Sunday, 25 January 2009

All You Need Is Fuck?

Birdland
by Gilbert Hernandez

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to start out by informing you that this post is most definitely NOT SAFE FOR WORK! I've edited some of the following images down so that they're a little more abstract, but it's still not the sort of material you want your boss to catch you looking at, you know? Okay. Sensible souls that you are, I know you've probably closed down this browser already, or at least flicked back to a less grubby web page, so let's get on with it shall we?


Alright, so while issues #5 and #6 of Grant Morrison's The Filth are all about the brutality of hardcore porn, they're very much about it, rather than examples of it. Or, to put it another way, The Filth's relationship to pornography is analogous to The Singing Detective's relationship with the musical.

Birdland, meanwhile... well, that comic's just plain filthy! The cover promises "Libidinous psychiatrists! Neurotic strippers! Horny little creatures from outer space!", and the pages within delivers all of these pleasures with some gusto. As always in Gilbert Hernandez's comics, women with huge breasts are freely and openly fetishised; in Birdland, the only difference is that men with huge cocks are given a similar treatment. [1]

Personally, I find Birdland far too gooey and overblown for any, um, practical applications (too much information? Yeah, I thought so!), so why am I bothering to talk about it here? [2]

Good question! Well, ever since I started writing my series of posts on The Filth, my brain has been rattling away in the background, making all sorts of stringy connections. So, for example, 2008's deluge of joyously HUGE Jack Kirby reprints sparked thoughts about how Morrison's discordant scripting style is an attempt to match the constant rupturing of sense and perspective that occurs in Kirby's artwork. Thinking about Kirby's artwork while pondering the 'Pornomancer' arc in The Filth led to a small explosion of thinking about Birdland, and so on...

You see, beyond the relatively demure covers that have so far graced this blog post, Birdland is full of some of Gilbert's most energetic and bugfuck crazy cartooning. If those covers linger a little more readily on the sort of zesty hornyness that is a constant feature of Hernandez's mainstream work, then the comics themselves take another feature of his work to its natural conclusion. Namely, the Jack Kirby influence.

***

I fully understand that this might sound a little bit weird, but trust me on this one. It's all about the spunk, you see. If I was being facetious I might claim that spunk is to Birdland as cosmic energy is to Kirby's oeuvre.

Catch me in a less playful mood and I'll tell you much the same thing. Birdland is all about bodies crashing into each other, sending off arcing jets of thick white semen as they twist into ever-more-unlikely shapes and combinations. Tongues grow, cocks twist, and the man milk keeps on flowing. Hernandez's busty heroines have always been imbued with Kirby-esque raw power (both in terms of physical shape and personality), and seeing them covered in such a ridiculous amount of gunk made me think of nothing so much as the way Kirby swathed his powerhouses in raw, crackling energy.

Just compare the image to the right to the one below. The former is from Birdland, the latter from The Eternals, and while they're miles apart in terms of content, there's a shared sense of overkill which makes me think we're dealing with kindred spirits. [3]

***

Of course, there's more to this post than that. While there's a certain juvenile frisson involved in writing a post about a hardcore porn comic, I wouldn't have let it run on for this long if the book didn't have certain other curious traits.

You see, while there are relationship problems, insecurities, infidelities and some deeply unethical therapy sessions in this comic, none of it matters. In Birdland, as in the feverish monologue that ends issue

#6 of The Filth, we're presented with a world in which there's no black hole that can't be filled, no problem that can't be gangbanged away. A world in which 'All you need is fuck.' [4]

***

Time for a semi-random tangent -- does anyone else remember the Silver Surfer: Year Zero mini-series that

was rumored to be happening way back in 2002/3? I think Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely were the proposed creative team, and Morrison's old, eye-scorching red website used to have some sort of blurb up about it. So... yeah, let's be honest, the only reason I remember it is because of this old Barbelith post:

Hope this hasn't been mentioned already. Please be gentle if I'm embarrasing myself...

Anyway, the guy who owns/runs AMAZING FANTASY in Hull was telling me he had Mark Millar down for a signing and mention this project in the pub afterwards.

Apparently it includes a scene where Galactus has one off the wrist and "out come lots of tiny little Silver Surfers", to quote the bloke in the shop.

