Sam Ombiri reviews Dash Shaw’s “Cosplayers”, and Sally brings updates from Darryl Ayo, Ron Wimberly, Chris Kindred, and more!
Sam Ombiri here: I’m going to talk about Cosplayers by Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics, 2016). First of all the art in this comic is, of course, fantastic. I am not sure if that is really a given. Sometimes it feels like the reason I may like Dash’s work is that I am excited, and with that excitement comes a sort of willful blindness. When that blindness is taken away, there is work that holds up and work that does not. This is one of the cases where it does hold up.
Dash has denied having a consistent style, and by lacking it claims that he has maybe shot himself in the foot. That has alienated, supposedly – from his vantage point – his audience. I wonder about this, because when I hear fans talk about Dash’s work, his stylistic inconsistency seems to be the main appeal of his work.
I myself rather feel that he has a very consistent style. I am not sure when he started being really excited about David Mazzucchelli’s idea of drawing an ambiguous dumb line, a line which does not tell the audience what to think of a character. Maybe it was around the time of New School (Fantagraphics, 2013), but ever since then – and maybe this is just me as the reader projecting this idea into the book – it all feels very much in the same vein. With whatever experimentation Dash does, he latches onto certain successes of his previous experimentation. (I know, crazy right? Who’s heard of such a thing?)
“The quality of the drawing is based on how close – how tight – the opinion and what it is can be, just fused together so…basically the better the drawing is the more connected it is, and what I think the dumbline did is say ‘Fuck all that, I’m just gonna tell you what it is and you can fucking think for yourself about it. And it had this evenness that- I’m gonna draw this apple, the same way I draw Catwoman and I’m gonna draw Catwoman the same way I draw the guy in the desert. And it had a strange, almost…moral ambiguity. Like, I’ll draw Catwoman, but I don’t know how sexy she is, you know, I’ll give it to you.’ ” – from a 2013 lecture at California College of the Arts
This brings a whole new dimension of reality to the work. Normally artists have to satisfy a certain trope that they do not want to interact with – but they have to, in order to get a contrived point across. Like “These are nerds – but wait a minute…these aren’t your average nerds!” With Cosplayers it goes beyond the dumb line – the dialogue is very, very real. Part of Dash’s goal was that he thought it would be cool if Cosplayers were in a comic book shop, and then it was next to, maybe, Superman, and someone would see a comic that is all about them. Maybe as a result of the dumb line it doesn’t entirely feel that way.
I’m really glad that he didn’t draw it in the typical anime trend though – instead it references aspects of anime manga in a subtle manner, like in the way the panels are laid out at times. When anime is referenced, it’s with sincerity – not from Dash per say, but from the characters themselves. Even the manga scholar in the comic (who got really frustratingly melodramatic.) There was a part where he was saying, “Be merciful lord of manga please…” That really bummed me out in the worst way, because it felt like Dash wanted me to laugh at the manga scholar. For some reason it felt even worse than anything that came before this that conveyed his misery, including him eating from the trash. Actually, it’s really cool the way he’s looking at the sky, pleading to Tezuka – it feels like “the god of wasted youth” from Sam Alden’s Patron Saint will show up.
Instead, we got Professor Panther from BodyWorld, which puts such a big perspective on the manga scholar’s hilarious misery. – Sam Ombiri
Get a copy of Dash Shaw’s Cosplayers HERE.
3-30-2017 – by Sam Ombiri
Sally here: Back in February Darryl Ayo was holding out hope for the flowers of spring, and they are finally here! At least in Pittsburgh…(sorry, my dear parents in Maine, who are expecting another foot of snow this weekend…) Darryl writes:
“Welcome back to the Valley of the River of Unforgiven Sin where your host and protagonist Angela is undertaking a sacred ritual called “planting a bulb” ~Ayo“
Check out more of his comics HERE.
