Reich 1 and 2
Elijah J. Brubaker
‘I fully expect many readers to disagree with my interpretations of [Wilhelm] Reich’s life,’ Elijah Brubaker announces in the inside-cover introduction to the first issue of Reich. For the majority of his potential readers, Brubaker’s preemptive apology is likely to prove unnecessary.
After all, as he correctly posits in the intro to the same text, ‘[m]ost people who know of the man know him as a crazy character[…]People like Robert Anton Wilson and William Burroughs have mentioned him in their literature,’ which is to say that, outside of those who have chosen to intimate themselves with Reich’s history, the man is little more than a collection of quotes and ideas name-checked amongst leading counter-cultural figures.
I’d be lying if I suggested that, before picking up these first two installments of Brubaker’s semi-fictionalized account of Reich’s life, that my familiarity with the man extended at all beyond the bits and pieces attributed to him that have appeared in the works of subsequent artists and writers.
However, one would be hard-pressed to conjure up the name of another relatively obscure historical character whose biography provides so much ample fodder for a fictionalization as Wilhelm Reich. As a pioneering contemporary of Freud who was often suggested by his peers to be mad himself, there’s little wonder why his work has become a cornerstone to the aforementioned champions of alternative thought.
These first two books are primarily concerned with the key years of Reich’s development as an intellectual, following him through his time at the University of Vienna, which sees him rejecting the status quo of academic thought, while developing the building blocks for his own theories of human sexuality (a subject which most at the time refused to discuss, save for the most clinical terminology) and forming alliances with key figures like Freud, all while regularly womanizing and burning a good number of professional bridges.
Brubaker’s story is largely chronological, with occasional exposition provided by one-on-one documentary-style interviews with those who were the closest (a relative term, emotionally-speaking) to Reich. For authenticity, the author includes a series of footnotes at the end of both books, which coincide with specific panels in which they are used as source material, a method he happily admits that he swiped from Chester Brown’s Louis Reil, a book to which Reich owes several debts.
Reich’s storytelling manages to be both engaging and informative, though Brubaker occasionally bounces a touch to far ahead in time to maintain a fully cohesive storyline, a fact he’d likely attribute to the relatively brief length of his ‘pamphlet-sized’ format.
While perhaps not the most technically proficient artist, Brubaker’s art also compliments the storywell, borrowing strains of Picasso-esque cubism.
In all, the opening installments of Brubaker’s Reich biography are certainly sufficiently engaging enough to warrant the purchase of subsequent issues in the series, or at the very least, a further investigation into the life of the fascinating figure who serves as their subject matter.