There’s no nice way to put it, but deep in our hearts we all know it to be true : when we’re dead, we’re fucking worm food. We’ve got entire belief systems centered on convincing us that’s not the case, of course, and selling life after death is a multi-billion-dollar industry, but ask the most devout Christian/Muslim/Jew/Hindu/whatever, in their most sincere moment, whether or not their faith is any sort of guarantee, and they’ll admit it’s not — and that they just sorta hope they’re right.
Now, whether or not there’s a “God” is another question, and probably one you’re not interested in knowing my opinion on, but fortunately we’re not here to talk about my conception of what the creator of the universe is or isn’t like, may or may not be, etc. — nor how he/she/it runs this whole “afterlife” thing — we’re here to talk about Alex Graham’s, and as you’d no doubt expect if you’re familiar with her work, she’s got some interesting things to say on these subjects in her newly-released comics ‘zine, Going To Heaven.
First, though, we need to take a look at Graham’s view of — the future?
Hedonism is the order of the day a few short decades from now as she sees things, but even in a world of rampant decadence, Yoboy Gumgorba (don’t ask me where she gets these names) stands out for being willing and eager to, as Frank Booth from Blue Velvet would have it, “fuck anything that moves” — but fucking the wrong guy’s wife gets him stabbed to death, whereupon a bored God decides to allow him entrance through the pearly gates despite being the ultimate sinner, solely for the purpose of shaking things up in the dull and stodgy great beyond. And that Yoboy certainly does.
This is Graham’s second “sex comic” (the first being last year’s Thems), but rather than being a side-step or a stand-alone work (as was the case for the most recent — and best — issue of her ongoing Cosmic BE-ING series), this ties directly into the larger tapestry of what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, “The Angloid Universe,” not least because Graham’s stand-in (I think, at any rate) character of Angloid turns up in heaven, but because she — well, nah, that would be telling, and you really should read this comic for yourself.
There are no larger issues at play in this story as there are in much/most of Graham’s other works, which have taken aim at low-wage service employment, the phoniness of the “art scene,” the influence of outside forces on our daily lives, and the challenges posed by bipolar disorder (I think?), but that’s okay : her larger ouevre has always been character-driven, absurdist, and decidedly slapstick, as well, and those elements are all present and accounted for as Yoboy works his way up the afterlife’s sexual “food chain,” starting with the only stripper allowed in heaven and eventually graduating to getting a blowjob from — nah, again, that would be telling.
I’m at a loss, at this point, to compare Graham’s work to anyone else’s : her imagination is too unfettered, her id too directly unfiltered, to produce end results that fit into anything as dull and prosaic as a “category” of storytelling, but in terms of approach, if not style, she seems to be very much in a similar place creatively as Chester Brown was back during his Ed The Happy Clown Days, when he was just committing anything and everything that came into his mind onto the page, and letting the shape of his narrative organically form itself around that. In other words, there are very few, if any, more exciting (not to mention funny) cartoonists to be following than Graham right now, and the continued development and honing of her already-impressive skills as an illustrator is the icing on a bizarrely-formed, but undeniably delicious (and just as undeniably metaphorical, sorry) cake. She’s confident enough to trust in her impulses more or less completely at this point, and that makes for a future we should all be looking forward to, as well as a body of work in the present that we should all be grateful for. I truly hope she’s having the time of her life making this stuff, but I dunno, check this self-portrait out and you tell me —
And while you’re at it, check out Going To Heaven as soon as you’re able. Graham tells me that I’m only the second person to read this comic (my guess is that Tom Van Deusen was the first), but she’ll have copies for sale at Short Run in Seattle this weekend and hopefully it’ll be available on her website, or via our mutual friend Austin English’s Domino Books distro outfit, shortly thereafter. Contact her directly if you want a copy now — and at a mere $7.00 for 40 magazine-sized pages with full-color covers, trust me, you do. So quit reading this (it’s over anyway) and go on over to http://alexngraham.com/