I’m David: ‘Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred,’ The Cut-Up Technique, & Comics Pricing
Don’t ask me why — I’m just a writer — but humans are programmed to see patterns. It’s why we see faces on Mars, religious figures in food, and conspiracies where there are none. Something in our brains wants to make that connection for us, no matter how insane it may seem to an outsider. (It’s great if you’re a blogger — you can make a post out of any old thing if you can make a solid connection.) A different way of putting it is that we like stories. We like being able to follow a narrative, and when that narrative disappears, or wasn’t even there in the first place, our brain makes a leap to connect usually unrelated dots.
I’m David, and one of my favorite comics last year was David Hine and Shaky Kane’s Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred #4, a short story called “84.” It’s a comic that invites you to create a narrative for it and is, as a result, amazingly creepy.
One of my favorite blogs is a tumblr called Decapitate Animals. It’s NSFW in general, horrific on occasion, but always interesting and more than a little uncomfortable. It’s a mixture of a quote from a book or movie, a clip from a different movie, and then several dozen pictures. The pictures are interesting in and of themselves. In addition to your omnipresent female nudity (“Welcome to tumblr, please be aware that you’re never more than two clicks away from naked people doing naked things…”), there are pictures of war zones, protests, skate boarders, snippets from magazines, actors, actresses, smokers, drinkers, old men, old women, and even more. The proprietor of the blog has a good eye when it comes to image curation, so Decapitate Animals is a great image blog, if you choose to look at it like that.
When you look at the images within the greater context of Decapitate Animals, though, patterns begin to emerge. Sometimes the pattern — or theme, or connection — is obvious, like a number of images that utilize a 3/4 overhead view or children holding guns. Where things get really sticky is when you look at the post as a whole. I find myself constantly trying to figure out how the proprietor of Decapitate Animals connects one theme to another. I want to dig in and make something that’s ethereal concrete. I understand how A relates to B, and how B relates to C, but I have trouble figuring out how what began in A becomes what’s present in C. I don’t understand it on a macro level, but love it on a micro level. So I study and I look and I think about each new post like it could save my life.
Solving Decapitate Animals is a mug’s game. It’s impossible for me to ever accomplish, short of actually asking the person that runs the blog, and I enjoy the chase too much to ever stop. I always feel like I’m on the verge of getting it. Decapitate Animals is inspirational, because it forces me to think harder than I ever do when scrolling past reams of tumblr posts.
David Hine and Shaky Kane’s Bulletproof Coffin series is a weird one. It’s part-pastiche, part-celebration, and part-condemnation of a certain type or era of superhero comic. It’s creepy and weird and Joe McCulloch and David Allison do a better job describing what it’s like than I could, and you can read the first issue for free right here anyway.
Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred is the follow-up to the original miniseries, and issue four is even more weird than the rest of the series. Kane and Hine created it by producing 84 individual panels of art and then randomly arranging them with four panels to a page. The finished result: a phenomenally creepy comic.
It’s creepy because it refuses to let you read it like a traditional comic. It’s a collection of symbols and images that allow you to reach and stretch and glean some deeper meaning just before up-ending everything with an image or symbol that forces the story into a place you weren’t expecting. It’s unsettling and weird. It’s matter and anti-matter.
“84” is storyless. But it isn’t. Is it? There are panels that appear to lead directly into one another. One page features a religious figure, a person peering into a peep hole, a meteor impact, and then a group of men chanting “Big Two!” while watching a film. There’s just enough tissue there to connect the four disparate panels, and you can do it without even making any leaps. The meaning of the page suggests itself, in a way.
Some pages feel like nonsense, a random grouping of images that don’t quite cohere. But the other pages? The others crawl into your head like a parasite. You start to notice motifs and elements that repeat, like a hairy man who appears a few times throughout the issue or a key of mysterious origin and purpose. You notice the recurring trend of people looking at things, but we never get to figure out exactly what they’re seeing.
“84” is unsettling. If you buy into it — the cut-up technique is too annoying/pretentious (ugh)/whatever for some people, I’m sure — then you’re going to be treated to a nightmarish smear of a story that ends on a desperate exhortation. It’s tremendously effective, particularly if you’ve followed The Bulletproof Coffin and its slippery approach to reality and continuity.
Give it a chance. Give yourself a thrill or chill.
baconx3 from Tumblr asked: What’s the ideal price for a 20-page single issue comic?
In a perfect world, twenty pages would cost you no more than ninety-nine cents. Twenty pages for three or four dollars basically sucks, as far as I’m concerned. Just about every story is going to be collected at some point, and it shows when reading comics. You’re getting a slice of story for four bucks, and that’s kinda crazy to me. Add a couple bucks to that and go to a matinee instead.
There are exceptions to every rule, but by and large, four bucks? That’s entirely too much for a twenty page comic. Two bucks is more reasonable — I generally buy digital floppies a month late for that exact reason — but a dollar is prime.
If you have a question, let me know by leaving a comment or hitting me on Twitter @hermanos. Let’s talk comics, movies, music, video games… anything goes.