Never Forget — As If You Could : Garrett Young’s “Sketch Zine 2020”

Don’t let the blank cover fool you — the images contained inside Garrett Young’s Sketch Zine 2020 are rich, inky, and brain-searingly indelible. And besides, this particular cover’s only blank because Young hasn’t adorned it with one of the individual drawings he puts on them, one of the perks of self-publishing for both creator and consumer. My own copy features a young woman looking both distant and possessed with unknowable intent simultaneously — but my own copy really isn’t what’s important here.

Rather, we’re here to talk about the myriad glimpses at either a slightly pre- or slightly post-fallen world that Young serves up in the pages of this ‘zine, a cornucopia of personages and, occasionally, creatures for whom vacuous amorality appears to be a default mindset — or perhaps, even more chillingly, an aspiration. Some shit haunts your dreams, sure, but some shit can’t even be bothered to go to the effort required to do so, and that’s the truly frightening shit right there. Imagine someone whose entire affect screams “I’d destroy you with a glance, but you’re not even on my radar screen” and you’re imagining the kind person Young absolutely excels at drawing.

Not that he is, in any way, shape, or form, the proverbial one-trick pony — just look at the variety of expression conveyed on the pages above — but very often Young’s illustrations seem to drift toward subjects for whom something is clearly missing, and very often among that very often what’s missing would appear to be a fully-functioning conscience. Hell, sometimes even a partially-functioning conscience is a tough thing to discern among this crowd. The eyes usually have it (or not), as the saying goes, so do yourself a favor as you peruse the contents of this modest-yet-remarkable little book — pay close attention to them, and feel the way in which they look back at you, look down on you, look through you, frequently even look right past you. Then you’ll likely understand why Young has emerged as one of the most in-demand artists in the small-yet-robust field of self-published horror (or, at the very least, horror-themed) comics.

There couldn’t have been a “better” year to reach both within and without to channel darkness than 2020, of course — it was all around us in ways subtle and decidedly less so, and who didn’t fall victim to internalizing some of that zeitgeist energy themselves? — but rather than trying to stave it off, as many artists did, or channel how it feels to be living under its regime, as even more artists did, Young appears to have taken a different, riskier, and dare I say fundamentally more honest path : he just rolled with it. Some of his faces and figures are clearly from other times, places, or even realities, but don’t let those superficialities fool you : this is art suffused with the ethos and imprimatur of 2020 in every line. It’s as inescapable as was the psychic pressure of the year itself.

Don’t, however, take that to mean this publication doesn’t run its own emotional gamut, and that some of it isn’t even downright fun, dare I say maybe borderline playful — particularly a number of the lush drawings in the impressive color insert section in the middle — but it’s all in service to an overall theme, mood, and nonverbal statement of intent, one that is only strengthened by the occasional side-step, transgression, or sigh of relief . “Pretend all you want,” Young’s imagery tells us, “the abyss is still here waiting — and growing.”

Nostalgia being the most pernicious drug of all, there will come a time when even this darkest and most desperate of years is seen through sickeningly rose-tinted lenses and added to the pile of “good old days” that we all know were anything but. When that wave of mass mental illness arrives, however, Young’s ‘zine will serve as a powerful reminder of two things : that last year was every bit as harrowing as it seemed, and that creativity thrived only when it refused to flinch.

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Sketch Zine 2020 is available for $5.00 from Garrett Young’s storenvy site at https://doctopmaru.storenvy.com/collections/1817462-zines/products/31433452-sketch-zine-2020

Review wrist check – Zodiac “Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression,” in the modern classic “Blackout Edition.” Probably my most-worn timepiece of 2020. Just a coincidence?

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