We make no bones here at Stately Beat Manor about our admiration for the work of Rick Veitch. We said that before he was our boss, we said it while he was our boss, and we say it when we’re just pals again. From his early short stories for EPIC ILLUSTRATED through THE ONE and his work on SWAMP THING and his own twisted Heroica line, his voice is a disturbing and powerful one, asking questions that need to be answered. His work takes us to the place where we find they can never be answered.
Thus, one of the happiest pieces of news that we heard from San Diego is that he’s back doing an original monthly book, ARMY @ LOVE, for Vertigo. Veitch will be both writing and pencilling the book, with Gary Erskine inking. According to an interview at THE PULSE:
Veitch said several things influenced his decision to do a story like this. “Part of it is looking at the news and seeing what a horrible situation the world is in right now,” he said. “It seems like the whole of Southern Asia is boiling over in a cauldron of war, while we here in the West are living fairly normally. Death and destruction are shown continually on our TV screens and we seem to pretty much ignore it. And another part of it is old television shows like HOGAN’S HEROES, that turn war into situation comedies. I got thinking if I made a black comedy of a war that was still happening, rather than twenty years after the fact like M*A*S*H, it might make an interesting counterpoint to the real violence going on right now. These are relationships that you might find on SOPRANOS or SIX FEET UNDER.”
Sign us up, Pilgrim! (You can see some preview art illustrating this posting.)
Veitch’s last work to appear was the OGN CAN’T GET NO, which has received some of the most intelligently glowing reviews of any mainstream comic of the past year. (Disclosure: we were the acquiring editor for the book, although we had zero to do with the production.)
Veitch has collected some of the reviews in this thread at Comicon, but it’s worth quoting a few:
But if you dig just a little deeper, concentrating on the essential arc of both of these narratives, you’ll discover something even more iconoclastic about Can’t Get No. Yes, this is a book about The Tragedy of 9/11, true. But in a very real sense, this is a book about how that larger event reflects and is in turn reflected by our individual tragedies and losses. It is about the journey we’ve all been on since then, since we’ve all had to embark on something analogous to a voyage of discovery to even begin understanding what has happened, much less initiate anything resembling a healing process. We’re sailing uncharted waters, traversing terra incognita, scanning the horizon or the surrounding brush for sea serpents and tigers alike.
Richard Gehr at Newsday:
Rick Veitch’s ambitious “Can’t Get No” is not only a landmark graphic novel or, more accurately, a graphic epic poem; it’s also one of the more thoughtful and even satisfying artistic responses to Sept. 11 to date.
Taking advantage of comics’ unique ability to suspend and bend time, Veitch envisions an all-American cross-country odyssey with roots in Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer’s hard-core Christian allegories.
City Link Magazine:
Rick Veitch’s Can’t Get No provides a trenchant allegory about the fragility of identity, set against the backdrop of 9/11. Rather than providing narration or dialogue, Veitch tells his story solely through his illustrations, tying everything together with prose that reads like beatnik poetry. “The soul is a cageling here,” he writes as Roe makes his way through the graffiti-strewn city. “Stripped and hobbled, perp-walked through a crush of programmed obscenities, scourged and blindfolded, checked for disease, then put up on the auction block with all the other good ideas.”
Trying to suss out any possible meaning for such gibberish is a constant distraction, but the text controls the pace, encouraging a leisurely stroll through the black-and-white art rather than the headlong race implied by the propulsive narrative. And by forcing readers to slow down and breathe, Veitch gives them time to absorb his fetish for grotesque detail, from the scraggly hairs on a policeman’s upper lip to the saliva dripping from a set of fake teeth. For someone operating on such a small scale, the enormity of 9/11 is an appropriately monstrous and distant calamity.
That run-on, multifaceted thought applies to a work in which the art is expansive but the text is dense with ideas; looking at “Can’t Get No” (nice Stones sample there) is easy, but absorbing it as a whole is more difficult. Veitch’s ambitious book is full of stimuli and is one of the more provocative attempts to make sense of events that continue to throw the world for a loop. It stars Chad Roe , head of Eter-No-Mark. When his permanent marker company goes belly up, Roe finds himself adrift in an unmoored society. A pair of grotesque but sexy women mark him permanently and set him loose to wander, drugged and aimless, through 9/11, a bizarre funhouse based on Revolutionary themes and an aquatic disaster of Katrina depth. Roe ends up largely where he started; Veitch doesn’t draw conclusions or tie things up neatly, so the finale is as disquieting as the beginning.
Whew! You can read more raves at the Comicon link. Why are we spotlighting this? #1, we really do believe Veitch is one of the unsung visionaries of comics and #2, CAN’T GET NO is a very ambitious serious work in comics form. While other comics like IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS and PERSOPOLIS have used autobiography as the prism to reflect the all-too-often insane world we now find ourselves in, Veitch is creating his own myths and metaphors. It’s graphic fiction in the truest sense. It’s nice to see that so many book critics are able to take this book and its powerful themes seriously. In a small sense, Veitch’s arrival opens the door even wider to the world we’ve always believed in, the world where comics are a medium of ideas and not just pretty pictures.