One of a series of special features during the month of March to draw attention to the crowd funding/pre order Indiegogo campaign for J.T. Dockery’s Despair Vol. 2. Click HERE for more info on how to order/contribute.
Guest Artist Spotlight. Two of Five: Max Clotfelter
Visually, the bastard child of Basil Wolverton and S. Clay Wilson, Max Clotfelter is a son of Georgia currently known to be wandering the streets of Seattle; his pen claws as it cross hatches, digging into the paper/surface of a vision of human absurdity. If the pen digs under one layer, it only reveals another, deeper layer of absurdity underneath. We revolve around a muddy ball of shit and other junk through space, hurtling towards doom in the art of Clotfelter, and his art, like a warning beacon, seems to radiate. Which is not to say that this shit mud ball ain’t funny, it adds, as it hurtles. Here, let me get that for ya; you got some crud on your face from whatever that was.
I don’t seem to remember exactly how the visions of Clotfelter first snuck into my eyeballs. Alls I know is you can’t undo seeing Clotfelter’s comics anymore than you can unring a bell. But before I saw his work, it was already the kind of comics I longed to see, or maybe feared to see. And in seeing his comics, I beheld a world that I recognize; one that not only makes me uncomfortable, it makes me laugh, and it invokes The Fear that in actuality, like putting on them shades in the movie They Live, I’m seeing more clearly, through his line work, darkly.
There’s two main gears on the Army surplus jeep that Clotfelter and his art supplies steer straight on through the mud and the blood and the beer: the expansive full page/stand alone/gag image eyeball kicks and the multi panel narratives. What occurs to me is Clotfelter timing is impeccably adept. if not impeccably disquieting, in either gear. I can’t, once seen, remove from my consciousness the interplay of the beats between the guy in the chair, the alligator in his lap, and the horse haunches in a single panel of Snake Meat #4, or the timing between the set up and the final panel/”punch line panel” of “Fema Teens,” in Andros #6. To say that the aforementioned Andros #6 or Snake Meat #4 were two of my favorite comics from last year is redundant: all Clotfelter’s comics I’ve read are my favorites.
The thing about his work is that the vision is so absurd, so absurdly felt, sometimes the autobiography reads like fiction and the fiction reads like autobiography. Makes one wonder what it’s like to BE Max Clotfelter. But we know what it’s like to see like him; it’s all in the work. That, my friends, is what makes a King Hell cartoonist. I’m glad Max exists, because I want to see the comics he draws, as I said I wanted to see them before I saw them, art that makes the viewer not quite sure what she or he is getting into, with a horror and humor that can quite literally cause me to laugh out loud, but never without wincing simultaneously.
There’s a queasy mixture of a state of being right between the booze wearing off and the drugs kicking in captured in Clotfelter’s comics. Someone says, “I think I’m gonna puke, man.” But then a light breaks through. Gnosis, then fade to black.
I suggest you pick up what he’s been dropping. The tainted crumbs he’s misplaced in Despair are not an exception, and I’d feel the same regardless of it being a book I’m publishing. The 3 pager he’s knocked out for Despair 2, excerpted above, crams narrative like Crumb, not, speaking of, crumbs, at his most cramped, into a four tiered grid, and I’ve placed it as the final narrative of the book, fits into what’s evolved into the theme of the new collection: characters traveling through landscapes in which the binary notion of tragedy/comedy is removed as if one might regard the removal of a tumor. As I’ve said before when it comes to Clotfelter: think foibles not fables. Be careful what you laugh at; it might be you.