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Monthly Archives: May 2014

It’s been a minute since I’ve written much of anything about comics.  So I thought I would do this piece on Asano’s A Girl by the Sea that I’ve had batting around in my brain ever since I read it.  I think one of the real strengths of the book is the relationship between Koume Sato and Kosuke Isobe.  These are the two central teenagers of the book who take up on a relationship of sex without emotional attachment.

What’s interesting is less the way that their sexual relationship complicates things emotionally for both of them, and more the way that a lot of the problems are more caused by how it may be seen from the outside.  But what I like about it a great deal is Koume Sato, and the way that she is defining sex for herself outside of the pressures of the community as a whole.  She is in complete control of her sexuality to the point that it’s not even an emotional thing that just happens.  Often in art, the way women experience sex, particularly the first time, involves this idea that she falls so deeply in love and that sex just sort of happens as an outgrowth of that.  This is contrasted against how boys are projected as seeing love as an impediment to be wrangled so that they can get the physical act which is the only important thing for them.  The notion that that process could be the same for a young girl is not a story we’ve ever really been comfortable with telling.  So the way that Sato chooses to have sex with Isobe simply because of her desire for the physical act is really refreshing.

The result of this though are these masterful scenes from Asano that show us sex at it’s most emotionally disconnected.  Sex as purely act.  Sex as a sadness.  In A Girl By the Sea—the sex between Sato and Isobe represents both of their emotional disconnects to the world around them.  And neither is necessarily looking to the other, at least initially, to repair that connection—only to fill the physical need for contact.  These are two alone people who also aren’t looking to each other to really cure that loneliness—at least not emotionally.  This fractured sadness that underlines their sexual interactions mirrors some of the relationship horrors of Punpun and Maki in Asano’s masterwork Oyasumi Punpun and just shows how brilliant Asano is in showing this damaged hurt way of surviving through life.

I thought I would focus mainly on this three page section because it shows both how Asano is showing the physical passion of sex, while then stripping out the emotional side of it.  The two pages just showing Isobe and Sato having sex are notable because they are mostly just a procession of dissociated body parts from two people coming in contact with one another.  This isn’t hot sweaty fluids everywhere sex—it is a kind of by the numbers performance of physical duty—and what’s interesting is through the entire thing Asano never once shows us a character’s eyes or face in any kind of way to show us how they are processing these sensations.  So even though we are reading sex, we aren’t engaging with the characters emotionally through the sex—in fact, the sex feels distanced, and maybe like reading a textbook.

The third page underscores this distance and gets at what Asano was building to which is this beautiful top panel of Isobe laying on Sato’s hip himself almost expressionless.  Sato herself isn’t even looking at Isobe, and is obscuring her face from him nonchalantly with her arms. In actuality both characters are looking at the other’s hands.  This underscores that they see each other more in terms of their utility, than as any kind of soulful connection.  And the conversation they have afterward is just inane filler.  Both just filling the silence with things that neither they nor the person they are talking to particularly care about.  The last panel on the page is really beautiful because Sato has right after telling Isobe that he’s just going to become a shut-in nerd, then begins to tell Isobe about her real crush Kashima—and for this both of them have turned further from one another.  Sato’s need to humiliate Isobe and his hunger for that humiliation is also an aspect of their relationship.  Both characters are talking to one another, but neither is really wanting to hear the other.  Or their relationship is predicated on this shared deadness.

I also really love this panel a few pages later where they have fallen asleep together, and Isobe is clutching onto Sato who even in her sleep has no kind of reciprocation.  It’s such a beautiful and desperate image.  It’s so human.

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I can’t believe I’m not crazy yet.  Or do you not know when you’re crazy, and that’s the deal.  I dunno.  But this has been a wonderful experiment in learning new ways to see and I’m only 26 days in.

