Saturday, 20 August 2011
Broadcasts from beyond the Rim - Decadence Comics round up
In early November last year I stumbled upon some truly exceptional comics by Bristol based creator Lando. He had a table at Thought Bubble comic con in Leeds, and I can confidently say that nothing else I saw that day came close to the quality of his comics. My only regret is that it’s taken me this long to get round to writing about his work and his 'Decadence Comics' imprint. At the time, I remember beings pretty burned out on comics. Very little had grabbed me in the months running up to the con, so I was looking for something to re-invigorate my interest in the medium. Coming across the Decadence Comics table was a welcome slap in the face, and a poignant reminder that the UK has some truly outstanding underground comics talent.
Lando’s work draws heavily on European sci-fi comics, most notably the comics of Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) circa 1970-80. He explores the same kind of progressive vision that Giraud and France’s Metal Hurlant magazine were championing thirty-six years ago; tracing out the barren landscapes of frontier sci-fi with a distinct visual flair. Lando's largely silent comics deal in alien worlds and cultures, with no concessions given to those not versed in alien tongues. In his 'Untranslated' series of comics, exchanges between characters are represented with glyphs and streaks of telepathic energy. Body language and strong visual cues get the job done, without the need for large swathes of unnecessary dialogue. Lando’s style is open and loose, almost skeletal at times, but with an eye for sweeping landscapes peppered with detail.
His stories read like interplanetary news broadcasts; a parade of monochrome footage beamed back from war torn worlds beyond our galaxy. There are flashes of Joe Haldeman's classic sci-fi novel 'The Forever War', as worn out soldiers face off against an alien enemy they barely understand. Elsewhere, a tribe of shaggy creatures wage war against a giant godlike floating head, think a parallel universe Zardoz and you're half way there. The devastated vistas of Lando’s fantasy worlds are comparable to those of our own and could have just as easily been lifted from news coverage of Afghanistan or Iraq. In all three issues of ‘Untranslated’, the ravages of war are painfully apparent, but most of all, it’s the futility of armed conflict that Lando drives home with great eloquence.
Stathis Tsemberlidis is another like minded artist published by Lando's Decadence Comics imprint. Stathis creates sumptuous surrealistic sci-fi comics that draw form the same melting pot, but with a thoughtful philosophical bent that recalls Jodorowsky's films of the same period.
In his comics 'MOA-192B' and 'ALPHA', death and rebirth are played out in the most inhospitable of environments, where astronauts explore desolate worlds in search of something greater than themselves. His depiction of space exploration is steeped in wonder, but is tempered in brutal fashion by the crippling physical forces of space that are brought bear upon his characters.
Many meet with death but are always reborn in other forms, becoming part of the ecosystem that ensnared them or journeying onwards to higher planes. Behind the often unsettling psychedelic web of imagery, Tsemberlidis' focus seems to be on the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth. There’s a striving towards an unseen higher force that his character never quite reach, instead returning to the physical world to be begin over again.
I’ve always felt there was distinct lack of intelligent sci-fi in modern comics, especially for a medium where practically anything can be depicted, no matter how fantastic or alien. Whilst I’ll happily concede that there are a number of creators currently writing excellent independent sci-fi, it’s still worth acknowledging that this is but a very small piece of the bigger comics pie. With this in mind, it’s reassuring to see such strong talent emerging from the underground to champion the all too often denigrated science fiction genre.
Review by MD.
P.S. Here's Lando's utterly killer animated music video: