In which a vain attempt is made to engage with The Present and some words are written about comics produced during these times known as Modern. In a display of staggering arrogance at no point is any excuse proffered for the extended absence of the author, although he would like it to be known that upon occasion it is necessary for him to work for a living. Would that it were otherwise. BLUBBER by Gilbert Hernandez
Anyway, this... Yeah, I know, what the world needs more of is middle-aged white males talking about what they like. Condemned as I am by the circumstances of my birth to a prison of unearned privilege, all I can offer by way of recompense are these words; as ungrammatical and dismayingly keen on cant as they may be. However, in the interests of diversity please note that while there is little I can do about being a middle-aged white male without multiple hospital stays and a bunch of therapy, I did at least show willing and wrote the following while wearing my wife’s knickers.
VALHALLA MAD#1 Art by Paul Maybury Written by Joe Casey Coloured by Paul Maybury Lettered by Russ Wooton Graphic Design by Sonia Harris Flats by Ricky Valenzuela Valhalla Mad created by Maybury & Casey Image Comics, $3.50 (2015)
I bought VALHALLA MAD for the art of Paul Maybury which I previously encountered in SOVEREIGN, a comic which now appears to be defunct despite its dense pleasures. Chris Roberson wrote that one but this one's written by Joe Casey, who here has done one of those comics which are inexplicably basically about some Big Two characters but, you know, in the literary equivalent of those disguise kits you get from joke shops with the big pink plastic nose, the Groucho 'tache and the lens-less specs fit only to fool only vegetation and estate agents. So VALHALLA MAD is clearly not a comic about Thor and The Warriors Three because there are only three of them in total not four, and they all have different names: The Glorious Knox, Greghorn The Battlebjorn and Jhago The Irritator. (Extra bonus comedy points for Jhago The Irritator).
It's a light comedy which is amusing enough (they rescue a plane but unbeknownst to they, their arrival caused it to crash in the first place!) Much sport is made of the voluminous verbiage of the Stan Lee Style and a generally pleasant time is had by all, not least our three protagonists who have graced Earth with their presence for a glorified pub crawl. Or there may be more to it than that as the final page appears to promise. It's a lot of talking is what it is, and with the exception of the odd typo (e.g. "feint" for "faint") it's propulsive and amusing enough stuff but visually it doesn't give Maybury much to work with. Good job he packed his Awesome this time out and he goes to town on it nevertheless. His boldly chunky style of cartooning brings the otherworldly and the mundane together while never losing the humour of the juxtaposition. Throughout the molten flow of his line is broad enough to encompass two realities and it's ultimately his art which makes VALHALLA MAD #1 GOOD!
BLUBBER #1 By Gilbert Hernandez Fantagraphics, $3.99 (2015)
If VALHALLA MAD is the stag do then BLUBBER is the morning after where you wake up in a strange and distant field covered in sick while a stray dog humps the back of your head. Yes, it’s the one man kick to the nuts of rational thought that is Gilbert “Berty” Hernandez. Here he’s unleashed one of those baffling one-off comics that just exist because, well, because he wants it to. Is this the first in a new ongoing series of madcap anthropomorphic laff mags based around mutilation and sexual degradation? Or will the next time we see this be some sixty years hence in some pricey Fantagraphics boxed set big enough to hide a chopped up dog in? Trick question! The next time we see this will be in a court of law when Gilbert Hernandez is called to account for crimes so bizarre and outlandish we’ll have to redefine the concept of human society just to register the correct level of disgust. I particularly like the way this looks like a kids’ comic but it isn’t (unless you want to go to jail or your kids are The Children of The Damned). I was going to moan about how he got the name of his character wrong in the first strip but, y’know, the fact he didn’t murder anyone while making this bizarre farrago of puce faced lunacy probably outweighs that. Hard is the heart that weighs a typo heavier than a human life.
It’s a pint pot of horror poured in a teacup of visual discipline. Because as ostentatiously obtuse and unremittingly repellent as things get “Los Boss” Hernandez sticks to his grid like a fly to a fast moving windshield. It’s this friction between the boiling horror and the discipline of craft that sets that itch you just can't shift to work in your startled mind. Sandwiched inbetween the Charles Manson's Discovery Channel stuff is a bleakly funny exercise in unsettling obfuscation the equal of Lynch or (maybe a Beckett). I could feel profundity pressing against the tender membranes of my eyes as I read. Mind you, at other points I could also feel my mind pulsing and straining, like the overworked and exhausted sphincter of a pensioner at stool, as it tried at punishing cost to impose some meaning, some sense onto this EXCELLENT! comic.
Like the lady nearly sang, I can't live if living is without - COMICS!!!