Spent the day reading comics while wrangling a very active 9 month old. First, Bodyworld by Dash Shaw, then Sprott 1894-1975 by Seth.
Bodyworld, like some of Shaw’s work put me off a little at first:a bit garishly drawn, sometimes overtly unappealing drawings, a lot of unnecessary-looking artificiality, and just flipping through its pages, it looks rather self-indulgent. But I always underestimate Dash’s intelligence. (Wait- that’s not right. I never underestimate his intelligence, I stupidly underestimate his intentions.) Like his smaller works for Mome, and Bottomless Belly Button, this book follows characters through clear and powerful dramatic trajectories. Features one of the best horrible main characters I’ve read in ages, and not self-indulgent but smartly exploding themes of interconnectedness and isolation, with vivid crazy imagery and an approach to mark making that is wholly unique and will probably spark a trend: vibrant color, expressive wet media supporting and overpowering (where necessary) standard and simple cartoon lines and colors. Brendan Burford called it “revolutionary” when he recommended I get my act in gear and read it. He was right. It’s making me rethink what comics is about. (Oh yeah, and it’s FUNNY.)
Seth’s Sprott is a series I wasn’t hugely fond of when it ran in the NY Times. I read it very closely a number of times, and my issue with it was that it felt like a narrative, a trajectory but it really wasn’t. It was merely a series of undramatic and (to my mind) uninteresting events and characters. Seth smartly retooled Sprott for the print edition to add a few more events, creating an emotional center that wasn’t in the initial reading. These new additional scenes are in a larger format, and are created in a softer media. Add to that giant double page drawings of simple landscapes: icebergs, snow, cityscapes, and photos of models of a lost city and more importantly, small meditations on the theme of passing between two worlds, and the book gels and becomes what I think Seth was shooting for all along: an elegy for a type of guy, a type of career, a type of culture.