A curious and idiosyncratic exercise in collage that predates vaguely similar works by Samplerman by nearly two decades, Mark Liberte’s Explosive Comic remained mothballed after its production and assemblage in 2001 for reasons I really can’t fathom — then briefly popped its head up above ground to see publication via Swimmers Group in 2017 before disappearing again — and has now briefly re-emerged in 2020 thanks to John Porcellino. As someone once said, “what a long, strange trip it’s been —”
That being said, you know that you’re in “grab it while you can” territory with this one, and now it’s incumbent upon me to tell you why you should. Which, all things considered, is a pretty easy gig, because the work speaks for itself.
Arranged and assembled one panel at a time, the intention behind Laliberte’s meticulous and no doubt time-consuming labors is clear from the outset : to level a two-dimensional “sonic boom” on readers that lays bare the charms, absurdities, and frankly lousy sexual politics of comics specifically, and male-oriented action/adventure nonsense in general, not by means of deconstruction — but by means of reconstruction. That’s an easy enough subject for satire, sure, but there’s something both more obvious and subtle going on here — Laliberte’s makeshift and entirely, bizarrely, coherent narrative privileges the over the top, the bombastic, the boisterous in service of the actions portrayed/conveyed, sure, but also in service of examining their impact, both on the page and off. That’s an ambitious goal, but it’s never one that feels belabored — in fact, it’s pretty hard not to see that the artist clearly had fun putting this together, and to not enjoy reading and examining its contents for yourself.
Utilizing only scissors, glue, and “found” imagery, Laliberte has constructed a “comic” that makes about as much “sense” as any of those whose images were appropriated for his purposes, a non-stop series of violent escapades that lays bare the so-called “male gaze” not only in terms of its conception of the opposite sex, but its conception of the larger world — a proving ground where the biggest, baddest, and brashest comes out on top, dies trying, or both, and one where anyone with a dick might find himself de facto “king” of a bombed-out wasteland that’s come into being by sheer dint of his will to power. “That’s pretty fucked up” is a natural enough reaction to this inherently zero-sum game — but there ain’t much denying that we’re still very much living in a world where that attitude holds sway. Why not have a laugh at the sheer size and scope of its insanity and audacity?
Okay, fair enough, there’s nothing actually funny about it — in fact, it’s some seriously tragic shit — but seeing it propagandized down to a juvenile readership in such stark terms as they’re laid out here is pretty, well, amazing. This has all been hiding in plain sight for years, of course, but the only thing more transparent than the male power fantasy itself is its utter ridiculousness. Rendered in terms that are (probably) accidentally poetic, the very idea of why this paradigm has even taken hold in the first place becomes a worthy subject of study all over again, in way that’s actually makes both it and its implications, dare I say it, fun to consider.
That’s always the case with life, though, is it not? The most batshit crazy stuff is taken as a given — indeed, the most batshit crazy stuff is that which we build our societies around. Disagree with me and I promise you that you’ve signed your own death warrant.
Explosive Comic is available for $8.00 from John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half distro at https://www.spitandahalf.com/product/explosive-comic-by-mark-laliberte/
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