In a Glass Grotesquely – Selected Picture Stories


By Richard Sala (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-797-0 (PB)

Richard Sala is a lauded and much-deserving darling of the Literary Comics movement (if such a thing exists), blending beloved pop culture artefacts and conventions – particularly cheesy comics and old horror films – with a hypnotically effective ability to weave a graphic tale.

He grew up in Chicago and Arizona before earning a Masters in Fine Arts and, after beginning a career as an illustrator, rediscovered his early love of comicbooks. The potentially metafictional self-published Night Drive in 1984 led to appearances in legendary 1980s anthologies Raw and Blab! as well as animated adaptations of the series on Liquid Television.

His work is welcomingly atmospheric, dryly ironic, wittily quirky and mordantly funny; indulgently celebrating childhood terrors, gangsters, bizarre events, monsters and manic mysteries, with girl sleuth Judy Drood and the gloriously trenchant storybook investigator Peculia probably the most well-known characters in his gratifyingly large back-catalogue.

Sala’s art is a joltingly jolly – if macabre – joy to behold and has also shone on many out-industry projects such as his work with Lemony Snickett, The Residents and even – posthumously – Jack Kerouac; illustrating the author’s outrageous Doctor Sax and The Great World Snake.

In a Glass Grotesquely is one of his very best: an irresistible tract of baroque pictorial enchantment, deftly combining a 2014 webcomic with a triptych of visceral and saturnine delusions from the end of the last century, all exploring the bleakest corners of the modern world’s communal fantasy landscape and applying his truly skewed raconteur’s gifts to giving us a thrill, a chill and a chortle…

The majority of this spookily sublime confrontation with the cartoon dark side is taken up with the gripping saga of ultimate enemy of America ‘Super-Enigmatix’, a diabolically inspired super-villain determined to avenge himself upon America for slights both imagined and tragically real… and no, he has never run for political office, and it’s too late for the “write-in” option…

Delivered in punchy alternating doses of surreal full-colour splashes and moody monochrome subplots, the story details how the brilliant weird-scientist – served by an army of beautiful female zealots and hidden race of mole people – tries to destroy modern society, only opposed by disenchanted ex-cop Natalie Charms and a dedicated band of “conspiracy nuts”…

The struggle against a self-created monster hiding behind a smoke screen of urban legend is fast-paced, Byzantine, and insidiously politically charged: a mesmerising chase-caper and delight of post-modern paranoia meeting classic pulp-fiction melodrama…

Like a bleakly mordant reinvention of the Catholic Church’s Stations of the Cross, ‘It Will All Be Over Before You Know It…’ is a sequence from single panel monochrome epigrams building to a tableau of modern terrors for women seeking work, after which 1998’s ‘Stranger Street’ silently details the building tension as a psycho-killer haunts the streets of an already chilly town…

The cracked chronicle then concludes with a Kafkaesque shaggy bird story delivered in barrage of grey wash, as an ineffectual nobody receives – and loses – a once-in-a-lifetime boon in ‘The Prestigious Banquet to Be Held in My Honor’

Available in paperback and digital formats, In a Glass Grotesquely amusingly exposes the seamy, scary underbelly of existence with these enigmatic, clever, compelling and staggeringly engaging yarns, blending nostalgic escapism with the childish frisson of kids scaring themselves silly under the bedcovers at night. It will therefore make an ideal gift for the big kid in your life – whether he/she/they are just you, imaginary or even relatively real…
In a Glass Grotesquely © 2014 Richard Sala. This edition © 2014 Fantagraphics Books, Inc.