Monday, July 25, 2005

Why I love Richard Sala

Obviously I like him because his artwork’s brilliant and his stories are ace. But it's more than that.
One of the things that has frustrated and thwarted my writing and drawing career (aside from my dubious abilities) has been my inability to genuinely look at myself to fully see what I like and why I like things and then mix all those influences together in a way that allows me to express myself rather than simply being an awkward stilted piece of genre nonsense. This is where Sala shines. What inspires Sala is horror and comedy, two different genres that nonetheless use similar methods (ie the shock of the unexpected and a need for careful structure to be effective), not the first nor I doubt trhe last, but certainly one of the best. If there is a ‘unholy trinity’ of gothic comedy cartoonists then it is Edward Gorey, Charles Addams and Richard Sala. The interesting thing is how different these three are, Addams produced a certain macabre humour that is still grounded in a familiar setting (a loving family), Gorey’s work manages to be decadent, funny, whimsical, sinsister and anachronistic without it being always obvious why, and Sala also has his own path. What Sala brings is a love of ‘b’ movies, cheap thriller, 1920’s melodrama, German expressionism (his quirky angular wood cut style art nearly always brings to mind Cabinet of Dr. Caligari whenever anyone sees it), cheesecake, camp gothics and crazed serial killers. If Russ Meyer had decided he liked classics such as Cat People, Bluebeard, Murders in the Zoo and Eyes Without a Face as much as big bosoms he’d have been making ‘The Chuckling Whatsit’ and ‘The Fellowship of the Creeping Cat’ and had Lemony Snicket offering to write comics for him (as seen in ‘It Was a Dark and Silly Night’)
Sala mixes it all his influences together in a way that makes sense, it manages to embrace it’s genre and campy origins without ever seeming like it’s knocking them or suffering under their limitations, he turns genre into personal expression. Why can he do it and I can’t?!!
And that’s why I love his work, he does something that I’d love to do. It’s why I hate him too!


Danny said...

I've only managed to get hold of the one issue of 'Evil Eye' and it so rocks!

Interesting point about the 'unholy trinity' of American gothic cartoonists. I'd always seen this as the natural yin/yang reaction to the positive, go-getter face that America used to like to present to the world. An urbane, ironic voice, expressed differently by each of it practitioners, but fundamentally at odds with this 'apple pie' Americana.

But that's enough of my armchair cultural studies... Good post!

paulhd said...

Ta. I recommend the Sala collection. The Peculia stories from Evil Eye have been collected in, um, Peculia, the Reflections in a Glass Scorpion storyline is getting a collection in a few months. There's also an all new Peculia book due out this week.
I think there are quite a few very good American gothic/creepy/dark artists (another favourite comic artist of mine is Charles Burns and he's pretty damn disturbing) and I'd totally agree that it's some kind of reaction to the 'apple pie' imiage of America that seems false to nearly everyone else. I guess if it seeems weird to us than it's going to be even more difficult for those who recognise it yet have to live in it.