Thursday, 2 September 2010

Review: Afrodisiac-Jim Rugg&Brian Maruca

What do you get if you mix the blacksplotation cinema of the 70's such as Superfly and Black Shampoo with 50's b-movie monsters, sci-fi, and the superhero and romance comics of yore? The answer lies in this fantastic pastiche come love letter, Afrodisiac. The character of Afrodisiac was born in Rugg and Maruca's ongoing series Street Angel about a 12 year old homeless kung foo fighting skateboarding prodigy.

This book is not a continuous flowing graphic novel, neither are the stories in anyway interconnected (in fact in each separate episode Afrodisiac's origin story is different). This is a post modern artifact, a found object, a mish-mash of styles, fast-paced, action-packed, and pretty absurd. Images are cropped, cut-out and resized, giving this book a distinct scrapbook feel (see also Al Columbia's Pim & Franchie). A variety of styles are adopted, from film noir moody shadows and almost Hanna Barbaraesque cartoonishness , to big eyed anime antics and aging pulp comic effects(*1). The book is full of great little touches such as fake comic covers, letters pages, and coupons to send away. As well as this there is a moment when you have to flip the book on it's side in order to read the story properly, and a deja vu storyline where the payoff of the strip shows Afrodisiac break out into the blank white plain to meet a scantily clad death.
When Rugg and Maruca parody these shadows from popular cultures forgotten vaults it is refreshing to get the feeling, the enjoyment that they got from these things, rather than them falling back on the tried and tested 'enjoying it ironically' angle (e.g. it's so bad it's good).
You know what they say, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure'. This book may be escapist nonsense, but it's escapist nonsense par excellence.

This is a similar style aged comic effect that Daniel Clowes uses in some of his comics such as David Boring and Eightball, and looking at the design of some of his characters (his villains in particular) you can see a slight affinity between Clowes and Rugg

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