Ignorant Bliss, a podcast produced by Julian Lytle, has shared Episode 57 which includes the entire “Black History in it’s Own Words” panel featuring Ronald Wimberly, Chris Visions, Chris Kindred, and Shannon Wright which took place at Fantom Comics in Washington DC on February 15th 2017. Listen to it HERE.
Meg Lemke featured an excerpt from Ronald Wimberly‘s Black History in it’s Own Words on Illustrated PEN recently.
“Ronald Wimberly created these bold, illustrated quotes of historical black figures—activists, artists, musicians, writers—and launched them as a book collection in February, Black History Month. It is now March, Women’s History Month, and so we feature Wimberly’s illustrations of four inspiring women from the series; because, as the artist put it, “women’s history is black history too.” “
Chris Kindred and Bryan Washington’s A Brief History of Driving While Black is up on Buzzfeed – HERE.
Check out the Santoro School Handbook for Making Better Comics! This 16 page handbook is a quick guide to the tenets of our school. A smash hit on the Comics Workbook tumblr. Printed offset on cardstock by the professionals at The Prolific Group, Winnipeg, Canada. This is not some cheap color xerox or risograph. Looks great, feels great, and even smells great. Get yours today!
Dungeon Lollers – 3-30-2017 – by Tyler Landry
Blinkers – 3-30-2017 – by Jack Brougham
Suzy and Cecil – 3-30-2017 – by Sally Ingraham
Joanie and Jordie – 3-30-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio
4 thoughts on “03/30/2017”
That’s a nice look at Cosplayers, Sam. I think you’re right about the ‘dumb line’ and Mazzucchelli, I remember Shaw talking about that with Frank at SPX at their New School/Pompeii panel a few years back. That talk was transcribed and published in a Comics Workbook issue, back when Andrew White and Zach Mason were putting those together. Maybe Frank has some extra copies in the CW Library, or maybe you’ve already read it?
Yeah I’ve read it! It’s a really great conversation, it’s always the first thing I think about when people talk about low brow vs. highbrow! What I’m really uncertain of is, maybe because the coloring is more definite, Cosplayers doesn’t feel as ambiguous, and the lines feel slightly more defined in what they’re saying about the characters, more so than in his previous work that was utilizing the dumb line. I know that the coloring is besides the point of what the dumb line does, since Dash said for New School the colors worked like sound design in a film, but even then, I can’t help but associate that type of coloring as part of the dumb-line. Maybe since it’s Dash’s version of it, I mean I didn’t hear it from Mazzucchelli. Dash also said that the comic tells one story and the background image or the color tells one story and the two come together to get a third story. So I always saw the inconsistency or the lack of concern for making the colors go where they “should” as part of the dumb-line. Of course there was the times where it was used to convey that Danny’s dizzy and nauseous and he’s gonna throw up now. I guess in that case, it was more the colors telling you what to think though. Dash, I think in that SPX conversation something was said about the color I don’t really remember.
Thanks, Sam. I gotta dig that CW issue out of my archive and read that panel discussion again. I think Andrew White transcribed it. There was that classic highbrow/lowbrow exchange with James Kolchaka and Gary Panter during the Q&A. That linking the dumb-line to color definitely makes sense (dumb-color?). I need to look at the Doctors book again, as I remember those colors to be more vivid than in the Cosplayers stuff.
Yeah dumb-color! I agree, the colors are more vivid and consistent in Doctors, but at the same time, I was thinking that there was more ambiguity in Doctors than Cosplayers. Every page in Cosplayers isn’t limited to just the one color per page. This might totally contradict what I said before, but I think Dash is less ambiguous with the messages being conveyed with color. Maybe because the color is already such an abstract way to convey things? And maybe this is only happening occasionally. I’m, like thinking of the one page in Cosplayers where the two main characters are eating ice cream so the color is filled with ice cream shapes. Then in Doctors, it feels like Dash is telling you less about who the characters are, and what they’re feeling, because it’s just one color per page. I’m not sure though, I need to re-read Doctors too, I’m pretty sure Dash utilized the colors of the page in Doctors too, but less than Cosplayers or New School.