By Joseph Remnant
There’s a surprising lack of classicism amongst the younger generation of cartoonists. While it’s logical, in sense, for most budding comic artists draw a majority of their influences from the previous generation, one would think that some of the profound influence comics of the 60s and 70s had on the medium would have seeped into the pens of today’s artists in a more direct fashion.
Take Robert Crumb, the undisputed king of UG comix. Few of today’s cartoonists under the age of, say, 35, bear the influence of his unmistakable style not filtered through the work of a more contemporary name. Joshua Cotter is a notable exception. His Skyscrapers of the Midwest and bits and pieces of Driven By Lemons wear the influence of Fritz the Cat on their fuzzy sleeves, whilst establishing a style clearly their own.
Joseph Remnant is another. His style is unquestionably indebted to Crumb. In fact, anyone who has seen Remnant’s work in the context of online Pekar Project or in the pages of Mineshaft, alongside a slew of the 60s and 70s biggest cartooning talents, may well have mistaken him for the master. Really, if there’s a complaint to be had with Remnant’s work on the former, it’s that the artist may, perhaps, be too indebted to Robert Crumb. Mimicry is a leading criticism among talented young artists, but even the harshest of Remnant’s detractors (if they do, indeed, exist) have to acknowledge that the he is unquestionably a rather skilled draughtsman.
Of course, amongst the page of Mineshaft, or in the context of a Harvey Pekar strip, such comparisons are a natural. The question is whether an artist is capable of breaking free from such instantaneous comparisons when creating a work entirely their own.
For most of us—and I include myself in this—Blindspot #1 is Remnant’s first opportunity to shine in such a setting. The book is entirely comprised of short stories written and drawn by the artist, a number of which also happen to feature him as the main character.
Funny to say, but in 2010, the mere existence of a self-produced floppy seems to scream classicism. There’s something seemingly alien when such a work isn’t presented as a mini- or Webcomic. It’s hard to say for sure whether Remnant chose the format as an homage to earlier works, or whether such a choice is more the result of the prestige that still comes along with higher-end production—or perhaps such a choice is the result of a lack of Web-savvy. Whatever the case may be, the format itself is the first clear sign that the artist involved may well be the disciple of a different time.
The contents inside tell the same story. Remnant’s work retains the thin-lined inks, deep details, and heavy-crosshatching of his other works. Crumb’s influence is still clearly present, but so too is the work of Mad artists like Jack Davis and Mort Drucker, as well as more contemporary alternative cartoonists like Rick Altergott—Joseph Remnant knows how to craft ugly, and is more than willing to do it up close.
But even while Remnant continues to draw heavily on those who came before, he’s worked here to develop a style that isn’t easily mistaken for any of the above mentioned artist. With Blindspot, he’s proven that Joseph Remnant knows how Joseph Remnant draws, an important skill for any artist not planning a career drawing, say, Archie or Mickey Mouse books.
He’s also crafted a handful of compelling short stories—sketches, really. Blindspot #1 feels like, above all, a sampler of Remnant’s work—the sort of thing an artist sends out to publishers and fellow artist to prove that he can, in fact, tackle anything they might throw out at him.
But the stories contained herein are at least compelling enough to drive the reader forward, and convince them to eagerly await the follow up. There’s the story of washed up former rock star Goddard (a Jerzy Kosinsky reference, perhaps?), fat and angry and in the middle of comeback talks. Another strips finds Remnant himself in the middle of Amoeba Music in LA, debating the merits of buying Pet Sounds third time (this one actually hits a little too close to home). Another highlight is a Pekar-esque glimpse into the mood-shattering effects of the daily grind.
In all, Blindspot #1 is is an exciting glimpse into the work of an artist with talent to burn. Hopefully, in the near future, it will be possible to write a review of Remnant’s work without feeling obligated to mention R.Crumb’s name a dozen-plus times. Of course, I’m sure Remnant will be the first to admit that there are far, far worse things in this world with which to be compared.