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Things We Like: Moki’s Art, Comics About Comics and Robot Law

30 January 2010 Things We Like 5,113 views No CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

Every Saturday, we rummage though bookshelves, toy boxes, DVDs, music collections and stacks of assorted stuff to pick out a few choice items that will make your life better.

Elliott Bay Book Company’s Suggested Reading: “Sam’s Strip: The Comic About Comics” by Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas

“Sam’s Strip” is just the sort of peculiarity that you know could never last, not as a syndicated strip, hardly as a memory. It was a meta-comic, “the comic about comics” that ran in a handful of papers for just under two years in the early Sixties. At first glance it isn’t much. The characters are sloppy looking doofuses and the gags are, most of the time, stale and unfunny. Normally that should be enough to dismiss a strip outright, but in this case, the concept lifts the whole thing; it is well worth reading and a pleasure to look at. Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas created something so strange and unique that they can almost be forgiven for “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois” (almost).

Our lead character is Sam, a portly stuffed-shirt who runs his three-panel strip as though it were a business. He has big-time aspirations, but the joint is inescapably second-rate; his desk is a packing crate, he sits on a box and he drives around in a cartoony proto-Model T. Yet he is constantly holding auditions and job interviews for new characters, and this is where it gets really cool, because it is characters from other strips who come calling. Jerry Dumas proves himself to be a spot-on mimic of other artists’ styles, reproducing Charlie Brown, Krazy Kat, Blondie, Popeye — just about anyone you can think of from the funny pages of the late 1950s — so accurately that most people assumed he was cutting and pasting. This serves to justify Sam and his unnamed assistant being so badly drawn. The contrast is shocking, a form which feeds the function of keeping the comic-as-enterprise in its lowly place.

We can thank Fantagraphics Books for making sure this thing stays a little longer in the collective memory of comic lovers. In this collection they bring together the entire run, with an introduction by Mort Walker and contextual notations by Jerry Dumas. It is playful, weird existentialism, something that you really have to see to believe. – Christopher Sabatini

Scarecrow Video’s Movie of the Week: “R.O.T.O.R.” (1984), directed by Cullen Blaine

This is your new favorite “bad” VHS movie. “R.O.T.O.R” really is one of the best examples of the wrong and horrible things that happen in low-budget movies. It’s about a robot that accidentally becomes an active officer of the law. But it’s his law. R.O.T.O.R. stands for Robotic Officer of the Tactical Operations Research Unit. Everyone is trying to find this prototype, because it’s a dangerous embarrassment. I say that because this robot sucks! He has a red molest-ache, is chubby, and his major weakness is the sound of a car horn. Who knows what the sound of a siren on a cop car would have done to him, because he rides a bad-ass black motor cycle specially made for him.

“R.O.T.O.R” is perfect in its badness. The VHS even features an amazing painted cover that will set your expectations so high that you can’t wait to have them dashed by the film itself. – Marc “Swellzombie” Palm

The Art of Moki

One of my favorite artists of late is a woman who resides and works in the wonderful city of Hamburg, Germany. Her name is Moki and her multi-media oeuvre includes paintings, comics, drawings, street art, plush toys, sculptures, clothing, and even music and performance. However she primarily identifies as a painter and her paintings are something remarkable to behold.

Her landscapes are melancholy and wild. She creates verdant, overgrown, hidden places that are at once inviting and vaguely menacing – mossy caves, rocky tundra, secret clearings, quiet woods, rushing waterfalls, rolling hills, lonely mountains.These are untamed places out of dreams and nightmares alike where, for better or worse, a person could disappear completely.

Thoughtful giants inhabit these lands and often wear parts of the landscape as their clothing. A rocky mountainside becomes a girl’s cloak and cowl. A woman stands before a lush valley where both the dress she wears and the blanket she holds around herself are parts of the velvety valley floor. Soft green hills rise to become the unmistakable back and shoulders of a beautiful geisha. She faces away from us towards an impenetrable evergreen forest thereby displaying her distinctively painted neck. Her hair is adorned with various jewel-like fungi. A young man rises out of a deep ravine with a piece of chalk in his hand and leisurely draws on the rock that surrounds him. Elsewhere on a lonely beach a woman’s body emerges from surf that gently blankets her. She sleeps peacefully on sand that cradles her like soft linens.

In addition to the giants, one also encounters creatures that could be kin to characters from Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films. Ghostly reclusive figures, strange furry creatures with inquisitive expressions, beakless birds with soulful eyes and enigmatic smiles, shadowy beings with fluid forms and melancholy faces who could just as easily be spirits as corporeal inhabitants of their surroundings.

I wish I could step into some of these quiet places and explore them beyond the boundaries of the canvas. Moki’s paintings feel like tantalizing glimpses of remote places and rare creatures that would otherwise exist forever undetected. That is, unless you’re fortunate enough to encounter them in your own dreams. – Maika Keuben


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