“Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred” #4

By | June 30th, 2019
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the page.

Cover by Shaky Kane
Written by David Hine, illustrated by Shaky Kane, lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
When worlds collide–the cut-up issue. Destroyovski unearths fragments of unseen ‘lost’ Kane and Hine comic books. 84 panels! 84 mind-blowing scenes! But what does it mean???!!!

Ah, the fourth issue. AKA ‘The cut-up issue.’ AKA the infamous one.

Are comics worth preserving? I am talking beyond the content, which is easily kept today in forms of collections and digital files, but of the products themselves. Certainly they were not made to be kept. The whole bag-and-board thing came much later and is often thought-of alongside the collector’s market, the transformation of art into cold cash value. Sure, it might have started as an attempt by people to preserve keepsakes, but it quickly became another act of commodification. By keeping these ratty old things, made to be read and discarded, in pristine condition aren’t we betraying the art itself? Of course, saving art can often involve acts of betrayal: Max Brood betrayed the will of Frantz Kfaka when he refused to destroy the author’s unfinished works – thus contributing to literary history.

Issue #4 is infamous because Shaky Kane & David Hine swear they prepared for this stylistic exercise by cutting up Kane’s copy of “Fantastic Four” #2, a Lee & Kirby original. You can just imagine the howls of rage spread across the nerd internet. You can still see the images online, two of them at least that I can find: First, Kane holding up a pair of scissors to the issue in question like it’s a hostage, followed by another image of several panels from that very issue on a table.

Except…. Except there is nothing in between. There is no video that I can see, and the images offer a beginning and an end without a middle. The actual act of cutting is missing. This is, of course, comics we are talking about. And if we see, in a comic-book not in real life, an image of a man wielding scissors at an item and then images of that item in pieces our brains fill the void themselves. Filth theorist and director Sergei Eisenstein knew what he was talking about when he formalized the notion of the montage in cinema, he understood not only human vision but human mind and soul the way few did. But just because we can be made to think something happened doesn’t mean it did, cinema is an illusion after all.

we, the critics, the fans, the readers, fought so hard and long to give respect to this oft-ignored medium. Fought this fight so long and so hard that we keep at it even though we’ve long won. There are academic courses and books taught about comics, the medium is more diverse in terms of content and creators than ever, superheroes are the biggest pop-culture icons of the last decade etc. things are better than ever. But just keep your eyes peeled for the whole of comics’ critical sphere going berserk whenever a minor reporter does a meaningless op-ed that he still prefers Walt Whitman over Walt Simonson. Maybe this fight made us forget that this thing started not in cave paintings or on persevered decorations kept in museums, but as bits and pieces in newspapers. here today and gone tomorrow – that is our legacy.

Comics, this issue reminds us, is more than any other medium about the amorphous nature of time and space. Cinema, television, the theatre – these visual modes of expression often offer direct continues movement, with the montage as a short cut. Andri Tarakovsky’s films, some of the most celebrated creations in cinema’s history, gave us shots that seem to last forever, long and bold in their eventless nature. He called making movies ‘sculpting in time.’ He sought to find truth, of the capital T type, by forcing us to confront our being in time, which is only possible by slowing down action and the beings that exist in it. His films are contemplative works, they include contemplation and they demand it from the readers.

Continued below

You can’t do that in comics. Comics is all editing – we see two panels of the same person in the same pose and we can imagine that a second has passed, or a minute, or a year. We can even pretend that this an identical stranger in a different place. It’s all in the context. Chris Ware’s works often involves tracking nearly identical-looking individuals across time and space, and letting the readers query the nature of their presence and relations. In this issue, more than any other I can recall, the very nature of the medium is brought to bear. This is not a story, this is a hundred billion potential stories, the creators allow the reader near-complete freedom. You can’t do that in cinema, or television, even if you randomize events the director still controls the order in which they are seen. Here we are free, even encouraged, to dictate our own order.

Of course, all of this could boil down to pretentious nonsense, if the creators were bad at what they do. This issue is pretentious, no doubts about it, but it is also a good read. This issue is so fun to go through, even if you have no idea what’s going on; in fact, it’s better because you have no idea what’s going on. This is Shaky Kane, all the way, utilizing his talent to be both funny and unnerving at the same time. every single image here is a keeper, something I want to just preserve for eternity, a visual celebration of absurdism and pop-culture history. This is also David Hine, throwing the readers just enough of a bone for us to think we know what is going on. He knows when to let the pictures speak for themselves and when to put just the right words into the mix: “Heaving returned to his planet, nostalgia remains.” This is a good a line as any at summing-up the superhero experience as a reader and a critic.

Devastation as creation is something of theme in the stories of the series so far, the forces of destruction and death also serve as the forces of creation. In the previous issue the boy destroying the action figures is also the one telling the story. You can’t make up something new if you’re intent on preserving the past. You have to be a cultural vandal of some sort to be an artist.

I met David Hine, at a convention, and asked him about the act of vandalism. He told me they did it, straight up. He also winked while he said it; but, and this is important, his wink seemed to have a wink of its own. It all seems so unlikely, Kane is a known massive fan of Jack Kirby, could he really cut such a rare item? In the real world, just like in the comics, when it comes to “Bulletproof coffin” you only pretend you want to know.

Does it matter at all if they ‘did’ it? it is Kane’s comics – he bought it, he owns it. but if comics as a medium is art, if comic-books are therefore art, and you don’t make something like “Bulletproof Coffin” if you don’t believe you are making art, should people be allowed to own them like this?

So far “Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred” felt like a journey through a history of comics, at least as product, a piece of pop-culture ephemera. With this issue, the series’ best and of the greatest of bits of comics-making in this century, the view is expended. This isn’t a riff on history; this is an examination of the very building-blocks of how this medium works.

//TAGS | 2019 Summer Comics Binge

Tom Shapira

Writes for Multiversity, Sequart and Alilon. Author - "Curing the Postmodern Blues." Israel's number 1 comics critic. Number 347 globally. he / him.


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