Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tim Hensley: Wally Gropius

Fantagraphics - 2011

Forgive the "Look Inside" via Amazon.  But perhaps if you can overlook wandering graphics, you can fully appreciate the latest in misappropriated visual language which is "Wally Gropius."  A mutation of the Herge' style and Richie Rich idiom, we are taken to the highest absurdities of upper-class living, which ends up being a cutting insight into upper-middle class meandering in America.  Its printing coincides with the CG film adaptation of Tintin--  perhaps not a coincidence, seeing as Hensley hails from the belly of the beast, Los Angeles.

We see our leading man bear the cross of housing foreclosure conspirator, stock market cry-baby, and Illuminati vampire.  He is paired with a terrible band while during practice he casually ponders, "how much money will it lose?"  The humor stems thematically from excess and its applications.  We are challenged with overgrown subject matter in a style designed for children.  I was actually embarrassed to be found reading this book in its legal sized, glossy, primary color splendor on my couch as my roommate walked in.

In one excerpt repeated by Charles Burns edited "Best American Comics 2009,"  we see the apex of this style's misalignment with subject matter.  Wally Gropius discusses marriage and its anxieties with his mother who shoots a bird out of the sky to read its entrails in an impromptu tribal-religious ritual-- very Jodorowsky.

Despite its irony, Wally Gropius hits a personal nerve with me.  Not that I am a trust-fund brat, but I can relate to the dry, disenfranchised humor and have a great deal of affinity for work that attempts usage of an alienating vessel for emotional discourse.  There are so many jokes that barely get a mention, they are subtle, and so the reader is trusted to pick up on their presence, in their rapid succession.  That subtlety and relentlessness made this book one of my favorite reads of 2011.

Money can't buy us love, to quote a band almost as vapid as Huey Lewis.  Wally traverses an antiseptic world similar to the emotionless padded closet of professional gated communities, finally explaining  the simplified Herge' inspired style made to be a competent parody, sterile and bubble-gum linework, complete with unadorned or gesture-less backgrounds that fail to even admit a vanishing point.  (A room is often depicted by a floating window and a table).

What results is very Los Angeles; the reader learns of an angst and emotional state that is communicated through dry, mechanical jokes that will surely alienate most, impress the steel hearted, and reel in the less wary of us with the lure of style, which is what is to be expected from the ivory tower that is Fantagraphics.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Aapo Rapi - Naaburger

Huuda Huuda - 2009

This little gem was a small, oblong, glossy zine presented in glorious post Fritz-The-Cat trip glow, by an artist from Finland.  Huuda Huuda, a great publisher of rugged illustration and psychedelic exploration stories, does their work mostly in their obscure native language but translates a few stories in English.  I decided to do a review of this work because it touches on my favorite themes: ennui, existential decay, and desolation through humorous idiom.

Our main character resembles Homer Simpson, with the same jelly-like physique and primatial facial structure.  There is something pathologically dense in his conduct.  The first dozen or so scenes involve him wandering from one meat-pie truck to another along a deserted forest road, striking up banal conversations with the cooks and eventually getting punched in the face.

Speaking of which, I don't know what a meat-pie is, but I assume it's your typical blue-collar meat/gruel/slop.  Perhaps it is the Finnish backwater equivalent of the Burrito, the Gyro, or the Hamburger.  Comparisons are made between the consumer and his greasy muse.  There's no distinction between the simple, fatty meal and the man who eats it.  From birth to grave, a "naaburger" philosophy.

Eventually the story follows the course of a working class failure of a marriage, complete with unemployment drama, aloof pregnancy, and acrid insults.

We rarely see the faces of the people our ape-faced main character interacts with.  The meatpie theme runs consistent.  It is his only interest in life.  The metaphor is used by him to describe the christening of their marriage.

I enjoy seeing into the hidden parts of other countries.  It feels as though Finland is not so far away.  I see this happening in Montana.  The great thing is, our story is sparsely populated with dialogue but full of emotion.  There's the despair, that's the meat.  There's the humor, and that's the bread.  Done and done.

-Aaron $hunga