Geoff Grogan, writer/artist
self-published, August 2010
36 big-ass pages
This isn’t quite the knockout blow that was writer/artist Geoff Grogan’s last full-length mixed-media comic, Look Out!! Monsters. And believe me, that’s totally fine–without that out-of-nowhere book’s shock-of-the-new impact, its follow-up, Fandancer, was never gonna hit that hard. But from that stunning cover, perhaps my favorite of the year, on down, it’s definitely a hit. A sort of feminine yin to LO!!M‘s Frankenstein-by-way-of-Jack-Kirby masculine yang, Fandancer (loosely) tells the story of a superheroine we join mid-plummet from an exploding plane, harried by her Bizarro-style nemesis until she hits the water below. Then we appear to be transported backwards, first to the womb and then to some dawn-of-time confrontation between a nude woman and a male interloper who reveals himself as a goat-headed devil before stealing the suddenly very pregnant woman’s embryo/glowing-life-force-thing, eating it, and then restoring her to life as an afterthought. Then (I think) the superheroine whose (I think) origin story we’ve just seen comes to in the water, and through a series of collages involving vintage comic and advertising art, outer-space vistas, and hysterical dialogue cribbed alternately from romance and superhero comics, we trace (I think) her journey into the underworld lair of her male bedeviler, whom she subsequently defeats in cartooned combat. The book ends with a close-up of her face, the life-force back in her possession.
Or maybe not, I don’t know. The story, to the extent that there is one–and in the cut-up/collage section, who the hell really knows–isn’t important. What is important is the dazzling art from Grogan, in a variety of styles: primary-color Kirby pastiche, loose and gorgeous red-and-gold-and-blue crayon, the startlingly effective reappropriated collage material which appears to be tweaking all the usual suspects in that arena, from Lichtenstein to Spiegelman to Glamourpuss-era Sim. No matter the style, man oh man does all of it work hella well on the oversized pages Grogan’s working with here, with really stellar paper stock production values to boot–each flip of the page is an eye-popping pleasure. And as in Look Out!! Monsters, what emerges most clearly from the deliberately elliptical and allusive storytelling is a sense of struggle, of great inner beauty under traumatic assault from great inner ugliness. (Don’t get it twisted, there’s some funny stuff in here, too–I’m pretty sure one collage page is actually a sex scene, and figuring that out made me laugh out loud.) My sincerest hope is that Grogan keeps putting out a book like this every couple years, Ignatz Series-style. (The format’s very similar, if that helps you picture what’s going on here.) I’ll be back for all of ’em.