Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of the Year: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye

Posted by on January 30th, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Through his inclinations to push the envelope of the superhero genre into origami, writer Grant Morrison distinguishes himself as a card-carrying member of the avant-garde in American mainstream comics (How `bout you go grab a cup of coffee while I try to think of a second member of the cadre?). Seaguy is the premier example of howcum.

The three-issue series of 2009, Seaguy; The Slaves of Mickey Eye, is the follow-up to an original miniseries of 2004. For those that haven’t experienced the comic, it’s going to be difficult to capture the ingrained, radical, unrelenting originality, the inventiveness and downright wackiness the title radiates. It begins with the dialogue, itself only a step away from stream of unconsciousness: the first issue of the new series opens with the green-around-the-gills hero moaning with obvious conviction, “I feel terrible” and closes on the last page with “It’s … it’s my double! And there’s three of him!

Seaguy is funnybook Surrealism in which the realism surmounted is that of superhero genre. Thus it’s twice removed from ordinary reality and twice as ingenious and diverting for those whose entertainments swing that way. For instance, the second issue’s extended conceit has the title character in a kind of “outlaw protection program,”  becoming the incomparable “El Macho, king of the bulldressers of Los Huevos!” where “bulldressers” are matadors who show their mastery over charging, murderous toros by adorning them with bras, fishnet stockings, garter belts and killer knock-me-down-and-do-me red heels.

From Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #2 (July 2009), written by Grant Morrison drawn by Cameron Stewart and colored by Dave Stewart ©2009 DC Comics

So maybe Seaguy is actually closer in the spirit to Dada, with its goofy, nonsensical fun. Certainly it subverts one patently absurd set of agreed-upon conventions (again, that of superheroes) and combines it with an entirely different set of absurd standards and practices.

But apart from any art-movement allegiances, one thing that maps directly from Seaguy’s version of reality to that of our own is the pervasive and insidious infiltration of corporate imagineering into all phases of human life at the expense of all life. It sounds trite and tiresome to put it like that, especially as the comic is so archly over-the-top about its prosecution … so enjoy instead a taste of Seaguy’s world, that of the omnipresent, all-purpose XOO food-like substance in its handy snack form, “1/2 an Animal on a Stick.”

To render the chilling authenticity and inspired lunacy of Morrison’s sticky nightmares takes a nimble, versatile artist, one who’s going to be undaunted by the unpredictable challenges inherent in atmospheric and thematic delirium. Cameron Stewart proves the fruitfully afflicted co-conspirator, someone capable of convincingly depicting the genre niceties he so gleefully buggers.

The only pity here is that the “avant-garde” for superheroes can be serviceably framed by tenets of artistic movements that had their heyday more than 80 years ago.

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