Noah Van Sciver possesses one of the most original voices in indie comics. There’s little doubt about that. But he’s been on a strange road of personal exploration that has led to some big successes and currently he’s taking stock of what he wants to draw and how, while also continuing to work on new long form comics on The Expositor website with Joseph Remnant. In 2012, Van Sciver produced two longer form works, 1999 from Retrofit Comics, and the critically and reader-acclaimed Lincoln bio THE HYPO in hardback from Fantagraphics. During this period, he considered working “full time” as a comics artist, but the experiment left him with some questions, particularly since it led to the postponement of his long-running personal anthology BLAMMO, nominated for an Ignatz Award in its sixth issue. He wasn’t able to produce BLAMMO yearly as per tradition, and with BLAMMO 8 now in print, he says in the book, “At some point I came to the conclusion that I could never be a full-time cartoonist. I gave it a good shot, but I don’t want to burn out. And I want to draw only what I want to draw”. It’s brutal honesty from Van Sciver, but makes you wonder if the production volume necessary to be a “full-time cartoonist” is the problem when his work, and ideas, are excellent and necessary to keep pushing the envelope on indie comics today.
BLAMMO 8 is what Van Sciver “wants to draw”, so taking a cue from it shows a wide range of his ideas and talent, and illustrates his need to bring diversity to his work, something that even producing long-form works is not necessarily doing for him. Anthologies are clearly what he feels meet his personal needs, and it’s a wild, carnivalesque ride in BLAMMO 8 through Van Sciver’s imagination. All of the stories strike their own balance between stark panels, often emphasizing a person or an object to suggest psychological impact and an organic density of detail that’s intentionally claustrophobic and renders the worlds of the stories active, almost predatory. One of my favorite features of BLAMMO 8 is the introductory, and recurring, motif of the wooden dog confessor, “Dog on Wheels”. The dog is explained as the exact replica of one the narrator gave to a woman he loved once, so replacing it to consider the strange toy more fully, he finds that it seems to demand him to tell “his secrets” to it. It’s an ersatz object, disturbing to the narrator, and the reader, but it points out the intense loneliness of the individual as more characters continue to return to it as a confessor throughout the anthology.