Dash Shaw’s on tour at the moment, promoting New School, from Fantagraphics, which is not released, tied up at the printers, seemingly, with the tour already scheduled. Luckily there is a minicomic from Uncivilized Books and a pamphlet from Fantagraphics on hand, along with some other minis. Uncivilized’s thing is called New Jobs, and the Fantagraphics comic is called 3 New Stories.
Embracing the new, a vague stipulation, the marker of modernity. The ever-present becoming of a new present, which lacks futurism’s optimism. It clicks refresh and we find a new meaning in nostalgia, as well as new possibilities to find promise in.
In these comics are what might be termed experiments if Dash didn’t know what he was doing. A throwing off of the signifiers of genre, the science fiction that marked the Unclothed Man collection, into immediacy: the weirdness of the current moment, politically charged and anxious. The narrative is reduced to idea, like prose’s microfiction. The grid is gone, the colors are not beholden to any holding line, in New Jobs there are no panel borders.
One of the things about the rise of the graphic novel, the “literary comic,” is it comes from a time, the 20th century, when literature had become post-modern, when naturalism was archaic, although some still embraced it. Comics are inherently anarchic; the caricature’s lampoon anti-authoritarian: These are modern things. Most encounter them in childhood, a time to later be nostalgic for, but don’t forget that the purpose of every child’s existence is to supplant their parents in the world.
(We could now argue the roots of comics, and that they very well may predate text. We could also cite that the core of the novel, let’s say Don Quixote, is a satire on the romances that predate it. But these things are unnecessary to state, I think, these things are the sort of contradictory thought inherent to what I’m talking about, which is the way that modernity works by always becoming itself by the present’s being itself, the only moment we can live in.)
Now we’re at a moment when books, the very object, are fighting irrelevancy, and printed comics’ continued reason to exist is tied to their visual nature, the way images printed on paper look different from those being projected from a screen. Dash’s new coloring style, played for dissonance, on separate planes from the black ink, is something much more parseable on paper that it would be on a monitor or tablet. These are tales of economic struggle, being sold in a capitalist system there is no longer any money in. It is 2013 and these comics will not be easy to find in two years’ time. Buy them before their light flickers out.