First impressions carry a lot of weight. They force us to generate inferences about the quality of the person or thing we encounter, and that perception lingers until powerfully proven otherwise. Therefore it takes a lot of audacity to begin anything with the phrase, “God, this is dull.” Roman Muradov is that audacious.
Roman Muradov's Picnic Ruined is, in the words of its creator, “56 washy pages of me circa 2011 wandering around and talking to myself about fiction & autobiography, memories & re-creation, prepuces & car numbers, futility & bellensebastians, etc...” What we have though, in reality, is a rumination about one of the larger artistic questions: How does one re-create a singular experience in a way that conveys it to a greater audience?
Another question it raises is why don't more things have foreskins, but that is secondary to the main thematic thrust.
Picnic Ruined is a slightly snarky, ironically pretentious, self-aware full-press rumination of the role of the artist and the nature of art itself. In an amusingly self-deprecating fashion, Muradov casts himself as the creator whose affected mannerisms run the gamut of owl-frame glasses, a shaggy mop top, a long coat, and a flowing stripped scarf. As this hero wanders through the limits of his world, he comments on the efficacy of art and his role as the creator. The idea of re-creating experience is paramount in his mind, which he calls “an endeavor fundamentally hopeless, yet hopefully charming in its hopelessness.”
“Colfax Avenue is Denver's main throughfare, running close to thirty miles east-west through Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, and Golden. Playboy Magazine once called Colfax 'The longest, wickedest street in America.'” This is the backdrop for Karl Christian Krumpholz's 30 Miles of Crazy, a long-running webcomic that has finally been collected by Drunken Tiki Comics. While ostensibly a series of (mostly) one-page shorts about what defines place and what can happen to people, it's also about notions of family and, more importantly, about the concept of home.
Many of the stories Krumpholz captures in his comics take place in various bars along Colfax Avenue and present a voyeuristic view of some of the weirder, damaged, drunken, or flat-out crazy folk who inhabit them. Often, his comics begin with someone saying something like, “A Colfax story? Yeah, I have one.” But interspersed among these tales of depravity and drunkenness, Krumpholz includes these little moments of autobiography, celebrations of place, and attempts at understanding his relationship with the world around him.
I could easily see a lazy critic making the argument that a book like this teeters on the edge of sensationalism – that Krumpholz is holding up wreckage for ridicule – and then castigating 30 Miles of Crazy as capitalizing on the misery of others. But to make this argument misses the heart of what Krumpholz does with his art.
John and Luke Holden's Detrimental Information defies easy categorization. It's not comics. It's not prose, nor is it poetry. It's not pretty in the slightest. What it is, is something bizarre and off-putting, something scrawled and ugly, something so displacing that, as you read through its 312 pages, you begin to lose your esthetic and flow into theirs. By the end of the book, you begin to understand what the Holdens are doing, you understand character, and through this understanding you see the beauty in its vileness.
According to publishers 2D Cloud, Detrimental Information is collection of a zine series, 13 years of it in fact, and is “an epic collection of rude and crude comics about the Midwest; its winters, family, mental illness, sex education, cigarettes and strip poker.” Calling it “comics” though, stretches the label. This is not a sequential narrative. More often than not, the art featured on each page has little if nothing to do with the story being told. It serves no other purpose than to set a tone, arouse a mood, put you off focus in some manner from the thrust of the writing.
a waterfall by the Mill there on top of his and drawing the eye notes
plucked leading to red curtains that shiver light vomits into
darkened rooms filled with little coconuts like a wave no Lipstick
Smear or Mascara Rivulets undulating each strand Wisp Thick crowning
one-armed defining our wide open pupils knowing perfectly placed
the conversations of his combs gritted through their teeth
as if worn by forces on the agate and sapphire of Missoula, Montana
sculpted by the wind and the rain into a shape that denies our
Physics made black like a strong cup of coffee a little present to
ourselves like Christmas.
brushes hold hostages to negotiate some sense of truce or gather
their loins in revenge.
full Carnal execution Styled against rot and lurid and bestial and
our sex in a one-eyed jack in defiance reminding us that these things
Define and make deals with the Icelandic or fill the plates with
mounds of donuts at the crime scene no invitation to love.
of shampoo conditioner products tossed about on the tile of
florescent lit bathroom floors are really full of Myna Bird blood.
cold chattering in the shadow that it casts clinging to others who
will beat us with bats or hide drugs in our gas tanks we are its twin
peak though As the darkness is always darkest inside
is your barber, wrapped up so in plastic, washed up on shore?