I think either 50 or 100 days in though I may have to reconsider writing about every single thing I’m watching.  It’s a bit obssessive.  I could be getting better or worse at writing though.  Who really knows.  Anyways.  These are the horror films I watched and wrote about this past week:

WEEK 1
WEEK 2
WEEK 3

#20: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci)
#21: Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma)
#22: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Dir. Jack Sholder)
#23: Candyman (Dir. Bernard Rose)
#24: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski)
#25: The Innocents (Dir. Jack Clayton)
#26: Phantasm (Dir Don Coscarelli)

 

I think from this week, the Candyman piece is the best.  Plus it has links to better writers than me, which is always a good thing I think.

Cool week of movies.  I promise that I will do some comics criticism soon, ha.  The comic I’m reading is just…really really long.  And I’m finishing up some of my own comics.  But yeah, my Fulci crush intensified this week.  I remembered how great Argento was.  And in general I feel like my language for seeing horror and breaking down how the parts that resonate with me work–is advancing.  It’s good because the comic I’m drawing after Bruise has some horror/thriller elements to it–so I’m learning a lot about the spaces I’m interested in creating and exploring.  It’s funny I was talking about this project with one of my friends the other day, and the notion of “why?” was sort of implied.  And I guess even though I’m writing these things, and people can read them, this is maybe more about the process of forcing analysis, and teaching my eyeballs and brain to see.  I think the pressure of putting something up for public consumption is a nice pressure for solidifying those ideas.  Which I think is all of my criticism.  I write so I can read better, see better.  This is how I get good at things.
Week 1, Week 2

#13: The Whip and the Body (Dir. Mario Bava)
#14: City of the Living Dead (Dir. Lucio Fulci)
#15: White Zombie (Dir. Victor Halperin)
#16: Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley)
#17: The New York Ripper (Dir. Lucio Fulci)
# 18: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dir. Dario Argento)
#19: Black Christmas (Dir. Bob Clark)

Week 1

This was a pretty good week all told.  Iron Rose, Wake in Fright, and Szamanka were all kind of life changing films to have seen and I saw them all this week.  I also saw Critters which was whatever the polar opposite of that was.  But was at least funny.  I also saw American Mary which was so good I wrote two entries on it.

#5 The Iron Rose (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#6: Alucarda (Dir. Juan López Moctezuma)
#7: Wake In Fright (Dir. Tedd Kotcheff)
#8: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska)
#9: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) and Gore
#10: Lisa and the Devil (Dir. Mario Bava)
#11: Critters (Dir. Stephen Herek)
#12: Szamanka (Dir. Andrzej Zulawski)

That’s an amazing week, looking back on it.  It’s most likely all down hill from here, I’d imagine.

So I’ve started up a thing where I’m watching a horror movie a day.  This sprang out of weirdly enough, me getting fed up with Game of Thrones just piling rape scene after rape scene onto a book I quite love, for IMO little to no reason.  This caused me to question how valuable the experience was each week spending that hour there.  And then that sort of spread out more broadly to this “golden age” of Television overall.  And so I decided rather than waste my time chasing shitty unsatisfying TV shows that if they ever got goodish, would just attract stupid fanbases right before they then started getting bad–basically I’m an idiot, with bizarre, intentionally hypocritical views–and so I decided I would instead spend the time that I otherwise would have spent on television, on film, and more specifically horror.

I perhaps, with only small justification, like to call my comics horror comics, but given that, I feel I’m so poorly read when it comes to horror, particularly given what I want to make–and I feel like it’s past time I put in the work to develop the visual and storytelling bank.  So I’m just going to watch horror movies every day until my brain splits.  My only rules about this were that none of the movies could be after 1992.  I’m not sure why I picked that year, but I did.  I will probably break it at some point(in fact, I know I will, because I am planning to watch Nadja and that’s 1996).  For the most part, my selections are kind of random right now while I kind of organize queues and things.  I’m obviously super drawn to any kind of horror that is going to represent a stylish extreme of one thing or another.  But there will be a lot of stupid that I watch too.

