Tag: fort thunder

Context: Fort Thunder

by on Nov.05, 2010

Johannes and I were just talking and he pointed out that many Montevidayo readers, those who are not extensive readers of comics, might be interested in what I think are some of the formative historical works and movements that inform contemporary work. So I hung up the phone with him and decided to write this. Hopefully, I’ll do a series of posts like these. Just suggestions of things to check out as way of building a context when looking at comics, cartooning, visual narrative – that kind of thing.

I think a good place to start discussing the source of some of the more avant-garde or form-challenging work being created today is to consider what was happening in Providence, RI a decade ago. (The contemporary work that I’m talking about includes comics published by presses like Picture Box, which I hope to write more about.) At the center of the Providence scene was an old warehouse, venue, workspace, housing complex called Fort Thunder.

This was the center of both the noise rock scene and the indie comics scene happening in the city at that time. Brian Chippendale, member of the band Lightning Bolt and a comics creator, is the best place to start to understand Fort Thunder. Chippendale sheds cartoonists’ traditional anal retention of exact tools, and particular lines, and preciousness. While in many ways his work (including his recent Ninja) explores the role of traditional genres in comics, they resist the expectations of that kind of work. His smudges and palimpsests and cross-hatching will never be confused with the perfect blacks of Jack Kirby (or the deft Rapidograph lines of Robert Crumb, for the matter). This is maximalist work. The lo-fi approach is indicative of much of the “alternative” art created in the late nineties. (Think Pavement’s approach to classic rock.) There’s something about the Fort Thunder work that often makes people say, “What is this shit?” at first look. But the lines compel you not to look away, to find the movements and the shapes and the coherence hidden with the nest of marks.

Other Fort Thunder artists include Mat Brinkman. His work is also characterized by crowded pages, and an obliqueness that hides an essentially “boy”-inspired adventure story:

And the more accessible work of Brian Ralph (he builds up those beautiful thick lines with a Uniball pen):

And I think the work of CF (Chris Forgues) very much follows in this tradition.

The next place to go from here is a discussion of fine artiste and cartoonist Ben Jones and techno-maximalists Paper Rad.

Oh, and, of course, the single creator who made this work possible is Gary Panter. Let’s talk about him next time. (Then we’ll talk about Paper Rad, and then look at the reincorporation of the conventions of traditional genre comics into these deconstructed pages in the work of Frank Santoro, and discuss his own fresh, new term  for what the kids are up to: “hybrid comics.”)

17 Comments :, , , , , , , more...