My only previous exposure to Canadian cartoonist and ‘zinemaker Jonny Petersen came by way of his Space Basket comic that Domino published some years back, which followed a pretty straightforward (if admittedly bizarre and hilarious) narrative, so I was pretty well floored when I received a couple of his latest self-published minis, which are highly interpretive works set within a tight conceptual framework deployed in service of different goals. This review and the next one forthcoming on this site will take a look at each in detail, so let’s get started with the one that’s got the longest title — as well as one of the longest titles you’ll ever find in general, A Brief Yet Rambling Journey Through A Bunch Of Country Style Quotes And Bits Of Useless Advice, which is admittedly a real mouthful but offers quite a bit to take in visually, as well as to ponder over once you’re done with it.
I freely confess to not being a big fan of so-called “received wisdom,” so something like this is bound to be right up my alley, given that Petersen is determined to, as the Brits say, “take the piss out of” any number of nuggets of corn-pone wisdom that really haven’t done much to actually make anyone’s life even marginally less horrifying and unbearable over the years, decades, even centuries. If you’re gonna take the time to tell me what I should be doing with my life, you’ better make sure that your unsolicited advice is at the very least original, if not actually and actively worthwhile. Simple folk tend to give simple answers, and last I checked life’s problems were, more often than not, pretty goddamn complex.
And “complex” is precisely the word to describe the intricate, noodling, labyrinthine illustrations that Petersen presents alongside and around these time-worn rhetorical cop-outs, the stark white inks and riso reds popping off the heavy-duty paper of the pages here to engage the eyeballs in a meticulously-rendered netherverse of disjointed faces, moving bodies, wraithlike expressions, and arcane symbols. I have to assume the process of drawing this stuff was laborious, to put it kindly, but these labors were certainly not undertaken in vain : indeed, this is an instantly-memorable ‘zine that etches its way into your cerebral cotex at first glance and grows tendrils that root it in there nice and deep as you go along.
Which may, come to think of it, be my roundabout way of saying this is a visually infectious work that might owe a hat-tip to, say, Theo Ellsworth, Mike Diana, Keith Haring, and Jess Johnson, but pulls a pretty thorough end-around on its in-no-way-hidden influences by setting itself about a very particular task that’s quite unlike anything most folks on this side of the creator/reader relationship are likely to have encountered before. Points, then, for undeniable originality, even if the art has a pretty clear, if appealingly varied, stylistic lineage both inherent within it and on full display.
Teasing out the relationship (assuming there is one) between what’s being said and how said “home learnings” are being presented — indeed, even divining what the context of said presentation really is — stands as this work’s defining feature, a gleeful and well-considered study in dichotomy and even disassociation that isn’t afraid to be absurd itself while pointing out the obvious absurdities of cliches and reductive reasoning. Simple slogans married with artwork that couldn’t be less simple if it tried? Sign me up for that unholy marriage anytime! And while you’re at it, don’t feel any pressure to tell me something I don’t know, because that would sort of defeat the entire purpose here.
Granted, this is part of a one-two punch with companion piece Me Me Me Me (shown above), but each stands strongly enough on its own, and has earned the right to be judged on its own merits. And while the country witticisms and homespun philosophies visually extrapolated upon by Petersen in this one may be absolutely disposable, the actual ‘zine itself is, I’m very pleased to report, anything but.
A Brief Yet Rambling Journey Through A Bunch Of Country Style Quotes And Bits Of Worthless Advice is available for $7.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/briefyet.html
Review wrist check – Hamilton “Jazzmaster Viewmatic” riding a Hirsch “Massai Ostrich” strap in royal blue.