Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
From Chris Ware to Dash Shaw to Grant Morrison, many of today’s most innovative creators play innovative games with the way time and space are portrayed in comics. But for my money, it’s tough to top the tour-de-force performance that is “Here,” by cartoonist/illustrator/designer/musician Richard McGuire. Originally published in Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly’s seminal RAW anthology in 1989, the strip starts with a shot of the corner of a living room in an unassuming suburban house…and then proceeds to show what happened in that corner — or the space it either used to or will one day occupy — in a dizzying number of time periods, from 500,957,406,073 BC to 2033 AD. McGuire slices, dices, and subdivides his panels to create little windows into different years, so that a single panel can show the same person posing for photographs in 1964, 1974, and 1984; or a man lounging in 1987, another man talking in 2027, a firefighter extinguishing a blaze in 2029, and a Native American lying dead on the ground in 1850. Besides being technically stunning and formally daring, it’s a provocative and I’d say moving take on the passage of time.
“Here” has since been reprinted in Todd Hignite’s Comic Art magazine and Ivan Brunetti’s An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories from Yale University Press, but it’s still relatively hard to come by given its landmark status. Fortunately, the entire strip has been posted on the Rutgers University website, and with McGuire’s permission I’m happily linking to it and encouraging you all to read it if you haven’t already. My description may make it sound confusing or dry, but trust me, when you get into the rhythm of the thing, it’s a knockout. And McGuire knows from rhythm, of course: He’s the bassist for the legendary post-punk band Liquid Liquid, and thus putting him in the enviable position of having crafted both one of the greatest comics and greatest basslines of all time.
UPDATE: Bill Kartalopoulos reminds us that much of McGuire’s work is currently on display in the Cartoon Polymaths art show at New York City’s Parsons the New School for Design. And just in case the strip disappears from the Rutgers site, you can also read it at Entrecomics, as well as watch an impressive short film adaptation of it by Timothy Masick and William Traynor: