Saturday, 19 December 2015

Big Man Plans

Eric Powell & Tim Weisch

‘Big Man Plans’ is a revenge story of a small man that has been beaten up and mistreated all this life, making him bitter and super-violent. As a child, the only true sympathetic voices came from his father and a girl named Holly, who he of course falls in love with. We join him as he starts on a path of vengeance. The narrative goes back and forth between his wreaking vengeance and flashbacks to an unhappy and abused past, giving a foundation as to why he is who he is and why he says the tagline, “I’m here to rage and get respect.”

Eric Powell’s art mostly concentrates on faces and figures and the violence drawn is surely the kind that people demanding The Comics Code couldn’t have dared imagined in their wildest nightmares. That is, it’s outrageous, gory and extreme. The flashbacks, however, are conveyed in more detail, because it was surely a bigger world for him back then, not just concentrating upon enacting revenge on hideous wrongdoers. He learns early on to react with double the force that those that beat on him and insult him expect. He is probably afflicted with some form of PTSD long before he is enlisted by the army for secret missions that take advantage of his size. And there is some comedy with vignettes of people he spared telling their kids a bogeyman story of “the tiniest version of death.”

It is these flashbacks that give pathos to the story, giving its single-minded intent to depict graphic violence some weight. Of course, the antagonists are far deserving of what they receive, being despicable in the extreme, so we don’t really have to question the revenge visited upon them too much. The bitter and visceral nature of the story scours the page, leading the narrative by force away from the sadness deep down that our protagonist carries. Relevantly, there is a look of fear and sadness on his face when, as a child, he first fights back (“Chin up.”). It’s in these details that Powell and Weisch’s stripped-down brutal vengeance tale substance. It’s a story of someone that never had a chance and the unending nature of violence.

Friday, 11 December 2015

"The God Damn Beauty of it All" - The Art of Joe Sangre exhibition

BMST Space, 5 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, N16 8BH

My friend Joe Sangre currently has an exhibition in Dalston. Okay, it’s bound to be gone by the time you read this, but you should browse his website at

Joe Sangre’s exhibition of art offers appealingly nostalgic imagery for mostly parodic effect, most evidently harking back to the cartoons and imagery of Max Fleischer and early Twentieth Century branding. For example, “Man vs Cactus” seems to propose machismo in a bottle, utilising the ridiculousness of the idea that drinking makes maleness. Or the repetition of “The Quitter” ~ a centrepiece for the exhibition as the kid chases the balloon all around the place ~ suggests always reaching for that thing that is just … out of … reach… but which you still pursue. Or then there’s the paranoia of “Kittie Got Dead”, where the blindfolded and sweating persecuted kitty shows some defiance in the pouting of the (presumably) last cigarette.

There’s a pleasing straightforwardness and spare aesthetic to these drawings whose simplicity draws you in directly. Joe Sangre doesn’t want to clutter the imagery or the meaning up with an abundance of detail, but this art harbours deeper connotation, creepiness and a black humour, should you want it.