I don’t know what happened! I wrote about three whole comics in less than fifty billion words! It won’t happen again. My apologies. I don't know what I was thinking. I certainly wasn't thinking about this intro, which is why it's so weak. Rush politely past it and read on... BLUBBER by Gilbert Hernandez
SLASHER #1 By Charles Sanford Forsman Floating World Comics, Digital: £1.49 (2017)
Like many men in their middle years (“middle”, yeah, like I’m going to see 94. Pretty loose definition of “middle” there, society) I court danger like its dad owns a yacht. To relight that sputtering youthful fire some middle-aged men take up shark wrestling or sex pesting young women, but me? I like to take it to the edge. I try and go into comics with as little knowledge as possible. (Of the comic; as little knowledge of the comic, you wiseacre.) I saw SLASHER on the ‘Ology and thought “okay”; largely because it looked like it might be a slasher comic. How, I wondered, would a slasher comic work in the comics medium? On a static page how would an artist pull off the necessary control of pacing and deliver the required kills with the requisite impact? I’m still wondering. Because as it turns out SLASHER is as much about a slasher as JAWS is about a shark. Even less so, in fact, because JAWS has a lot of shark in it now I think about it. There is a bit of slashing in SLASHER but it is self-inflicted, as befits a warts to the fore portrayal of our oddly damaged modern psyches. At least I think that’s what’s going on here.
Despite sounding like a one man firm of lawyers, Charles Sanford Forsman earns every one of his three names with SLASHER. Mostly, for me anyway, by giving a lightly disquieting imprecision to his art. One which echoes his ably unsettling script’s unerring ability to pick at the scab of any normal everyday occurrence (shopping, workplace assessment, txting a friend, etc, etc…) until the wound oozes the tacit creepiness of us all. (Well, mostly you. Me, I’m perfectly healthy. But I see you, Sancho. I. See. You.) Mind you, I dig stylish imperfections in art since they imply the actual passing of a human hand across the page, which is as close to seeing the face of God moving over the face of the waters as an non-spiritual and inartistic putz like me will ever get. For a comic in which the milk of human kindness is so thoroughly curdled SLASHER is a surprising amount of fun. Most of that fun came from not expecting what I got, so I sure wouldn’t want to spoil it all for you. Take it from me that if you’re the kind of bitter freak who pines for movies like HAPPINESS (1998) and IN THE COMPANY OF MEN (1997) then get stuck into SLASHER. (ßPull Quote Alert!) Also, let’s go do movies and a brew sometime, you’re my kind of people! VERY GOOD!
GRASS KINGS #3 Art by Tyler Jenkins Written by Matt Kindt Lettered by Jim Campbell BOOM! Studios, $3.99 (2017)
I like this comic, but it doesn’t do itself any favours. Fatally so, I fear; in an overcrowded market it just sort of slouches there, instead of selling itself. For starters look at the cover, it hardly leaps out from across the room demanding your attention does it? The logo is all high-end understated artiness, the kind more suited to a designer range of name brand geegaws and tchotkes aimed at people who retro-fit wood burning stoves into their 21st century sci-fi kitchens. Can you even read that title across the comic store? Does it stand out in the slightest from the visual roar of Marvel’s latest waste of Al Ewing’s time and DC’s unrelenting variations on a Bat-theme? Did you even know this comic existed? I genuinely ask because I don’t go to a physical LCS, so I actually don’t know the answers. Except for that last one; I certainly didn’t know it existed, my LCS just sent it me because…they think I’m the kind of guy who retro-fits a wood burning stove into his 21st Century sci-fi kitchen? Tsk!
