Sam Ombiri here with thoughts on DNA Failure: British Weapon Comics by Leon Sadler, Jonathan Chandler, and Stefan Sadler
Sam Ombiri here: DNA Failure: British Weapon Comics is Leon Sadler making comics with Jonathan Chandler and Stefan Sadler. The deal is Leon’s comics are really good, Jon’s comics are really good, and Stefan’s comics are really good, and together they compliment each other’s energy, better than ever. They all have this playful reverence for storytelling in comics that exist for existence’s sake. Or a “sake” not spoken of yet. This sensibility that’s really attractive doesn’t deviate from their enthusiasm for the story. Far from it – it only serves to take their stories to higher heights.
As I’m reading this, I’m wondering what corner of a human’s mind can possibly have the capacity to make this stuff up? I’m not thinking of just the especially surreal events in the comic. I’m also thinking, for example, of how quickly these guys can ascribe a character’s role purely from their facial features. This is a wonder. As I read I’m really savoring each moment. This book is so much fun.
What’s astounding is the complete lack of cynicism, which I know stems from sincerity, and it’s just what they do, but I can’t help but commend their lack of cynicism.
It’s hard to talk about this comic, about this stuff, partly because I’m guilty of this too in my own comics. What is it I’m guilty of? There’s this one corner of webcomics – you see it in a lot of deviant art pages…probably the easiest place to find stuff like this is if you go to the Bad Webcomics wiki – and it feels like this is the stuff these guys are into. I’ll try to explain more clearly. (I’m not sure about Jon and Stefan, but I’ve read Leon has an intensely visceral reaction to things because there’s too much emotion in them.)
“When you see amateur work, you see the mistakes a professional would try and cover up – like when a person’s homemade Web site has a JPEG scaled up incorrectly. That’s the kind of stuff we like. It’s acknowledging that there are these unspoken rules about how you are supposed to do something – and when you break that rule you are acknowledging that the rule exists.”
I think the inclination for most people is to pat themselves on the back instead of pushing further when they realize this rule exists. They try to outsmart the inherent perceived stupidity, instead of just engaging with this stuff as it is (if they don’t just flat out turn it into a punchline). It’s what puts Paperrad above Everything Is terrible (as cool as they are).
It’s that same thing that is so great about people like Leon, Jon, and Stefan. I can’t help but think about how Dash Shaw was once talking about how for the most part, in the west at least, whenever people approach limited animation, it’s rarely without cynicism. Take those Adult Swim cartoons like Perfect Hair Forever or 12 OzMouse, in contrast to this community on YouTube which used to use programs like Pencil or the Corel software that would come with their Wacom tablets, to make wolf animations. Animations without cynicism. People like Tribble of Doom or Fluffylovey.
What I’m saying is that with DNA Failure the success is three tier. Tier 1 is the lack of cynicism towards this zone of comics, Tier 2 is pushing enthusiasm – as in, they don’t feel compelled to contextualize this stuff just to prove that they’re smart.
People (myself included) don’t always believe in the potency of this stuff. They don’t think it is independent of our recognition of it. I mean, sometimes it can be good to give it contextualization, but I don’t think it helps in cases where the potency of the work that one might be re-appropriating (at least for this bad webcomic stuff) is purely based on your recognition of it. It reveals this masked cynicism and masked vanity, or maybe arrogance is a better word. So then it’s not Tier 2 – it’s more like you’re in tier -2.
DNA Failure reaches Tier 3, which is a complete mystery to me. I just don’t know – it’s not even three tier success now, it’s like a 2,000,000 tier success.
There are many places comics can go if you open your eyes – DNA Failure opened mine. The comics in here are really fantastic. That’s another thing; when people (like me) re-appropriate this stuff, if it’s comics, they (by they, I mean we) tend to completely both forget and dismiss the comics aspect of it. We forget that it’s a comic with a story of some sort, and they (again, me included) maybe even forget that it’s a lot of fun to draw. Although when I say “fun” I don’t mean to say that you always have to draw with a bunch of wild strokes.
(CF’s impression of Jack Kirby crosshatching)
It doesn’t have to be fun but it certainly can be, especially when we’re talking about this zone of comics. The impulse to draw these types of comics commonly comes, after all, from having fun. (I’m using “fun” for lack of a better word, though not at the complete lack of it. I’m also thinking about how CF said that the spirit of cartooning is “just go ahead and draw.”)
However, all the fun is taken out of it when it becomes a contest to see whose work is superior because of how “smart” it is. When I see this type of re-appropriation done (again, myself included), so much of it is this masked cynicism propelled by pretension.
DNA Failure is amazing for so many reasons, number one because it doesn’t have any of that. There are really terrific moments in these comics and really great sequences, and instead of these guys patting themselves on the back, they just reach higher and higher and it’s really cool to see. I was very sad when I ran out of pages to read. – Sam Ombiri
Frank Santoro and Simon Hanselmann, CAB 2013 – photo by Chris Anthony Diaz, colored by Graham Willcox
International Students: The Winter Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers starts January 16th 2018! 8 weeks – 500 bux – coaching for as long as you need. The course is hard, but Frank will push your comics making practice to a new level, getting you to think about timing and color in new ways. His experience and ideas have influenced the likes of Connor Willumsen, Michael DeForge, and Simon Hanselmann (quote “I consider Frank Santoro to be my L. Ron Hubbard”) among many others. Dig into something new in the new year!
Joanie and Jordie – 1-11-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio