Fantagraphics has announced the publication of Ah Pook is Here, a graphic novel by Wiiliam S. Burroughs and artist Malcolm McNeill, which is to take place sometime in the summer of 2011. It will be a two-volume set that will also include McNeill’s volume of memoirs of the collaboration, Observed While Falling.
Ah Pook Is Here first appeared in 1970 under the title The Unspeakable Mr. Hart as a monthly comic strip written by Burroughs and drawn by the British cartoonist and painter Malcolm McNeil in the English magazine Cyclops. When the publication folded, Burroughs and McNeill decided to develop the project into a full-length, Word/Image novel
The book was conceived as a single painting in which text and images were combined in whatever form seemed appropriate to the narrative. It was conceived as 120 continuous pages that would “fold out.” Such a book was, at the time, unprecedented, and no publisher was willing to take a chance and publish a “graphic novel.” Burroughs and McNeill finally abandoned the project after collaborating on it for 7 years.
A group project by three students at Columbia’s GSAPP—Yuval Borochov, Lisa Ekle, and Danil Nagy, under the guidance of professor Ed Keller—Protocol Architecture was pitched as a team that “investigates potentials for future design through the creation and analysis of hyper-fictional documents. These document sets create evidence for future scenarios that string together a specific history of political, social, and technological developments.” As such, Protocol’s work becomes less architectural than it is archival:
By focusing on the space of the document, we can avoid simplistic predictions of the future while creating a database of potential evidence which can be analyzed and interpreted by a wider audience of designers.
The resulting fictional archives—or “fabricated histories,” as the architects describe them—allowed the group to question “the role that fact and evidence plays in how we perceive our own history and our place as designers within it.”
If this isn’t a Borgesian idea, I don’t know what is: creating fictional future documents as archaeological/historical evidence for the design purposes of the present. As Manaugh observes, as fruitful or not this idea might be from an actual architectural standpoint, it offers wonderful possibilities for storytelling:
And that’s the rub: at the end of the day, most architecture students—unsurprisingly—think they have to take this stuff, put it all together, and produce something clearly definable as a building. But the research, in many cases, is more worthy of attention (and well worth the time it takes to produce it). In other words, the research—the preliminary material, the periphery, the narrative excess, the unwanted fringe—is very often most provocative before it becomes a building, when that inchoate mass of possible future projects, storylines, techniques, and more offers a million alternative directions in which we have yet to go.
I only say this here because it is extraordinarily exciting to see a project like this, that out-fictionalizes the contemporary novel and even puts much of Hollywood to shame—to realize, once again, that architecture students routinely trade in ideas that could reinvigorate the film industry and the publishing industry, which is all the more important if the world of private commissions and construction firms remains unresponsive or financially out of reach. The Nesin Map alone, given a screenwriter and a dialogue coach, could supply the plot of a film or a thousand comic books—and rogue concrete mixtures put to use by nefarious underground militaries in Baghdad is an idea that could be optioned right now for release in summer 2013. HBO should produce this immediately.
The 90s was a pretty exciting time for popular culture in a lot of respects, with the possible exception of comic books. Mainstream comics were mostly crap, some of the worst ideas in comics merchandising and marketing were initiated then and the market was pretty dismal. Not so for indie comics, however, and one of the best, most varied and distinctive was Dan Clowes’ Eightball. I loved the idea of a book written and drawn by a single creator that had the look and feel of an anthology. Plus Clowes dealt with themes that were interesting to me and his drawing style was (and still is) awesome.
Clowes is finally back, after about five years, with Wilson, an episodic “graphic novel” (I don’t care for the term), narrated in one-page, strip-style vignettes. It tells the story of a cranky, annoying, self-centred middle-aged man who, when his father dies, decides to go looking for his ex-wife, who left him 16 years ago. It’s a deeply human story, punctuated with Clowes’ darkly comic punchlines.
Clowes is a great storyteller and every single scene in Wilson has been impressively observed and rendered. As a portait of a cynical, disconnected and yet movingly sensitive middle-aged man, it is incredibly effective. It has always been Clowes’ gift to make his oddball characters feel recognizable and familiar in all their cynical, often charmless, otherworldliness.
His drawing style changes from page to page, ranging from really cartoony to Tomine-style clear lines, much like it did on Eightball. It is direct and effective, effortlessly expressing the nuances of Clowes’ storytelling. As much as I appreciate the formal experimentation of someone like Chris Ware, I am a sucker for the subtle craftmanship that goes into the creation of a seemingly simpler story like Wilson. Loved every lovingly drawn page of it.
Fabio Moon’s and Gabriel Ba’s Daytripper (Vertigo) must be the most moving, human comic series out there at the moment. Not to mention one of the best looking comics in quite a while. Each issue of Daytripper focuses on a particular year in the life of Bras de Oliva Domingos. At the end of each issue, Bras dies. One would think that, given the concept, there would be no point in reading past the first couple of issues, but the damn book gets better and better.
Moon manages to draw the reader in incredibly effortlessly, focusing on simple, everyday scenes and recognisable, relatable characters. Even though you know the outcome you can’t help but be really affected by Bras’ death every time. The pace is exemplary and Moon develops each chapter magnificently.
I don’t know if Daytripper would have such an impression on me if it hadn’t been for the combination of Moon’s stories and Ba’s artwork. He first came to my attention with Casanova (Image), written by Matt Fraction. This time, his art is being coloured by the amazing Dave Stewart and I find it considerably more appealing. Stewart’s palette complements both Ba’s idiosyncratic artwork ad Moon’s wistful tone.
It feels great to see Vertigo putting out some great titles again and it’s a shame that some of them are being so criminally overlooked, like the excellent Exterminators. Besides Daytripper, series like Air, Unwritten, DMZ and Sweet Tooth are more than welcome alternatives to the slop that’s out there.