The Narcissism of Misanthropy: Lost Kisses DVD

Posted by on March 1st, 2010 at 6:46 AM

Rob reviews the DVD collection of Brian John Mitchell’s stick-figure comic, LOST KISSES.

As I noted in my review of the Brian John Mitchell micro-mini comics, he has a knack for inserting the same flat narrative style into every kind of genre he writes about.  The most interesting example of this came in the first ten issues of his series LOST KISSES, which he also drew.  These are comics at their crudest, with rough stick figures telling the stories of a protagonist who narrates the state of his feelings.  That protagonist is a truly awful person in many ways but certainly does little to sugarcoat it.  Indeed, the first thought I had in reading this comic was, “Why is this misanthrope taking the time to share his thoughts with the reader?”  That’s where the sheer, bald narcissism of the character came into clear focus: he may not think much of anyone else, but he’s fascinated by his own voice.  Even when that voice is one of self-loathing and reflects a little on what got him where he is today, the bounce in the narrative and its constant half-smirking tone shows us a character who has a need to be noticed, if nothing else.

A word on the format.  These comics were originally published as the standard Silber Media 1×1″ micro-minis, but apparently demand was such that Mitchell needed to make more than he was capable of producing.  The minis being labor-intensive to assemble, he decided to take a different approach: scanning and adapting them to DVD.  Each issue is a separate chapter, which automatically pages forward every few seconds.  This was the first time I’ve ever read comics in such a fashion, and the minuses of the experiences certainly outweighed the pluses.  Not being in true control of the page as a reader made the experience more passive.  The interface bore no resemblance to the regular experience of reading a comic.  Worst of all, Mitchell chose to add music to each issue, a sort of ambient noise that quickly had me reaching for my computer’s mute button.  Combine that with the fact that the comic was on a dying media format and my feeling was that this was a noble but failed experiment.

The best thing about these comics is that they’re  amusing.  The juxtaposition of narrative caption (always at the bottom) and the dialogue in the panel itself made for a number of funny bits of tension.  The level of detail in the descriptions of certain situations also created a tension with the crudeness of the drawings.  The best two issues dealt with a particularly unpleasant ex-girlfriend and the narrator realizing that he had a chance to get her keys, go into her house when she was out of it, and steal a violin as compensation–but chickened out.  Then he discovered that he may have been indirectly responsible for a man breaking into her home and beating her into a coma.  The back-and-forth between bald guilt and indifference was quite a spectacle, where no matter what feeling he was indulging it was still only about him.  That sort of solipsism did get a bit old after ten issues’ worth of it, however, especially going from frame to frame on the DVD player.  These comics worked much better as micro-minis: bite-sized and disposable.  If Mitchell chooses to go back to this well of storytelling, I hope it’s in the format that he does best.

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