www.soap-comics.blogspot.com/). Through these other works, we learn that Matthey is one of those artists which we say is multifaceted, in which all the different styles and lines, or so we believe, are in accordance to equally different wills and directions of his work. Nonetheless, although we can reduce Pascal est enfoncé as “autobiography” to explain it swiftly and away, it has a number of very particular traits that deserve our attention. More often than not, the comics books that pertain to this contemporary trend  which we could exemplify with David B`s L `Ascension du Haut Mal, Satrapi`s Persepolis, the whole of Baudoin s oeuvre, and even Emmanuel Guibert s (and friends) Le Photographe and La Guerre d`Alan (both less auto- but not less memory)  employ a narrator that makes as clearly as possible the fact that what he or she is telling us is a memory, that is to say, something that is salvaged from the depths of the past under the light of the present (if you allow me to use a Walter Benjamin quote, we would say “telescoping the past through the present”). So, due to the various strategies of the narrator`s voice (in literary terms), flashbacks, the varied interruptions of the narrative flux, we can always understand the vague forms of the line of the remembered and told past and that of the contextual present. In the case of Matthey`s book, however, there`s nothing of the sort. We are placed, immediately (and immediated), in a consistent and enclosed time: the daily life of Pascal-the-character, this child and his school affairs, his leisurely moments, his family vacations, his homely episodes, his fantasies and waking dreams. And we are not allowed to come off that sphere. It does not become a “past” against which we can push a “present”. Only through an effort of detective work upon extratextual clues can we frame all the events of the book within the “past” of the author.

But the author`s option is creating a “solely the past” narrative has an immediate consequence, seconded by Pascal Matthey`s drawing style (in this particular book): the absolute clarity. There is no room for doubts, there is no space for open-ended manoeuvres. What we see is what we get. This is neither a weakness nor a limitation: it`s rather a specificity of the book. It is its most visible characteristic (no judgment of value here) and its strength (here, yes, we re looking for validation).

In most of the book we see that the main options are to represent the characters whether from afar, full body (a “long shot” in cinema), or closer, from the waist up (a “medium shot”), a “theatrelization”, as it were, as one may find in the classical works of people such as Outcault (Buster Brown mainly), Winsor McCay, Charles Forbell or Herbert Crowley. The characters are always represented from the same distance in relation to the reader/viewer, so that we can “read” their full actions as clearly as possible, and fully integrated in the whole of their representation room. Just like as if in a theatre stage. Nonetheless, once in a while there is an extreme close-up, but instead of using that to prove some kind of virtuoso ability in constructing detailed depictions or heavy-charged scenarios, Matthey creates them within his iconic structuring, as if subtracting everything that is not necessary for the central plot and idea, and zeroing in on what he wants to show and tell. In this sense, he is closer to the work of memory as understood by Henri Bergson, i.e., not as something more, but as something less. It is a selection from a wider array of objects. Take a look at the second image taken from the book. This is a scene in which the family is laying Pictionary (the rules of this game seem to somewhat apply to the rules of the book itself). The use of the images here is absolutely iconic (and diagrammatically, according to Peirce`s distinctions), as if cut away from an eventual, virtual “bigger picture”, a larger representation space reduced to these signs. Perhaps this is but yet another fashion of rendering that which is called nowadays as “minimalism” in comics, but I rather see it as a varied and intelligent strategy to guide our reading towards the maximum meanings – precisely through minimal signs – of what`s happening at that moment. And Matthey seems to prefer to guide his readers in the most direct way, with no detours, subterfuges, without dubious or secondary interpretations.

Moreover, you`ll find in Pascal est enfoncé many elements that mirror the many movements of memory. Just as in Le verre de lait, you find here exactly a main, centralized plot. It s rather an atomization of each remembrance, but instead of transforming them into smaller stories or episodes (as it happens in La Guerre d`Alan or Persepolis, for instances), they just become recognisable as such within the larger continuum. This happened in the previous book too. You witness any given action, say, praying before sleeping: you see a sequence of three panels, then another sequence that uses one or two similar panels (similar actions) with a new one, now an action that occurs immediately after, then another immediately before… so that read successively each new representation of the same action becomes more “complete”. But it is the effect on the reader`s perception that is strange and innovative. All the pages are organised in 2×3 grids, so this regularity instils a somewhat regular rhythm with an irregular progression.

