Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fantastic Life

(Warning: Today's blog contains adult language and is more Rated R than usual, but we are all adults here, right?).

A book about art, sex, postmodern theory, drinking, donuts, zombies, and art school, you say? Sign me up, I say!

Fantastic Life is a book that treads some familiar ground for me. In part it's  a depiction of art school as depicted in other works, like Dan Clowes's Art School Confidential, but it's also an examination of art, theory, and reality. Set in 1982 in Winnepeg, this book follows the travails of Adam, an art student looking to express himself, get laid, and figure out his life (not necessarily in that order). Sometimes he gets in over his head when it comes to hanging around intellectuals, and he is not always the smoothest individual.
Adam is pretty focused when he is drunk, but does not always grasp the situation. Or language.
His major issue for the most part is that he is confusing dream and reality. Sometimes he is rough and uneducated. Sometimes he knows what he is talking about. Sometimes he is in command of his artistic abilities. Other times he is totally making everything up as he goes along. Sometimes he is enjoying a donut at a Tim Horton's, and sometimes he is being tormented by flesh-eating zombies.
Like I said earlier, much of the territory in this book seems familiar, but what sets it apart for me is its execution. Set in the 1980s, it contains many cultural and musical references of the day, which along with the dialogue and situations indicate that this book is thinly veiled autobiography to some degree. I did not go to art school, but this book strongly conveys the feelings of being a young person in college and the anxieties that attend that period for many. Also, the artwork is excellently visceral, and not just in the zombie parts. The storytelling is clear and strong but there is also a painterly quality that drew me into this book as if it were another world. Taking everything in, I felt like I was in the smoky, dank bar drinking with friends, that I was in that house party winding through a labyrinth of stairs and rooms, and that I was engulfed by adolescent lust for naked models and other bodies.

The person behind all this artistry and craft is Kevin Mutch, a graphic novelist, digital artist, and painter. He received a Xeric Award in 2010 and is known for his webcomic The Moon Prince. He also has a career in design and was a long time art director the Canadian musicians The Crash Test Dummies (known by old folks like me for their hit Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, but I seriously love their first two albums). Mutch speaks about his influences and career here.

An excerpt from this book was featured in the 2011 Best American Comics anthology, and in general the book has received much praise. The reviewer at comicsbubble praised "its multi-layered content, fresh and bold line illustrations and well thought out characters." The Comic Journal's Sean T. Collins commented positively on the "way Mutch’s attention to detail, from the tits on down, solidifies and strengthens this book," and summed up, "It’s horny, heavy shit." He meant that as a compliment, I believe.

Fantastic Life was published by Blurred Books. About half of the book is available here for reading from the author.
Sounds like the perfect book for me. Target audience acquired.

No comments:

Post a Comment