Mammal Magazine Issue Two
Mammal magazine is silly—and that’s a compliment. It’s creative, funny, and sometimes creepy, managing to initiate a legitimate discussion around a given theme—in this second issue, machismo—without being stuffy or self-important. Mammal #2 looks polished, feels cohesive—which is impressive given that it’s a compilation, but less surprising when you learn that most of the Mammal men are old friends—and makes you feel like its creators really want you to enjoy reading it.
Fittingly for a magazine about machismo, the nine contributors are men—men with very distinct artistic styles. Everyone has a different take on masculinity: To name a few, Tom Forget offers two dramatic, retro vignettes inspired by 1920s ads and pin-ups and by film noir posters; Chris Hosmer contributes, among other things, a pseudo-“scientific” diorama breaking down the macho anatomy of Steve McQueen; and Benjamin Marra draws the trippy tales of a warrior named u-nonymous the unknowable, seemingly inspired by Norse mythology and video games.
What brings the magazine together—besides, of course, the theme—is an overarching absurdity, which is smart, finely-tuned, and balanced by the sincerity of the contributions. The Mammal men seem unafraid to plumb the depths of their imaginations and lay bare on the page what they find there. Also, each of the artists makes use of the full color format, making it an extremely energetic and loud book; not quite over-the-top, but far from subtle.
The exceptions to this rule are Eric Eley’s so-called minor architectural claims. These drawings stand out for their calmness and muted palette; they do, however, maintain a subtle dynamism that keeps them a-pace with the rest of the magazine. Dan Meth’s collages are visually stimulating and challenging, but perhaps too much so. They feel entirely of Meth’s mind, to the point where it’s hard to know what they’re saying and difficult engage with them.
But whereas Eley’s work acts as a foil, and Meth’s work fits in visually—even if the thematic connections are far from obvious—the one contribution that butts up against the rest of the issue is Les Kanturek’s story about Hemingway, “Death in the Morning.” On its own, I imagine the story would still flair more toward the dramatic than is my taste, but particularly in its present context, “Death in the Morning” feels too serious and earnest to be in good company. The Mammal men are extraordinarily imaginative—to the point where you sometimes can’t decide whether you should laugh or be horrified—and Kanturek’s story is just a bit too ordinary.
Speaking of inventiveness, I can’t let this review go by without a quick mention of Devin Clark’s “Facial Hair Types for the Distinguished Man,” which I first saw in poster format at MoCCA and seemed to be a big hit there. Ranging from La Fist to Chow Handles to Boombox, they are unendingly amusing and clever variations of, yes, facial hairstyles for men. I didn’t buy a poster at MoCCA, and seeing them again now, I wish I had.
At the end of it all, the Mammal men have left me with only one question: Will there ever be a female voice in the magazine? I wondered this when I read the first issue, and the second installment hammered home the question in my mind. Personally, I would have been interested in seeing some women offer their takes on machismo; I know I’ve got plenty to say on the topic.