Tag: Ted McKeever
In this episode we discuss:
B+F by Gregory Benton
Zegas #0 by Michel Fiffe
Easy Pieces by Neil Dvorak
Miniature Jesus #1 by Ted McKeever
My Dutch Foreskin by Daniel Pucca
Artichoke Presents: Sketches and Streams by Antonio Romero
MIND MGMT Vol. 1 by Matt Kindt
The Battle of Blood and Ink by Jared Axelrod and Steve Walker
The annual exercise. Please to begin the arguing.
#7 Amir, Zahra’s Paradise
Zahra’s Paradise begins on June 16, 2009, the day after one of the earliest and largest election protests in Freedom Square. Mehdi, a nineteen-year-old university student, was at that protest and hasn’t come home. His mother Zahra and his brother, the unnamed narrator, are worried about him and try to find out what’s happened. That’s it, but that basic motivation allows Amir and his artist collaborator Khalil to create a full portrait of the horror of daily life in Tehran during the repression that followed the protests.
#6 Fred Van Lente, Comic Book Comics
For a comic book buff it’s fascinating to read tidbits like the series of events that led from the Frankfurt School, to Fredric Wertham’s testimony before Congress, to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, to the death of EC Comics, to the birth of Mad magazine. Or how the increasing crackdown on drug paraphernalia in the early 1970s put head shops out of business and thereby killed the distribution network for underground comix artists like Robert Crumb. Issue #5 even manages to make interesting reading out of nothing but the many intellectual property ripoffs and lawsuits that have plagued the medium since its birth.
#5 Ted McKeever, Meta 4
I think (and this was never my strong-suit philosopher so I’m not sure, but I think) that Ted McKeever has written a Heideggerian allegory in comic-book form. Now available in a trade collection.
#4 Phil Hester, Golly vol. 1: Catching Hell
Golly feels as if someone took Garth Ennis’s Preacher and drained out all the meanspiritedness, sadistic jokes, and sexism. Golly Munhollen grabs the circus strongwoman’s ass one day, she knocks him out, and he’s visited by an angel who informs him that the Apocalypse has been postponed indefinitely due to lack of interest, and in the meanwhile he’s been appointed the clean-up squad for all those demons left running around the world. When Golly asks the logical question—why me and not someone smarter—the angel tells him that from a heavenly perspective the difference between him and a genius is negligible. “It would be like asking you to look into a puddle and select the smartest amoeba,” it says. “You will do.”
#3 Charles Soule, 27 (Twenty-Seven)
Will Garland has a repetitive stress injury in his playing hand, and in trying to cure himself accidentally makes a Faustian bargain that leaves him with a console implanted in his chest. Every time he activates it he gains a miraculous ability for three hours, but after the 27th time he does so, he will die. The ending is unexpected yet perfect. Now available in a trade paperback.
#2 Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, Daytripper
Every issue of Daytripper tells an episode in the life of the protagonist, Brás, at a different age. Brás starts his working life as an obituary writer, then becomes a novelist in his thirties; at the end of each issue he dies and we read the opening lines of his obituary. Though the episodes are told out of order, we realize very quickly that we are to read each one as if none of the preceding deaths happened, but everything else we’ve read about did. Brás has many loves in his life—a girlfriend, a wife, a best friend, a father, a mother, a son, a dog—and there are episodes touching on each of them. Brás is built up as the sum of these many loves and remembered in relation to them in each of his obituaries, in an extended meditation on loving in the face of death.
#1 Anders Nilsen, Big Questions
If Chris Ware is the comic book medium’s James Joyce, Anders Nilsen is its Samuel Beckett. Think Beckett meets Beatrix Potter, adorable little creatures on a bleak, featureless plain, staring into the abyss—but hopeful nonetheless, in its own way. “We can’t ever really know the outcome of our actions,” one of them concludes, “but if we act earnestly, and do our best, everything will turn out right in the end.” Of course the bird saying that happens to be responsible for the deaths of many others. And dead herself. Now available in collected form.
When I reviewed the first issue of Meta 4 I wrote: “okay, Ted, I’ll give you five issues’ worth of rope. Try not to hang yourself.”
And when I got and read this last issue, I thought Ted McKeever had pretty well hung himself. The story seemed too bizarre, too packed with competing weird ideas. Most problematically, this was a book that explicitly billed itself as an “allegorical series,” yet I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to be an allegory for.
But just like I gave the series a chance in the first place out of respect for McKeever, I decided I should read all five issues straight through to see if they made any more sense like that.
And they did. Everything clicked into place. I think (and this was never my strong-suit philosopher so I’m not sure, but I think) that McKeever has written a Heideggerian allegory in comic-book form.
A lot of what distracted me initially were the details: why was the unnamed amnesiac hero in a spacesuit? Why did his Amazon protector speak only in pictograms? Why did bullets talk to him and tell the story of a SWAT team raid on a hostage crisis? The main character is obsessed with these details too, at first.
The amnesiac is perhaps Dasein. As this gentleman explains:
The “there” of there-being may be disclosed by attunement or by understanding. The “there” of there-being is also the thrownness of its being, in that Da-sein always discovers that it is already in-the-world.
Instead of figuring them out, though, our hero slowly comes to realize that their reasons do not matter. We never come to fully understand the hero’s past or his world, and neither does he. “My past no longer fits me,” he says. “Time enough to let it go.”
And when the amnesiac stops struggling, he ends up experiencing transcendence, alone on a desert mountaintop. He tells us:
I no longer have even the slightest desire to find out or figure out how I came to be there in the first place. It no longer makes any difference connecting every single thread that bridges all the dots of my past: It brings about not one change to this moment of translucent elevation.
