I have a question (and a quote, and a review):

*Has anything like this ever happened to you? I was out walking last night, on my way to get a cup of coffee, and I had stopped at the corner of the street. There was a crosswalk at the corner. Suddenly, an athletic lass (it was dark, I’d say she was between 16-19 years old) came running out of a nearby yard, barreled into the crosswalk, and performed cartwheels all the way across the street. She landed on her feet quite perfectly at the sidewalk and hustled down an alley by the local library. It was all over in only a few seconds, and I doubt she even saw me standing there. I was suddenly overcome with the feeling that I had just made a cameo appearance in somebody else’s thrilling suspense film of a life. The last time this sort of thing happened at least I got a line of dialogue. I was sitting at a college party in an apartment I had never been to before, surrounded by people I didn‘t know (long story). There was apparently some romantic strife in the next room, because the boyfriend came storming out, grabbed my shoulder and said: “C’mon man, let’s get out of here!” I had met this guy exactly once before, and that was earlier in the day, and we had never really spoken to each other, but I responded with a hearty “YEAH!” for additional effect. Outside, he explained that he needed some excuse to get out of there, and I looked like I wasn’t enjoying myself. He was right, and I knew that I was destined to become known for my character portrayals in the lives of others. The pay is good.

*Warren Ellis asks in his Comicon.com column, Streaming:

Have you noticed how online comics fans have decided it's okay to like Dan Clowes now he's done a superhero comic?

Actually, um, no. I’ve seen quite a lot of affection for Clowes everywhere from message boards to blogs to online columns. I think the large amount of attention being paid to "Eightball #23" is more a case of ‘Dan Clowes has put out his first new book in over two years and it’s rich enough to sustain prolonged discussion’ than ‘OMG Clowes is doing superheroes’.

And I am naturally bound by my nerd blood oath to note that Clowes has done a prior superhero-based story: “Black Nylon”, as collected in his “Caricature” book.

Ellis also cites a Chuck Palahniuk novel, “Lullaby”, as a superior exploration of similar themes. Anyone care to comment?

You Can’t Get There From Here by Jason

At the end of the first chapter of Jason’s new book, the hunched assistant to a mad scientist enters a restaurant, sits down by a friend, and begins a sentence with “Hey…“, which fans of the author will instantly identify as a reference to our first English-language taste of his work. It’s kind of hard to believe that this is his fifth book to be released in the US by Fantagraphics; it seems like his excellent initial US release, “Hey, Wait…” (culled from his Norwegian floppy series “Mjau Mjau”), is still a recent discovery. Jason (and his credit is only that one simple name) got a lot of attention for that short, potent work, which lovingly crafted a detailed anthropomorphic fantasy world and acted as a sweet childhood reminisce. At least for the first half. The remainder of the book regards the gradual stripping away of the world’s magic by guilt and grief, and the final abandonment of The Dream. It was a structural marvel, employing simple six-panel grids and a one-page-per-scene rhythm that allowed for all sorts of expert shifts from reality to dreaming, from present to future. Subsequent US presentations of material have demonstrated a similar virtuosity in style, but a certain lack of pure gut impact. The semi-connected silent vignettes of “SSHHHH!” were compelling, if often oblique. The sequential adaptation of “The Iron Wagon” was hobbled by its clunky (if innovative in its day) source material, weighing down the artist’s fleet sensibilities with thick dialogue. I have sadly not read the short, silent “Tell Me Something”, which was released next. Fantagraphics is already prepping a translation of his first full-color work (French title: “Je vais te montrer quelque chose” translated to mean “I Will Show You Something“) for next year.

You Can’t Get There From Here” bears similarity to the format of “Hey, Wait…”, in that it’s a single, continuous story, peppered with sparse dialogue, and divided into sections. There are three here, aside from the short prologue. The first and third segments operate on the same formal level: mostly silent action, sometimes using page breaks to transition between scenes, and sometimes shifting perspectives mid-page. The use of linking images is excellent; a close-up of disturbed eyes followed by a bolt of lightening (both real and symbolic) followed by a rain-soaked grave-robbery followed by the robber (exactly the same expression on his face) standing by the Mad Doctor (owner of those angry eyes) in the lab followed by the electric jolting of life into a corpse. Five panels. Emotional conflict and plot advancement executed with amazing speed and exactitude. This is Jason’s great strength. The book’s second section uses a simpler model: all pages on the left feature scenes from a dialogue between two characters, all pages on the right feature silent action sequences that contrast wildly with the regretful, longing nature of the chat directly across the book’s margin. The contrast is heightened by the fact that the action consists of the Frankenstein Monster deploying kung-fu against the cops and an angry mob of townsfolk. I did mention that the book is a comical tragedy (tragical comedy?) that pays homage to Universal Monster movies, right?

You see, the Monster has been spending most of his time lately shoplifting porno magazines and peeping into the windows of showering young ladies. This gets him into trouble with the law, so the Mad Doctor decides to build him a mate, which unfortunately awakens regret in the good Doctor’s soul for the discarded world of his past. Things proceed to get very ugly. It’s not just the scenes that offer swift transitions here; sexual violence and lethal rage seethe beneath the comical and romantic surface. Good people die for no good reason at all as awkward romances blossom. The book is about secret desires, and the not-so-secret doubts about the viability of obtaining those desires. The book’s title represents the hopelessness characters feel in these pages, similar to the sense of waste that permeated the finale of “Hey, Wait…”, but characters take action on their hungers here (the Doctor, the Monster, the Assistant, even the Mob all need to quench their thirsts). The best we can hope for is uncertainty in the end, it seems, and not just between monsters and their gods. If the focal character of “Hey, Wait…” goes over the falls at the end of that work, the surviving characters here are still paddling upstream, although some of their arms have gotten very tired.

It’s not an expensive book ($12.95), and it’s an affecting one. I highly recommend it!