The Stars We Are : Charles Glaubitz’ “Once Upon A Time In Tijuana” #1


There’s a very certain thing that Charles Glaubitz does that’s utterly unique to his work, which is to say : he picks up the “New Seed” or “Children Of The Monolith” concept introduced by Jack Kirby in the pages of his 2001 : A Space Odyssey series, filters it through a decidedly Mexican cultural lens, adds in plenty of inspired touches of his own creation, then goes all-out to make sure it’s printed and presented in the highest quality manner possible. The end result? Comics that are — quite literally — out of this world.

If there’s one potential “knock” against Glaubitz, though, I suppose it could be that his work tends to tread fairly similar thematic and conceptual ground, but sheesh — who are we kidding? The cosmos is this guy’s playground, and last I checked, that’s a pretty big place that contains within it any number of stories to be told, and one of those stories — perhaps the most remarkable in Glaubitz’ ouevre to date — is currently playing out in the pages of his self-published series Once Upon A Time In Tijuana. And it’s my distinct pleasure to report to you that this is both a more personal take on the artist’s well-established concerns/concepts and the culmination of everything he’s been working toward these past several years all in one go.

Admittedly, I’ve only read the first issue, and apparently three of them are now available, so I don’t have a full “sample size” to base my review/reaction upon, but holy shit if #1 didn’t blow me away sufficiently to sit down and write about it just on its own merits. Needless to say it’s gorgeous, with each generously-proportioned page filled to bursting and beyond with art that is by turns hyper-realistic, intuitively literate, and altogether visionary in both approach and execution — calling it “neo-psychedelic” seems fair enough in a pinch, but at the same time still far too limited. This is a Cinco De Mayo celebration splashed out across the heavens as seen and recorded by somebody who’s ingested a downright heroic quantity of hallucinogens before doing their best to commemorate their impressions on paper. Birth, death, rebirth — even absent words, the art in this comic alone would be enough to tell you that we’re grappling with the entire spectrum of all of existence (and non-existence) here.

So, like, what’s it really about — as in, specifically? Well, again we have to start with the “New Seed” or “Star Seed” premise, only this one’s time may have come and gone — or could very well be in the process of starting over. As a child falls from the sky ( keep in mind, please, that up and down are more metaphorical than physical in this comic) he reflects back on his life, even his embryonic pre-life, in somewhat linear fashion, but given that linearity is out the window (I mean, how do you explain a kid who’s apparently led a lengthy existence?), I’m probably just equating the idea of a reasonably straight line with the concept of chronological “order” because I’m a simple, three-dimensional being and Glaubitz’ imagination extends at least into the fourth dimension, but anyway — yeah, this is a reminiscence, rooted in visual metaphor borrowed from the animal kingdom, the end result being “realistic” text and “surrealistic” imagery working in juxtaposition to create something both undeniably true and altogether fantastic. And it’s a journey that takes us, by issue’s end, to Tijuana. Almost.

Don’t anchor yourself too firmly to dull consensus “reality” if you want to get the most from this book, obviously, but hey — that’s just good advice in general, is it not? In the same way that “don’t pass on a Charles Glaubitz” comic is, I suppose. After all, where else are you really gonna find stuff like this? Scale and scope usually go hand in hand, to the point that the intellectually lazy use the terms interchangeably, but here we have an individual story that’s small in scale with a scope that’s nearly infinite — and, at the risk of sounding too grandiose for my own good, that strikes me as a pretty accurate representation of human life in general. I mean, each of us does contain universes within ourselves, right?

Wiser minds than I have certainly said that for ages now, so who am I to argue? I don’t know a ton about matters metaphysical, anyway — but I like to think that I do know comics. And this is an inarguably inspired one indeed.

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All three issues of Once Upon A Time In Tijuana are available for $15.00 each from Rat Nest Sticker Co. at https://www.ratneststickerco.com/shop

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

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