Robin Barnard makes comics, he draws them, writes them, then copies, folds and staples them before distributing them amongst various people he knows. At a quick glance they look like comics that you might have seen before but closer inspection reveals…
Let’s start again; Robin Barnard REmakes comics, he REdraws them, REwrites them, then copies, folds and staples them… You HAVE seen these before, but you’ve not read them like this before. His ‘What Men’ facsimile takes sections of Moore & Gibbons‘ classic ‘Watchmen’ and rewrites it into a critique of the spin-off ‘Before Watchmen’ franchise and the people responsible – Gibbons included.
Barnard redrew each panel in Gibbons’ style and you’d be hard-pressed to spot that it wasn’t just a scanned copy of the original with new lettering. The book is structured in the most incomprehensible way too, it took me a few goes before I cottoned on that you could read it in four different directions. Starting from the back, front or center pages, various pages read in or out of the book, all in landscape format, it’s a bit hard to describe in writing.
In his own words, “What Men is (just) Chapter V of Watchmen: Fearful Symmetry, which is both completely symmetrical and full of mirrored images. I purposely took all the mirrored images and put them all opposite each other and then also put in mirrored dialogue with references to the opposite page as well. What was in my mind was to take those previously seen mirrors rearrange them into an infinite mirror maze and use them to reflect on the Before Watchmen thing.”
There are levels of meaning here and he makes probably the nearest thing to a readable comics mash up that I think I’ve seen and you can find out more on his Images Degrading Forever site. There’s plenty more food for thought concerning ‘What Men’ in the post about reflections on the same site. These are comics ABOUT COMICS or at least indirectly about the comics industry, Barnard is using the medium to comment on the medium rather than write a blog about it.
Another one of his projects takes the Marvel comics Preview Catalogue and lampoons the never ending solicitations of forthcoming series’, character cross-overs and final, FINAL, F-I-N-A-L issues with self-referencing in-jokes that fold in on themselves as ‘The Point’ of it all is sought. It doesn’t all make immediate sense if you don’t have a keen interest or knowledge of certain areas of the comics world and its internal politics, which sometimes read like a superhero cross-over series in themselves.
His newest is a comics mash-up proper: ‘Super Spidey Man’ or ‘Star Jaws’ (I’m not sure which) is a mixture of Spiderman, Star Wars, Sesame Street and Dr Doom among others (I won’t spoil where Jaws gets into the mix). This is part 1 of a 4 issue series which may or may not be available from Orbital Comics in London. I don’t know where he’s going with this one but it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds as the mysterious packages arrive in the post. He does make some physical copies but these are very low runs (‘What Men’ was 10 copies I believe) – but all this material is available to view online at his site, Images Degrading Forever.