Also, the doubts and lack of knowledge of little Pascal  on a word, a concept, or over a surprise – are also represented, as much as the way he overcomes that, through the help of his parents, of his dictionary or his ongoing learning of the world. For instance, it is through a tv show and his mother that he learns what happened in Dallas to president Kennedy, knowledge which he will use later o when playing Pictionary. And the way that the short minutes just before he falls asleep are used for his imagination, the games and playfulness with friends, the drawings he makes, all this is used to construct the notion of his growing spiral of knowledge, of development, or remembrance. In one word, of his life.

Yet another characteristic through which we may approach Matthey to the contemporary trend of comics` autobiographies, but with a small difference in degree, is the inclusion of other comics in his own. Just as David B. and Fabrice Neaud and others include in their own Works other comics stories, something that I`ve called somewhere else the “recuperation of the memory of comics”, as if creating one`s own tradition in which one inscribes himself after the fact, so does Pascal Matthey reserves some space of this book to include pages from other books, to with, Jean Roba`s Boule et Bill, a famous European children series of comics “albums”. The difference of degree that I mentioned is due to the fact that this is not exactly that instauration of a tradition of which the author wishes to become part, but is presented rather in accordance to the general movement and tone of the memory work in Pascal est enfoncé. It`s the book he read the most as a child, perhaps, and there`s no sign of the present attitude towards it. In other words, given the fact that the space of the remembrance work present-towards-past does not exist in this book, we have no access, no presence of such a filter or weight in this particular memoir. Only the representation of those events, as if retold without being relived. That`s why instead of choosing for rethinking the comics that he could quote in Pascal…, integrating his actual, contemporary work politically and aesthetically in a “respected” tradition, Pascal Matthey prefers to plainly and honestly shows us his childhood preferences and readings.

The weight of the today over the past is absent. The ductility and dubiety of memories are not present either. Therefore, the simple purpose of offering us a clear-cut, unambiguous sequence, with no regrets, diversions or excuses, is fulfilled.

Final note: thanks to Pascal Matthey, for the copy of his book.

 

SPRING

May 11, 2009

springkansi

Spring

Pedro Moura

Spring is a German magazine of comics and illustration artists, a feminine collective from Hamburg from what I’ve been told (with a few people from other places too, I guess). It seems that the main focus of this “independent” group is the divulgation of their work, rather than any kind of collective that brings together people under a similar organizing principle such as a style, a “school” or whatever… Actually, if you check their site, you’ll understand that that is an aprogrammatic space, whose silence of absence of clearer guidelines makes us focus in on the works that they have to show. The magazine is similar in this respect, with minimal biographies for each artist, their websites or blogs (information begets information begets information…). Although I’m not sure if the issues before this one followed the same method, this number 4 (#5 just came out) is thematically dedicated to the concept of “The Garden of Eden”.

 

Some of the works included in this issue are ironic revisions of that myth, some in a more or less clear and even to-be-expected way, some others after a subtler fashion. Perhaps it is an easy way out (and even moronic) to say that these are “feminist” versions of the Eden myth, but the truth is that these works emphasize facets of it that actually do deal with the so-called “feminine condition”, or at least, with what seems to be that condition, the limited roles allowed by society’s imposed rules: maternity, the desire for eternal beauty as a path to conquer men, the domestic responsibilities, and so on and so forth… And given the fact that it is precisely that myth the seed of viewing women as the guilty party, at least in the Judeo-Christian social complex, as the ones who carry death within themselves, as the ones who lead all others into temptation and fall, all these works are a sort of amendment, or a detour or as a reweighting of the question.

