Not a review – Pure Pajamas by Marc Bell
– by Shawn Conner
This is not a review.
This is to alert readers and comic strip fans to the fact that Drawn & Quarterly, respected Montreal-based comics publisher, recently published a new collection of Marc Bell comic strips.
Pure Pajamas features strips from the once-Vancouver-based (not sure if he still is) cartoonist’s strip “Big Pile Presents”, which ran in the Halifax Coast and Montreal Mirror, as well as work for Vice Magazine and from various self-published comics.
This is not a review because I do not feel qualified to write about Marc Bell’s comics.
Simply put, Marc Bell’s comics make my head hurt.
Many of the panels of particular strips – opener “Time to Get Up”; many of the “Big Pile Presents” sequences – are so filled with detail and busy-ness, including weird little characters, wavy lines, and drawn detritus – that figuring out the narrative becomes besides the point. But then you’re still left with the drawings, the only thing to lead you through this strange, allegorical world Bell has created. I am left wandering around, lost.
True, not all the strips operate solely on the level of allegory/fantasy/symbolism. The autobiographical detours – “Amy’s Dream of Kittens”, “My Glasses! An Update” – balance the wild flights of imagination populated by characters like Pure Pajamas, All Canadian Wild Baloney and Fallen Angel. Also I should mention that, though I am not always up to the task of absorbing Mr. Bell’s work, I am always appreciative of his unique sense of humour, his way of interpreting the world.
Oh, did I mention there are also song interpretations, including R. Kelly’s “World’s Greatest”? Or that there is a mythical place, Lord Rupert Manor, revisited in various strips?
Style-wise, Bell’s work reminds me of Mark Beyer, Kaz and R Crumb; but for intensity of vision, and ability to create a complex world, Chris Ware is a clear reference.
Pure Pajamas is out. Find a copy, flip through it. See if you’re up to it; Bell’s world is a challenge, but worth the trip.