Saturday, January 23, 2010

Boozy enthusiasm, high fidelity and the acid burn

“Some comics go really well with drinking. The Lone Wolf and Cub series is one of the dopest comics of all time. And when you're a little bit three-sheets? Yeah, it gets even doper. Have you ever said, "Fuck, yeah, Daigoro!" on a subway? If not, you're doing it wrong.”
-Joe Rice

* * *

Comics are great when you’re straight, but fucking awesome when you’re wasted.

* * *
I love reading comics when I’m a little bit drunk. Slurring over the action a bit, drooling over the speech balloons. A beer and a comic on a sunny day are all that is good in life.

When the brain is swimming in its own juices, reading a big block of text can be nearly impossible. But when you add a page full of pictures, things become a whole lot easier.

With a comic, you can pause in the middle of a page and let the mind wander where it wants to and when it comes back, you can pick up the flow again with the greatest of ease. You can focus on an idea or phrase, or simply stare at a particularly eye-catching picture. You might be on Cloud Nine, but the comic page isn’t going anywhere.

The funny thing is, the more mindbending the comic gets, the less enjoyable it can actually be with boozed-up skull. The more simple the tale and art, the easier it can be processed. Something like Bone or a Donald Duck comic are not only easier to follow, they can hold prove much better at the opening the emotional floodgates.

Sometimes I drink lots of wine and read comic books and cry like a little girl.

* * *

I love reading comics when I’m a little bit stoned. Looking for that emotional resonance, floating through the pages with ease, spending an eternity on one panel and drifting past the big blocks of text.

The anti-drug ads are sometimes the funniest thing in modern super-hero comics. Partly because there is so many of them, but mainly because comics books are probably one of the worst places to put ads like that. When it comes to reading material when you’re wasted, nuthin’ beats comics.

Of course, taking drugs or drinking booze and curling up with a comic book is not recommended for everybody. A lot of comic readers are quite capable of reading their books without any chemical enhancement and get just as much out of them. This is to be commended.

But as somebody who has been moved beyond words while reading Love and Rockets through dope-hazed eyes on beautiful and lost summer afternoons, I can honestly say it’s always worked out all right for me.

* * *

But I won’t read them when I’m tripping, because that ruins them.

The last time I took acid, I ended up needing an extended sit-down in the Christchurch Public Library on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It all got a bit difficult walking around the centre of the city and I retreated to the library with a big stack of trade paperbacks and hardbacks from the shelves to fill in the two hours until I had to catch a bus.

I ruined these comics with this ridiculous behaviour. Every time I look at those comics or even think about them now, I feel physically ill. I feel a little bit weird and it’s not a good weird. They trigger that vast, existential void that I fear more than anything, that incoherence of this reality, the mess of the world.

Frankly, I try to avoid that feeling as much as possible.

The contents of those comics are almost totally unimportant. One was the first volume of Alex Ross and crew’s Justice maxi-series, with lots of pained superheroes in pained tights doing things that pained them.

I tried to pick up the second book in this series recently, but it sparked a mild flashback that still managed to be more than a little uncomfortable. Something is encoded in the art and plot, something that triggers the mind into heading into uncomfortable directions.

Then I get that weird chemical taste in the back of my throat, and I’m done for.

I also read The Originals by Dave Gibbons in the library, trying to calm the head down and it just made me feel a bit weird. It’s a great little graphic novel, with interestingly eternal themes that could just as easily be set in the 1960s as the futuristic world it actually takes place in, but it wouldn’t click with my head and I had to abandon the whole thing.

Later on that day, I had the same trouble with the John Woo/Garth Ennis Seven Brothers comic. I read that on the bus ride after escaping the library and while things had calmed down a little by then, I was still thoroughly munted and haven’t been able to read the series again since. I can’t even look at the covers without feeling a bit dodgy. I think I liked it, but I can’t be sure.

It’s not just comic books that are ruined. Movies and television shows have always been tainted and the Imaginationland episode of South Park had me convinced that sci-fi Egyptian Gods from the 64th century were trying to download information into my head, and I had to escape them by regressing past the point of my own birth to a previous life, where I died alone in the stairwell of a Victorian mansion.

Now I can’t watch that episode again, and it’s all because bloody Anubis shows up for three seconds on screen.

But it’s the comics that carry that taint the worst, because I always love reading comics when I’m fucked up, and sometimes that colours the whole perception. The paper stinks of that physical weirdness, that chemical horror.

Just say no to mixing acid and comics, kids. Save it for the dancefloor.


Zom said...

I want to read more comics stoned. I’m not and never have been, despite the habits of my very best friends, very into the effects of THC, or at least not very into experiencing them on a regular basis, hence the fact that there’s been very few instances over the last 10 years of me wilfully picking up a joint. The only time I ever get stoned these days is when visiting my mate for a game of poker, and seeing as I don’t actually like playing poker that happens less and less often, and even then I only partake passively.

But like I say, I’d like to read more comics stoned because if ever there was a drug that went with comic books it’s marijuana. I’ve been thinking rather a lot about that recently, and I’m almost certainly going to do something about it.

Booze, hmmm… depends on the when and the how much, but in moderation (which I am bad at), and at the right time, and with the right book (Ennis’s Punisher) it can be great fun.

Hallucinogens? God, I haven’t tripped in well over a decade so I’m not sure about them. I seem to remember thinking that attempting to engage with pretty much any kind of art didn’t work when under the influence, particularly those works of art which could conceivably be described (by straight people) as “trippy”. Psychedelia is after all designed to impart the psychedelic experience to those how aren’t fizzing with acid, so that makes sense I suppose – a redundancy too far.

That said, I’m currently working on a post that ties together the strange colouring effect in Batman & Robin #1 with a rather intense hallucinatory episode I once underwent (amongst other slightly saner, less about me things), so perhaps there’s something to be said for comics as psychedelic art. I’m sure the Merry Pranksters would agree.

Bob Temuka said...

I lost entire days in the late nineties to sitting on a beach, watching the waves roll in, drinking cheap gutrot and reading The Invisibles.

I get put off reading Ennis' Punisher max stuff when I'm wasted because sometimes it gives me the major fear, but it makes the emotional highpoints, especially those contained in the final pages of each book, fucking incredible.