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Elsewhere #1
posted May 2, 2005

imageCreators: Gary Sullivan
Publishing Info: Self-Published, $3.95, 24 pages
Ordering Numbers: Web Site

The first issue of Gary Sullivan's Elsewhere is given over to a story called "Japanese Notebook." In somewhat of a non-narrative, Sullivan takes images and snatches of phrasing he saw while honeymooning in Japan and plays them off of one another for effect. Sullivan's comic measures 6 ½ inches wide by 8 3/8th inches tall. A little over a third of the pages are given over to three-tier panel construction, which sort of makes that the baseline page; Sullivan smartly works all over the place, though. The best thing about what I'm guessing might be a first career work is the artist's comfort with physical positioning as a rhythm tool; the comic may drone though many of the three-tier pages, but it warbles and bounces across others.

The overall treatment leaves a little to be something to be desired. Despite the extremely attractive cover, Sullivan's not yet a strong enough and consistent enough artist to add visual emphasis or even an expressive force to his catalog of bizarre, tiny and slightly disturbing commercial imagery. I would say his ear is even less formed. The reader may sense that there's something here more than a clever formulation of the alienation an artist may obviously feel in a different visual culture, and smarter readers than myself may even find it. I'm afraid I kind of fell off the path about ten pages in. There are few moments that feel much more grounded than others. The best page in my opinion was #22, where the phrasing about angels against a backdrop of rural demons and nightmares seemed to really hit at cross-cultural assumptions of what might be holy and what might terrify. That's also one of the funnier passages.

I notice that one of the peopled thanked was the cartoonist Matt Madden -- a teacher, perhaps -- and "Japanese Notebook" may remind some astute readers of Madden's mini-comics work from a decade or so ago, just lacking their clarity.