“Multiforce Shit” Is GOOD Shit

Culled from the pages of Providence’s legendary Paper Rodeo from 1995-2001, Fort Thunder alumnus Mat Brinkman’s Multiforce Shit is every bit the collection of curiosities one would expect, given that it’s an “odds and ends” compendium on its face — but who are we kidding here? The words “expect” and “Brinkman” don’t really belong in the same zip code together, much less the same sentence.

Italy’s Hollow Press — who recently issued a handsome, oversized hardcover collection of Brinkman’s Multiforce strips — were wise to go the completist route by assembling all this sidebar “shit” into this top-notch mini with production values to match the quality of its contents (archival quality cream-colored paper, heavy-duty cardstock covers with bronze-embossed exteriors covers and silver-embossed interiors), but this is no mere historical curiosity or relic of days gone by. That would be cool, but hardly essential, and I would submit that any assemblage of “prime era” Brinkman — even if it’s largely composed of quickly-dashed-off stuff — is very essential indeed.

Most of what we have herein falls somewhere in that nebulous and exciting nether-realm that exists somewhere between a sketch and a full-fledged drawing, with some homemade “ads” for Multiforce “proper” at the back, and the extra level of immediacy such “anything goes” material brings to the table both fleshes out and adds depth to our knowledge of Brinkman’s unique creative process at the height of his cartooning prowess — and, given that he was one of Fort Thunder’s unofficial “standard bearers,” we get a privileged look at the often-inspired flotsam and jetsam that was hovering around in the hermetically-sealed zeitgeist of that legendary collective’s heyday. If some of this feels a little bit familiar, then, it’s only because these cartoonists were laying down the gauntlet that other artists spent years attempting to pick up and run with, usually with wildly varying degrees of success. And hey — given that we have no idea when, or even if, Brinkman will ever return to comics, having access to as much of his stuff as possible can only be a good thing, right?

A fair number of these illustrations are suffused with Brinkman’s decidedly off-kilter and bizarre humor, of course, but some seem to make no particular statement at all, funny or otherwise, and to me that stuff — sorry, that shit — might be the most interesting on offer, in that there’s nothing propelling them forward beyond their own ideas and energy. If you’re not into seeing what happens when a cartoonist is just throwing a bunch of (here’s that word again) shit at the walls to see what sticks, then fair enough, this mini may not be for you, but in all honestly you needn’t be a Fort Thunder aficionado to appreciate both the conceptualization and execution of sheer mind-to-hand-to-pen-to-paper creative expression presented on these pages — just someone who appreciates unmediated, unfiltered cartooning for its own sake.

Certainly there’s no way Brinkman ever conceived of any of this as being anything other than more or less spur-of-the-moment stuff, and so it’s necessarily a bit rough around the edges, but that’s also the source of its strong DIY ethos. If it’s in you, get it out — and hey, if folks like it, so much the better. If not, oh well, there’s still no doubt about its sincerity and authenticity. Comics that are made simply because somebody felt like making some comics? It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that, no matter how inexplicable some of those comics may be.

The only thing better than reading or looking at Mat Brinkman’s work is mainlining it straight from his consciousness to your own — until such advanced thought-transfer technology is available, though, this book is the next best thing.


Multiforce Shit is available for $13.00 from Floating World Comics at https://floatingworldcomics.com/shop/art-books/multiforce-shit-by-mat-brinkman

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 ongoing 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

The Rap On “Kap Trap”

In the spirit of fairness from the outset, Mat Brinkman’s recently-reissued Kap Trap is a fascinating, if curiously uneven, beast — but here’s the more significant part of the deal : as a historical artifact, it’s absolutely invaluable.

Nearly 30 years old now, this early-days effort from a future founding member of the legendary Forth Thunder collective shows a cartoonist in fairly full possession of all his artistic faculties right out of the gate, even if it’s a little more tentative in terms of its execution than later efforts such as Teratoid Heights or Multiforce.  The  line from the one to the others is fairly clear, however — and I defy you to find  another cartoonist who had this clear and singular a vision of what they were looking to accomplish at age 18. Or at least another one not named Tillie Walden, who likewise arrived on “the scene” more or less full-formed, in the creative sense, a couple of decades later.

Not that the two have much of anything in common beyond their one-time prodigy status, mind you : Walden’s narratives tend toward the emotionally resonant and intuitive, while Brinkman’s work is (or was) — well, Brinkman’s work, existing in a self-created category of one, obsessively-rendered in a manner that makes it look carved or chiseled out of the blackness surrounding it, an effect very nicely accentuated in this new offset-printed, extremely thick and sturdy edition from Hollow Press that evokes a “flipbook” aesthetic by juxtaposing each single-page illustration with a blank and inky-as-night page on the left. It’s well and truly every bit as stunning an object to look at, and to hold in your hand, as it is to pore over and thoughtfully consider.

It’s in that consideration, however, that your mileage is sure to — well, you know the cliche. To refer to this wordless story as a “metaphysical journey” seems fair enough, but it’s just as surely a metaphorical one. What’s happening could, I suppose, actually be happening — be it could also be allegory for any number of more legitimately relevant (or, if you wish to be unkind, prosaic) concerns. That’s the eternal mystery of Brinkman, I suppose — how literally he wants you to take his comics is always going to vary depending on who’s reading them. Even in his nascent stages of development, as evidenced by this volume, the extent to which he was determined to reveal the secrets of the universe well under the radar, and the extent to which he was just yanking our collective chain, remains a very open question.

That’s certainly all well and good — hell, it’s damn well and great — but it’s one of those things that is sure to divide, as all truly important work does. There’s an obsessive creepiness that hangs over this mini, in contrast to the “gonzo” tone of Brinkman’s later, more-celebrated work, it’s true — beyond that, however, you’ll recognize the kernels from which a mighty oak would grow on just about every page, and with that firmly in mind, you’ll find this to be as familiar as it is curious, as joyous as it is eerie. On its own it’s a strong piece of work — observed within the context of its author’s entire oeuvre, it’s flat-out amazing.

All of which, I guess, means that this is a comic perhaps of interest to very few (although surely more than its original print run of 50 copies made allowances for) — but if you’re among those few, it’s an absolute revelation.


Kap Trap is available for $13 from Floating World Comics at https://floatingworldcomics.com/shop/comic-books/kap-trap-by-mat-brinkman

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. The link for that is https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse