waiting on the Soul Train

I just finished up David B.'s "Epileptic" - a journey through the cartoonist's experiences growing up with an epileptic older brother. For 400-some-odd pages he weaves through his childhood of immersion in the history of war and literature. Genghis Khan becomes his personal friend/weapon for dealing with his daily traumas. The way he introduces and creates symbolic characters that he surrounds himself with is an interesting example of how to create meaning in a story. The birdlike corpse of his grandfather becomes a carrion bird that hovers over David, emanating gloom.

It's a masterful work, the kind that I'm surprised has actually reached an English translation in hardcover. It's got meaning, it's got ideas, it's got soul, it's got warmth. I think the only reason Chris Ware is so popular here in the US is the emotional disconnect between the style and the work. The clipart-style drawing and inking keep you on the emotional surface, able to laugh passingly then put the work down, instead of really delving into his trauma. It's a Powerpoint presentation of his pain. It may mean something to the presenter, but not really to the audience, especially in an emotionally vacuous town like LA.

So many people are so incredibly friendly out here, it's easy to see how a culture of non-meaning is created. When a cartoonist/artist/visual professional has to meet, gladhand and schmooze just to keep himself afloat, on top of jumping from studio to studio for a paycheck, the opportunity to establish long relationships is lost. Everyone has a car - there's little panhandling, close to nil on the street-vendor front, and most everyone is eager to get back to their little 12' x 12' corner of the world. The kind of sexual-cultural re/devolution that occurred in Crumb's area probobably never reached Los Angeles or the insular world of Hollywood. It couldn't happen here. There's no local street to soapbox upon. The revolution has to be televised.

As opposed to New York, where the "if it didn't happen in New York, we don't care" mentality reigns free. After all, who would want to leave New York?


Posted: Saturday - January 14, 2006 at at 02:05 PM     |