TWO posts in one night?!?!?!
I’ve decided to get nothing else done tonight and get these things out in the world where they belong.
Jack and I are preparing a book collaboration with Jim and Bébé Rose of circus sideshow fame and Mr. Cursed Pirate Girl himself, Jeremy Bastian, and spending a lot of personal time sculpting it (because we love Bébé so much!!!) while Cursed Pirate Girl blazes through printings and can’t keep up with demand- the third printing of #1 is officially all gone, and watch for a new Haven Distribution Exclusive second printing of #2- with an all new “the other side of the mirror” cover- in stores November 11! (Retailers- contact havendistro.com for orders.)
I’m hard at work on the book on Silent Films for the Dave McKean show at Billy Shire Fine Arts in February, and back in England, Dave is as busy as ever and getting ready to spend the winter on the Nitrate paintings for the show- if we could devise a machine to follow him around and harness a fraction of what he radiates, we could power a second world country, quite easily.
If you’re not following Dave on Twitter, visit http://www.twitter.com/davemckean and add him- he posts lots of great photos and work-in-progress photos! (Fans of Mirrormask will be happy to know that a recent tweet mentions that Dave’s second full-length film LUNA may be one step closer to completion…)
What else is there to update? I’ve been decimated by this new invention of the 22st century called “Acid Reflux” which I am currently deconstructing by maintaining a paleolithic diet of meats, fruits, and vegetables while I undo decades of bad (i.e., American) eating habits and try to rebuild my healthy flora. I actually saw more improvement AFTER I threw away the prescriptions for acid suppressors and started the more holistic approach. It doesn’t sound like a big deal (or so I would have been the first to say BEFORE I experienced the hospital stays), but it’s made me pretty incommunicado for the last season. The good news is that I’m learning a lot about being responsible for my health in a way that I never have, and it’s making sense in all parts of my life. I suspect this- if it doesn’t in fact kill me- will reveal itself to have been a massive learning experience about what we are “fed”- the propaganda of consumption– for the next phase of my life, and will improve my productivity and focus a thousand fold. Plus- at long last- the analog recording studio here will be finally tweaked with the final install touches next week. (That’s ten weeks in fewer than ten sentences! Whew!)
Speaking of focus, the kind of focus that makes electrons shudder, imagine being at the top of your game for decades. Say, being one of the go-to artists on something as seminal and powerful as Neil Gaiman‘s epic graphic novel cycle The Sandman. Imagine at the close of that era professional and personal difficulties decimating that ledge overlooking the valley, and as you fall down, hitting every rock and branch on the way down- no, the rocks weren’t leaping out of their way to break skin, it only felt like it- and reaching a point creatively where you were forced to examine the root, the core of what you believed in as an artist.
Now imagine living in seclusion for three harsh years of constant self-examination, painstakingly scripting, curling lines and tiny crosshatches with pen and ink on paper, each page never quite done for weeks on end… And at the end of three years of determination and dedication, with over two hundred pages, twenty or so not making that final culling of the scythe. Imagine THAT kind of focus.
What Michael Zulli has crafted with his masterpiece The Fracture of the Universal Boy is- and I say this without the slightest hesitation- more aligned with Symbolist literature such as Joris-Karl Huysman‘s 1891 novel Le Bas (“Down There” or “The Damned”) than anything else I can think of. The poet Stéphane Mallarmé articulated the scope of the term Symbolism, stating “Suggestion, that is the dream”, and the dream/awake//surreal/hyper-real elements that make up The Fracture of the Universal Boy have absolutely NOTHING to do with anything I’ve ever seen happen in comics.
I don’t know yet how to sum it up in a brief passage, but the random fragments in my head are this:
(1) People- “comic readers” especially- will generally hate this book. Angel raping? Check. Drug fiends under the swamp water? Check. False “happy” endings, and eviscerated eye sockets? Oh, yes… Seriously, it’s commercial suicide.
(2) Like Schiller said (and Klimt repeated), it is the artist’s duty to RAISE and EXPAND the consciousness of the public, not to feed them whatever smooth flavors they order. See #1.
(3) This is not an easy read. It’s harsh, melodramatic, overbearing, passionate… and captures in crystalline fashion EXACTLY the experiences of the artist- saying everything, while revealing nothing. In short- this is, by definition, a perfect piece of ART. Its sentiments are literally timeless, but it could only have been created today. Its message would be equally as potent in 1810, 1910, 2010, and 2110.
Zulli has done a rare thing, which is brought the elements that made Symbolism an important movement, and found a way to make it relevant and contemporary. Even if you feel the Pre-Raphaelite leanings of his commercial stories with Neil Gaiman are too saccharin, if you are honest with yourself when you read The Fracture of the Universal Boy you will be forced to admit that in this book the ink brush has cut completely past the velvet, through the twitching muscle, cracked the bone, and gone down to the very marrow of the artist-
And THAT is a RARE and PRECIOUS thing.
I know that was a bit of a ramble, but even though I’ve read the book a half dozen times, I still don’t have my head around it. It’s like reading Carlos Castaneda, or like the Anti-Jonathan Livingston Seagull. (It’s almost The Holy Mountain of graphic novels, if H. P. Lovecraft channelling Oscar Wilde had scripted Jodorowsky‘s film.) It’s venom on a curved blade, and dandyism, and fear, and surrender and transcendence- and it is literally palpable.
Buy it. Read it. You’ll likely hate it. And like strong medicine, that should tell you something- this is good for you. Read it again. One day a light bulb will click- and you’ll THANK him.
Coming this Spring:
Meditation, prayer, fasting- whatever it takes.
Start getting ready.