Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Comix Canon Club: Horrors of a supernatural and carnal nature

This is the third post in a series looking at notable stories to be found within The Graphic Canon, volume 1.

The Book of Revelation
By Rick Geary

Rick Geary's version of the visions of St. John is pretty great, a straightforward, literal, deadpan treatment of the "prophecy" that could be interpreted as either the ravings of a madman, or an attempt to imagine the horrors of the end of the world. Either way, Geary makes it entertaining, whether he's detailing weird visions like Jesus as a seven-eyed, seven-horned lamb:

Or making the servants of God, who have just received seals on their foreheads, look like grinning simpletons:

Like the original text itself, it's a non-stop parade of freaky imagery that demonstrates the power of the lingering imagery that originated here, such as the whore of Babylon, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and the mark of the beast, while surrounding it with all the related strangeness that overwhelms the "vision" and turns it into ridiculous (if entertaining) religious nonsense.

"The Fisherman and the Genie" 
From The Arabian Nights
By Andrice Arp

This is a nice little nested set of stories from Arabian Nights, in which a fisherman catches a bottle and is threatened by the genie that comes out, then tricks it back into the bottle and tells it a story, in which another character tells a story, and there's even sort of another story within that one. It's kind of goofy, but Andrice Arp details it with some really nice cartooning, and a well-done formal conceit in which the panels of the stories-within-stories get progressively smaller, then return to the original size when the action returns to the original players:

It's really well done, a great interpretation of a classic, and a really nice example of Arp's cartooning skill. Her work definitely deserves more exposure.

"The Woman with Two Coyntes"
From The Arabian Nights
By Vicki Nerino

For a completely different interpretation of an Arabian Nights story, this bit of grotesquerie from Canadian artist Vicki Nerino takes an already bawdy story (about a woman getting permission from her husband to sleep with a stable boy by claiming that her mother bequeathed her vagina to her daughter, and the second "coynte" needs its own husband) and makes it downright nasty, turning the characters into subhuman homunculi, lingering on gross details, and giving everything a scribbly, splattery, sickly, dirty feel:

She updates the language into a silly post-millenial patois as well, including terms like "totes", "whatevs", and "OMG", which makes the whole thing that much funnier. It's a riot, one hell of an inspired adaptation, and another case of this book providing exposure to an artist that deserves further consideration.


  1. I've been reading your blog for a few years. It's disheartening to see your flippant conclusion at the end of your review of Rick Geary's "The Visions of St. John."

    This isn't the place for a full education about the book of Revelation, and it's not my intention to change your mind about the truth or falsehood of the text. However to take a two thousand year old document which has been richly studied and utilized out of context and deem it "religious nonsense" is arrogant, weak journalism.

    If you don't care to look deeper into the things you read you ought to also take care not to judge them offhand.

  2. Sorry to offend, although I'll note that I'm an atheist who grew up in a religious fundamentalist home, and I'm quite familiar with Christian theology. I don't really want to get into a discussion of Revelation either, but while one could (and many have) spend a great deal of time and effort parsing and attempting to define and interpret all the various symbols and "prophecies" within, I really don't see it as much more than a bunch of craziness based around an imagined version of a mythological apocalypse. Maybe calling it nonsense is a bit strong, but that's a reaction to those who treat it as factual; if a large number of people around me believed that Zeus, Apollo, Hades, and Aphrodite were directly affecting their lives, I would probably think of Greek mythology as offensive and ridiculous rather than as entertaining stories.

    So: treating Revelation as mythology rather than religion, it's got some great imagery, but it's still pretty nuts, and I don't think it holds up as a narrative all that well, being more of a cascade of weirdness and destruction. Nonsense? Maybe not, but it is pretty crazy and bizarre, and a fun read if you don't take it literally (or as a symbolic message sent from a literal divine being).