Sunday, August 20, 2006

(comic) book shelf
Originally uploaded by rowdyman.

After a week or so of having pieces of cut plywood leaning against the wall, then another week of applying paint, then sanding, then adding layers of varathane, I decided to put this project out of its misery. I guess I shouldn't have thought a few layers of paint would have hidden the flaws of some crappy plywood or that such an endeavour would be a quick fix but by Friday I could take it no longer. Because the bookcase was destined for the third floor, I assembled it on the deck - in the afternoon sun. Perhaps not the best idea. What should've been an hour of assembly became a 4 hour Sisyphean ordeal. I'll never understand why they sell 'knock-down' hardware in sizes that don't match common drill bits. You know you can't put a 3/8" nut in a 3/8" hole so why should I need to buy a 7/16" bit? Couldn't they just make it that much smaller - say 5/16"? It's the whole, 6 buns/8 hot dogs math of it all that drives me nuts. Anyway, after much dehydration and cursing a streak blue enough to remove paint, I eventually got the thing together. I photographed it almost as much as proof to myself as to the rest of the world.

When Angela suggested I move my comic books from the living room to the new bookshelf, my first thought was, "What? Embarrassed by having comic books in full view?" but I quickly realized she was right. I like having these books close at hand. I refer to them all of the time. It's a strange thing that I rarely re-read my comics, but I'm always perusing them, tracing their panels for revelation or truth like Champlain trying to find the route to the Pacific. It is a sorry admission, that some of my favourite comics are not the new classics like Maus or Jimmy Corrigan (stories so depressing, laying in front of a moving car might seem a reasonable response), but the cheesy 70's style comics.

There is a single "Conan the Barbarian" that has several panels of our anti-hero atop a galloping horse, or a Conan knock-off, with a name and premise too stupid to mention that has a stringy, messy inking style that I can never take my eyes from (maybe it's the sexy witches in their fur bikinis). Even stranger is my affection for an Italian comic, pulp detective novel, Dylan Dog - I actually swiped a scene set in an abandoned rail tunnel for a student film while at Sheridan. The story seems absurd, even though I can't read the Italian text, yet the absolute black and white (not a single shade of gray), the balance of the heavy and fine line, holds my attention for ages (and after). Lastly, there is a wildly convoluted story of Cadillacs & Dinosaurs drawn in emulation of a Wally Wood sci-fi comic that I love so much that it pisses me off to have to flip through the inferior filler sections drawn by a lesser (much lesser) artist.

What's the worst part of these trysts? All of these books favour style over substance. Comic books must be the only medium that can get away with this. Few music fans put up with protracted guitar solos and certainly there are plenty of films that have amazed the audience with their beauty, but disappointed with their plot, or characters. We watched a poetic, eccentric and vision filled film last night, The American Astronaut, that was like a cross between Plan 9 from Outer Space, a Guy Maddin film and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but without a reasonable story or characters, large portions of the film, that on their own may have been charmingly odd, just seemed tedious. The style alone could not carry you for 84 minutes. Comic books never have to worry about this as you don't have to read it all - just look, if you feel like it. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of my comics that I love both the style and the story; Chester Brown's "Louis Riel", the Hernandez brothers' "Love and Rockets", Dan Clowes "Ghost World", Seth's "Palookaville" or Joe Sacco's "Palestine". Still, it persists that there are some terribly vapid comics that I can't let go off.

Thankfully, I'm not obsessive-compulsive about comics, I wouldn't even call the few I have as a collection (THIS is a collection). Still, I may have to build another book shelf.

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