Two From Joey Tepedino : “The Kingdom Of Rasberry Blue Untitled”

Right off the bat, this ‘zine is wrapped in a pretty thick layer of mystery, beginning with : what, exactly, is its title? Is it called Rasberry Blue? Is it called Rasberry Blue Untitled, given the latter word appears at the bottom of the cover? Or is it, perhaps, Rasberry Blue/Untitled, meaning that it likely contains two stories/strips? It’s a head-scratcher, to be sure, but in the end I settled on the full name cartoonist Joey Tepedino gives it on the insider front cover, The Kingdom Of Rasberry Blue Untitled, since you really can’t lose by picking out the longest of several title “options” on offer. But, really, that’s just the beginning as far as the question marks go.

The year it came out, for instance, is nowhere to be found within — nor is any copyright information whatsoever, And a stickler for grammar such as myself has to wonder whether or not the word “Rasberry” in the title — whichever title you choose — is intentional or not. Here’s the thing, though : when it comes to evaluating this 16-page mini (self-published under Tepedino’s Wooshh Comics imprint) on its merits, consequential as all this may seem, the simple truth is that none of it really matters.

What matters, of course, is whether or not Tepedino can create a powerful piece of art, and while everything else about this ‘zine might be open to debate and/or conjecture, that much absolutely isn’t. Centered around a theme of losing oneself within oneself, and meeting one’s own “dark half” along the way, this is thematically ambitious work in the extreme, running the gamut from stick figures to painfully intricate linework to kaleidoscopic hellscapes to pure abstraction to, finally, an onslaught of total blackness rendered with what I very much believe to be magic marker. This is a visual descent into madness capped off by our nominal “protagonist” — who may be named “Rasberry” himself — being utterly subsumed by it. As such, then, it is by no means an “easy” read.

But hey — anyone who’s spent a fair amount of time on this blog knows that the “easy” read has never been what I’m about, nor will it ever be. Tepedino’s comic dragged me under right along with it, and while there’s no shortage of inspired dark visual delights to sink one’s teeth into on these pages, it’s nevertheless an utterly harrowing experience on the whole — which is exactly what it’s meant to be. Mission accomplished, then, and while I’m tempted to say “with flying colors,” this book is both about, and features, an absence of color in both the literal and metaphorical senses, and hey — it’s pretty tough to fly when you’re actually sinking.

What strikes me most about this comic, though, is how eminently relatable it all is, even for those of us who have been fortunate enough to never feel this lost and overwhelmed. We all know there’s a psychic and emotional void that any of us are capable of falling into, sometimes with only the slightest push or even no push at all, and while much of what’s happening here borders on the verbally indescribable, the feeling of that void luring you in before swallowing you whole is so expertly achieved that I can honestly say this is as close as I care to come to it myself. That’s high praise, no doubt, but it’s also very specific praise : if you’re one of those faint-of-heart types, or if re-living this kind of “incident” would be more likely to damage you emotionally as opposed to letting you know that you’re not alone in your suffering (both reactions being, of course, entirely valid), then this may very well be something you’re better off avoiding. Just being honest here.

If, on the other hand, you’re either up for a challenge (as well as some incredible cartooning), or have been down this road yourself and want to see your struggles reflected with honesty and authenticity, then this is an absolutely essential comic to experience firsthand. For my own part, I freely admit that I certainly can’t seem to shake its lingering effects no matter how hard I try.

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The Kingdom Of Rasberry Blue Untitled is available for $5.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/rasberry.html

Review wrist check – Farer Universal “Beagle II” riding a Hirsch “Birch” deployant-clasp strap from their “Performance” series.