A “Vessel” For Experimentation, Innovation, Inspiration

It’s interesting how things work out sometimes. Earlier today, I was having a “conversation” via twitter about the necessity of people who are generally thought of as being “outside” comics coming into our hopefully-happy little medium, making some sort of statement with it via their art for however long a period of time they wish, and then deciding whether or not they want to stick around, or go on to do other things. By my thinking, it’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes approach comics with no preconceived notions of what they “should” or “shouldn’t,” “can” or “can’t” do, if for no other reason than to shake up the sensibilities of those who have very definite ideas in regards to these subjects and others. Words and pictures in juxtaposition can dobe, or express anything, as I think we all know on some level — sometimes it just requires a comics novice, or even a temporary comics tourist, to remind us of that.

Enter the husband-and-wife team of Lily Thu Fierro and Generoso Fierro and their gorgeous, emotive, formally experimental new self-published ‘zine Vessel, a feast for the eyes and mind that weaves together dream, memory, and medicine into a beautiful but frightening quasi-hallucinatory tapestry that references no particular artistic influences outside of itself and doesn’t so much discard the rulebook as remain blissfully unaware of its existence. This is a comic that exists in a category all its own, which is to say : it really can’t — and shouldn’t — be categorized at all.

The division of labor on this obvious labor of love is in no way clear — I couldn’t tell you who drew it, who wrote it, or if they both did some of each — but in a way that makes a kind of thematic and artistic sense, as the demarcations between the “real” and “unreal” in this work are fluid, transitory, amorphous — a thickening cardiovascular wall is a recurring theme that grounds the work in linear time, but beyond that it’s fair to say all bets are off as past, present, and pure imagination dance around each other via a series of lushly-shaded colored pencil illustrations accompanied by a minimalist, economic interior monologue. There is a sense of our narrator/protagonist, Kim, existing apart from, outside, maybe even above her own body, of being both participant and observer of the vaguely-defined research study she’s participating in, and yet she never feels disconnected from either herself or events — there is intimacy in this alienation, and alienation in this intimacy.

As a result, what we have here is a unique approach to the art of the visual narrative, one that isn’t necessarily mysterious by definition, but plenty open to interpretation regardless — my one word of caution would be against trying to assemble this in start-to-finish order of occurrence on first reading and just letting this work take you where you feel it’s taking you. Trust me when I say you won’t be in the least bit confused by it, even while you have a tricky time describing it. As evidenced, I should think, by this review itself, which I’ve gotta admit is a slow-going thing on my end as I try my level best to communicate not so much the particulars of this work, but the sensations engendered by it.

Hell, I’m halfway tempted to ask “how’m I doing at that so far?,” but that would rather defeat the purpose. This is, you see, a comic that takes you places, and the most exciting thing about it is that they’re largely places you haven’t been before, and therefore lack a proper frame of reference for trying to express in purely verbal terms. Initially, I’d be inclined to say that means I’ve met my match here, but I prefer to think of it as having found a work (okay, been sent a work) that has done what very few others have : left me utterly speechless. I’m not sure if I should be grateful for that — but I can tell you in no uncertain terms that I am.

I don’t know much about these creators, other than what I’ve been able to piece together from their website. I take it they host a weekly radio show largely specializing in old-school ska and that Lily has a passing interest in comics, at least according to one of the posts they have up on there. What I do know for certain is this : even if they never make another comic themselves, they’ve given this medium a gift that can probably never be fully repaid.


Vessel is available for $18 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/vessel.html

Check out Lily and Generoso’s website at https://lilyandgeneroso4ever.com/about/

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Scenes That I Love: Mardi Gras in Easy Rider

Happy March 1st!

Today is not only the 1st of March.  It’s not only Texas Independence Day.  It’s not only Zack Snyder’s birthday.  It’s not only the day of Texas primaries.  It’s not only the day when the State of the Union address is scheduled to be given (yawn!).  It’s also Mardi Gras!

What a busy day!

