Speedy, by Warren Craghead
...as I was saying, I liked his Mister Snowboy in Top Shelf #6 enough that I went out and bought
|Written and drawn by Warren Craghead|
|16 8½ x 6 pp, 16 6 x 4 pp, 12 2 x 3 pp, and a 2 x 3 sticker|
Summary: Main Comic: "awake aches, starts smarts." A leaf describes, in verse, its joy in being part of a tree. The following day it has fallen, and expresses its agony thereat. Images of sundering and autumn. Inset: "dont. never ever. L L Listen." A sweatsock finds itself abandoned in a suburban yard. It describes its confusion and lonliness. A fallen leaf is blown near, and they compare their experiences. Then they debate whether conciliation is possible once solitude has been experienced. They are blown apart. The sock, again alone, compares his situation to that of the tract housing around him. Li'l mini: "down. down, d d dow d down." Narration on disconnection, sinking and falling, with drawings of suburban back yards.
Gripping storytelling, we see, is not the Craghead stock in trade. Really, it's a cheap trick for me to do a plot summary of a book like Speedy, but I wanted to emphasize how enormously different this work is from the vast majority of even 'alternative' comics. What is he trying to accomplish, then? Poetry.
Some quotes. From "awake...": 'IT/ IT /IT/ ITMMMAM/ MMMMA MAMMADE (MAKES) SSSES SENSSENSE WITHTH AALLL I SSSS/ SAW. IT/IT/ IT SET/ SECRET/ SWITCHES RAN RAGGED/ AND/ RRRA/ RRAW/ IT GETS DEEPER ABOUT/ (both within and without) IT'S AN ENGINE THAT ACHES/ (roughest rule, lowest low)'
from "dont...": 'LOST?/ YES/ BUT/ BUT/ LISTEN /I'M BLOWN/ BUT/ I'VE BEEN SHOWN/ THAT'S/ WHAT/ MATTERS/ LOST? YES BUT/ ITS/ NOT/ "AM LOST" ITS// ITS/ "HAVE LOST"' ... 'BUT WHOOSH!/ I DROPPED/ I FLOPPED/ IT/ ALL/ STOPPED/ I'M// LOST?/ YES! THAT EMBRACE/ IS ERASED!/ I/ HAVE LOST/ MY/ PLACE.'
Antecedants: Probably the best test of how you'll like Craghead's work is your response to Chris Ware. Thoubh Craghead lacks Ware's breathtaking design skills, they share an interest in breaking the page into intricately divided panels, often using apparent visual non-sequitors to create a mood. However, though that mood is one of alienation and loss in both cases, the emotions in Speedy are intimate and unguarded, as distinct from Ware's quality of sour distance.
The look of the pages is also reminiscent of Ghost Ship-era Jon Lewis, in the disciplined use of limited drafting skills and in the intricate webs of tiny word balloons to express their protaganists' tangled thoughts.
The dense rhyming and the use of a small, heavily repeated vocabulary to create a mood of claustrophobia and despair stakes out a strange territory between Samuel Beckett and Dr, Seuss. Um...I suppose I should add that I mean that in a good way.
Overall: the irony of Speedy is this: The book's thematic concern is alienation and the loss of intimacy. However, attempting to follow the books swirling chains of word balloons can be involving and invigorating, an effect not unlike that of an e.e. cummings poem. The enclosed micro-minicomic, with fold-out pages and what appear to be individually crayon-colored covers, also involves the reader, and encourages him (or her) to envision the creator assembling it, producing a sense of intimacy with him. Whether the pleasure I took in this tension is what Craghead intendid, I have no idea, but it was a potent demonstration for me of the still mostly latent potential range of the comics medium