3/10—Crepax, etc

A little gallery out in Chelsea invited me to see their exhibition of Guido Crepax pages last night, something I would have tried to sneak into had I not been invited. It was great. There’s a very well-behaved Irish setter who’s always at these shows (maybe that’s Philippe LaBaune?), which was nice, because I didn’t know anyone there. One guy, who introduced himself only as Paul (French pronunciation, American accent), was very friendly, and we talked about the drawings a bit. (Thanks, Paul!).
Crepax is one of those European sex-comics artists who never really gets his due in the US because enough of his stuff is really explicit that it just gets categorized as porn by people who don’t know much about comics and as underground by people who don’t know much about non-American comics. It’s neither, really; Crepax and Milo Manara and Paulo Eleuteri Serpieri are pretty mainstream names in Italy, France, and Spain, and they collaborate with other artists (Manara’s collaborations with Hugo Pratt, especially Indian Summer, are straight-up incredible) whose work isn’t preoccupied with sex. Anyway I took a couple of clandestine pictures (I don’t know why; everyone was very nice and I’m sure no one cared) because the pages look very different in person than they do in reproduction, and having down-light on them makes little details jump out. I noticed, for example, that the very thin white lines Crepax draws to show light on hair are actually cut into the boards with a knife or some other tool, probably a pretty blunt one; that’s how you get that little stutter you can see if you look closely at Valentina’s head or Corto Maltese’s cheek in the first image below. I’d never have known that without this exhibition.

I have a list of comics I’d like to cover in some capacity this year; I doubt I’ll be able to sell pieces about all of them but if you’d like to buy one, please do get in touch! In the meantime, as their pub dates whiz by I’m going to add little reviews of them here.

Matt Bors, a hell of a nice guy and a great cartoonist whom I’ve written about before, just published the first book of Justice Warriors, his stab at an ongoing satirical SF comic a la Judge Dredd. It’s extremely funny, and the art by Ben Clarkson is terrific, and I hope they keep it going. A problem I’ve always had with stuff like Dredd and Top 10 and Ennis’s The Punisher and other police-centric comics, even satirical ones, is that whether or not they try to address systemic rot in institutional policing, they tend to do so from the perspective that the police are fulfilling a necessary role handed down to them by society—Michael Molcher discussed this with Spencer and me in a recent Forever Wars edition, and Michael names the phenomenon “policing by consent,” which is the emphasis the cops place on civilian oversight in the UK. Michael is very smart about how even that is mostly bullshit—a fig leaf for authoritarian cops to do essentially say, “Well, we’re here because you want us here,” but in the US we emphatically do not have that and I think that gets lost in the Dredd parodies and their descendants. Dredd is, after all, set in the US, and the cops here are descended from disparate bodies, as befitting our large, weird country. The LAPD is the great-grandchild of the Los Angeles Rangers, a militia that fought Native American tribes and policed property crimes. Across the Southeast, police departments were formed out of slave patrols, which put down slave uprisings before the Civil War; their brethren to the north in the NYPD made money selling freed Black people back into slavery in the South. These were replaced by militias cobbled together from the remnants of the Confederate army after that war; these in turn enforced Jim Crow laws and were eventually codified and uniformed as police forces. Consent is antithetical to policing in the US; everything is done at the business end of a gun. That’s why I liked Matt and Ben’s book so much—it has the same visual invention that I love in the 2000AD books (one character is a perky, unsinkable poop emoji), but unlike those books, there’s no concession to the idea that the law stands between normal people and chaos; chaos, as Ben illustrates so well in his pictures of the “Uninhabited Zone,” one of the book’s best jokes, is normal people. The system is not merely corrupt or spoiled, it’s irredeemable and an exclusive tool of the propertied class. That’s the way much of American policing is today.

Ugh, I got Ben Clarkson’s name confused with Ben Caldwell. Their work is EXTREMELY different! Sorry, Bens!

Author: samthielman

Sam Thielman is a reporter and critic based in Brooklyn, New York. His blog is samthielman.com, his twitter handle is @samthielman, and if you can't find him you should check The Strand.

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