I did this last year, so I’m doing it again : in an effort to gin up interest in my Patreon site, I’m posting a selection of reviews that ran on there originally with the brazen goal being to get you, dear reader, to part with a buck (or more, if you wish) per month so that yours truly can find some level of intellectual justification for the sheer amount of time I put into cranking out so much comics criticism. Really, anything helps and is much appreciated. Next up, a fantastic book that Floating World Comics released in 2019 and seems to have largely floated under the radar —
Strictly speaking, there’s no reason that pioneering underground cartoonist, musician, and SOV filmmaker Carlos Gonzales isn’t on the so-called “A list” of contemporary artistic talents. I mean, whatever you’re looking for — fiercely-realized visions, a legitimately singular drawing style, a core set of existential concerns, an absolutely original “voice” — he’s got it. And furthermore, he’s had it for a long time. In fact, this guy’s work has inspired a number of others who have cited him as one of their favorite cartoonists of all time. Hell, no less a top-tier talent than Anya Davidson recently remarked to me that Gonzalez’ work is what convinced her that it would be possible for someone of her sensibilities to even make comics in the first place — and yet, aside from a small but committed cadre of exceptionally loyal fans who will gladly follow wherever he leads, he remains something of an unknown quantity to not just the larger comics-reading public, but even to the considerably smaller indie comics-reading public.
I think that’s largely due to the fact that he’s committed to his own artistic independence to a degree that’s certainly admirable, but not likely to garner him a ton of attention. He’s always been a prolific self-publisher, but only occasionally pops his head above water, so to speak, to make his presence known to the wider world, such as with his strip in Kramers Ergot 6, and that pattern holds true with his other creative endeavors : he distributes the music of his largely one-man project, Russian Tsarlag, via mail-order cassettes, and his “films” are, to my knowledge, only available on homemade VHS tapes. His longest comic to date, the 500-page Slime Freak, is strictly a “good luck if you can find it” item, and the same is true of his newest ongoing series, Everglide. In other words, he’s underground by both default (there’s nothing remotely “commercial’ about any of this stuff, trust me) and, crucially, by choice.
Which certainly isn’t the case, of course — making comics is never easy, but sleight of hand is a powerful weapon for any cartoonist to employ. For Gonzales, that ethos carries over into his artwork, as well, which gives off all the hallmarks of being “naive” art, maybe even “outsider” art, but underpinning it all is the distinct imprimatur of a guy who knows exactly what he’s doing. His sparse and economic linework, austere backgrounds, privileging of figures in profile, and insertion of frankly inexplicable collage elements all coalesce to form a unique and entirely apropos visual language no one else has ever thought of before or should ever attempt to mimic — this is a story that really only works with this kind of art, and on the other side of the coin, this is art that just as surely only works for telling this kind of story.
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