Naked Snacks: Iain Laurie’s Powwkipsie

Posted by on March 29th, 2010 at 5:59 AM

Rob reviews a few stories from Iain Laurie’s comics website POWWKIPSIE.

I generally don’t review webcomics, but I made an exception for Iain Laurie’s POWWKIPSIE site. The three stories I reviewed all had an element of body horror influenced as much by William Burroughs or David Cronenberg as it was by Charles Burns. There’s also an aspect of body mutation and distortion that reminded me a bit of Bill Plympton in a couple of the stories. What made these stories so effective was Laurie’s ability to evince dread as much as horror from these stories, the sense that as grotesque as the images we did see on the page were, they only scratched the surface of what was really going on.

“Schaeffenhaus” was the most chilling of the three stories, because it was disturbing if one read the visual of the monstrous doctor as either a literal image or a metaphorical one. In a story about a couple living in a small mountain town wracked by hunger and poverty, the are offered a horrible bargain by the rich (and slug-like) local doctor: money, in exchange for their child. The couple were at each other’s throats, with Laurie hinting at the abusive nature of the father, and so it was no surprise to see him agree to the offer. While trying to assure himself that their child would be safe, seeing the leer on the hideous doctor’s face was a real mark of terror, because the reader had no idea of what the doctor had in mind for the baby’s fate–leaving the reader to create worst-case scenarios.

“She Sang The Vampire Song” and “A Postrema Trigger” were both silent comics about transformation. The former sees the title song being sung by a woman in some sort of club, affecting the oozing, pulsing transformation of two seated figures. There’s a sense of an almost parasitic invasion being celebrated in an ecstatic fashion by the crowd that flips between them relishing the fate of the figures and sharing that fate. Once again, Laurie’s story works on a literal level as well as a metaphorical one–in this case, a statement on performance and voyeurism. One can see the Burns influence at work here in terms of some of the figures, but Laurie’s work is much more raw and visceral.

“A Postrema Trigger” reminded me the most of Plympton’s work. We see a man almost erupting in transformation thanks to the influence of a wormlike creature with teeth. He’s just barely able to shake off that influence by smashing the worm, returning to a more human state and walking away. What he doesn’t notice is his son picking up the worm and transforming into a warped version of the father, with ominous branches akin to barbed wire sprouting from his face.

The experience of reading Laurie’s comics on the web was less than satisfying. Laurie is publishing on a blog and the panel to panel and page to page transitions are clumsy. There’s not a smooth click-through to allow the reader to simulate the experience of reading these stories on paper. This is particularly unfortunate given the handsome nature of Laurie’s linework. I’d love to see a smart publisher collect his short stories in a volume with great production values. Failing that, I hope that Laurie at some point alters his publishing strategy online.

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