It was really a pleasure to get to curate a selection of my favorite comic books to disply in the CCOL lounge this summer. I could very easily write for hours about every one of these spectacular books, but since I’ve been asked to prepare only a blogpost and not a novel, I’ve decided to focus on just three. All of these books were released by small-press publishers with limited runs and smaller distribution networks than some of the more heavy-weight graphic novel publishers also featured in my display. I wanted to spotlight these artists because they all have had a significant impact on my practice and my thinking regarding comics.
All of Noel Friebert’s work is exciting and viscerally captivating, with the emphasis on the viscera. Noel’s created a unique world in his comics populated by macabre characters whose naieve and sometimes surreal behaviour wouldn’t look out of place in a horror manga, but from some alien universe. The drawings look like they have been Slimed at the Nickolodean Kid’s Choice Awards, striped down, with a graphic sensibility that seems to pluck at the reader’s frayed nerves with every trembling line.
Spine: I’ll Still Watch released with Bred Press in 2017 is aspiral-bound floppy published in riso and screenprint for eye-popping blacks and moody greys, and replete with an embroidery patch glued to the cover. Two children watch a creepy man through a window. Noel’s books all make me feel so strange! And yet, his character’s all sport forced smiles that seem, to me, unmistakably tongue in cheek. Hard to pin-point exactly how he’s imbued what I feel is a zany, candy-floss, pop sensibility into stories this twisted, maybe this is a reading specific to my own deranged personality.
I don’t feel it’d be an exaggeration to say Margot Ferrick’s work is completely ground-breaking. As far as I’m concerned everything she touches turns to gold. Margot’s drawings reach beyond an aesthetic, every mark she makes has a completely unself-conscious, utterly authentic weltschmerz at it’s core. Maybe what I’m saying makes no sense but there is no surface to these drawings, no artifice or posturing, the drawings feel like they’re ripped straight from her heart and could easily hold their own hung on the walls of a fine-art gallery.
Dognurse, from Perfectly Acceptable in 2018, is about a dog nurse, sent to care for a wretched, bed-bug ridden, frail child.Margot’s stories almost feel like if Kafka tried to write a children’s picture book with Goya and Magritte collaborating on the illustrations. Swan-like human figures interface with stuffed toy airplanes in a giant, shiny, glimmering, oppressive,monolothic shopping mall. Humans become objects, these stories erase the boundary between metaphor and reality, exposing the convoluted cruelty and pathos that have become hallmarks of our modern world.
Published in three volumes by Breakdown Press between 2012 and 2016, Treasure Island was my first introduction to the work of Connor Willumsen, who remains one of my favorite contemporary art-toonists. Conner’s work is consistently innovative, challenging and conjures a very real and tactile sense of space and time that in my own work I’ve tried to study and learn from. Each of the pamphlets employs concise, precise, scrawling and gestural linework that almost seems to float off the page, embellished with tender hatch-marks that sometimes evoke Crumb sketchbook drawings. For me, the major appeal ofthese books lies in the pacing and in the life-like movements and expression of it’s actors.
As with a lot of Connor’s work it’s hard for me to give an elevator-pitch explaining exactly what it’s about. There’s a playfulness in the narrative, which loosely focuses on a small group of “researchers” (?) on a remote, desert island, but the setting and exposition seem almost incidental. The story feels more like a meandering day-dream. It’s dense and rewards rereading on the one hand, yet has a weightless, effortless quality that makes it so entertaining it’s impossible to feel bogged down or stuffy.