Saturday, 19 November 2016

Monologue to Epilogue, the Comics of S J McCune

Where do I start, I've just been totally blown away by a comic.  A self-published comic from a visual artist from Northern Ireland, S J McCune. 

I've written in Splank! about Stuart and his comics a few times.  Mainly I've talked about the elegance of the artwork, the almost architectural exactness of his often sparse and beautifully coloured backgrounds and how they contrast with the fluidity of his figures.  I've said less about his storylines, and partly that's been because they are more difficult to get a handle on.   That has been particularly true of his Monologue series.  But I've just read the third and final issue, then re-read the first two and read issue 3 once again.  And I think I'm now ready to say something about it.

Monologue is about time, about sense of self and just perhaps, about madness.  It’s about the inability of one human being to fully understand or even accurately perceive another.  It’s obtuse, yet totally engaging and open to personal interpretation.  I don't think Stuart will object if the meaning that I or anyone else has taken from his comic is not exactly the same as he envisaged.  In that way it is truly a work of art.  Something the artist has produced and then released, allowing everyone to take from it whatever they can.     

This is an intelligent comic, one that uses the unique mix of words and pictures that the comic form offers to huge effect and does not compromise.  I'm not sure if it tells a story or makes a philosophical statement about the nature of self over time.  But it has left me thinking and wondering and moved.  Many attempts to use comics in this way come across as pretentious and frankly, incomprehensible.  I think it’s fair to say that from my reading Stuart has fully succeeded in pulling off something quite special here.  

 Monologue 3 is a quick read, but it stays with you. I keep going back to it, looking at individual pages, reading it again and thinking about the story.  There is a double page spread that kept drawing me back.  Looking at the swirling colours as if cloud watching.  Sometimes seeing a sphinx or a motor car.  The final page, artfully designed to require the reader to turn a physical page, shocked and moved me and yet I cannot put into words why or quite what I think it means.  I'm struggling to say what I want about this comic, but I hope my enthusiasm for it is coming across.  

All three issues are also very beautiful, not just in terms of the images, but as objects.  Paper quality is excellent and Stuart's attention to detail in design and printing is second to none.  There are also little visual jokes that point at the huge knowledge of comics that Stuart possesses.  He swipes a panel from a fairly obscure and underestimated DC comics of the 1980's, Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's "Night Force", but makes it his own by replacing demons with much more contemporary symbols of fear in the form of Hoodies.

I'm not sure if paper comics of the three Monologue titles are still available, I suspect not, but you can buy all three in electronic form from his Bigcartel web-page with more of his comics available on Comixology under his imprint Millicent Barnes Comics.

In the meantime, Stuart has another Kickstarter campaign already on the go, for a 40 page Ghost Story due in early January called Epilogue.  As I've said, Stuart's comics are worth having in physical form, they are beautiful objects and the prints, posters and tee-shirts that he has as extra's on his Kickstarter campaigns are beautiful.   So, do yourself a favour and sign up on Kickstarter now for one of the physical rewards on the Epilogue campaign and try out the three part Monologue series in whatever form you can find them in.

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