 

Despite the tiresomeness of this theme, it is nonetheless blatant that there are some characteristics that seem to be recurrent in women artists (where this area is concerned), usually related to a relationship with one’s own (female) body as a stage for anguished transformations, but which also stands as a space of revelation of an unspeakable violence or at least a violence that may be presented as something apparently sweet and hiding its darker, terrible face. Sure, this may sound like to-often clichés, since Faust’s final verses (“Eternal Womanhood/Draws us on high”) to vaguer theories that wish to explain the world. But it actually stems from a careful observation of the works within Spring. Take, for example, Moki’s pages, unarguably the cutest ones in the whole book: they seem to depict a dream taking place in a slumberly, delectable land, but they’re actually there to show the mortality of flesh and the destruction that all creatures bring with them. Natalie Huth, with “Serpent’s Egg” (which naturally reminds me of Bergman’s movie; and an image is included above) is even clearer at that, with her series of drawings and poem that aims to explore the permanence of the serpent as an integrant part of human life (its presence while a symbol for maternity, of pregnancy, of the unalchemical marriage of the couple…). “We were dead. It was a dream”, starts Eva’s poem: it is from that mysterious point of balance that the images branch out. Laureline Michon has a séries of etchings, which tells of “The adventurous journey of Eurydice, Eva’s daughter, along the river Styx-Love”. Once again, a revisitation of paradoxical principles, and with a usage of visual materials that reminds us of Frédéric Coché (Hortus Sanitatis). These allegorical images seem to be the same territory for Carolin Löbbert and Almuth Ertl. Maria Luisa Witte brings forth a small sequence about an urban, degraded wall, whose title, “Der ummauerte, der umwallte” (i.e., something like, “the walled in”; and of which we show an image, unfortunately cropped), force us to look into and amongst its every detail, graffiti, the scribbled small sentences, its cracks and in the undistinguishable plants that grow from underneath the cement, and attempt to find the vestiges of what is left from its past, given the fact that what it separates us from, what it “walls in”, beyond it, is impossible to reach (a variation, perhaps, of a Paradise Lost).

 

It is the specific and dedicated observation of the characteristics found in each and every of the works included in Spring – at one time, brought together and standing apart from each other, creating thus a real, strong notion of the possible community – that emerges the intuition of a coherent and united movement of this varied, many-headed, and perhaps even fleeting, feminine creation, but whose trail of an uncanny angst is quite real. 

 

KIRBY. KING OF COMICS

May 11, 2009

kirbykansi

Mark Evanier (Abrams, 2008)

Pedro Moura

Now that we are finally seeing reprinted most of Kirby`s later work  the wonderfully touching and sparkling, though over-the-top, operettas of the Fourth World, Kamandi, The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur and even O.M.A.C.  and a few years down the line after the publication of stuff like Blue Bolt, or more recently, Silver Star, the collection of early odd-jobs such as The Comic Strip Jack Kirby, not to mention the Omnibus (Marvel) editions of the most known super-heroes that came out of his inkwell, and the myriad of books dedicated to his art and creations, the time has arrived to have a one single volume that can act as a catalyst and anchor to his overwhelming output. Mark Evanier`s brought that point home with the simply, yet effectively titled, Kirby. King of Comics.

Kirby. King of Comics is a biography of the American author of Austrian descent, that spreads in seven simple chapters, divided chronologically, with both a preface and afterword of a more personal nature (Evanier`s) that bookends the account of Kirby`s life and artistic path, and an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

It is difficult to believe that anyone with even the slightest hint of interest in (American or English-language) comics from a historical or genealogical perspective has not heard of Jack Kirby. They may not like his work, but they have surely come across his name and work in some way. It is not an overstatement to say that Kirby influenced just about everyone in North-American (and beyond) action comics, and the scope cannot be confined solely to the super-hero kind. Many independent artists, that would strive to take comics into more intimate directions and less action-packed paces, or simply wacky concepts to keep pages flowing still show to be trailing on a stylistic territory opened by Kirby. Paul Pope and Jeffrey Brown, or Evan Dorkin and Shannon Wheeler should suffice as examples. I wrote territory, but perhaps I should have written territories. Sure, Kirby is mostly remembered due to his work on super-heroics and space operas, crackling as much as they could, but one must not forget that he had more than one stint at different genres altogether: war comics, westerns, horror, monster, crime, and, last but not the least, for he actually invented this genre (with Joe Simon, his Captain America s co-inventor buddy), romance comics.

