Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Eightball # 23 "The Death Ray".

The latest (and much awaited) issue of "Eightball" comes highly recommended. Once again Daniel Clowes delves into the dark core of postmodern life as he tells the story of "Andy". We first meet Andy in 2004, a bitter and slightly sociopathic loner with two divorces to his credit. He nowadays enjoys the company of a pet dog and likes to tell people to pick up the candy paper they just dropped - "or else..."
Then the story jumps back to sometimes in the late seventies/ early eighties to investigate the origin of Andy: Back then an orphan living with his grandpa who is reaching the early stages of senility. As usual with Clowes "serious" works - David Boring, Ghost world, and "A Velvet Clove Cast In Iron" it takes time to get the full grip on the story but as often before it is basically a tale of the bleakness and loneliness of postmodern existence with the addition of magic and the supernatural (in this case Andy claims he has the power to make people disappear with the use of a Ray Gun invented by his dead scientist father) Most of the story focuses on the life of outsider Andy and the equally marginalised (but also obnoxious) Louie who suffer the ridicule of the local teenage "Sports-hunks". The two boys spend most of their time hanging out together against a drab and listles backdrop of a medium-sized city that could be anywhere/ nowhere, while dreaming teenage dreams: start a band?, move away? Have sex with the maid? - Get a new haircut? And it appears that the "Death Ray" and the ray gun is a way for the two boys to escape reality and live in a dream world where they are powerful superheroes.

I won't reveal more of the story here, but readers of Clowes' will find he has a vision of the world much in common with a filmmaker like David Lynch or -to some degree; Quentin Tarantino and "Death Ray" is no exception as what seems to be just a presentation of average daily events takes on a strange eeriness while the story progresses, often skipping back and forward in time. At its conclusion you even have a choice between three different endings!
Add to that Clowes' play with the media of cartooning - he has a great way of illustrating muted voices by obscuring their speech bubbles - and you have another example of why I stopped going to galleries and bookmarked Fantagraphics instead.

Dream scenario: A movie of Clowes' stories directed by Sofia Coppola...

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