Monday, March 12, 2012

Fit 8, pg. 81/1 … I ♥ Darkness

At the heart of every story, epic or romance ever written, chanted or gurgled in the shower lies what literary experts call the "darkness" — hence the phrase, "heart of darkness" — the place where the malevolent gist of the entire plot keeps itself warm and dry.

We've arrived at such a "heart of darkness" in our Hunting of the Snark and unlike certain sissy-boy writers who needlessly tie their literary loincloths into Gordian knots over such naughty anatomical dilemmas, we shall bash on regardless. They haven't made the darkness yet — hearty or not — which can't be crosshatched into submission by any ink-sodden, nib-drunk illustrator worthy of the name.

This business of "it's a boo" has troubled the minds of Snarkologists (both of them) through the centuries because it functions just like the murder weapon in a classic, Golden Age detective story — with one slight difference: there's no murderer, no motive and possibly not even a victim. Plus, the detective is really dumb* …

Has the Baker just been conked on the head by a Snark-subspecies-Boojum? Or has he been conked on the head by someone whose name begins with the letters "boo?" Or has he been conked on the head with a Snark-subspecies-Boojum by someone whose name begins with the letters "boo?"

Plausible candidates for the latter position could include John Wilkes Booth, Daniel Boone, Booth Tarkington or even George Boole, the English microcephalist anteater. But eventually, suspicion will fall on the head of the Mistuh Kurtz of our sordid little Snarkian Hearty-Darkness, the Boots.

Oh yes, Boots, we've had our eye on you for quite a while now, ever since you showed up for work disguised as Charles Darwin. Who better than Charles Darwin to play the role of a Snark-Hunter's Heart of Darkness, the man who more than any other toppled the edifice of Victorian thingum-a-jig with the shocking fritter-my-wig of Evolution, a theory so radical that it makes American politicians' heads explode to this day?

I could go on but frankly, I've evolved and I think you should too. If you need more "evidence", you can console yourselves with the cheap thrill of realizing that the paintings on the wall behind our bewildered Snarkistas refer to both the Boots and the Boojum at once.

I can't remember how or why anymore though, this illustrator's heart of darkness has spread to his brain and he's unable to 'ink rationally. Cue sabre and jewel-rattling from the Gods …

*The final evolution of the mystery genre will be the creation of a fictional detective so mind-numbingly stupid and thick that he does not even know that a crime has been committed. The name of that other sublime Polish peddler of heartful darkynesses, Witold Gombrowicz, comes to mind as a literary candidate for such a venture … and for readers who crave the genuinely obscure, yet another sublime Polish fresh-lit peddler, Stanislav Lem, actually did write such a mystery (The Investigation), or at least one in which no crime was committed, practically the same thing, logically speaking.

The death of Moebius is the end of a glorious era in comix. If you make a living dipping a pen-nib into India ink and then ensuring that the final results are both camera-ready and legible to the average viewer, you regard Moebius as the undisputed master of the art.

If time permits, I'd like to do some posts about his pen technique, but for now, what I would like to point out is that Moebius proved, over and over and over again, that the thorough mastery of the basic, fundamental skills of art trumps being fashionable every time.

No matter what today's critics may say, draftsmanship matters. Very few of them can even define the term, much less understand why it is the god of all the visual arts. Cultivating good draftsmanship starts with being honest to your eyeballs.

Look at crappy art, you will make crappy art. Look at Moebius, draw happily!


  1. I felt somehow nervous, I must confess, as I watched Fit the Eight getting closer and closer and closer to an unavoidable ending... what was to happen next? And then Moebius disappeared: a nightmare became true! (I never called Moebius anything else but "The Boss" (in French: le patron); and so were doing most french comics artists I happen to have met).

    It's to some extent comforting to think that perhaps this next thing to come after The Hunting is over could be a series of posts unveiling your thoughts about Moebius's pen technique. I hope Time will permit this to happen!

  2. I learned to crosshatch by studying "le patron" and Dürer, they were my Mecca and Medina. The French style is so "wet", so physically happy, the German style is so dry & optically obsessed, both of them dominate all possible styles of classical crosshatching … When Le garage hermetique 1st appeared in North America in the 70s, it fried my brain forever. I don't think NA artists quite understand the historical nature of Giraud's work

    I would like to do more posts about both artists & crosshatching and also the business of illustrating … I am also thinking of restarting the Snark from page one, without showing the soon-to-arrive ending, and then doing each stanzel with new commentary that says the exact opposite of the earlier commentary — a moebius stripping of the snark?

  3. This prospect is mind-boggling! Be cautious however, for snark's sake: a Moebius strip is a treacherous walk to walk! Progressing half the way upside-down, half the way upside up, plus tilting along the third and the fourth halves of the way at impossible angles may be hazardous for an already fried brain!
    Anyway, I would follow you anywhere armed with forks and hope and advienne que pourra! Je suis ici toujours!

  4. my fried brain is up for it!

    ouais, une bonne idée, dans l'abîme "moebien" avec les fourchettes et l'espoir

  5. this is my new favorite thread of mahendraian madness

    the idea of doing the same book over again but from an opposite perspective!

  6. it is not madness, Martin, it's Looking-Glass Logic. BTW, isn't it about time you got started on the Encyclopaedia of Heaven?