I tweeted something after reading Joakim Drescher’s Motel Universe that sums up my feelings about the book (just released as a full-color hardcover by Secret Acres after an earlier, riso-printed edition from Terry Bleu sold out) well within that site’s character limit : “Like Mark Beyer on four hits of bad acid with his non-drawing hand stuck in a blender.”
I stand by that statement fully but, never being a master of brevity, felt the work deserved more detailed, focused comment than my glib-but-glowing “review” provided. And so here we are. And I’m about to tell you why your life is well and truly empty without this comic on your shelf.
Simply put, this shit’s unhinged. Drescher is one of those cartoonists whose stream of consciousness runs in such interesting directions at such breakneck speed that it’s literally impossible to keep up with him — even as everything he comes up flows together seamlessly and even, believe it or not, makes a deeply intuitive type of sense. I don’t pretend to know how that works, mind you — I’m only here to tell you that “work” it most assuredly does.
Pursued for their valuable pelts by basically every other species (of which we meet quite a few) in the cosmos, a father and daughter from the fugitive race known as “The Skins” flee for their lives with little hope of finding either a safe haven or their family’s missing members. After all, when a bunch of mercenary bipedal dogs all named “Jeff” are on your tail, how much chance have you really got?
I mentioned Mark Beyer already, but the stylistic continuum here embraces choice bits and pieces from a number of other cartoonists, among them Jesse Jacobs, George Wylesol, the ubiquitous Gary Panter, and — perhaps most intriguingly — Fletcher Hanks. The end result looks and, most importantly, feels different to all of these luminaries, but Drescher is justifiably confident enough in his own abilities to wear his influences proudly on his sleeve rather than employing obvious sleight-of-hand distractions/deviations designed to do nothing but make himself look “original” — something that no artist anywhere on the planet truly is.
Which doesn’t, of course, mean that the fruits of Drecher’s labor feel like a retread in any way, shape, or form — quite the contrary. And this is where that metaphorical “blender” enters the picture.
Drescher’s mind works works much like one, you see. It takes in everyone and everything we mentioned — plus some out-of-left-field elements like the ghost of Caligula and relevant “real world” analogues like real estate mogul/asshole Barton Flump (I trust I needn’t elaborate) — breaks them into a million tiny kaleidoscopic pieces, shakes the living shit out of them, dumps them into the slicer-and-dicer, sets it on “high,” and stands back and gets out of his own way as things transform, transmogrify, and eventually coalesce into something hitherto unseen and, frankly, unimagined.
Perhaps most remarkably, though, given all this 10,000-light-years-per-second stuff going on, the entire book follows a clear linear through-line in terms of its narrative — but this adherence to convention doesn’t limit the scope or the ambition of the work itself, the end result instead being a deceptively accessible comic that nevertheless makes no compromises in terms of how it realizes and communicates its breathtakingly idiosyncratic vision.
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