Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not Your Parents’ Basement

Deep in the heart of pood
(the free city-state of Brooklyn), I ventured to the second annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival on Dec. 4.

Just as pood’s newsprint glory reverse-engineers the iPad, the Yeah Dude Comics collective downsampled Avatar with the giant blue-and-red-cellophane-shades 3-D print comic Math Fiction. Like some optional universe’s blacklight posters from the 1930s, the black-and-white pages of “Emonman” (I think) don’t pitch extraterrestrial spears toward you but yank you into a weird geometric valhalla; Ian Harker’s “Solipso,” while tamping down the 3-D, cracks the tenth wall of narrative experience with the simple device of text you need to rotate the page to read, making you physically move through the comic, while a narrative drone blows your mind with quantum slang like the dropped connections of some subspace radio station with only two faces of its dodecahedral hard-text visible in this plane. True to his self-centric name, Solipso travels through sheer willed shifts of perspective. After that, Josh Burggraf’s “LHC” (I guess) carves new braingrooves with its Scioli-Mucha nuclear-grail epic of whateverness. After the third time I read Math Fiction a few pages began to come out in my hands, and that was awesome, too.

The same folks and others produce one of pood’s partners in the pulp uprising, Secret Prison, and you could find all three issues at the Fest. Free and worth five times that, in the new one Steve Peters & Bianca Alu-Marr navigate not just the scale but the scope of big pages, with a spiraling Buddhist narrative; their poster-like projection is as deep as it is tall. Aidan Koch supplies a lovely cover and center-spread of gallery-like floating images, and pood’s own Jim Rugg rips out a random page of some retro-modern romance comic.

…with his own visual response-single from some mythic pending-divorce comic in the new 7th issue of Smoke Signal, produced by the Desert Island comic ’n’ art shop, co-presenters of the Fest. Always the anti-predictable anthology you find out you were waiting for, the issue is also distinguished by great post-psychedelic excess from Doug Allen & Gary Leib, eloquent abstraction from Charles Frickin’ Burns, and sprawlingly intricate two-page tabloid massifs from Dan Zettwoch and Tim Lane.

Smoke Signal is as well-selected as the Fest itself’s cast of characters was curated; diagonal from the Yeah Dude Comics table was the shrewdly named Traditional Comics, front operation for the seditious press of Ben Marra. New to the show and just in time for the Valerie Plame movie and the national Republican remake, Marra’s The Incredibly Fantastic Adventures of Maureen Dowd casts the mildly dissident columnist in everyone’s secret-agent daydream, shooting it out with Cheney’s ninja goons, seducing Scooter Libby and keeping America safe for gratuitous cheesecake and self-important crusades in the most hopeless, hilarious romp of deadly oversimplification and propaganda-spewing unintentional clowns since Harker’s The Epic and True* Life Story of Che Guevara and Rugg’s Rambo 3.5 (just to show how mystically aligned all elements of this show were).

I also liked the well-mannered melancholy of Sully’s The Hipless Boy (Conundrum Press) and the dystopian sitcoms and Darwinian funny animals of Joshua W. Cotter’s Barbara in the Sky with Neil Diamonds (AdHouse) -- both from ’09 but new-to-me -- and the fake Sunday-supplement The Enquirer Dharbin, a one-man jam comic from the many voices in Dustin Harbin’s head (just to show how foolish it is to impose narrative on so fruitfully diverse a show. Except for The Dharbin’s newsprint tie-in and Cotter’s collection being sourced from his own indie strips in the Kansas City Star. It’s still weird enough.).

They moved it to a bigger church basement this year but it will always be the right place to plot a revolution.

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