Better Living Through Graphic Storytelling
A Comics Blog About Shit We Like
12 April 2007
Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. Way more shook up about it than I thought I would be. I was under the impression that he was going to outlive us all because he was, in my opinion, one of the few fit to stand whatever judgment we face at the end of the universe with all the playful honesty that has made his writings so effective.

But enough about that. I promised no more non-comic related posts.

Has anyone read the new Madman book that Image just put out?

All I can really think about is how weird it seems to me.

But then again, it is a Madman book. It strives to be "weird" I guess.

Laura Allred's colors is a nice visual shift compared to the Madman comics I'm used to reading. Everything seems less dark, less bouncey, but at the same time a bit less static and a bit more real. Allred's modernist/Art Deco inspired layouts seem to have reached its pinnacle with this new book. It really grounds the story in that pop art aesthetic, even more so than any of Allred's previous works.

I know that sounds crazy to you familiar with Madman but, hey, it's a new Madman book. It can get crazier.

By crazy I don't necessarily mean schizophrenic or even psychedelic. I feel the people confuse the two.

Madman or even The Atomiks have always been sort of wacky and silly, but they always followed a specific kind of logic. It may not have always fit perfectly with our own logic, here in the world of non-fiction, but it still maintained a sense of logic regardless.

It's like the difference between Surrealism and Dadaism, which a lot of people seem to mix-and-match. Surrealism literally means "super realism". It doesn't always mean that one realism is superior or better than the other (although I have a feeling Breton would dispute that), but rather that one is a bit more intense or vastly different from the other. Madman is surrealism in it's most straight forward and digestible form. It follows an eschewed narrative, but a narrative that can be followed if one extends oneself enough.

Dadaism, on the other hand, is the absence of logic. It is nonsense. The word "dada" actually means "hobby horse". There is no real meaning behind that definition. Dadaism is only consequential in its inconsequential nature.

Anyway, Madman Atomic Comics seems to be more along the lines of Oddity Odyssey (republished by Oni Press), which was a much darker affair than say the Madman series published by Dark Horse Comics.

While Madman (the Dark Horse series, again) is fun and light and exuberant in its whimsy, Oddity Odyssey is unsettling and angst ridden. It's the two poles of mental illness. The seemingly nonsensical silliness of play, versus the burden of a heightened sensitivity to reality. Rather than pit one against the other, Allred had separated the two concepts into two different stories/series to more finely dissect and pick apart. The first issue of Madman Atomic Comics seems more in line with the burden angle than the play angle, although it is reasonably too early in the series to suss out Allred's ultimate intention.

Ultimately, Madman is a product of modernism. It is only post-modern in that it is aware of itself as a product of modernism, and often makes reference to this. It plays with iconography and its meaning, rather than aesthetics or pastiche. But at its core is the main tennant of modernism - laying bare the bones of the device. It is a comic book that operates in the logic and reason of a comic book. It celbrates its own silliness and wackiness, with reverence, but not obligation, to what has come before.

This is why Allred's Dark Horse Madman series was such a breath of fresh air in the age of the "grim 'n gritty" appropriation. Rather than appeal to the darker side of a decidedly cynical audience in an attempt to affect drama, Allred abandoned dramatism altogether to form something much more compelling.

The darkness of Oddity Odyssey doesn't diminish the stories power, nor does it drag down its characters. It still remains a story that is ultimately fun to read. But if the age of "darkness" is over, there is no need for Allred to produce the antidote any more.

If Atomic Comics is any indication, we can assume the Frank Einstein, along with Allred, have returned to more existential issues. This can either be considered a "good" thing or a "bad" thing, depending on what you want from your comics. Either way, this new series looks to be an interesting ride regardless of direction.

I remain positive in any expectations of Madman Atomic Comics.

NOTE: Madman Atomic Comics is not to be confused or associated with Fox Atomic Comics. Madman Atomic Comics is published and printed by Image Comics, an entirely separate entity.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Labels: , ,