One of the highlights of Autoptic 2018 for yours truly was making the acquaintance of Minneapolis’ own Peter Faecke, who is producing some of the most distinctive and classification-destroying minis around — and doing it just a few blocks from my own house? Yeah, it’s a small world and all that, but the coolest thing about Faecke’s work is that it’s proof positive that he actually lives on a different world than most of us altogether, one where the rules and conventions of sequential storytelling aren’t so much subverted as they are both adhered to and utterly dispensed with simultaneously.
Before you jump all over me for saying something so blatantly contradictory on its face, relax — I know that last sentence makes no fucking sense whatsoever. But then, neither does much of what’s on offer in Faecke’s comics — yet that doesn’t mean they don’t all work within the confines of a hermetically-sealed framework all their own, one that pays keen attention to any number of eras in the medium’s past, but does so without a hint of rose tint in its nostalgia or even so much as an ounce (thank God) of irony. Faecke’s a living blender of sorts, and every influence that makes its way into his subconscious ends up chopped up, mixed together, and fully reconstituted into something altogether different, something instantly familiar and wholly unrecognizable, in equal measure and at the same time. And yeah, I know — I’m doing that “contradiction thing” again. Fuck it, let’s just talk about some of Facke’s books:
Major Bummer #1 may be the most “accessible” thing under our metaphorical microscope in this column, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily prepared for it. Think Ben Marra doing Rambo or G.I. Joe on three tabs of bad acid and no sleep for a week and you might be coming close. The protagonist of this story is such a caricature that he passes “Go,” collects his $200, and ends up almost becoming a sympathetic figure. He fights a Nazi werewolf and is set up to fail, and get killed, by — yup, you already know it — our own government. Heavy-handed beyond redemption entirely by design, offset-printed in eye-straining gradations of red and black that intrinsically feel sleazy and wrong, this is the definition of “beneath the underground” stuff. Plus, it’s funny as shit. Rick Altergott tried something tonally quite similar to this with his hysterical “Team America!” strip way back in Doofus #1 — and this may actually top that. Five bucks is a little steep price-wise for a slim mini, sure, but the production values here — hat-tip to Paul Lyons of Hidden Fortress Press — are amazing, and so is the work itself, as we’ve already established. We’re in “buy it or die” territory here, people.
Way on the other end of the spectrum we’ve got Hairguy 2, which is Faecke at his most unfiltered and, just maybe, unglued. The whole thing has the feel of a screen-printed high school homemade comic from hell, the kind of thing the kid everybody says might actually be crazy or dangerous comes up with in art class while everyone else is trying to do something “important.” An alarm clock duck flies to work at our titular character’s home, who either is literally made of hair, or else is simply covered in so much of it that he may as well be. Then he helps Hairguy get himself groomed and ready to go to the comic book store. Hairguy shops at Big Brain. I used to, as well. And, like Hairguy, I miss it like crazy, too. I assume a Hairguy 1 must exist somewhere. I’d like to get my hands on it. This one retails for seven bucks — again, a little steep. Again, totally worth it. Killer artistic choice — numbering each panel like the earliest Golden Age books.
While we’re talking Golden Age, The Hand Of Misery #1 takes a couple of lower-rung characters from that era that have lapsed into PD, Nightmare and Sleepy, and transposes them into a Bronze Age Marvel setting to take on Faecke’s cosmic villainess Misery. Skirting some of the same territory as the love-it-or-hate-it line of All-Time Comics from Fantagraphics, this takes the part-spoof/part-homage tone that Josh Bayer has established in those books to interesting new extremes, yet in the end feels much more like love letter than piss-take. The absurdity is called attention to overtly from the outset with an inside front cover reproduction of a Fletcher Hanks panel, but while said old-school absurdity is poked (and prodded), it’s never poked fun at by Faecke with anything less than appreciation, maybe even love, in his heart — even when he’s laying conventions bare (hell, threadbare) in no uncertain terms. Also, you ain’t lived until you’ve seen Faecke’s take on a double-page “Kirby Collage.” All this, plus full color inside and out, for five bucks? You’re not doing anything so important right now that you couldn’t be ordering up this comic instead.
When I was talking with Pete, I mentioned the name Mack White, and I was floored that he’d never heard of him, because the last stop on our tour this week, Pardners, feels — and even looks — like the answer to the question : “what if Mack White did an early draft of Brokeback Mountain in, say, 1992?” Swear to God, the flavor of “Weird Texas” hasn’t been captured this well by anybody since White (or maybe Michael Dougan), but for all I know Pete’s never even been there while Mack is native Texan to the core. In any case, this comic’s as painfully obvious as it is hilarious, as we follow the saga of two infamous gunslingers who finally meet face to face only to suffer from — mutual performance anxiety? Guns as dicks or vice-versa is the oldest analogy on the books, yeah, but it can still be damn funny. A total out-of-left field comic for Faecke in that it’s pretty simple surface-level comedy, but there’s sorta something so oddly endearing about these two rivals/lovers that it’s capable of making even the most bitter cynic say “awwwww.” Good value for money again at four dollars.
So, yeah — now you know what my neighbor is up to. Making some seriously idiosyncratic comics that never fail to bewilder, bemuse and, most importantly of all, surprise. I’m hoping he’ll have something new to unleash upon the world before the year is out, and I’m hoping he’ll hop down and slip a copy into my mailbox when it’s ready. The rest of you, though, should check out his Storenvy site for these books, plus a whole bunch of others. Here’s a link :http://thestinkhole.storenvy.com/products
Next week we’ll be taking a look at new stuff from November Garcia and Ines Estrada! See you here in seven days!