Sean T Collins collaborated with two different artists on two different minicomics that debuted at this year’s CAB: “In Pace Requiescat” with Julia Gfrörer and “Flash Forward” with Jonny Negron. They are both good – but “Flash Forward” has been the one I’m finding myself thinking about more since reading it.
In this comic a man (a husband / father) is photographed by someone with a flash camera lurking outside his house over the course of several days. He puts off calling the police and finds himself becoming turned on by the act of being photographed. As this escalates he eventually wakes up his wife in the middle of the night and fcks her over the kitchen sink while the guy photographs both of them from the woods outside the kitchen window. His wife appears to be just as turned on as he is. Eventually he does go outside and confront the creeper only to find the guy has no face behind the camera - in fact his entire head is hollow.
Is the guy with a flashing camera obscuring his face a motif in alternative comics? It seems like it is, but I’ll admit I may be drawing lines between widely disparate points that just happened to cross my field of vision recently - finding patterns were none really exist.
Here he is in Garo Issue No. 165 from 1977. (note: not sure of the artist) Interestingly the flash seems to be coming from behind the camera, indicating that the flash is not actually the camera flash. This concept is echoed in the first panel on the last page of “Flash Forward” where there is a flash obscuring the photographer’s face, but the camera has been moved away from his face.
He shows up more recently in Yuichi Yokoyama’s “Garden”. Negron and Collins have probably both seen this comic, but the flash photographer is one of hundreds of odd characters navigating through the garden in this book, so I doubt it is a direct reference. Here he is in the background creeping around in a sporty diagonal stripped jump suit:
The symbolism of a guy constantly snapping pictures of everything is nothing new. I’m remembering gags/commentary from the 80s where parents experienced their children’s lives entirely through the lense of a camcorder, capturing everything for posterity at the sacrifice of the experience itself. But this is something different - these photographers are dehumanized and anonymous.
The central idea of this comic is a man’s unexpected turn to exhibitionism and his sexual arrousal in the face of anonymous surveilance and I read that as commentary on celebrity culture and zealous oversharing on the internet and social networking. This comic seems to take it a step further than that with the man’s horror at realizing what is actually behind the camera. It’s just a faceless, brainless monster capturing and consuming images of your private moments. While you are beating off to how many retweets you got, the people retweeting don’t even give a shit. It’s all empty.
It’s cool to see Negron collaborate with someone to do this. I liked his last comic “Blonde Cobra” a lot, but I’m not sure I got much more out of it than the “vibe”. It’s interesting to see him work in a more direct manner that still seems true to his art.