"Marvel will never publish it", according to Millar.
As a fresh faced Bots'wana Beast points out at the bottom of that short thread, Millar was probably just having a laugh with the shop owner, but it's still a memorable image. What's more, its somewhat conducive to my point. Imagine that this hypothetical Silver Sufer: Year Zero started with this unthinkably silly image. Then say that this gushing horde of Silver Surfers flew off into the cosmos, not to herald the destruction of countless planets, but to spray their own cosmic energy into the atmospheres of these worlds, turning the matter of these planets horny. Let's also say that this plot was executed in a style that was slightly tongue-in-cheek, but still full of enough conviction to want to slide that tongue elsewhere at times. And while we're at it, let's just suppose that the creator of that comic was as talented as Gilbert Hernandez. If all of these things were true, and if the artist in question let the ink jet across the page with enough verve, then my point is that this imagined comic might just make a fitting sequel to Birdland.

***


Still with me? Good. Thanks. I appreciate it. For anyone out there who's not read Birdland and thinks that I'm being hyperbolic here, please be aware that the aliens and "metaphysical sex" promised on the cover are every bit as present as the strippers and psychiatrists. Also, did anyone mention that at one point we're jerked back into the age of rampant, inter-species dinosaur lovin'?

[5]
Still, for all that this pornographic fantasy has mad energy to spare, it's still just that: a deranged fantasy. And while its cast of characters don't quite manage to fuck each other into the Morrisonian supercontext, it's not through lack of trying. That said, perhaps the most interesting shift in perspective comes in the last page, where a post-coital Fritz & Mark Herrera stagger into the outside world, and Fritz says:
Perhapth... pehapth I wath too hathty about filing for divorce. It'th not too late to thotp the proceedingth... and try to work thingth out...
It's pure soap-opera, of course, but that's the point -- for all the bangs and drama and big passions that this story contains, it's this moment of small, ordinary emotion that closes the book. It might not seem like that big a deal at first, but it's changes in focus like this that allow Hernandez to use these two characters here and as part of his ongoing Love & Rockets saga. What's more, it's moments like this that show he's aware of the limits of such berserk fantasies, and that's an essential part of any adult's mental hygiene.

Thanks for sticking with me on this one! Hope no one out there feels too dirty...

Next Up: More on The Filth! Also: The Eternals!

[1] Anyone looking to read a rhapsodic account of Gilbert Hernandez's more... socially acceptable work in Love & Rockets should probably head over to The Tearoom of Despair right now.

[2] Hmmm... actually, I don't think I've properly crossed the line into "too much information" here, but this is exactly the sort of territory I don't want to get into on my blog!

[3] Old school comics fans please take note: I am not implying that Jack Kirby was a fan of semen-drenched hardcore pornography. I'm not saying that he wasn't, but... yeah, I'm just having fun with some unlikely juxtapositions here.

[4] This isn't quite true, of course, but don't worry, I'll get to that in a minute!

[5] The only disappointing thing about this section of the comics is that Acid Archie fails to make a guest appearance.

7 comments:

sean witzke said...

Alternate title for this post - "All That Jizz" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPQSMmznu_g

COOP said...

Birdland is one of my favorite Beto comics!

I'm very proud to say that I own the original art of the page with the two dinosaurs fucking.

liamk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
liamk said...

good lord DavidAL I cannot wait to see you so as to the piss out of yer mucky old man ways so very mercilessly!
great writing though! doesn't stop you from being a dirty little pervert, it just makes you a dirty little pervert with admirable insight and a lovely little turn of phrase!
LiamK

plok said...

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...!

Oh,man, David! Bloody brilliant!

Jeff Flowers said...

Birdland rocks. It is one of many porn comics that I own.

David said...

Thanks for the enthusiasm everyone!

Sean -- I hadn't seen that Killer Mike thing before, and it's awesome! Thanks.

Liam K -- we'll meet up soon, and you can get stuck right in. I'll text you tomorrow man.

Coop -- Birdland isn't one of my favourite Beto comics (I'm into the ultra-choppy ensemble pieces like Poison River and Love & Rockets X myself), but I do love it. A lot!

It's sorta the giddy flipside to the relentless bleakness of Chance in Hell, don't you think?

I remember way back on one of my older blogs, the Barbeloid known as Flyboy proposed that Birdland was a good example of a Joycore comic. Thinking about it again now, I can't help but agree...

Oh shit, this piece got Journalista-d? This is kinda like that moment at a party where you start telling a really filthy joke and then you realise that the room's went quiet and that everyone there could hear the punchline.

Which is kinda fun, actually!