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posted June 23, 2008
Comico, comic book, 32 pages, 1983, $1.50
It's hard to recommend something like the second issue of Phil Lasorda's AZ
as an artistic experience. It's crudely executed: rudimentary dialog, page layouts that are a suggestion of other popular comics' page layouts that don't make much sense to the eye, figure drawing that doesn't achieve consistency panel to panel. It's also nothing new to anyone who even skimmed junk culture from the time period. Featuring a not-very-daring escape from a temporary imprisonment, the story in AZ
#2 and the wide narrative suggests reminds one of every other standard science fiction plot that was burbling up from the primordial goo in that time period, populated by a cast of characters straight from Lasorda's sketchbook whether or not they really make sense in those roles. Comics like these depend on a kind of wider cultural myth that one has a story to tell of equal value or at least equal integrity to the best pieces of fantasy pulp out there -- whether baldly recycle, as in the slew of Tolkien knockoffs prevalent at the time or the obvious re-jiggered pulp icons in Star Wars
or simply your own dungeon-raiding party. They might not be good art, but they were yours.
What limits AZ
as effective art from our perspective now are the sames things that generate our interest in it as a cultural object. There was a time in comics just 25 years ago where an effort like this, a straight from the gut attempt to make pulp art as best as one could, with whatever creative tools one found, had a significant role in the changing comics' tastes of hardcore fandom. You see something similar now in webcomics, and even then the differences between the worst- and first-rank effectively kicks most of the former out of the wider discussion. The question that many of us near comics ask -- if only to each other -- is if the art form can survive without the occasional cycling back to cruder efforts like this one, unpretentious material devoid of any hope for life or riches beyond its publication schedule that helped revitalize the art form four or five times during a low ebb. I'm not certain, and at the same time I realize it may only be personal nostalgia that has me longing for the day when something like this held power and meaning simply by being published and on the stands: a thousand creators, a thousand worlds, a thousand ambitious stories.