New boundary-devoid comic, Hot Potatoe

I look upon the cover of Hot Potatoe, Marc Bell’s graphic novel that’s due later this month, and think that this guy has established a style that would take the entirety of an article to describe. I’m surprised Tommy LaCroix was able to do it so well in his essay “See You In The Funny Pages”, which is all about Bell and his work. “My comics are pretty ‘free-wheeling,’ so to speak, but I really try hard to rein them and try to make them readable,” says Bell via e-mail. Indeed, searching for a narrative or structure or something to follow is one of the first tasks you undertake in trying to interpret his work.

The interior pages of Hot Potatoe are something along the lines of recounting the slew of events from a night of drunken debauchery, and the hangover, and finding out what it is you may or may not have slept with – all in a single, two-dimensional piece of “fine ahtwerk” in ink. No, that still doesn’t really cut it. It’s part cubist. All objects have a face. “He winds up creating this goofy netherworld, this halfway point where the whole universe he creates hangs between both inanimate and sentient,” LaCroix states when describing Bell’s work in his essay. “The work is busy, intricate, detailed to the point of obsession,” Tommy LaCroix eloquently describes Bell’s art, “informed . . . deftly executed composition.” I happen to agree.

The grotesque details in his work employ, at times, collaborations with likeminded artists, peers, and colleagues – they will literally draw a bit, then post it to the next guy who will in turn do the same thing. The work is what you might call part fine art, part comic, in style. His work has seen art gallery walls, weeklies, even Vice magazine, but this comic launches at a shop on Main street, here in Vancouver. It’s about this, like, protagonist who, on each page, is perpetually subjected by his environment. Perhaps a commentary on life, or the human condition, or what-have-you. LaCroix calls it “Words and scripts…invading the figurative subject matter’s space, crowding it inward and out.”

“In an art gallery, people see [my pieces] as some kind of ‘cartoony’ artwork and in a comic book, this stuff is seen as ‘illustration’ or something else and not comics,” says Bell. One great thing about Marc Bell’s work is the response it gets. The Minneapolis Star Tribune thinks it leaves you feeling “as if you have bees in your head,” and LA Weekly says he’s “a riddle wrapped in a conundrum further wrapped in salty bacon.” You just know this guy’s work is going to be great when people respond this way. Again, I happen to agree. Modeslty, Marc Bell tells me, “I am trapped in some kind of nether region. Sometimes it’s frustrating that I won’t really be taken seriously in either medium, but I can live with it.” You can see for yourself, October 19th, at Lucky’s Comics on Main Street.

// Reza Naghibi

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