Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Laird Barron and Tony Millionaire's Maakies

Before I start, gotta give some love to Lamar.

"I love first verse cause you're the girl I attract
I love second verse cause you're the homie that pack
Burner like a stove top, that love cooking from scratch
I love what the both of you have to offer
In fact, I love it so much, I don't love anything else"

His flow on this song is stellar and those beats... OH! Now to Barron

I've been reading a lot of Barron's short stories and novellas recently, specifically The Imago  Sequence and Other Stories & The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All and Other Stories. I'm amazed at their power to blow me away due to Barron's amazing ability to set up an atmosphere that is absolutely choking, larger than life rugged and hard characters that seem to come from the early American frontier folk tales and mythology while being filter through a writing style that is beautifully complex and lyrically put together while combining it all with Lovecraftian/cosmic horror and taking that horror and filtering it further through a hard boiled pulp, noir, crime and western feel. It's amazing to read.

Barron's vision of horror is unique. There's a humanoid, insect and plant biology feel to the horrors he puts forth. Like they're an extension of us, of our universe, of our plant and insect life. It also gives them this grotesque, almost malleable structure to them. Almost like a jellyfish insect slowly coming out of the cracks of our reality or from ourselves, from our genes. I'm at a loss to describe it. And even frightening is, that they're always there, waiting to strike or waiting for a certain moment in time to coming alive; god help the people who are unlucky to come across them. 

Another antagonist is his landscapes. Barron comes from Alaska, the last frontier, a vast icy landscape that can make any human feel insignificant. He takes that primal experience and puts into his work. His landscapes can be just as dangerous as the horrors lurking in it or out of it. They're breathing entities that dramatically changes a person, change who they are, change their preconception, change their entire being. Just as it can change a person, it can also put the fear of god into them. Being in an vast place that's alien to you, going against you, not caring if you live or die, it... Again, loss of words.
Before I go off to Maakies, there's this neat trick that Barron does. A lot of Barron's characters are highly dangerous, capable and efficient people. They're good with their hands and with their minds and aren't afraid to get dirty. These are the best of us, you could say but even they can't go up against the horrors that Barron brings down on them. They can't stop the horrors of this world and if the best of us can't, then what do us normal folk have? How could we ever take a stand?
Man, I couldn't get into Maakies at first. Millionaire's comic strip is a definite grower. It's like Herriman's Krazy Kat, there's a certain beat, a rhythm to Krazy Kat; it also doesn't help that the language Herriman uses is an art in of itself. Then after reading and re-reading Krazy Kat, you start pick up on it's idiosyncrasy and you start to understand what Herriman is doing. Then you keep on reading and re-reading and you enjoy the language, the flow, the beat, the rhythm and further understand what makes Krazy Kat the best. Then after multiple readings, you fully understand what Herriman is doing and it'd comic poetry, the medium at it's absolute best and what you hated or didn't understand, you now love. Maakies is just like that. Well, not the absolute best--it's a damn fine comic strip, don't get me wrong--but the doing those steps to truly understanding what makes Maakies so great.
Maakies tells the story of Uncle Gabby (a drunken Irish Monkey) and Drinky Crow (a alcoholic crow) and their inclination for drunkenness, venereal diseases, fights, and suicide. All this takes place in a 19th century nautical background and the comic strip has visual references to historic works of art. And underneath the main comic strip, is another small comic strip with a lot of sight and word gags.
Millionaire has created such a rich world with a rich cast of antiheroes and bastards. When you step into his world, you feel the griminess and go in there touch the venereal diseases some of the characters have; it's fucking disgusting but I like that. I love when comics make me feel extreme emotions. Maakies is also pretty funny strip though funny in it's on idiosyncratic way. Just like Krazy Kat, Maakies humor will go over your heads but once you pick up on Millionaire's nuances, his jokes are dark and rich. This is all helped by Millionaire amazing black and white art. Jesus, I've spent long minutes just staring at a panel or a how strip; Millionaire is an amazing visual storyteller.

It was a comic strip I went into blind, struggled with it but kept at it, and in the end, I was rewarded with a darkly rich world filled with complex, nuanced  characters that held my jaw down and never let go.

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