Fighting Back The Tears
Demon Tears (Hic & Hoc Publications): I feel like there’s a new epicenter forming around what’s hot in the indie comics scene, and it can be triangulated somewhere amid the NYC nexus of Secret Acres, Domino Books, and Hic & Hoc Publications. Bernie McGovern’s new project from Hic & Hoc is a bit deceptive. When I flipped through its glorious color cover (love how the flame illuminates the right side of the lettering down the page) and saw those Tony Millionaire style hollowed out gourd eyes, I guess I was expecting some type of offbeat adventure book. There’s something darker hiding within these pages. While it certainly does have a sense of adventure, there's nothing light-hearted about it. It leans more toward a Grand-Guignol grip on our psyche. It’s a powerful and sad swirling-the-drain tale about battling our inner demons, in this case – alcoholism. McGovern’s near obsession with a sense of place starts innocently enough. There are some planetary shots that establish the two “worlds” he’ll be operating in right on the first page, and I also liked the aerial shot of his apartment. As his alcohol-induced blackouts take hold, his shadowy doppleganger emerges (hitting that nice riff on our inner struggle), and his brain and spinal column enter a sort of parallel world. From that point forward, the reader continually tracks which construct they're in. In that world, you can sense McGovern’s desire to create another life – the creations yearning for the way things used to be, the characters lacking the judgmental eyes of reality – something that his current body just won’t allow. If you ever saw that movie What Dreams May Come, you might recognize the sort of abstract puzzle made manifest that McGovern is contending with. The process of solving this puzzle, one which blurs the line between a representational imaginarium and his own reality, is itself the healing agent he needs. He actually holds the secret to what’s holding him back, and it’s in his interpretation that all is ultimately revealed. Interpretation does play a big part in deciphering his two environs, those of the body and mind, but like the $20.00 bottle being mistaken for $2,000 scene, it never gets to the point where it’s too obtuse to qualify as a narrative. I knew from the second I looked at this book that I’d enjoy it. It has one of those bold and iconic covers I’m drawn to, not drowning in its own busy clutter. McGovern’s thin interior lines belie their heavy emotional resonance. In addition to just being a great kinetic illustrator, he understands the power of creation. In the blackout fantasy world, by creating his own cryptic creationism mythology, rising like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, and rejecting the “goop” as faux developmental fuel, he’s able to get his mind and body working in unison again. I love when this happens, when a creator comes out of nowhere for me with such a strong work. McGovern is definitely someone I’d like to see more from. Spoiler Alert: Don’t be surprised to find Demon Tears on my “Top 10 Mini-Comics & Small Press Titles of 2012” list. Grade A+.