An Imaginary Comics Syllabus for Weirdos

         In Theodore Roszak’s book “The Making of a Counter Culture,” he describes a course offered at the short-lived, non-hierarchical Antiuniversity of London in 1968 entitled, “From Comic Books to the Dance of Shiva: Spiritual Amnesia and the Physiology of Self-Estrangement.” The class never finished, as the Antinuniversity fell apart due to disputes about whether a class should be taught collectively or by a sole professor, but Roszak leaves us with a course description as provided by the syllabus:

Description of course: A free-wheeling succession of open-ended situations. Ongoing vibrations highly relevant. Exploration of Inner Space, deconditioning of human robot, significance of psycho-chemicals, and the transformation of Western European Man. Source material: Artaud, Zimmer, Gurdjieff, W. Reich, K. Marx, Gnostic, Sufi, and Tantric texts, autobiographical accounts of madness and ecstatic states of consciousness–Pop art and twentieth century prose.

        As vague and abstract a course description it may be, I believe this example of a class is a perfect example of how comics have evolved. In true comic book ethos, I might even go so far as to say that this class has self-actualized itself through time, like a cosmic bullet traveling backwards and beyond the Omega Point, forever altering history (cough, Final Crisis, cough). The above course description encapsulates my love for the possibilities of the comics medium: one can distill novel, mind-fuckingly dense ideas into neo-hieroglyphs held together by two staples.

So, for this forgotten course I have constructed a syllabus using the above course description together with the world of modern comics:

Week 1: Significance of Psycho-chemicals and the Transformation of the Western Superhero: Grant Morrison’s ‘Animal Man,’ Alan Moore’s ‘Promethea’ and ‘Swamp Thing,’ Warren Ellis’ ‘Iron Man: Extremis’ and ‘Planetary’ Issue #21.

Week 2: Wilhelm Reich and the Deconditioning of the Human Robot: Orgone in Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol; Elijah Brubaker and the tale of Reich

Week 3: The Gnostic Mythos: Milligan and Mccarthy’s “Rogan Gosh” and the Transmigration of the Self;  R. Crumb’s ‘The Mystical Experience of Philip K. Dick’;  Jodorowsky and Moebius’ ‘The Incal’.

Week 4: Madness in Two-Dimensions: Exploring Grant Morrison’s ‘Arkham Asylum,’ ‘Doom Patrol’, and ‘The Filth.’

Week 5: Pop Art, Metalepsis, and 21st Century Comics Prose: Allred’s ‘Madman Atomic Comics’ (2007), Hine and Kane’s ‘Bulletproof Coffin,’ and the culture within the comic book.

Week 6: Marx and Superman: A Materialist Reading of Mark Millar’s ‘Superman: Red Son.’

Hope to see you at the Antiuniversity this spring. Everyone gets their own Ratemyprofessor.com profile and we can all shit on each other anonymously.

That is all.

Advertisements

Alternative Press Expo 2012

We went to the Alternative Press Expo (APE) together this year. And we had thoughts… it just took us two months to let some of them free.

Trish:

Weird Kids – Chris Fenoglio
One of my favorite things about APE this year was seeing people I know who have grown as creators. Early in my rounds, I saw Chris Fenoglio’s table, where he was showing off his newest projects.
I sold comics to Chris for years at Atlantis Fantasyworld in Santa Cruz, until he moved away to pursue illustration. Since then, his art has grown immensely. When I stopped by, he generously gave me two copies of his comic “Weird Kids”—one for me and one for my boss, Joe—before I was swept back into the tornado of awesomeness.
The comic contains three short stories, each about a different “weird kid.” First, when the new kid in school is set upon by the school bullies, a weird kid comes to the rescue with his awesome karate skills. This is the kind of experience that creates a lasting bond. A victory for weird kids everywhere. The second story examines the relationship between a boy, who loves superheroes, and his dad, who wants him to play baseball like ‘normal’ kids his age. I enjoy this story because a lot of my childhood was spent feeling the same way the young boy in this story feels, growing up as the ballerina in a family of jocks. Both the boys learn a lesson in understanding and in doing so, form an even stronger bond. The final story is my favorite of the three because it displays how discoveries and excitement in our youth can direct the course of our lives. Well that, and because I think the comic store owner depicted in the story is Joe, which is awesome. It tells the story of a female comic book artist who is  bogged down by the life she has chosen for herself. But remembering her childhood—terrorizing the local comic vendor and sharing in the exploits of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—reminds her why she has dedicated so much to the art. I loved this comic because it is heartfelt and honest, and I feel like Chris wrote it for the “weird kid” in me.