According to one school of the philosophy of language (I`m following the lessons of a Portuguese philosopher, Fernando Belo), any text (and here I include also visual texts such as comics) comprises three dimensions. A narrative dimension, in which you find the constellation of actants (i.e., the agents of the events portrayed in the narrative), a discursive dimension, in which the grammars of enunciation come forward (or the political perspectives and Weltanschauung of the work itself), and a gnoseological dimension, in which still another constellation is offered, that of concepts. I`m sure that everyone is able to pinpoint the importance of Kirby`s narrative contributions. All in all, despite the contribution of the legion of artists that constructed the many characters that people the so-called universes in the major companies, I do think that it`s crystal clear that it was Kirby who came up with the foundation of the uniting forces of the said-Universes. Although in his time Kirby was met with utter despise and foolhardiness of his editors, producers and directors, and witnessed the cancelling of his titles, and the annulment of his long-term projects – Moore, Gaiman and Morrison were lucky -, and despite the fact that they seemed slightly overdramatic and even hackneyed at some point, time and again, writers that came after returned to his characters, his plotlines, his structural, uniting grid of what composes the Marvel and DC Universes: see Marvels, the Earth X trilogy, Gaiman`s Eternals, and so on and so forth (actually, even if Kirby was not that much worried in providing a coherent mesh for those universes, he was the one who planted the seeds of that consistence to come; and even if many of his series ended uncompleted, he aimed at an utter completeness). Who, working within these “universes”, is not a Kirby inheritor? Yet another facet of the narrative dimension is the visual techniques, the style, and I guess this is the easiest point to understand where Kirby was innovative or at least the artist who brought some of those techniques to incredible and, more importantly, “imitatable” heights: the splash page, the double splash page, the dynamics of bodies jumping back and from out of the panels, the dramatic poise of the characters, the flamboyant entrances, the overwhelming contortions in action, the bombastic tirades, and the “energy crackles”.

Kirby`s discursive dimension is also extremely solid. Sure, these are (mostly) super-hero comics, men in colourful tights, but that does not mean that a perspective on morals (not morality), human values and ways of acting within the body politic are not present. And it is not Manichaeism. Kirby made clear, no doubt, who the good guys and who the bad guys were, but it was never Manichaeism (not as it was with many titles before and after his time; it would suffice to check the early Superman`s personality or the early Batman`s almost aloof crime-fighting habits to perceive this). Even if one is reminded of the New Genesis and Apokalips dichotomy (from The New Gods), and then thinks of Orion and Mister Miracle, one sees the open-ended passages from one world to the next (and its views, positions, morals, etc.). His characters live with smaller human torments (no orphan trauma as in Kal-El and Bruce) and therefore, closer to us. Other authors would take the gray areas of hero-hood to other extents, like Kurtzman in his 1950s war comics, but the cover to The Guys in the Foxhole no. 1 (1954) shows that Kirby was attempting similar directions. Many created equally complex plots around human weaknesses within genres of grandeur, but Sky Masters of the Space Force (illustrated with Wallace Wood) managed to reach those heights within the confines of the science-fiction genre, and I learn with Evanier that most of its writing was Kirby`s, and not Dave Wood`s. Moreover, Mark Evanier expounds on how and in which direction Kirby`s own plans for his characters would bloom before they were transformed – or should I say hijacked? – by the power-that-be (and, despite Evanier`s efforts in making the reader sure that he takes no position regarding “who`s fault it was”, in the many, many problems Kirby had with Lee and Marvel, authorship included, Stan Lee does not end in the best light). For instances, his plans for a mild, almost angelic Silver Surfer, his contribution towards the anguished souls of Ben Grimm, or his monsters, show some of the principles and ethics at stake in his writing. The biographical part of the book makes sure we drive many of these points home, interlacing these projects with Kirby`s work and life ethics (as when, the legend goes, he asked DC for the least selling title to avoid someone from losing his job. Is this apocryphal? No matter, it s still true to Kirby).

But the most important dimension in Kirby is the gnoseological. The concepts he came with. Oh, yes, for he did came up with concepts. These concepts were never introduced as tangible, independent notions. They are permeated in his creations. It`s as if Kirby drew directly from the heart of Myth and let it all pour into his fictions. It is not that important to point out the unscholarly, sometimes misinformed sources of that mythology. It doesn`t really matter if Kirby didn`t watch that film or didn`t quite grasp the whole significance of this film. Kirby was a creator, a moulder of matter and character(s). Matter that would become the fertile soil in which most of contemporary – super-hero/action/fantasy/etc. – comics are grounded. Characters that gained a life of their own and were sought by many authors that came afterwards, up until today (and into the foreseeable future, surely). The high ground he opened for the institution of the “good vs. evil” battles is part of that gnoseology. His view of a universe in which everything is connected, in which causality is paramount, in which perfection is attainable with both sacrifice and grace, are models who could, should or are emulated.

Not all is roses, thought. We should also look into the darkest or feebler aspects of Kirby`s writing  and using arguments about his “time” or, worst, the zeitgeist, is tantamount to an avoidance of a balanced discussion. The deus ex machine device (in narratological terms, not in terms of the story) is used once too often; unsurprisingly, one might say, for it is almost an intrinsic element of the main genres Kirby worked on. But one sees also a certain degree of hierarchization among men and between men and other creatures. We understand that morality is sometimes based on physical courage, and that more often than not matter overpowers mind (precisely because the hero makes good use of the former, and the evil villain misuses the latter), and, being evil an identifiable, palpable reality, the hero justifies any and every action he takes.

In this light, a first overall look at the book might make one think that the title follows uncritically a cliché and that perhaps this is just one another hagiography to add to the usual writings around Kirby. However, this is not the case. First of all, because such title, bestowed upon Kirby, was not unearned. True, it might have begun as a friend`s private joke, but it did not come about in its final form without reasons. The main reason is quoted in the text, and on several occasions: the way comic books were made changed after the forty-plus years of hard labour by Kirby in them, whether for (what would become) the major companies, Marvel and DC, or for numerous smaller companies. His original input had to do with page layouts (which were thought as for pages, and not as collected strips on a page), the ubiquitous foreshortening techniques and popping action of the bodies he drew, the sheer power of the onomatopoeias, the motion lines and, once again, oh yes, the signature “Kirby dots” or “energy crackles” (one cannot tire of repeating these words).

Despite the many anecdotes spread throughout the book, that never make us forget that there was a living, breathing (sometimes panting with frustration and just rage) man behind his books, Mark Evanier keeps to the very end a more personal confession, which shows how much Kirby meant to him, not only on a professional level but also as a human model. However, this is not a hagiography, as mentioned before. It is not a scholarly volume either. While at a personal level I would prefer seeing a more consolidated and profound analysis of Kirby`s specificities, whether artistic, authorial, or even ethical (within his creations), one actually understands that many of the clues towards that sort of secondary reading are made clear by Evanier. All things considered, Kirby. King of Comics is a terrifically balanced book about the creator and the man.

Given the fact that this is about one of the Founding Fathers of a large part of American modern comics, and of the most imitated and admired names of the business (I`m sure detractors and non-sympathizers exist, but that would bring about the question of comics genres, and no doubt politics and cultural-related issues that are beyond the scope of both this book and the present review), perhaps one would expect a much, much stronger presence of the image dimension as well. Something along the lines of The Art of Charles M. Schulz (Chip Kidd, Pantheon, 2001) or Masters of American Comics (Carlin, Karasik, Walker, eds., Hammer Museum/Moca/Yale UP, 2005, in which Kirby is included): with a bundle of sketch pages, rough pencils, exploded panels, photos, paraphernalia, and whatnot of “Kirbyana”. These things are present, undoubtedly, but in a lesser number and clout than expected. Most of the design is somewhat subdued. Lots of covers are presented but they`re rather small, and when pages are wholly occupied by images it`s usually by & pages of the comic books. However, there are enough non-comics documents to paint a wider portrait of Kirby, the man, especially Kirby the caring husband, with illustrated letters and pencils portraits done for his wife Roz. A magnificent ten page story entitled Street Code  is fully included, in an excellent reproduction. Created by Kirby in 1983 for a fanzine, it makes us wonder what would have happened if Kirby had put his heart into more personal subjects (similar to Eisner, perhaps). Unfinished pages, censured pages, and original pages that would be “de-Kirbyed” later on are also included. There are storyboards from his later stints, character studies, and personal works. But most importantly, all the used images  as well as the epigraphs for each chapter, illuminating and that by themselves would serve up a firm portrait of the artist – are judiciously chosen and intelligently organised, making the reading of the text well-complemented and finding a pertinent balance.