For today’s scene that I love, here is the Mardi Gras/Cemetery sequence from 1969’s Easy Rider.  Featuring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Karen Black, and Toni Basil walking through the streets of New Orleans, this scene was actually filmed during Mardi Gras.  Those are real Mardi Gras floats and real Mardi Gras participants staring at the camera.  That’s an actual citizen of New Orleans with whom Dennis Hopper appears to have nearly gotten into a fight.  And, in the cemetery scene, that was real acid that Peter Fonda took.

Here is today’s scene.  The scene is age-restricted so you’ll actually have to click on “watch on YouTube” to see it.

If you don’t want to click on “watch on YouTube,” here is a shorter version that just features the parade without the admittedly disturbing cemetery stuff.

I like how Toni Basil can’t help but dance, no matter what.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Zack Snyder Edition

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

As I already mentioned, today is Zack Snyder’s birthday!  It’s taken a while but critics are finally starting to appreciate Zack Snyder.  All it took was seeing the Joss Whedon version of Justice League for some viewers to realize that, whether you always agree with his directorial choices or not, Zack Snyder is one of the most consistently interesting filmmakers working today.

Personally, so as not to be a hypocrite about this, I will admit that I’ve been pretty critical of Snyder’s DC films.  I make no apologies for that.  I’ll continue to make jokes about the excessive destruction of Metropolis and the “Why did you say Martha?” scene.  That said, Watchmen was a well-done film that continues to be influential.  People are finally starting to admit that Sucker Punch was pretty damn good.  Dawn of the Dead is one of the few horror remakes that pay homage to its source material while also establishing a worthwhile identity of its own.  And, even if I haven’t worked up the courage to sit through all four hours of it, Zack Snyder’s Justice League has inspired an enthusiasm that I rarely see amongst film fans.  “Release the Snyder Cut!” was one of the few twitter campaigns to actually get results.  Even the Snyder films that I dislike are unlike any other film.  Snyder has a unique artistic vision and that’s what we need more of.

So, in honor of the man’s birthday, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Zack Snyder Films

Dawn of the Dead (2004, dir by Zack Snyder, DP; Matthew F. Leonetti)

Watchmen (2009, dir by Zack Snyder, DP: Larry Fong)

Sucker Punch (2011, dir by Zack Snyder, DP; Larry Fong)

Army of the Dead (2021, dir by Zack Snyder, DP: Zack Snyder)

Happy Birthday, Zack Snyder!

Today is Zack Snyder’s 56th birthday! Happy birthday, Mr. Snyder!

Down here in Texas, today is also primary day. Voters will be selecting the candidates who will run in the November general election. I already know who I am voting for and, more importantly, I know who I hope doesn’t win his primary because there’s no way I want to spend 8 months watching his commercials every time I turn on TV or try to watch a YouTube video. Seriously, the dude is freaking annoying….

Anyway, with all that in mind, this advice from 2011’s Sucker Punch seems appropriate for today, both as an election day message and a reminder of the uniquely weird vision of Zack Snyder!

Music Video of the Day: Addams Groove by MC Hammer (1991, directed by Rupert Wainwright)

As far as videos about Christina Ricci chopping off MC Hammer’s head are concerned, this is probably the best.

Addams Groove was the theme song for 1991’s The Addams Family.  The video opens with MC Hammer losing his head but it turns out that not even decapitation can silence Hammer.  Hammer eventually ends up fighting with Raul Julia over Anjelica Huston, proving that anything was possible in the 90s.  It’s easy to laugh at a video like this today but, back in 1991, videos like this were a big deal and it was a rare for any film to be released with an accompanying music video.  This song was MC Hammer’s last top ten hit in the United States.  It also received a Razzie nomination for Worst Song of the Year.

Though the film was the directorial debut of Barry Sonnenfeld, this video was directed by Rupert Wainwright, who was responsible for directing most of MC Hammer’s videos.  He also did the video for N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton.  Wainwright would eventually go on to direct Stigmata and the remake of The Fog.