Today, Greg Hunter returns with the latest episode of his Comic Book Decalogue podcast. This time, he talks to Ben Sears.
Sears (Night Air, Volcano Trash) talks John Romita Jr. and Jacques Tati. Plus, the ultimate gag-strip faux pas!
Also, Robert Boyd reviews Crawl Space, by Jesse Jacobs.
Crawl Space’s cover is a rainbow-color explosion—a geometric face on the cover with a screaming mouth and an eye in its forehead. Filled with colorful detail, it looks like the cover of some forgotten psychedelic record album.
It doesn’t let up inside. The inside cover pages feature grids of 71 grinning, wide-eyed faces, all drawing with multicolor lines. They appear manic and alarmed. The title page is basically similar—a single somewhat sinister grinning creature staring at the reader, portrayed in intense rainbow colors. Then the first page brings it down to earth—a washer and dryer portrayed in stark black and white, floating in a page of full-bleed black. Then there are several more pages of psychedelic color as two characters start interacting in a densely-drawn environment of pure color. One of the characters, Daisy, seems to be guiding the other, Jeanne-Claude, who is experiencing anxiety. Daisy is guiding Jeanne-Claude on her first trip down the rabbit hole. They drink tea from a little tea-pot-shaped creature (that changes color in each subsequent panel), which causes the hallucinations to intensify.
Then the two rainbow colored people climb out of the washer and dryer back into the ordinary world. Daisy quickly reverts to a black and white being while Jeanne-Claude takes longer. Black and white in Crawl Space symbolizes ordinary reality. Daisy asks Jeanne-Claude not to tell other people about the washer and dryer experience. She is “still trying to fit in. I don’t want to be known as the girl with the magical appliances. I just don’t want that stuff defining me.”
—Washington Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes writes about cartoons and freedom of the press.
It was 1903 and Pennsylvania Governor Samuel Pennypacker had had enough. After a year of being depicted as a parrot by the cartoonist Charles Nelan of the North American newspaper, the governor wanted the satirical drawings stopped. The reason for Pennypacker’s frustration was that the cartoonist was using this visual metaphor to portray him as a mouthpiece for special interests. The governor did not take kindly to that and had an anti-cartoon bill introduced into the state legislature in order to silence his detractor. The bill proposed a ban on “any cartoon or caricature or picture portraying, describing or representing any person, either by distortion, innuendo or otherwise, in the form or likeness of beast, bird, fish, insect, or other unhuman animal, thereby tending to expose such person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.” Pennypacker’s attempt to silence his critic backfired, though, when another cartoonist proceeded to draw the governor as a tree, a beer mug and a turnip.
—Gabrielle Bellot writes about Moebius, focusing particularly on Edena and gender.
Despite his fame in France and with renowned directors like Miyazaki, however, Moebius still, arguably, remains too-little-known in America. “You see it everywhere,” Ridley Scott said in 2010 of the French artist’s influence, adding that “it runs through so much you can’t get away from it,” but this is precisely where Moebius unfortunately lies for all too many people: beneath the surface. This is partly cultural; in France and Belgium, comics, or bandes dessinées (literally, drawn strips), tend to be held to a much higher esteem, even being classified as “the ninth art” alongside cinema, photography, and many others, and the Western stigma that labels cartoons as a form for children holds less true in Japan. Moebius’ relative obscurity in America is partly because comics, themselves, have only recently begun to attract the wider critical attention they deserve. And this is truer, still, of one of his most underrated, yet most ambitious, solo works: the lush, extraordinary cycle of stories, The Gardens of Edena, which freely blends fantasy and sci-fi, and which was released as a whole in a gorgeous new edition last December. Reading the stories for me was a revelation: here was a luxuriant grand narrative that, like an operatic Midsummer Night’s Dream on the starry deck of a spaceship, asked where the nebulous road of dreams ends and the road of non-dreams begins, all while telling a byzantine tale of love, politics, the body, and evil. To me, Moebius’ Edena cycle may well be his masterpiece—and one I find even more interesting due to its intriguing explorations of gender.