Comics that Hurt So Good

Last year opened with a surprise of the best kind. 

Craig Yoe, Portrait of Louise, January 3, 2015.
Craig Yoe, April 24, 2015 comics frame
published on his Facebook wall
with the comment:
"When I experimented in high School"

Craig Yoe decided to take up his pen and begin drawing again and to this end he had placed our names in a fish bowl, taking out one name at a time to do our portrait in a sketchbook of new beginnings. 

It somehow happened that my name came out first and since I had of course not grasped what his choice of subject would be beyond that of drawing, the surprise was complete. To receive such a gift just as the year was taking its first steps. It was all the more sweeter as it transformed each one of us into a character of the comics world in which anything may happen to you. We were chimeras growing out of and into life forms beyond description spreading all over the picture plane, being greeted with happy exclamation marks while doing so. 

We were presented with the gift of becoming a frame of a comic album not quite seen before and yet so familiar all through half a century till now.  
Craig Yoe, Portrait of Ruben, January 3, 2015.
Craig Yoe is an author, editor, publisher and historian of comics and all of his professional skills has turned into a vast expertise with the creative energy of seeing and understanding the life of comics from within. 

Now, Craig Yoe specializes in a particular section of comics: That which we are not supposed to see. Especially not if we are vulnerable innocents. That part of the history of comics is probably the best known from when Fredrik Wertheim embarked on a crusade against the Seduction of the Innocent (1954) as became the title of his agenda and book alike. 

It was the time when the ever-ready fear of The Other was shaped by the Cold War, and everything could be declared to have a hidden agenda. So what was better than to wage one's own war, naming one group of innocents and another of debauchers and mount the white horse? The fine arts and literature too knew the courthouses only too well from the inside, when acquittal was for those works that could find a way to prove how they refined the human mind. As wonderful as it sounds, it is as questionable (and a matter for debate for 2000 years so far) and in Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson from that same year 1954, the stage rat Emma explains, what art is all about: 

"Theatre is the most important in the world, this is where we show people, how they could be and what they yearn to be, even if they do not dare to go there, and how they are". (LCL transl.)

- and you as reader take a second to sigh happily, oh, that is so sweet, they are all three in there: the "is", the "could be" and the "would be" in the one and the same explanation; only in the next line a frightened Moominmamma exclaims:

"But then it is an disciplinary establishment"

Craig Yoe, November 10, 2015, comics frame published
on his Facebook wall.
Frame from "Octopus Kings", Strange Worlds No. 2, 1950.

What was missing in Emma's explanation was of course not so much the three of them as the lack of their interaction with their beholder/spectator; it is not just about showing the world to him or her, but igniting and being answered back.

Which comics has excelled in making into a game for more than at century till now, playing with the literal such as the physicality of the human body. 

Craig Yoe, August 6, 2015, comics frame published
on his Facebook wall.
Losing face or saving face?
Transformations, mutations and metamorphoses playing on the literal since they were nowhere near being literal and to this end using figurative elements, which were easily recognizable, drawn with a craftsmanship of angles and shadows, which would make many a great artist blush with envy. 

The cleared head makes for an all the greater impact since his forehead was distorted in wrinkles and his shadow as busy in dense brush strokes. Not to mention her shock arrested in motion with every joint in her body in sharp angles. His nothingness is stark being the only spot of rest on the picture plane. 

The seemingly literal was a play on the thing-not-done, the importance of breaking up rules; anything was taken apart, crossing the expectance of the beholder, turning the screw every week. What is not to love?

An example of what to find among the Yoe Books. The worse the better, in this case THE WORST.

Craig Yoe and his wife Clizia Gussoni are a lighthouse of cultural historical dimensions. They restore the old albums and republish and researches into them through their own publishing house. The two of them are doing the job of an international institution. Not one of the disciplanary ones, but placing us in direct debate with the contents inside.

Not to mention actually placing us within a comics frame. It has been a year, but I for one am not going anywhere. I am staying put.

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