Ultimate Bedhead – Jamaica Dyer
Jamaica described this to me as her therapy comic. A come down from the completion of her second graphic novel, Fox Head Stew. Being the starving comic pusher that I am, I drooled over the beauty and craftswomanship of Fox Head Stew before purchasing this $5 diary style “this is what I did today” DIY project, Ultimate Bedhead. It made me want to hang out with Jamaica every day. I had the extreme pleasure of working with Jamaica at Atlantis until she went off to the little big city to be an artist. I have a portrait she drew for me on the wall of my bedroom. This comic reminds me of her relaxing presence and her amazing spirit. She is an artist I consider a personal heroine, a woman I am better for knowing. Her art is a window into her world. A world I would love to live in. Thank you, Jamaica for sharing it with us.

Leif:

A Graphic Cosmogony – Nobrow Press
This stunning hardbound book features 24 artists each telling seven page stories of the “creation of everything.” Nobrow Press’ first anthology delivers as a beautiful and narratively-diverse collection. Just flipping through the book shows the range in art styles and paneling arrangements. From Andrew Rae’s “Deity School” to “Derek” by Nick White, mythological retellings, cosmic spaceman travels, and hyper-aware modernity tales give the book a wonderful voice for the cynic and optimist alike. Luke Pearson’s “New Game” tells the tale of two kids creating the earth within a computer game, while Stuart Kolakovich’s “Illumination” depicts a priest who becomes gripped by the ‘heretical’ notions of gnosticism. It’s an amazing anthology worthy of standing on your bookshelf. Track this down.

Jesse Jacobs – By This You Shall Know Him
With the recent resurgence of headiness and psychedelia in comics, describing books as “cosmic” has become overused, but this is a comic that truly deserves it. Jacobs delivers a novel cosmic origin story that doesn’t succumb to the overly emotional trappings typical of underground comics. The heartfelt storytelling melds with mythic tales to bring an evolving narrative of how we weird humans came to be. Replete with dinosaur hugging, cosmic cubes, and interdimensional highways, the book’s art is dizzying. The line work pops like a lysergic amalgam of Geof Darrow, Brendan McCarthy, and Chris Ware, imbued with blues and purples. Even the design of the physical book is wonderful, helping to make By This You Shall Know Him my top find from the 2012 Alternative Press Expo.

Mary:

My favorite parts of APE weren’t tied to any particular comics or pieces of art. I mean, I am happy with everything I bought, but for me conventions are more about experiences than things.
In particular, I always want to learn more about the comic industry and the people involved, so I really enjoyed chatting with Boom! editor Shannon Watters.
I think editors have the most fascinating job in the comics industry. Although it seems like editors aren’t really appreciated for keeping good books on track and organized, or for arranging great creative teams, but get blamed when fans don’t like a book, or when writers are unhappy, they are incredibly important to putting out good comics consistently.
While it seems like most editors get their jobs by being interns, Shannon quit a crappy job to become a copy editor at TokyoPop before their, well, implosion. Her boss there ended up moving to Boom! and hired her as an Assistant Editor when TokyoPop laid everyone off, and she worked her way to being in charge of the Adventure Time comics.
Adventure Time #9 Cover by Jon Vermilyea
Adventure Time, an all-ages cartoon created by Pendleton Ward, is amazing, so it’s exciting to see it in such great hands. Anyone who would choose webcomic creators like Ryan North, Meredith Gran, and Joey Comeau as writers gets my approval. These people have huge online followings, but little recognition within a comic store, so it’s great to see the comics getting a good reception from both critics and readers. Also, the enthusiasm comics veterans have for the project. Paul freaking Pope asked to be involved, and was apparently super awesome about it all. Even if, as Shannon put it, getting pages from him was “like pulling teeth.” Also, Colleen Coover, Ming Doyle, Faith Erin Hicks, Vera Brosgul… I could go on for way too long.
It’s great seeing the faith that Boom! has in the series. They’re already putting out a spin-off miniseries−Marceline & the Scream Queens−and planning another−the gender-flipped Fionna & Cake−as well as publishing Bravest Warriors, a comic based off of another Pendleton Ward series. This makes it especially fun meeting the people behind the books, because you get to let them know how much you appreciate their hard work.

The Doctor Apocalypse & Baron von Evilstein Show – Episode 8

This episode we finally (vocally) disagree about a comic, although, as usual, no one else reads the thing I suggest. Sigh.

As usual, the show is not necessarily appropriate for kids, especially the :50-:55 second marks. Just so you know.

We then have a special segment about the first year-ish of the DC New 52, how our reading habits have changed since the relaunch, and our favorite books from the initiative.

The Doctor Apocalypse & Baron von Evilstein Show – Episode 6

This episode, we switch around the format a bit in order to better catch up on the couple of weeks we’ve missed. Also, apparently my cohorts don’t know anything about Joey freaking Comeau, and I’m not around to illuminate them. Still, Trisha sticks the landing.