Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A New City (page 4)

Final page.

This comic as you see doesn't have a high concept aspiration (well at least for me!) but yet uses a very labored upon method to get where it's going. I was at the time (this was early 2005) of the opinion that the 'smaller' the idea you wish to convey through comics the grander the method you should use. The reasoning behind this is simple: were this to be drawn in 3 panels and with stickmen, what reader would give it the thought they are giving it now as it is, 4 pages drawn as meticulously as I could at the time?

What? "Absolutely" I hear you say. Variations of "yes, given specific circumstances" the more meticulous amongst you correct. You are wiser than past me then, reader. There have been many comics (or pieces of art in general) dealing with small things in small means that still have a very real and strong impact on their readers. In fact, one of my favorite poems is a single phrase. But I am a man of extremes and that above extreme position pleases me with its sharp juxtaposition. I have wondered why that is and I have come to the theory that it's because they define a life in pleasing contrasts. I know this is dangerous, please perhaps keep in mind that I also realize its danger controls it somewhat!

I have since revised my position on the matter because I realized that the idea in this comic, although perhaps coming from a lower part of the body than the brain (somewhere in the gut, perhaps) is not a small one. It is a big one which still moves me very much. It might seem banal, the 'big cities are bad' concept, but it doesn't matter to me. Something inside me is wary of these utilitarian monstrosities, these mazes of concrete information. The city is not ones friend, it is there to facilitate impersonal commerce, inhuman trafficking, the only humanity that occurs in it is accidental, a glitch in the system, to be eventually purged. The 'old city' here (or as the ideologue who penned the title of this comic would have it, a 'A New City') is a crumbled one. Its purpose has crumbled. It is desolate and stark. What is left when the symbols shatter? A new way! The function the Bald Sci-Fi Dude (tm) gives to it is the exact contrast of its past. What is more human that a discrete place meant for personal relaxation, right in the bygone, unbeating heart of one more of these ugly multi-story towers that reach futilely towards something more than a humble sum of base pleasantries?

(Please make a note if you felt as if you were metaphorically looking at these old cities with a refreshing sense of relief that they are now in the past and thankfully gone, replaced by something better and more human. Keep that emotion in you and remember that they are still here and you're right in the middle of one. I am not trying to make a joke, keep that emotion close, it is a useful one.)

I cannot tell you how much I enjoy that panel in the page before this where we can see from the crumbled wall from the low vantage, along with our protagonist, in the insides of a few buildings. The disarray of the furnishings and items, like a heart attack it slew the beast from inside. It is very comforting to draw such things.

I do not like much the art in this comic anymore (I remember being very proud of it at the time) but I really appreciate the sentiment as much, if not more, as when I drew it. It has helped me have a meaningful dialogue with myself addressing an enduring unease with my place as a middle-class citi-zen which a culture of post-modernity has shielded me from... Shielded the comfortable-yet-somehow-discontent middle-class child-ape (= myself) from scratching that glaring wound, through sheer obfuscation of methodology. It broke down philosophy until one's tools were as meaningless as their emotions. "Wallow in semiotic self-pitty and most of all consume! Feel guilt and consume! Consume and feel guilt!" it cries. But this cannot go on forever, can it? Humans are problem solvers. Even when you close your eyes and you see inside you so much ugliness that is uncountable, at the very same time some withered vestigial appendige is trying to flex its elitrous wingspan to a promise of something more. Humans are problem solvers and humans use tools to solve their problems. It is the same with language, philosophy, art. We broke it, and now we're putting it back together in new ways. I am excited to be alive in 2009 because it will be soon now that something new will come.

The method proposed in this comic is a socially cowardly one (personal retreat, usually the comfort of the wealthy), but it is not obfuscated. It is clear in its intention and in that clear place (somewhere in the gut) good intentions lie.

- Helm


Solar said...

Surprised you've got no comments here.

This sort of thing really touches on those feelings of comfort, home and personal space. I have often been of the opinion that it is all a matter of perspective that allows us to create these these feelings. The fixed nature of the past can offer a comfort that the present is too variable to provide. Interesting the elements of the present we seek to avoid are the very things future generations or selves will find comforting. In that sense if we can alter our perspective liberally enough we can find peace, comfort and isolation anywhere we choose. The interesting thing is altering perspectives is hard to do consistently well, so comfort is only found inconsistently. The great thing about the past is it's gone, making it easier to form perspectives about it that are unchallenged.

There are many other sources of comfort that don't rely on isolation (and not just the wealthy can create it, hermits come in many forms), family, completion of a project etc. But there is something required it seems, for myself at least, to preserve a space of ones own to allow a sense of peace or tranquillity.

warcod said...

I read Solar's comment. i came here for a studio visit. to see a creative space and consider creating a new space where i can feel more comfortable in. i'm in singapore, a foreign land following hope and meaningfulness.

cool space, Helm.

cool comment, Solar.