I’ve told this story before in the forum, but I’ll tell it again because I love it. Even though I try to follow the cardinal shopping rule of the San Diego Comic Con, which is of course “Don’t buy anything you can buy at home”, I still was looking for one mass market book this year, Ales Kot‘s Wild Children. I didn’t know what it was about, but I had read a little about Ales and I had read some advanced quotes from people talking about it. It just had that energy about it, at least for me, that energy you get when you read something that’s a product of it’s environment, that’s in step with it’s culture but at the same moment ahead of it’s time. Wild Children actually came out the week of SDCC so while I was certain I had a copy waiting for me at my home store (Comics and More natch) I couldn’t wait to get back to read it.
So I was of course excited about seeing the Image panel that was about their new, rising talent of which Ales Kot as on the panel. Along with Kurtis Wiebe, Jim McCann and Joe Harris to name a few (all of whom I ended up buying after the show and all of whom I’ve thoroughly enjoyed). But I was really excited about seeing Ales Kot. Before Image was a Dark Horse panel and I took a seat in the back of the room to wait for it to end. A few rows ahead of me is a row full of young, attractive, tattooed, smelly people, so of course I begin to get mad.
I know what some of you are thinking, “Smelly people at Comic Con? Hardly news.” But they were smelly in that hip way, you know? Like it’s not the Mt. Dew & Cheetos sweat, it’s the cool sweat that’s just pheromones and tobacco. Then in walks this guy, wearing a tank top, who must weigh 98 pounds and of course he’s covered in cool tattoos and his hair cut is that out of control chaos that actually looks good that 90% of dudes attempt to do and 1% pull off successfully. My anger grows.
“What the fuck. When did all the cool kids start coming to Comic Con?” I begin my bitter inner monologue, readjusting myself in my X-Statix tee-shirt. “Why can’t we ever have our own thing? Why is it that I fucking read comic books for years and got nothing but shit for it and now suddenly all the cool kids show up and have to make me look bad in the one place where I could possibly look cool for having an X-Statix tee?” (by the way, Nick Lowe, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred were an X-Force team too) I’m stewing in a jaded broth so rooted in confused immaturity and obvious insecurity it would make Tony Harris blush.
The fucked up hair and cool tattoos twig sits down among the cool and beautiful and I begin to send death vibes to my iphone and try to rework my pointless animosity on the convention’s abysmal wireless signals. Then the Dark Horse panel ends. Then that rail thin bit of charred cultural charisma of course walks on to the stage and sits down in front of the sign that reads ALES KOT. And of course I think, “Louie, you are an incredible asshole.” And it was true. But it did help me realize that it’s fucking stupid to carry over your adolescent phobias to the comic book convention. Tony Harris.
Anyway. I managed to meet Ales briefly at the Hyatt one night and managed to just shout above the din “I FUCKING LOVE YOUR COMIC.” or something equally witty. And that brings us to now, to this past week, to his next comic project, Change, a four issue series again for Image with art, colors and letters by Morgan Jeske, Sloane Leong and Ed Brisson. Wild Children is definitely an introduction by way of silent scream. It pulses with it’s own intensity but not in a gaudy, shallow way and it stays with you when it’s over. It’s just a one-shot (no pun intended) and it definitely has to be. So going into Change I didn’t know what to expect at all from Kot taking on the duties of a slower, more drawn out style of story telling.
Change is a story that should stand as an example to the struggling young creators of the world who feel burdened by the shadows of the greats who came before them. Kot wears his Morrison influence on his sleeve and in that there’s a certain amount of freedom. He’s not trying to be Grant Morrison, but he’s not hiding the fact that he’s been taking in what Morrison has been putting out and he’s ready to add some ideas of his own to the mix. The story feels like Charlie Kauffman’s Adaptation meets 2001 meets H.P. Lovecraft. What is it with Lovecraft these days? You’d expect the genre bins to be filling up with Mayan-centric apocalyptic horror but it’s that weirdo from Rhode Island’s gruesome and ghastly visions that people keep returning to, whether it’s Fatale or Witch Doctor or of course everyone’s favorite, Neonomicon. (If nothing else at least all the lizard rape in Neonomicon has made people forget about Horsecock).
However Change isn’t just a H.P. Lovecraft story, just like Adaptation isn’t just a story about orchids. It’s also about a woman who wanted to be a screen writer and a rapper who wanted to make movies and an astronaut who’s coming home from Europa. There’s also someone typing at a keyboard, someone with a fucked up looking hair cut and I get shades of a bald GM petting cats and fiction diving and I smile at ouroboros wherever I see it.
Riley Rossmo illustrated Wild Children and drew it like the story of mad, foaming youth blessed and cursed with purpose it is. Morgan Jeske draws Change with a similar looseness of form but this time the layouts are far more composed and complex, ostensibly since this story has to unfold slowly rather than explode. Perspectives swing and change from extreme close-ups to views from space and the pages devolve into more and more boxes the faster and darker the flow of the story becomes. Change does that you have to realize, it changes while you read it and I think when we get to the end it’ll have changed us as readers as well. I’m not saying that in a sense of grandiose self importance, but in the way that Kot is a writer who’s taking his time establishing his voice and now that he’s got our attention I don’t see him wasting it.
Who doesn’t read things they hope will change them? Who only consumes media that agrees with them or just tells them things they already know? Why embrace the independent scene at all, unless you’re looking for change? The years keep on passing and everything that was concrete becomes fuzzy and identities rise and fall like the ebay prices on Amazing Spiderman 698 that I’m hoping go back up again because Louie wants an ipad. Goddamn it, it’s only going for like $3.00 right now! I digress.
I was changed the first time I read Kill Your Boyfriend just like I was changed the first time I read Black Hole. Change so far has just got into my head and while it hasn’t ripped open the front of my skull like Wild Children did it’s managing to work it’s way around my head. It’s a comic with layers and a story that moves, it’s got characters that you almost recognize but who are different enough to be interesting. Or scary. I honestly had no idea what the fuck was happening when I finished reading it for the first time. And the second. Maybe you don’t have that kind of patience, but if you’re not willing to read a comic twice, what are you reading for?
And you probably don’t even need to read it twice. Me, I need a cheat sheet and a film professor to make it through 30 minutes of Muholland Drive while so many other people I know just go, “Oh yeah, I get it, that guy is the dude from the other thing and really it’s like a freudian echo of the…” I don’t get Lynch ok. I’m sorry, I’ve tried and I’ll keep on trying because one day I hope to be smelly and cool with a hair cut and friends. Just need to change a little first.
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