Science Fiction, Music, Comics. The Secret Origin of Comics Criticism.

nostalgia journal comics journal

Cross-contamination

I stumbled on the following a while ago on Blissblog:

“Along with the many cross-contaminations between rock-etc and s.f., one thing that Heller’s book reminded me of was that many of the very earliest rock criticism publications were started by people who had previously done science fiction fanzines.
 
Intensely self-reflexive fields, rock criticism and science fiction share a strange mix of inferiority and superiority complexes. Painfully aware of their marginal position vis-à-vis “proper” journalism and “respectable” literature, they nonetheless believe that they are doing the Most Crucial Writing of Our Time. I can remember from my own days as an adolescent s.f. fanatic being struck by the s.f. writer’s culture of workshops and conventions – by how the writers loved to write essays defining s.f. as a genre, proclaiming its unique contribution to literature. There were even a few volumes of essays by s.f. writers debating s.f. that I remember reading.

Simon Reynolds | Blissblog

This. This exactly describes me during High School. Except replace music with comics. I took pains to let everyone know that comics were the most important thing. I’m sure it was very annoying. Whenever I had to write essays about books in English class, I tried to convince my teachers to let me write about X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and whatever else I was reading at that time. Most of the time I was shut down, but a few teachers indulged as long as I could ‘prove’ to them that comics weren’t just kid’s stuff. Actually that was crucial. It challenged me to look at comics somewhat differently, and probably led to my actively seeking out better comics to impress my teachers.

Every Page a Painting

Kid Eternity by Grant Morrison and Duncan Fegredo

I have a pretty intense memory of showing Kid Eternity to my teacher. This is the Grant Morrison & Duncan Fegredo 90’s revamp with fully painted art. I remember challenging my teacher to look closely at the art. “It’s all painted” I’d say. “EVERY page is a full painting! Imagine if Michaelangelo had to paint the Sistine Chapel, over and over again, and tell the whole story in that famous painting.” I was definitely already a Science Fiction fan at this point. In Poland, I’d collected the magazine Fantasyka, which serialized sci-fi novels and comics. In the US, I read whatever sci-fi my library had on hand. Harry Harrison, Asimov, Pohl, Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Heinlein, Lem, etc.

Sub-Genre of Utopia

To speculate wildly here… if we follow Fredrick Jameson’s assertion from Archaeologies of the Future, and think of Science Fiction as a sub-genre of the utopian novel (not the other way around), then sci-fi retains a utopian imaginary somewhere underneath all of the technological dress up. Sci-fi at it’s core imagines and extrapolates different worlds/futures based on different customs, different technologies, different environments (planets), etc. It’s easy to imagine young brains blown to bits by science fictional speculations.

I don’t think that I was consciously doing this at the time, but in retrospect, I must have been thinking about comics as some kind of major human innovation. The comics I was reading were not perfect, but I imagined a different future, where comics were the dominant literature. It’s a science fictional extrapolation. Take something small and insignificant from today, and imagine it as a dominant form in the future. Or at least, as something that has the capacity to become that.

Inventing a Future

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I imagine young Gary Groth in a similar mode. He takes over The Nostalgia Journal, a fantasy, sci-fi, comics, fanzine, and turns it into The Comics Journal, the most important magazine in the world. There was an inkling there already, a belligerent insistence on the importance of the medium. And all this without clear evidence for that importance, as The Comics Journal kept reminding us, while frequently berating the industry for failing to make great comics. It comes out of that same era. Sci-fi fanzines, pop/rock fan-zines, comics fanzines – popping up everywhere – creating new critical appreciation for debased art forms; art forms that were new and vital and popular. There was no rule book on how to write about these things. They had to invent it in real time. They were inventing the future in real time.

Democratizing Objects: A Discussion with Tom Kaczynski

Another fun interview, this time with Nick Hanover at The Comics Bulletin. We meander around a variety of topics: music, science-fiction, architecture, Quest for Fire, and much more. Here’s an exchange about the genesis of “100,000 Miles,” the lead story from Beta Testing The Apocalypse, and the story that was ultimately the genesis of the book itself:

CB: There’s a lot of flexibility in terms of perspective in your writing, too. For instance, “100,000 Miles” is mostly written from the perspective of a car.

TK: [laughs]

CB: It’s hard to describe to people, but that’s such a cool idea, it really worked. How do you get into the mind frame of something like that? How do you make yourself think like that? Because it worked perfectly, it had almost this semi-autistic bent, which made perfect sense to me for a vehicle.

TK: With that particular one, that story was based on the time I lived in DC. And I had this murderous commute, that was 45 minutes to an hour. I would just sit there in this commute and think about this stuff. It was kind of interesting, because you got to drive in the city, Washington D.C. itself, and then out into this corridor by Dulles International Airport, this sort of tech corridor that was out there. You’d drive through the suburbs and these communities and I wanted to create some kind of narrative about the city and its surroundings, just kind of an essay. So this journey in a car became the structure for that. The way it’s written, a lot of it is kind of not stolen, but influenced by a lot of architectural texts, and the way they write about these things. Some architects tend to be more imaginative than others and get metaphorical, or whatever. So that’s kind of the genesis for this thing.

It also has some process art, like this big splash page from “The New:”

 

Read the rest fo the interview here.

Best Totalitarian Pop Song

Kim Jong Il

I pilfered these videos from Graham Harman‘s blog. Graham is right, this is the best totalitarian pop song to emerge from an evil dictatorship.

I love both versions, but this second one opens up a Soviet sized nostalgia zone in my head. Even though I’ve never heard this song before, it contains all of the elements that I remember from my Communist childhood. The marching/military tempo, the upbeat/downbeat choral arrangements, it’s all there. All the notes this songs hits are familiar and mysterious at the same time.

It’s as if this material exists in a deep well somewhere in my soul; the building blocks jumbled up and suppressed deep within, only to occasionally manifest when I stumble on a YouTube memory. The best totalitarian pop song is already inside of me, aching to make itself known.

If anyone is interested, I wrote about my my favorite Soviet song here.

Blood Folke at Kitty Cat Club

blood folke by Tom Kaczynski

Dan Wieken‘s metal band, Blood Folke (pictured above), played at the Kitty Cat Klub in Minneapolis last night. Their epic folky doom-laden sound was the perfect antidote to the madness known as St. Patrick’s day.

The Night (pictured below) opened. I feel bad for opening bands I draw. The drawings I make of them tend be my warm ups… and result in a couple of awkward images.

The Night by Tom Kaczynski

A couple more drawings of the Kitty Cat Klub:

Kitty Cat Klub by Tom Kaczynski

La Mano: Second Annual Report Report

pink teeth

The La Mano Second Annual Report: Several local artists & cartoonists joined forces with a few great local bands. The result was pretty great and a lot of fun. My favorite part of the evening was the performance by Arctic Universe. It was a minimalist performance. In the darkness of the concert space, among shimmering cold-approaching-absolute-zero wave industrial synth-pop, a three-walled structure was erected, slowly methodically, deliberately… a flawed and flimsy shelter to protect against the immeasureable immensity of an unfeeling arctic universe. I kept imagining the performance as if it was drawn by Yuichi Yokoyama… it seemed strangely appropriate, in the best posible way.

The event also saw the debut of a new book from my publishing ‘label’ Uncivilized Books: The Petrified Catalogue by Dan Wieken. The book is now available for sale on the UB site. I think it turned out pretty great (if I do say so myself) mostly due to Dan’s amazing, macabre and hyper detailed drawings. Check it out. I will do a more detailed write-up about it in my next post.

Here are some pics from the event, and a few concert sketches:

camden, tunnelerleft: Camden, right: Tunneler presents shop class

pink teeth
Pink Teeth

arctic universe
Arctic Universe

Seated Heat

Saturday night I saw Seated Heat and Food Pyramid at the Hexagon Bar. They opened for Gay Beast… if I remember correctly, I didn’t stick around. I did manage a few sketches though:

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Sho tearing up the keyboards for Seated Heat

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left: Seated Heat. right: Food Pyramid

Lightning Bolt

Lightning Bolt played at the Triple Rock. Seawhores opened. Apparently Knife World was supposed to be there too, but I missed them. Knife World was also there and they were actually the band I drew along with Lightning Bolt. It was confusing… but, it was good. Here are some drawing from the show:

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left: seawhores knife world. right: lightning bolt


lightning bolt

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seawhores knife world

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lightning bolt