Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Joshua Hagler's, The Boy Who Made Silence

I gave up collecting comic books back in the 1980s. I was pretty bored with the medium, and had decided by then that I was going to stick with magazine cartooning, and I wanted to buy reading material more suited to my work, and more literate than comics, which were largely, well, poorly written.

One day, on my way home, I paused at the kiosk in the bus station at St Andrew's Square, in Edinburgh's East End, and a couple of comic book covers caught my eye, they were Hellblazer and The Sandman. I bought them, and as I read them I realised that something new had happened during the period that I had missed. So I eagerly sought out past issues and followed the trail back to rediscover work like Swamp Thing, where Alan Moore had first introduced Hellblazer's John Constantine. I had begun collecting comics again, albeit in a more selective, if somewhat chronologically diverse, fashion. At least for a time, until In the Doll's House finished, then I sort of lost interest again.

This has been the case off and on for a while now, and I can remember whole periods of time when a sense-memory of a particular phase of comic-buying comes back to me. The launch of POW and SMASH and the launch of FANTASTIC and TERRIFIC, my discovery of Howard the Duck and then my discovery of Hellblazer and The Sandman. Since then though, comics haven't done it for me, I've become very excited over Fantagraphics releases of anthologies like Ghost World, Love and Rockets and most things by Charles Burns, but not much in the way of comics, until recently that is, with my new-found enthusiasm for several new titles (see the short article on Jaime McKelvie's Suburban Glamour below).

With these notable exceptions though, I haven't had that 'collectors rush', that burst of adrenaline and excitement, over the look and feel of a Western comic in a long time. It is, as you will have guessed from that previous sentence, something I have experienced often, in recent years about manga. But that may now be changing because once again, like Peter Parker's 'Spider-Sense' my 'collector's-sense' is tingling and the new, daring, comic book publishers that are listed in the post below, Ambrosia, AMM Markosia (who publish The Boy who Made Silence comic book), Image, et al, are making a collector, and more importantly an enthusiastic fan of me once again - or at any rate the talent they have been wise enough to recruit, are doing so.

The comic that has me spell-bound at the moment is San Francisco painter and illustrator Joshua Hagler's serialized graphic novel, The Boy Who Made Silence. The Boy who Made Silence tells the story of Nestor Gudfre, a young prophet, who comes of age, falls in love, and searches for his father. Of course that doesn't do the story justice, you can't do justice to the magical qualities of The Boy who Made Silence merely by describing it, because much of the narrative has to be seem and soaked up. In other words you really have to get a hold of the work to really, really, get it. For that reason, I'd suggest getting the title from Joshua Hagler' site, and then also getting the comic books (in fact I'd pre-order them to be absolutely sure) - but then as a born-again comics fan, I would suggest that.

I decided not so very long ago that I was of one-mind with Mom's Cancer creator Brian Fies on the subject of colouring in today's comics, and I hate the garish over-colouring that some people are creating with Photoshop. It is horrible, and really there is no excuse for it. I also decided that I hate all that severe anatomical over-drawing; that sameness of form, in all those work-for-hire titles, a comic is a comic, it is not a storyboard for a potential movie, it is not a treatise on anatomy, it is a work of art created by a sentient being and the personality of the creator should not be 'corrected' from, and removed from, the work. Perhaps that is why the painterlyness of this work, appeals to me so much. It is crafted, it is laboured, it is clearly a work of art. And it is also a comic book. Every single vibrant brush stroke is a joy to my eyes.

There is an immediacy about the work that all cartoonists will recognise. It is the artist's ability to capture and keep the elusive energy that one captures in the rough and then loses by the inking stage.

Everything about this title is working, the lettering, by letterer Thomas Mauer, compliments the work and makes such a welcome change from the CC typefaces that are so omni-present in today's battery-farmed comics, that I have been inspired to practise to bring my own clumsy scrawl up to scratch. It is, one impressive blend of adult story telling, superlative drawing, masterful painting and marvelous lettering. The Boy who Made Silence is a great comic.

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