The contestants are:
Kid Mafia #1
By Michael Deforge
Published by Michael Deforge
Written by David Quinn
Art by Tim Vigil
Published by Northstar Productions
Somebody asked me a couple of days ago "why is this guy is such a big deal" regarding Michael Deforge, and I was stuck for a second. The conversation had started because the dude--a 100% super-heroes all the time reader--had arbitrarily picked that specific moment as the day to get into other stuff. Referring to Deforge as "a big deal" was his way of throwing an admittedly blase piece of phrasing back in my face. This guy's good, huh? Tell me why.
Tim Vigil's Faust is the sort of thing that could probably bear introduction, but at the same time: it's a pointless endeavor. Faust is what it is, immediate, intense and uncategorizable. This issue opens with three quotes, one from William Penn's Fruits of Solitude, one from Martin Luther, and a dictionary definition for the word "snchronicity". Interspersed throughout the comic's high-test porno/horror pages one finds Plato's Allegory of the Cave. (On the final page of the comic, we discover that the stereotypical fat n' lazy security guard was reading the Republic aloud to wile away the hours.)
Deforge and Vigil have very little in common. Sure, there's some basic stuff--they both work in black and white, both know how to do imaginative stuff with sex and violence--but there's little to be gained from direct comparisons of content or craft.
I don't remember how I wormed my way out of the conversational hole I got into by calling Deforge a "big deal", but if I had it over again, I probably would've said something like this: I have no idea where this guy is coming from. I'm tired of chasing down everyone's inspirations, and the groundswell of goodwill that's brought Michael's work to my attention was something I'm happy to climb aboard with, the same way I did back when I first read CF's work. It's been almost two years since I first read Lose #1, and I feel the same way I did then: I don't know where this guy is pulling from, how he came upon this style. I look at the way he sets up the intial attack that will end with Glass Eye Roy buried in the dirt, and I don't feel a hint of familiarity. I haven't seen a comic do it like this, this kind of flat petal destruction. It's like animation; not of an action or a movement but of the idea of action and movement. (That description feels like bullshit.)
Is it a reflection of my own lack of knowledge, that I don't know where he comes from? It's possible, sure. But then, maybe it does come from nowhere. Comics can't lay claim to stylistic and formal exhaustion the way music and film get too--this is a perpetually stunted and xenophobic art form, one that's been married to financial concerns for almost its entire existence, and that means comics can still buzz with the possibility of breaking new ground. What Deforge does feels like what he does alone, which is why it's become so easy to spot his imitators. (I find it interesting that the best of Deforge's imitators seem to be across the board incapable of copying his horror and violence. Humor they can steal, but violence? No luck.)
When it comes to stylistic ground-breakers, Tim Vigil's Faust can't lay down any sort of claim. Character design and basic layouts are all well-trod, barreling along with a myriad of influences. There's some Ditko stuff, some Bernie Wrightson creepers stuff, there's even some of that Dwyer-copying-Wrightson-creepers stuff, and there's got to be at least a million other things that other guys can catch better than I. The story is dense and confusing, delivered by shifting narrators and POVS, (some insane)--most of which is directed with the conceit that the reader is somehow inside the story itself, hearing these words and not reading them--and it all works with Vigil's ever-more graphic depictions of insanity and sex to push the audience outside the comic. I don't know anyone who finishes reading these things completely the first time through. Eventually you just give up and stare into this sewer until the pin-ups and advertisements break the spell, and you come back later, now that your eye is prepared for what it's about to see.
Vigil's mistake--if he made one, which I don't think he did--might have been this: he's too sexy. His porn functions as porn, it works a little too well, and that's going to cut down drastically on the audience's ability to give over to what he's doing the rest of the time. After all, amidst the writhing, wet flesh, spackled into panels alongside those beckoning leather fuck boots and a pair of swelling, oversized nipples...there's worms. The vagina he draws is hyper realistic to a point, until it opens up and is seen coated in splintered teeth, enamel-lined lips, and a tiny reptilian eye glaring out from beneath the clitoral hood. Sandwiched between the lurid panels of tongue saturated shafts and lusty, thrusting asses? Oh, it's a tiny, uncircumcised penis, flaccidly offered to the reader by a man whose slitted eyes are focused on your own. There's no safety net, no way out of this stuff: Vigil wants you to get turned on so that he can fuck with you even more.
Faust can't be sawed open beyond a certain point. It's too specific to be unpacked, too nightmarish to be fully understood. It's accomplished, personalized insanity, the sort of comic built out of visual connections only one guy will ever truly understand. Nothing like this will probably never get made again with this degree of extremity, with this much concerned draftsmanship. There's no one to print it, no one who can match this kind of twisted sincerity with these particular obsessions.
In that respect, as well as the others, Kid Mafia's a different beast. There's something being worked out here, a fluctuating combination of questions that Deforge seems to be figuring out how to ask, a kind of call-and-response. It's not as confident in its plotting, as if there was a writer who wasn't sure whether this character could contain all that the artist wanted to draw. And yet, whether it was due to a cartoonist unsure of his story's path or not, Kid Mafia's fractured personality works to make him even weirder, more intense. He's on the way to being a hateful, caustic beast. Hopefully there's more of him to come.
In summation: Both of these comics are excellent, and yet I hate draws. I'm going to give the win to Faust, because Deforge has pretty much taken all the prizes available in the last two years anyway.
Current Score: 1 for the Warehouse, 0 for the BGCF
-Tucker Stone, 2011