Monday, September 24, 2012

The Small Dog Other

My buddy Brian Blomerth recently completed his first full-length comic, The Small Dog Other, and it is available for purchase on his website. This follows numerous zines of his art, album covers, etc. Due to his color sense and presence in the noise scene, playing a Game Boy under the name Narwhalz Of Sound, it was easy, maybe even instinctive, to label him a Paper Rad rip-off. Some of you might even be thinking that now, if you followed the link and noted the presence of animated gifs. But after a few waves of Ben Jones rip-offs aping the "stoner sitcom" style, seeing Blomerth's comic completed places him in a lineage of underground comics, thanks to the use of some obvious reference points, from its title's reference to The East Village Other, to the violent and sexually explicit content. Brian is completely disinterested in pot, and here, he even seems disinterested in humor, besides a general "funny drawings/funny animals" style. Nothing is mellow, the credo is "Bad drugs or none at all," and psychedelia is a venue for crazy layouts, the same way it would be for Jim Starlin, rather than the internal revelations of Moebius.

I lived with Brian as he initially undertook the task of drawing a real comic. I could be wrong, but I think absolutely none of those pages appear here. There is probably as many pages found here that ended up in the garbage, not up to his standards, dismissed as "too Juxtapoz." References to Ziggy and the Challenger disaster are gone, and what is left is an underground comic that seems like it is about the sixties: Bikers and hippies in Las Vegas, versus the cops. And all of these characters are drawn as dogs, which in this context doesn't read as an alternative to Garfield so much as a reflection of the Floyd Gottfredson/Carl Barks influence on Robert Crumb. The comic is an orgy of nihilistic violence, with occasional interruptions for sex. Brian's sense of verbal humor, rooted in contemporary reference, the sort of puns that make up the bulk of his Twitter feed, is absent, in favor of this primal stew: Sixties culture carrying over into a future where destructiveness is the natural state of being, as well as civilization's endpoint.

The early pages, previously published in color, in a smaller edition, before the switch to a rapidograph, have thicker lines and more chaotic layouts. The drawing is consistently strong. The storytelling is mostly clear, although the "twist," the major plot point that leads to the destruction of Las Vegas, is not really explained in any way, besides its place in the overall logic of "fuck it." Spoiler warning: Everyone dies. It's a pretty great comic, a steal at the $7 price: The dimensions are equivalent to one of Fantagraphics' Ignatz books, there's fifty-two pages, and he self-published it in an edition of 250. And then burned one of those copies for the sake of a Youtube commercial. Anyone interested in sixties undergrounds or contemporary "transgressive" work vaguely in that tradition should be aware of this book because it pisses all over the bulk of that stuff.

He also has copies of a Narwhalz cassette, Future Vegas, for sale, but I can't recommend that, even though I have liked a handful of previous Narwhalz releases, I find this particular tape too harsh and abrasive. It is possible that to some people this description might constitute a recommendation, and I will accept that.

No comments: