Comics Time: Chrome Fetus Comics #7

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Chrome Fetus Comics #7

Hans Rickheit, writer/artist

self-published, May 2009

36 pages

$3

Maybe you can buy one from Hans Rickheit, I don’t know

With the release of his Fantagraphics graphic novel The Squirrel Machine slated for this fall, perhaps Hans Rickheit’s days with the most lopsided talent-to-recognition ratio in alternative comics are nearing their end. Or perhaps not. “Alternative” certainly describes what he does but does not do it justice; “underground” comes closer, as it does with Josh Simmons, who in recent years has become the closest thing to a comparable figure to Rickheit that exists. Actually, “somewhere between Josh Simmons and Jim Woodring” wouldn’t be a horrible way to describe Rickheit’s work. Like those artist, Rickheit’s comics are often exploratory in narrative, with guileless naifs–Rickheit’s Cochlea and Eustacea, and his anonymous teddy-bear-headed protagonist; Simmons’s Jessica Farm, Cockbone, and the House guests; Woodring’s Frank, obviously–wandering through a wondrous, slightly nauseating, frequently eroticized, even more frequently horrifying environment seemingly constructed with raw shards of the artist’s own unconscious. In place of Simmons’s squalor and Woodring’s psychedelia, Rickheit has fused together a singular amalgam of Victoriana and body-horror, like Videodrome gone steampunk. His elaborate structures and machines are frequently revealed to be of inscrutable purpose and surrounded by vast expanses of nothing in particular, outposts of a forgotten or unknowable civilization. His line is crisp, perfect for the ornate detail of his machinery or the endless desert of rocks that surround them; his character designs, from Cochlea and Eustacea’s revealing tutus to the teddy-bear man’s natty ascot, gloves, and boots, are rock-solid; his environments and action are always easy to parse; and his central images, from a skull-headed rabbit towering about on giant Cloverfield/The Mist legs to a floating bed tethered to a tower to keep it from soaring away to countless instances of tiny worlds hidden within orifices, are dreamlike in the most direct and impactful sense. He’s one of my favorite cartoonists. If you’re curious about The Squirrel Mother and looking for Hans Rickheit 101, buy this minicomic and your search is over.

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