Evanier makes his points quite clearly, not only on Kirby`s own reactions every time his unstoppable output would come against the unmovable tight vision of his editors and the like, but also on the repercussions his creations would have subsequently. For some time now, Alan Moore has been exploring the notion that Imagination is a real spatial entity that one can draw from (see Promethea, The Black Dossier, and so on). Kirby, in a certain sense, was not tapping into that entity as much as he was patterning and styling it. More than a King  (of a certain area of comics), Kirby was the voice in the desert, feverish with his visions, bleeding out ink and traces on paper, the prophet of a Kingdom to come and that has been realized throughout the last decades with all the overwhelming, awe-inspiring, super-hero masses-moving projects, from Squadron Supreme to Crisis on Infinite Earths, from Astro City to Kingdom Come, from the stillborn Twilight of the Superheroes to the latest Final Crisis. Even the fact he left behind him unfinished symphonies – as all prophetic writings should be  points to that nature of his work. Prophet or King, Harbinger or Creator, there should be no doubt: his Kingdom has come.

 

warekansi

Chris Ware

Hans Nissen

Chris Waren osa taiteilijana ei ole kahdehdittava. Hänen edellinen sarjakuvaromaaninsa, Jimmy Corrigan, on kuluvan vuosikymmenen ylistetyin sarjakuvateos englantia puhuvassa ja lukevassa maailmassa. Menestys alalla kuin alalla on tilanne jossa erotellaan pojat miehistä. Kestääkö pää, onko ylittämätön teos ylitettävissä vai tyytyäkö nauttimaan ansaitusta maineesta ja ryhtyä rahastamaan karttuneella rutiinilla? Esimerkkejä jälkimmäisestä riittää.

Viime vuosikymmenen ylittämättömän sarjakuvateoksen piirsi taidesarjakuvan harmaa eminenssi Art Spiegelman, jonka Maus voitti kaikki mahdolliset palkinnot ollen samalla kansainvälinen myyntimenestys. Eikä syyttä. Palattuaan vuosien markkinointikiertueelta Spiegelman huomasi kyhjöttävänsä savuke huulessa työhuoneellaan ilman halua tai kykyä aloittaa uutta sarjakuvaromaania.

Ware ilmeisesti ymmärsi liiallisen menestyksen vaarat ja ryhtyi heti Jimmy Corriganin valmistuttua työstämään ei yhtä vaan kolmea uutta pitkää kokonaisuutta. Keräilyn kurimuksessa riutuvan aikamiespoika Rusty Brownin lapsuudesta kertovaa sarjakuvaa Ware on omakustantanut kaksi albumia, jotka muodostavat vasta mittavan prologin tarinalle. Muutamia episodeja on ilmestynyt hiljattain myös toisesta nuoren miehen ahdinkoa kuvaavasta Jordan W. Lint-sarjasta. Nimihenkilö on Rusty Brownissakin esiintyvä öykkärinuorukainen, jolla ei myöskään ole helppoa.

Tuore Acme Novelty Library on jälleen albumimittainen episodi, tällä kertaa Waren kolmannesta keskeneräisestä tarinasta nimeltään Building stories. Päähenkilö on poikkeuksellisesti nainen, yksijalkainen kukkakaupan myyjä. Ankea arki, yksinäisyys ja ihmisen ikävä toisen luo ovat keskeiset teemat kuten lähes kaikissa Waren sarjakuvissa viime aikoina. Väistämättä herää kysymys onko saman rajallisen tunneskaalan tutkiskeluun tarpeellista aloittaa kolmea eri tarinakokonaisuutta. Etenkin kun Waren synkkä elämänfilosofia tuli jo tuskallisen selväksi Jimmy Corriganissa. Haastattelujen mukaan Ware pyrkii kuvaamaan sellaisia hienovaraisia tunteita ja tilanteita, jotka sekä muodon että sisällön yksinkertaistamiseen pyrkivällä sarjakuva-alalla jätetään huomiotta.

Building stories alkaa näyttävästi aukeamalla jossa päähenkilön itseinhoiset ajatukset kiertävät kehää pitkin sivuja. Lukija on päästään pyörällä yrittäessään järkeillä mistä lukeminen tulisi aloittaa ja minne lopettaa. Ware tunnetaan omintakeisista, sarjakuvan rajoja venyttävistä kokeiluistaan. Tällä kertaa lukijan härnääminen on perusteltua: samanlainen surkuttelun sykli on kaikkien itsesäälissä ammattimaisesti rypevien tärkeimpiä toimintamenetelmiä. Uskon Warella olevan harrasteesta omakohtaista kokemusta.

Ihmisen on kaiketi oltava tavalla tai toisella henkisesti sijoiltaan jotta oma-aloitteisesti eristäytyy vankiselliä muistuttavaan työtilaan piirtämään sarjakuvia eikä poistu sieltä kuin poikkeustilanteissa. Vuosi seuraa vuotta ja aina sama valkoinen arkki odottaa kaltevalla työtasolla vaatien päivittäisen täytteensä. Maailmassa tuskin on toista yhtä yksinäistä ja masentavaa luovaa ammattia kuin sarjakuvataiteilijan epäkiitollinen puhde. Alan mestariksi ei tulla luopumatta elämästä. Moni pohjois-amerikkalainen sarjakuvia ammatikseen piirtävä mies tuntuu ammentavan tarinoidensa tunnelman ja tunteet hyvin rajallisesta kokemuspiiristä. Yksinäisyys ja katkeruus. Ihmisen julmuus toista ihmistä kohtaan. Lapsena hankitut kokemukset ja traumat.

Ensiaukeama virittää lukijan sopivaan mielentilaan seuraavia sivuja varten. Tekijän näkemys ihmisen aikamatkasta syntymästä hautaan on lohduton. Ware ei anna armoa. Päähenkilön tapahtumaköyhää arkea kuvataan loputtomissa sisäisissä monologeissa, takaumissa ja ajoittain jopa viidenkymmenen pikkuruudun sivuvyörytyksissä. Epätapahtuma seuraa epätapahtumaa yhtä varmasti kuin seinäkello tikittää elämää minuutin jaksoissa kohti kuolemaa. Toivonpilke paremmasta syttyy ajoittain, mutta sammuu välittömästi sysäten päähenkilön entistä syvemmälle pimeyteen.

Kirja on tuttua Chris Warea, jokainen ruutu tehty pakkomielteisen pedantisti, kuin jonkinlaisen automaatin taltioimina. Kerronta on rauhoittunut merkittävästi varhaisista Acme-lehdistä joiden villi kokeilullisuus ja tyylivaihdokset korottivat Waren sukupolvensa sarjakuvapiirtäjäksi. Tekijän aikuistuminen ja rauhoittuminen ovat tavallaan sääli. Toisaalta lopputulos on entistä vakavammin otettavaa sarjakuvaa, lähempänä kaunokirjallisuutta. Sitähän jokainen sarjakuvataiteilija salaa kaipaa mielessään, että hänet korotettaisiin kioskien käyttöviihteeksi luokitellusta genrestä osaksi jotain ylevämpää. Siihen viittaa myös kirjan ulkoasu joka kullattuine kohopainatuksineen ja uupuvine kansikuvineen näyttää joltakin aivan muulta kuin sarjakuvakirjalta.

Nähtäväksi jää kuinka Building stories kehittyy, helpottaako nimettömän yksijalkaisen tuska. Aiemmassa Acmen numerossa ilmestyneet muutamat sivut antavat ymmärtää että tarina laajenee alakuloisesta neidosta asuttamansa talon muihin asukkaisiin. Sarjan monimielisen nimen mukaisesti yksi sarjan tähdistä on juuri rakennus. Asiaankuuluvasti ikääntyvä kerrostalo tietenkin halveksii asukkaitaan. Kuinkas muuten.