Beyond the cover GRASS KINGS remains a defiantly low energy affair. Jenkins’ art is a really watery water-colour affair that kind of seeps into your eyes, and Kindt’s script is a low summer drawl of a thing. It all kind of pootles past at its own sweet pace like an elderly gent on his weekly walk into town, pausing periodically to get his breath back, or simply staring into the air where the old dance hall and the night he met his deceased wife swims into being before his cloudy eyes. GRASS KINGS is about some kind of off the grid enclave where the gubbermint has no traction (i.e. the libertarian’s nocturnal emission of the American Dream), everyone’s a bit flaky and there’s murders and missing persons, and not a few flashbacks which are typically unhurried in declaring their relevance. Unlike most comics GRASS KINGS doesn’t scream for your attention, it doesn’t even whisper, it just sings to itself under its breath. (ßPull Quote Alert!) If you lean in to listen, I think you’ll be glad you did. VERY GOOD!
BLUBBER #3 By Gilbert Hernandez Fantagraphics, $3.99 (2016)
What’s black and white and covered in an old man’s dead jizz? My copy of BLUBBER! Only joking…it’s not all in black and white. (But it is covered in my dead jizz! (“Old man John! Spoiling everything!” ß Joke For The Kidz!)) Yup, BLUBBER’s covers are colour, and what lovely covers they are. The back of each issue has also been graced by a Gilbert “Bert” Hernandez pin-up of some kind of phantasmagorical fauna fresh from his bubbling brain pan. So invitingly comical and eye-catchingly vivid are these covers that “Gil” sometimes picks them up and asks if he can read them. HOO! Not wishing to spend the next several months and many, many, thousands of pounds fighting for visitation rights I have as yet denied him. He can stick with SPONGEBOB COMICS (also great, but in a really quite different way) for now. From the outside BLUBBER looks all fantastically harmless, but inside it remains a maelstrom of scatological insanity. Calm down though, my little pearl clutchers, as it is so offensive that it transcends offence and just becomes comical in its absurd mania for the grossly vulgar. Less Spongebob Squarepants and more Spongebob Shitpants. But don’t mistake my loutish rattlepanning and manic emphasis on the outré as licence to belittle the artistry on display. Hernandez’ big old floppy chops are evident on every page.
BLUBBER may well be an explosion of transgressions but it’s a highly controlled one. As the late Dennis Hopper, star of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986), could attest were he not, well, dead, you can lie in a ring of dynamite sticks and set them off without harm; the trick is in having them face the right way. (Otherwise you’re fucked, bubeleh.) In every panel of BLUBBER Hernandez plays with dynamite but his spectacular artistic panache ensures he doesn’t take his talented face off in the blast. Not even Tony Salvador Daniel could lead up to XXX Papusi climaxing in a final panel as heart crushingly poignant as a JoJo Moyles book in the rain. (Be warned though if you are rubbing one out while reading and wipe a tear from your eye, you do run the risk of pink eye.) And could anyone but Gilbert “He Was Always A Quiet Man” Hernandez answer the oft asked question of “What if Arthur Machen’s ‘Great God Pan’ was crossed with Elvis Presley?” No, because the answer involves lots of furry-haunched cock frothing and cryptic wisdom. Cock-a-hula, baby, indeed! Gilbert ”Looking Back We Should Have Known” Hernandez is also versatile enough to reimagine the hauntingly poignant Mickey Rourke mumbling-sadly-in-sweaty-trunks movie THE WRESTLER (1990), but he gives it his own uniquely tender spin by smearing it with sudden bowel movements, satanic orgies and forlorn longings on the part of a phenomenally endowed man for our barely sentient albino lunk. Yo, mama, Hernandez really brings the stains to life in this tour de force of turds and turgidity. There’s just something truly affecting about the sight of our barely sentient protagonist’s trunks distended by a crop of fresh poops. (PRO TIP: If you scratch your bum and sniff your finger new levels of immersion can be achieved.) And that’s just some of the fun inside BLUBBER! In a world of flamboyantly vacuous TV pitches masquerading as comics BLUBBER is a refreshing toot from the artistic arse flute of Gilbert Hernandez. A real room clearer of a comic. (ßPull Quote Alert!) The only TV BLUBBER is likely to appear on is the one that explodes in a shower of guts in VIDEODROME (1983). And that’s because BLUBBER is EXCELLENT!
NEXT TIME: The world’s least informative reviews continue as I look at more – COMICS!!!