2 out of 5
Yeah, like, comic book jams – when several artists work collaboratively on one project – turn out good rarely. It can be interesting sometimes, for sure, but often you get the “you had to be there” vibe from something that ends up being a watered down version of each contributor’s strengths. A good guiding principle or overseer can help to more effectively guide things, so maybe it stands to reason that a lack of either of those would… you know, let things become drivel.
The Narrative Corpse builds on a concept that’s been applied in other mediums – books, music – in which someone starts something, and then the next person in a sequence only sees a fraction of that something, and builds their piece off of that. Extended to many participants, improv and artsy yahoos will tell you that this method reveals something about the creative process, whereas I will tell you that it’s a cool idea that often bears inedible fruit; the success rate being even less frequent than your usual jam event.
Art Spiegelman and Savage Pencil curated NC, which slots most of the contributors into the RAW variant of indie creators – which, admittedly, isn’t my preferred brew, as it’s a bit hoity-toitier than I like my underground comix to be – but their reach stretches wide enough to include big names like Robert Crumb and Will Eisner, and also some noted Times / political cartoonists. Still, this leans more toward the ‘intellectual’ side of the comics club. But even if the book were full of people I adore, the remit of only getting three panels, and only seeing the preceding three panels, and that they have to involve a stick figure guy… it’s just not enough to get anything going, nor is stick figure guy enough of an anchor to carry interest for too long. Even for the most talented of the pack, it’s a stretch to do anything too grabbing in that small of space (notably, Mort Walker does a good job, but the longer form artists clearly struggled…), leading to a whole bunch of them just phoning it the fuck in.
The comic is interestingly put together – super tall but regular comic width, with cascading page widths that make it easy to flip through, and a sidebar reference of who’s on the page – and, yeah, because the concept is interesting, it has flip-through value. But reading it…? Pshaw.