All of which is not to say that everything said is exact. All human stories are subject to interpretation regardless of intent—only that is as true as I could make it.
Da-sein understands itself by projecting itself as its thrown possibility. The thrownness of Da-sein is its “having been,” and the projected possibility of Da-sein is its “already being” and its “not yet.” Thus, Da-sein unifies the past, the present, and the future. The past, present, and future are referred to by Heidegger as the “ecstacies” of temporality. Temporality is “ecstatic,” and is the meaning of there-being. Da-sein temporalizes itself in its being-in-the-world. Da-sein reveals the “ecstatic” unity of temporality.
McKeever’s art has always been distinctive. He used to always draw his characters blocky, with long squarish limbs, in childlike pen-and-ink cityscapes, and there are traces of that style in the first couple issues of META 4. But META 4 is at least partially painted, I think, not drawn, and by the end of issue #5 he’s doing these incredible negative desert landscapes in stark white and black, rock faces he turns into abstract Modernism. It echoes the final moments of the story beautifully, especially when the hero stands atop his mountain, naked, as perfect as Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. It’s an entirely different level of power than what he could get out of two-dimensional Eddy Current, for example.
Since its a book that does have to be read all at once to be appreciated, I hope Image does do a collected version.
Preview below the fold.
Two books written by Peter Milligan came out last week from Vertigo. Both are entertaining in ways that gesture at big ideas without saying anything actually profound. Still, in both cases I like the gestures.
The better of the two is a reprint of a four-issue minicomic Milligan wrote in 1993 called The Extremist. It tells the interlocking stories of three people: a woman, her husband, and a neighbor to the husband’s secret apartment. One after another they take over the narration and are drawn to an underground S&M society called The Order, as first the husband and then after his death his wife become the group’s leather-clad enforcers, murdering outsiders who learn its secrets and insiders who try to quit.
There’s a lot of talk about the seductiveness of “extremism” that pushes past all society’s normal boundaries. The actual contours and practices of The Order are kept vague. Instead we focus on ideas that are roughly a cross of Sadean libertinism and Nietzschean antimorality.
A few things make it the better Milligan offering. First, as a limited series it doesn’t get a chance to overstay its welcome, and can employ much more innovative storytelling techniques. It develops its ideas quickly and closes its intersecting tales with a click. Second, its art, by legendary underground writer/artist Ted McKeever, gives the narrative a stylized buoyancy that allows its murders to hover on the border of reality. These are brightly colored tableaux of violence and sex that look more like Gauguin paintings than comics. Bodies are all drawn in the usual McKeever style that uses more straight lines than curves.
In Greek Street: Cassandra Complex, on the other hand, artist Davide Gianfelice uses a more traditionally cartoonish style, one that reminds me of The Little Mermaid/Aladdin–era Disney posters. Bodies are curved and fleshy, and wounds bleed a lot.
Cassandra Complex is the second trade paperback collection of Greek Street, in which Milligan has been throwing together characters based in name and loosely in temperament on the heroes of classical Greek drama. There’s an Eddie who sleeps with his mother, a Lord Menon and his wife Esther, their daughter Sandy who has visions no one believes, a street gang called the Fureys, a police detective named Dedalus, and so on.
And in this one as in the first volume the conceit works okay. Milligan has to explain his references a lot (as when he has characters describe the plots of Medea and Hippolytus in expository dialogue), but I get why that’s necessary. The device of Greek drama allows him to use a chorus character to do a lot of resetting at the beginning of each new issue with “the story so far.”
The main problem is that the self-contained conflicts of Greek tragedies don’t translate well to an ongoing series. In a Greek tragedy the hero’s fatal flaw preordains his doom. Oedipus has already married Jocasta at the start of the play, but doesn’t yet know she’s his mother, and has to figure it out. We know what the end will be, though he doesn’t. Eddie sleeps with his mother in the first issue (knowingly), and then proceeds to be traumatized about it for many, many pages. It feels messy to have the story dragged through permutation after permutation with nothing finally resolved.
Like I said, I respect the gesture of bringing all these classic characters into modern-day conflicts. Even if Milligan is merely trying to replicate the success of Fables (of which I have absolutely zero evidence, by the way).
In Ted McKeever’s Meta 4 #1, a man in a spacesuit wanders the boardwalk of Coney Island. He can’t remember who he is nor why he’s in a spacesuit. He’s harassed by a junkie in a bathroom, gets assaulted by her boyfriend, and is saved by a giant bald woman in a Santa costume who bears a close resemblance to previous McKeever Amazon androgynes. Interspersed are transcripts of two conversations between “Dispatcher” and “Police” concerning the same hostage situation, or maybe different ones. The first is superimposed on an image of abandoned gas station outside the Nevada Test Site, the second over a series of three views of Coney Island, culminating in a woman’s face in an aviator helmet.
Do I have the slightest idea what’s going on? I do not. Do I trust that a comic entitled Meta 4: A 5-Issue Allegorical Series in Black & White is ultimately going to make sense of everything? Not really. So would I put up with this vagueness if the author weren’t McKeever?
Maybe. Probably not. I don’t know. The fact is, by reissuing his three classic graphic novels from the late 1980s and early 1990s—Transit, Eddy Current, and Metropol—McKeever has earned himself a new generation of fans who were, like me, too young to buy the books the first time around. And while those comics weren’t quite as obscure as this one seems to be so far, they were pretty off the wall. So okay, Ted, I’ll give you five issues’ worth of rope. Try not to hang yourself.