INDIE VIEW: From monkeys and men to myths and marks

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cass-myths

Mini Kuš! #69: Maud
By Marlene Krause
Kuš Komiksi
This recent entry in the long series of wildly inventive and artistically-experimental little booklets from Latvia takes on the life of tattooed woman Maud Wagner, who became a sideshow attraction around the turn of the century. Wagner was originally a trapeze artist until she met tattooed man Gus Wagner and the two married. She followed in her husband’s footsteps with the body ink and also became an accomplished tattooist herself. Krause’s recounting of their life together is brief, obviously, and filled with casual lingual anachronisms, but it’s beautifully rendered and entirely effective at expressing the couple’s bright attitude towards life. And Krause’s characterization of Maude presents a woman ahead of her time, as she charts Maud’s contributions in the field of tattooing and also concerning her progressive personality. It’s a loving tribute of a personality that bursts out the pages, thanks to the dynamic illustration work that allows her to do so.

Monkey Chef: A Love Story
By Mike Freiheit
Kilgore Books
Mike Freiheit takes the reader into some territory that most of us probably haven’t ever entered, the world of South African primate sanctuaries, specifically those featuring marmosets, and manages to juxtapose the mating habits of the sanctuary residents with those of humans, or more specifically his own.

Freiheit is going nowhere in New York City and decides to take a radical path in finding something more, but just before he takes off, he meets Megan, and they hit it off. Maybe he decided to find himself too late? Or maybe his journey is an excuse to get some nonsense out of his system? Or maybe it’s a way to be kind of a jerk while Megan is at a safe distance and a buffer zone can absorb any potential relationship wrecking behavior? Maybe all of those?

Freiheit acclimates to his job, but rarely to his co-workers, and actually feels more at home with the marmosets he feeds — and which he renders beautifully, as well as other aspects of the natural world in South Africa. But this is a story about growth, and part of that is showing precisely what the person is growing from. Freiheit pulls no punches with himself in that area, acknowledging that he needs to grow up, and also admitting that young guys sometimes have a hard time doing that without motivation, that is, a partner to do the work for.

I’ll admit to being a tad weary of travelogue auto-bio comics, but I appreciated Freiheit’s candor here, and I was honestly interested in the sanctuary and really enjoyed Freiheit’s nature drawings. Some of the sections where Freiheit is a typical clueless guy can be challenging — you deal with that guy enough in real life — but the promise of a change in Freiheit keeps you with it. The book feels therapeutic for Freiheit, and it’s a valuable one in suggesting that in life you end up being a tourist in so many situations of the situations that it’s best not to act like a tourist in your own life.

Myths
By Caitlin Cass
Otherwise known as “The Great Moments in Western Civilization Postal Constituent Volume 9, Issue 2,” the latest in Cass’ delightfully idiosyncratic series related to her alter ego, The Great Moments in Western Civilization Cooperative, which utilizes historical tales for various narrative purposes, or sometimes seems to fashion stories that just seem historical-ish.

In Myths, Cass presents precisely that, the sorts of things a civilization might look to explain the way things are, what happened and sometimes why and how it has become a thing that society just accepts without question. What lies behind the surrealist norm are recountings of a mysterious rip in the sky, of a body mangling that quickly deals with anyone exhibiting some form of empathy, of what happens to poetic souls when their gifts are rejected, and of giving up reach higher heights for fear of going too far.

Cass’ stories are wise and mysterious, hilarious and pessimistic, and realized in a playful art style that wouldn’t look out of place in a children’s book. Given the originality of the concepts here, as well as the strength of the execution, and the amount of work that precedes this issue, Cass is definitely deserving of your attention. There’s plenty of opportunity for a delicious deep dive.

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