by Jim Rugg and
Well, here's a work that sets the table
for multi-course feast that will appeal to folks of different stripes
for different reasons. First and
foremost, it is the most ample display to date of the pop culture
prowess of the Pittsburgh-based artist/writer team of Jim Rugg and
Brian Maruca, who here have given a virtuoso performance. Afrodisiac is an homage to
the last gasp of traditional comic book values; specifically, those
that were embodied by the comic books of, roughly, 1972 - 1985.
These were the final years of the newsstand comic book market – its
decade of irrevocable decline.
Beginning in 1986 it was permanently eclipsed by the direct market, a
turn of events which not only forever altered the perception and
reception of comic books, but simultaneously led to a a substantial and
equally permanent change in their values and production.
contained in this compact, full color, hardcover volume demonstrates
a deep intuitive understanding of the the tropes and formulas of comic
books, as well as, and perhaps most significantly, the role played by
the wide variety of production and reproduction processes and
techniques through which the raw language of comics passes en route to
becoming the actual physical end product comic book that transmits its
content through the readers' sensory apparatus, and thereby promulgates
its meaning to the end consumer: human consciousness.
Conscious manipulation of the denotative capacities of production
processes has a history that goes back at least thirty years, to Art
Spiegelman's work in Breakdowns, and it continues
to be employed successfully in works such as Paul
Three Paradoxes. Afrodisiac
is, however, unique in that, here, this conscious manipulation is the
force behind the entire project, and is encoded in the texts as well as
the images, with the character of The Afrodisiac acting as a cypher –
that is simultaneously a celebration and an elegy – for the uncritical
creation of unabashed power fantasies that was no longer possible in
the wake of The Dark Knight Returns
and The Watchmen.
Rugg is a one-man production house and he has put the pedal to the
metal in his reclamation of a panoply of
production processes in this pandemonium
panegyric to the blaxploitation genre (that was itself an embodiment of
the last gasp of the classical Hollywood values that vanished in the
wake of the blockbuster onslaught of Spielberg, Lucas & Co.).
It is here, in this nostalgic conflation of blaxploitation's own uncritical
creation of unabashed power fantasies with
those of comic book superheroes, by, let it be said, a couple of
white guys, that another layer of signification transpires.
Certainly, an exploration of the text's Playing
in the Dark is warranted, and an old Lou Reed song
may come to the mind of readers of a certain age; and, the fact that
the power fantasy on display in these pages is of a distinctly sexual
nature and is employed in the domination and exploitation
of women cannot be ignored. Yet, all is rendered with a clear
humor, and where
level, intellectually engaged heads prevail, there are sure to be some
interesting and potentially valuable correlations made (cultural
anthropologists, please take note). In other words, Afrodisiac is one of the densest
texts one is likely to come across; and while many will doubtless find
it a source of uncritical enjoyment, those who do so will be doing
themselves a disservice and missing the work's essential
character. To get a head start processing this sucka', download
retail price - $14.95
Purchase this item now, HERE.
current as of 18 March 2010