As part of all of this, I’m writing every day a little bit about the previous night’s film.  This isn’t like…good writing.  It’s just sort of my informal thoughts on these films.  Maybe some will be interesting to read, maybe others won’t.  It doesn’t really matter.  But I think how I’m going to archive these here is just each week put up the links for the previous week’s selections, and that should be a nice way to keep this from encroaching too much into my comic’s criticism writing, which I actually DO spend time on(and plan to keep doing–which if you’re keeping track, I am penciling and inking 16 comic pages a month, writing about 3 1500+ word essays on comics, watching and writing about a horror film a day, coloring pages, and working a 30-38 hour job each week–I have no idea how I’m doing any of this.  But a lot of it involves not having much of a social life.  Which I think if I were younger is something that would have bothered me.  But after being married, I think I have realized that I very much prefer a ratio overwhelmingly isolated–these are all of the things I care about, so it’s really nice to just be able to pursue things to their obsessive end without worrying about whether you are neglecting someone else’s company.  Maybe I am some kind of narcissist.  But I like my brain a lot.)

Anyways.  These are the films I wrote about this week:
#1: Humanoids from the Deep (Dir. Barbara Peeters)
#2: Shock (Dir. Mario Bava)
#3: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Dir. Lucio Fulci)
#4: Female Vampire (Dir. Jess Franco)

I think of these, Shock was definitely my favorite.  With Female Vampire a close second.  If you’re scoring at home.  I got a lot out of both of those films.

Waiting for some ink to dry.  Some quick thoughts on gore.  I was thinking about why that panel from whatever the newest whatever is from DC Entertainment, where they had Black Canary’s face stitched on Frankenstein’s chest–and why though I don’t have any intrinsic problems with the idea of that kind of image(I like it fine, divorced from any other considerations of overall lameness), I don’t find it as personally relevant or interesting as say a random Shintaro Kago illustration.  Even though both represent the mutilation of the female body in the service of provoking a reaction in their audience.

In the case of DC Entertainment, the image is very obviously designed to provoke the contingent of feminists in their fanbase, or larger superhero fandom who will reblog the image all over the place and, like me, here, write some kind of piece about it which will make you want to go to the image and see for yourself, and then perhaps purchase the comic, or if not, continue the conversation until they get to the person who feels that they need to buy the comic on principle as a reaction to the reaction. 

So the way I perceive that image is very much not as an image of subversion, so much as I see it as an image of control.  It’s not even really that transgressive, for a variety of reasons.  Some just having to do with the limited horror of seeing anything new stitched to Frankenstein who is a character by design made out of other human body parts.  There is no part of Frankenstein that isn’t already a dead human body part.  So this is hardly new, and the aesthetics of that stitching is not very shocking to the senses.  Additionally the placement of the face, and it’s more flattened out nature lacks the identity violating nature of true body horror.  This isn’t Frankenstein’s body rebelling against itself, or anything but a choice to stitch another dead thing to his body.  It’s an act fundamentally of control.  To take the face of someone else and stitch it to you, is to try and map some of their power into your own.  To wit, Black Canary’s superpower being added to Frankenstein’s own.  By subverting Black Canary’s identity, Frankenstein gains greater power and control within his world.


By contrast, Shintaro Kago’s imagery is about the horror of a body out of control.  That your own body would betray itself horribly.  It is a troubling call out to the viewers own lack of control in the agency of their own functionality.  In this way, it is a subversive image.  It doesn’t promote the idea of power and control, it says that those ideas are foolish and non-existent.  That life is a cruelty of inescapable changes and humiliations to which you are bound.  These are images that legit unsettle.  It is not for nothing that so many of the subjects in these images are innocent young women.  These are existential provocations.  The likes of which, if they were promoted en masse on the level of a DC entertainment conglomerate level, would provoke a general unsettling far beyond feminists on tumblr. 

That’s what I’m thinking anyways.  It’s all a bit crap.

And no I don’t know what book the Frankenstein thing is from.  Some recent thing apparently.  I don’t really care.  I’m also not sure of the artist, because the artist, as per usual in this kind of thing, wasn’t ever listed.  Is it…Ethan Van Sciver?  Maybe?  i don’t know.  It’s impossible to find these type of things out.  I once spent an hour trying to find out who drew preview pages for a Prometheus comic.  Anyways.  COMICS!