This is a rough English version of my blog Just Indie Comics.

domenica 8 dicembre 2013

Life Zone

Simon HanselmannSpace Face Books, Vermont (USA), November 2013, perfect bound, 64 pages, full color, A5, $ 12.


Megg, Mogg, Owl and Werewolf Jones are a witch, a cat and, obviously, an owl and a werewolf. They drink, they smoke, they’re on drugs, they have sex, they fall into depression, they fight with each others, they fuck up everything, they are looking for a job and for themeselves as well. Simon Hanselmann, a thirty-two years old Australian cartoonist from Tasmania, in 2008 had the intuition to work on some characters taken from a series of books and cartoons for kids quite famous in England during the 70’s. He changed their names and turned them into comics. The success was reached mostly through Tumblr but these weird adventures had already gained some popularity through some indie anthologies and comic books such as St.Owl’s Bay, which made Hanselmann one of the nominees at the last Ignatz Awards. Life Zone has been published by Space Face Books in November and right now is the best Hanselmann’s production, although there are a lot of expectations about Fantagraphics Megahex, a huge hardcover collection with seventy pages of unpublished strips due next June. 


Meanwhile, we’d better be grateful for this one, since Life Zone offers a new evolution from the original stories, in which the protagonists were always stoned and put themeselves in the most absurd situations constanlty making fun of the poor and nerdy Owl. On a comic strip structure, Hanselmann has been able to use some personal details about his life mixed up with serious dialogues and colorful, visionary graphics. For instance, let’s take a look at the last episode of this book, called Altered Beasts, where Megg is dressing up to attend to an engagement party of another witch and of course she wants her partner Mogg with her (yes, the witch and the cat are in a relationship). When she’s ready to go out she can’t find Mogg anywhere until she sees him fainted near a trash bin while Owl and Werewolf Jones have been dancing for hours under the effect of an unknown drug. Megg wakes Mogg up and she begs him to recover for the party handling him a necktie but he feels totally depressed and he doesn’t want to go out. “I don't feel like dressing up - he says - I don’t even want to go. I hate these people. I hate people. I can’t keep pretending everything's okay… It's all so pointless and boring... I can’t do it... Everything's fucked”. 


The bad mood of the cat affects the witch, who has a brief moment of deep sadness until she feels better thinking about the glamour and the drinks waiting for her at that party. They finally go out and they stare at the full moon in a half page drawing that breaks the usual twelve panels sequence. In front of this vision, Megg says that she could die in that very same moment and she couldn’t care less about that and Mogg replies her saying that he would never leave “drug world”. “Can we never leave?” he asks. “One more year” replies the witch. In just seven pages drug addiction, an important topic for Hanselmann, mixes up with depression, fear of the people, lack of self confidence and will to be part of a “normal” world, as we were in a song by The Smiths. 
The other episodes bring some new and intriguing elements. Jobs is a huge part of the collection, it’s a hilarious and at the same time pretty obscure tale where Megg, Mogg and Werewolf Jones become clerks for Owl’s initiative. The anthropomorphic bird is the main actor in the following adventure, Owl’s Date, where in spite of his unbearable attitude he is not just able to avoid being dumped by a girl, on the contrary he succeed to have sex with her. High School is a trip in the past of the characters and it shows how they met and some interesting and unpredictable details about their lives. 


Life Zone is a beautifully drawned, funny, clever and intense book and I highly recommend it if you want to know an author who, if this world is not blind, is bound to become a star. One more thing to know about him is that Hanselmann is one of the contributors of the website Comics Workbook by Frank Santoro with the strip Truth Zone, where his very same characters use to talk about the comics world and art.



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