One of the reasons I keep this blog going, despite having a fair number of other writing commitments and a distinct lack of time, is that around here I can write about whatever I want. And while I highly doubt that any cartoonist expects that they’ll get more than a 75- or 100-word “capsule” review for a 10-page mini they’ve made that sells for two bucks, reviewing stuff that nobody expects to see full-length reviews for, including the book’s creator, is one of those “whatever I want” things that I love doing. And you know what? A lot of those things nobody else is gonna review actually offer a fair amount to discuss and dissect.
All of which brings us to Scribbles #2, the latest (I think, at any rate) self-published mini from Bay Area “ink stud” Cameron Forsley, this time flying as a solo act without a story assist from brother Christopher, his frequent collaborator. It’s a short (duh), punchy read, no question about that, but there’s a hell of a lot to look at here, and the intensity with which Forsley fills up a panel from top to bottom and side to side, well — it’s really something to see.
On those occasions when these largely-humorous strips do squeeze a bit of negative space in for visually logical reasons it’s always notable — and in no way mitigates the overall effect of a toothpaste tube squeezed right to the point of overflowing. And the giddy sensory overload vibe transmitted to the optic nerve via Forsley’s hyper-detailing , meticulous cross-hatching, rich shading, and comical figure drawings carries over in the scripting, as well, sparse as it is by necessity (there not being a ton of room for word balloons — but even the ones that are present are exaggerated in size and scope, literally larger-than-life). Old wizard Mr. Do, the delightfully oblivious Glow Worm, and even the worked-to-death cartoonist on the back cover either say very little or nothing at all, but still their expressions are almost too large for their bodies to contain — yes, even if they’re a skeleton. None of which makes literal sense, I admit, but when you’re looking at it? I’ll be damned if it doesn’t.
Now, as you may have gathered, there’s a pretty heavy old-school underground “thing” going on here, but that’s more a stylistic evocation that it is a substantive one. In point of fact, the stories here — rapid-fire as they are — belie a pretty damn modern sensibility, and not just because they don’t throw a naked woman in every page or two. Rather, their pacing and flow are entirely contemporary, secure in the knowledge that the best way to get a short job done is to let the pictures do the talking, and it’s this blend of sensibilities both past and present that gives Forsley’s comics an extra level of smarts that lets you know that this guy knows exactly what he’s doing.
Fairly obvious sexual metaphors abound — as the page above makes plain as day — but it’s in no way belabored, perhaps because the art itself so clearly is. When it takes a certain amount of time to process everything visually, it’s easier to hide things in plain sight — even when you’re not, in fact, hiding them — and by making the entirely correct assumption that you’re going to want to soak up all the agonizingly-delineated “otherness” of the worlds he creates, Forsley is showing not only confidence in his own abilities, but in your well-developed acuity as a reader. There’s an old saying about “leaving it all on the page,” and this is a cartoonist who does that on every single page.
Admittedly, any given issue of Tat Rat (look right there! It’s the cover for the newest one from last year!), which he does with his aforementioned brother, might be the best place to really familiarize yourself with what we’ll call “The Forsley Experience,” but if you want to get your feet a little wet before diving all the way in, this mini offers a good sample of what you can expect. And if you’re a veteran Forsley reader? It’s absolutely essential.
Scribbles #2 is available for $2.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/scribbles2.html
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