Before we begin, it’s with sincere joy that I get to type the following: Australia’s Ryan K. Lindsay (Chum, Negative Space, Deer Editor) is one of eight writers taking part in Scott Snyder’s next DC Writers Talent Workshop. Yup. Our boy is on the way. Note the snarky idiot in the comments section (on how only established writers with an audience got the nod) and then completely disregard him. Ryan is quite possibly the hardest working person I’ve ever met and has built his audience and reputation through grit, internet swagger, late nights and with babies on his lap. He deserves this opportunity probably more than anybody else on that list of eight. Congratulations to him.
COMIC OF THE WEEK : MOONCOP
By Tom Gauld
Published By Drawn & Quarterly
J.G. Ballard once famously proclaimed that the future is going to be boring. Nothing seems to back that statement up more than Scottish cartoonist Tom Gauld's terrific Mooncop, a comic that brings the drudgery of the everyday to the SF Space Opera, wittily undercutting the grandiosity and pretentiousness of Hard SF with the cartoonist's typically droll humour and an injection of melancholy.
First previewed by publishers D&Q as part of this year's Free Comic Book Day, Gauld's latest full length effort is a sweet affair, a beautifully, simply cartooned book in which the romance of space exploration and the notions of the futuristic SF space cop have peaked and crumbled, leaving a virtually deserted lunar habitat patrolled by a single, isolated law keeper. The populace of our moon-city has woken from its dreams of space exploration and the expansion of man's conquest of space and is returning to Earth, to our sun and its beaches, in droves. Stuck here, virtually alone, is a our Mooncop, a police officer reduced to recovering missing museum automatons, lost dogs and battling nothing more sinister than faulty vending machines. He's considered extremely good at his job - as there is no crime, his crime solving statistics are 100%. His transfer requests are denied and moments of undeniably beautiful peacefulness begin to turn melancholy as, bit by bit, his lunar habitat is slowly pulled apart around him.
Gauld's cartooning is deceptively basic. His pages are perfectly and appropriately still, indicating the slowness of not just movement on the moon, but the passage of time itself. His splash pages of the expanses of space and The Earth so far away, but ever present as a constant reminder of a past life, hanging over his rocky lunar landscapes are perfectly placed throughout the book. At times the splashes function almost as chapter breaks but they also reinforcing Mooncop's isolation and literalise his loneliness. Gauld, as you'll see in this week's video, is most interested in using his drawing as a language to express his ideas rather than "virtuoso mark-making." This is not to imply that there is no craft here - far from it. If drawing is a language, Gauld's "voice" is as clear and concise as anyone's.
Cartooning is the act of simplification, of reducing objects and people to basic but recognisable shapes. Becky Cloonan, during her All Star Comics Masterclass last year, cited Gauld's previous long form work, Goliath, as a perfect example of just how much emotion, how much characterisation, you can achieve with little more than elaborate stick figures. There's much more beauty to Gauld's work than Becky's description would lead you to believe -- witness his subtle, shadowy hatching on his lunar rocks juxtaposed with the emptiness of the space above -- but the simplicity is a point that even Gauld concedes (again in the video below): the deadline-driven haste with which much of his shorter work is produced has led him to an ultimate economy of comics drawing, a "letting go of beautiful images" and Mooncop is perhaps his greatest showcase for this thus far. It's also a noddly relaxing book, showing that with solitude there is also peace. The leisurely pace, open pages and repetitive landscapes may well lull readers into a contemplative, near-meditative state; it's oddly quite like ambient music somehow cross-pollinated into comics. I recommend reading slowly to heighten the book's lulling, peaceful atmospherics.
Even with its considerable charms, Mooncop also manages to be quietly, subtly dystopian in its discussions of man's self-imposed, technologically-driven isolation from one another and its skewering of a nostalgic, retro space-future. You might also be surprised to hear how much fun it also is. Gauld's jokes are frequent and bittersweet, based largely around the ridiculousness inherent in the Pulp fiction dream of the space hero, faulty technology and nonsensical bureaucracy, balancing the sadness that comes with us witnessing our poor protagonist’s loneliness perfectly. At the end, however, the reader is left with perhaps the book's most potent theme - the world, no matter which world it is, can be exactly what we make of it and that no matter how isolated and lonely you may feel at times, this too shall pass.
WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : SOME ADVICE ON HOW TO COPE IN THESE TOUGH TIMES
By Tom Gauld
I had such a good time revisiting Tom Gauld’s Tumblr site, You’re All Just Jealous of My Backpack (also the name of a published Gauld short comics collection), that I forgot I was supposed to be choosing a webcomic from among the dozens and dozens on offer. Here online are Gauld’s short comics for places like The Guardian and New Scientist along with other little illustrative odds and ends. They’re all delightful and they’re all super quick reads and I can practically guarantee that, like some lab-created super snack, you won’t be able to stop at just one.
“Some Advice On How To Cope In These Tough Times” showcases Gauld’s gift at blending the existential with the humorous as his cavalcade of futuristic SF aliens, warlords, “dark ones” and various other figures of cosmic terror dispense the kind of cheerily optimistic positive reinforcement usually reserved for greeting cards, bumper stickers or the most facile of self help gurus. In the process, hopefully, your ennui will be disabled in a far more effective manner than by those aforementioned psychological pick-me-uppers.
COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : TOM GAULD -- COMICS AS LANGUAGE
As mentioned above, Gauld firmly believes in using his cartoons purely as a vehicle for his ideas and this week's video is a virtual clinic on the art of cartooning. Please, please watch this - it will make you think about what French critic and comics thinker Thierry Groensteen calls "the system of comics" in ways you may not have thought of before. Wonderful stuff.
See you next week.
Love your comics.