My Comics Journal column about Ted McKeever’s Eddy Current is live! See how Eddy fits into the 1985-87 Event. Also, I couldn’t help myself, but I go into a fun tangent on the portrayal of cities in superhero comics. Here’s a taste:
As required by superhero conventions, Eddy lives in a fictional city with a ridiculous name: Chad. The city resembles New York, especially the New York of the 80’s: grimy, with underfunded infrastructure, populated by lowlives and criminals, and loomed-over by gleaming towers of the ultra wealthy ruling elites. Chad is Metropolis and Gotham in one. This is where McKeever really shines. His keen eye really brings the city to life. He finds moments of stillness and quiet beauty in studied depictions of abandoned warehouses, gas stations, desolate alleys, and diners. Clean lines, attention to detail, exquisite framing. These moments make Eddy stand out from other comics of the Event.
For a while now I’ve had the idea that something unusual happened in American comics between 1985 and 1987. The period was marked by a unique set of circumstances that encouraged a new level of seriousness about comics as an art form. Comics from this short timespan are something else. The direct market was booming. Marvel and DC were joined by a legion of smaller publishers which released comics in a dizzying array of genres and art styles. Foreign comics became much more available through European graphic novels, and they were joined by some of the first instances of serialized manga, leading to an exuberant experimentation and cross pollination. Beyond the now classic (and thoroughly analyzed) Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns, many of the comics from this period are marked by thematic and formal ambition. The roots of this moment stretch back to the late ’70s and early ’80s but it seems to reach apotheosis precisely during this short span. Something happened in comics between 1985 and 1987. Let’s call that something the Event. The Event influenced comics for decades…
My next column is on Ted McKeever’s Eddy Current. Here’s a little preview:
Gritty, deliberately grotesque, messy, and challenging; these days you don’t see comics like Eddy Current. Many comics from the time of the Event had this quality. It was a deliberate distancing from the dominant styles established between the 50’s and 70’s. the tight, abstract, dynamic pulp modernism (Kirby), and the elongated slickness of pulp neorealism (Neal Adams). In the 80’s, McKeever—along with his peers from that era, Kevin O’Neil, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kyle Baker, Howard Chaykin, Keith Giffen, and others—were developing new stylistic innovations that mapped closely to what was going on elsewhere in culture and art: postmodernism.
For more you’ll have to wait until the column is live. I’ll post a link when it’s live. In the meantime enjoy some of the images from the book. These ended up unused in the column, but all are great examples of Eddy Current‘s gritty urban nightmare lovingly depicted by McKeever.
Gary Panter has been very visible lately thanks to a couple of recent awe-inspiringbooks. Gary has renaissance-man-like abilities as a painter, cartoonist, TV art director, musician, light manipulator, etc. I’m sure this list of his talents is not exhaustive. I’m not going to add much to that list… except ‘postmodern conceptualist.’
I just received the new Jimbo mini-comic from Picturebox. It’s short, but full of deadpan funny non-sequiturs and great drawing. It’s another Gary Panter quality product. It contains one image-concept that encapsulates the Panter sensibility: Jimbo, cruising around on a Segway chariot! A Segway chariot! This post-apocalyptic vehicular imagination rivals Mad Max! It slices right through the Gordian Knot of late-capitalist, apocalyptic imagination: modern/ancient, primitive/advanced, peaceful/war-like, banal/sublime, etc.
In moments like this, I’m tempted to view Gary Panter as an unsung postmodern conceptualist masquerading as a cartoonist. I mean that in the best possible way! In any case, it’s time to dig out Gary’s Jimbo, a post-apocalyptic Gesamtkunstwerk, for a closer read.