Putting the Dead in Deadpan:
My God, what a find! If ever you needed just one reason (in my case it’s yet another reason) to haunt second-hand bookshops, then it is the unadulterated pleasure of coming across something like this!
I picked up Low Moon by someone called Jason simply because I noticed that it was published by Fantagraphics Books; and back in the day when I really collected this kind of stuff, that name was all it took to get me interested. Well, since this one came out as recently as 2009 it’s obvious that publishers Gary Groth and Kim Thompson are still giving us comic book work that is different and challenging. No generic super heroes for these guys.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t spend some time scratching the old head after I had finished the first story, ‘Emily Says Hello’. After that, though, something just clicked.
First, let me explain a little about the look of the book: it’s beautiful, with — in almost every case — four equal sized coloured panels, printed on satisfyingly heavy paper. The characters, performing their actions in deadpan fashion, are anthropomorphic: either dogs or birds. Not being a fan of the funny animal genre that almost put me off right there. Not to worry, though: whilst a lot of what happens is bleakly funny, these creatures are joyless in whatever they’re at, be it sex or murder. Or both.
Take Emily in that first piece, for example. She is a dominant female, rewarding her murderous assistant with stringently doled-out nasty’s for every assignment – a handjob here, a blowjob there. And for what reason? Well, that’s what had me puzzled and surprised. Still am.
Then again, this was my introduction to Jason. And the book will not help you out. There’s no foreword or preface; no context to put Jason’s work into; and no pointers given to the artist himself. There is one endorsement on the back; but as it comes from Glen David Gold, author of the excellent novel Carter Beats the Devil, that’s a good one to have.
By the time I got to the second outing, ‘Low Moon’ I thought I knew what to expect. I didn’t. Well… certainly not a Western that with dry amusement plays around with the conventions of the genre in order to give us a tale where a gunfight is replaced with a game of chess.
‘&’ is wordless. It follows two parallel stories that by this time I wasn’t holding out any hope would take me somewhere warm and cozy. Nor was I disappointed. It didn’t.
- I’m a movie fan. So, maybe no surprises that ‘Proto Film Noir’ is my favourite. What seems to be a caveman walks out of the desert and not only into the 21st century but what could be the set of The Postman Always Rings Twice or Double Indemnity. Except that this murdered ‘in-the-way’ husband won’t stay dead and returns each morning at breakfast time.
You know, it’s odd. Although Jason’s characters often appear to be emerging from a silent film, for some reason I always have a soft thrumming jazz soundtrack going on in my head when I’m looking at these panels. And I don’t even like jazz.
‘You Are Here’ completes the collection; and by now you know if you will want to read anymore of Jason or spend any longer with his murderous, misanthropic characters.