Behold. The web comic need not be a quick laugh and crude scrawling. It can be more. I used to think I had a wild imagination and crazy dreams. In truth I am as pedantic as the old man who guards the tubing seeking to tap my wallet for the benefit of little more than the Walls. But there is hope. Where xkcd is my gateway to modern science or Hark, A Vagrant! is a gateway to the past, Dresden Codak is my gateway to creativity and philosophy. For 10 years I have longed for that leather-patched professor sitting in some local coffee shop discussing Faust and Calvin with all who dare to sit at his table. Dresden Codak does not meet that need, but it stirs a hunger that was long dismissed.
I can’t recall when Dresden Codak first blipped my radar. Interesting names find their way into my subconscious and take root long before the flowering of their meaning. I once wrote my name as Art Garfunkel on a name tag at a community event long before I’d ever heard “Mrs. Robinson” and it was a much greater span before I saw the man in Catch 22. I got quite a few unexpected responses. Everybody kept asking where my friends Paul and Simon were and if we were indeed still friends.
What I do know about this particular clever monogram is, my most recent descent into its archives was not my first. It is a hard comic to grasp, and a much harder comic to hold. Even now that I have successfully venture through the complete works to date there are things I don’t understand and others I have only inferred, but isn’t that true of many fine works of art through history? While the “singles,” as they’re called, often reference many philosophers whose work I am not familiar, a simple Wikipedia search will not bring me sufficiently up to speed. One does not gain all that is offered by gulping it down. These comics are meant to be savored.
Not only are the stories, and indeed jokes, complex and variable, but so too is the art work. As a bibliophile and consumer of stories I have long argued that great artwork a great comic does not make, and while that’s certainly true, when great artwork is coupled with outstanding writing I find myself transported to an entirely separate plane. At this level the story is so rich it borders on indigestability.
Creator Aaron Diaz was surely a fan of Bill Watterson as a child. I own Watterson’s 10th anniversary book detailing his creative process in which he extensively laments his bouts with publishers over the format of his Sunday comics. He complains that the set panel layouts found on many funny pages across America were too restrictive. He eventually won that battle, but I think it was an argument Diaz took to heart. His panels are so free that at times the storyline cannot be easily followed. One could argue this is Diaz’s attempt at organic story telling, but when the panels do not flow in an easily distinguished pattern it becomes the very antithesis of organic. It becomes chaotic.
While this chaos at times serves a purpose when more than one action is taking place within the same time frame, especially in the case of Tiny Carl Jung whom often finds himself flung to the side when things heat up, there must be a more coherent way of accomplishing these ends.
Diaz described the first story arc as his Magnum Opus, but in truth I am more intrigued by his second. If you are one of the dozen or so who shared in my experience at a movie theater in Columbus last fall then you know this already, I’m a bit of a fan of Metropolis. So naturally “Dark Science” is of much interest to me. The root references were laid in “Hob” and I eagerly await their succession. In fact, if a remake of the 80-year-old movie were forthcoming, I would hope it would be Diaz’s vision. I feel he could do it justice.
“Dark Science” began in June of last year (2010) and we are only on page nine, but given that “Hob” took over two and a half years to complete this should not be surprising. That’s not to say Dresden Codak updates infrequently. There are merely a number of singles to fill the gaps. It does, however, update irregularly. While we wait perchance you’d care to venture to that java joint just down the way? I’ve got some burning questions I’m dying to discuss.