imageExcerpt from Mould Map 3, art above by Olivier Schrauwen. Anthology edited by Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler. Published by Famicon Express & Landfill Editions, January 2014.

It felt important to me to contribute to this book’s existing, and I felt a larger-than-usual glow of pride when I finally saw it and found my name seared into its endpapers. At the time of its fundraising campaign this seemed the comic of its moment, advertising as much: “Comics For THIS Present” was the subheading used by its editors—who heavily implied, too, the work’s intent towards prescience. This was to be one endpoint of a line, the one the medium might follow far into the future. Looking back, the implicit promise and accompanying question of this comic seem already brazen and suspicious, the former being “this is the direction the medium is heading, reader” and  the second “are you with us or not?” 

imageFrom Sam Alden’s contribution.

This may actually be the mark of its success, but seven months from publication this comic feels an object of its time. Mould Map 3's most apparent goal was comprehension, an understanding (or mapping) of the political and technological realities of the present, things present trying conflicts for thinking people, specific to our time. In practice, this means the book looks in some ways like a sheeny website (also: strangely resistant to scanning), employing a high-gloss exterior, hashtags, manifestos, but mostly explorations of the politics brought out by living in our time. These encompass gender, technology, identity and suspicion of commerce more than any, questions and depictions that still describe the world we live in—but their heated newness has, I think, already come and gone. 

imageFrom Leon Sadler’s contribution.

The best works in here anticipated themselves as time-bound. With that awareness they already feel more lasting, enlivened further by questioning themselves as they go. Olivier Schrauwen’s contribution (up top), featuring a crack scientist who sends a one-way video phone from the late 80’s (or early ‘90’s, we don’t quite know) into a mock-sexy future that sees his life’s work reduced to a trinket, suggests that what seems important now might be laughable, a curiosity, or [perhaps worse if you’re the type to care] invisible surprisingly soon. Leon Sadler’s, too, is both rich and strikingly vicious, following a pair of thieves and taggers spraying deft, inane graffiti onto cars. This one seems especially moving, casting doubt over the act of rebellion, the mere idea of making one’s mark on the world. Even the naive-seeming, flimsy lines of the comic itself suggest a lack of permanence. All the while, the existence even of this book (he is, along with Hugh Frost, one of its two editors) suggest a perseverance despite an air of guardedness, a wary suspicion of their own ultimate futility.

This ability to advance a line of thinking, to explore an idea despite what seems impossibly difficult terrain, isn’t common in people generally or in artists. But Sadler and Frost have found more than a couple who have it, beyond just themselves. Blaise Larmee’s contribution feels bigger than its moment, violent in aggression, and Yuichi Yokoyama’s weaponizes a simple, resonant metaphor impeccably. There are other standouts also, but not everyone here’s a winner—this thing’s jam-packed with formal deftness, but there are contributors who slip towards despair too soon in the form of tired paranoia [a matter of page count, maybe, for some] and others who end things too patly, imposing on an upsetting world a desperate sense of coy- or neat-ness. Still others are mystified by a maze of baffling textures; even for some of those who don’t seek or manage narratives, or find their way to answers, there’s a multiplicity of methods of artistic engagement here that are fruitful, more than simply howling at the moon.

imageExcerpt from Karn Piana’s contribution.

The benefit to an anthology and the existence of a shared work, is its arrangement of multiple voices. And one like this—a specific response to its own time’s problems, seems actually to be strengthened by its contributors’ failings. The instances they give up, resort to solipsism or insistent performance, the times they panic or throw in the towel—most all of these reward. As failures, they aren’t admirable, just ugly in their realness, even as they’re often obscured by the heft of their artists’ talents.

But if every artist here succeeded on all counts we’d have a misleading sense of closure and a collection of false representations, wrongly signaling too perfect-seeming beings. Much of what gives life to Mould Map—to comics as a form, even—are the cracks in works’ air of polish. It should be clear to most now reading that we inhabit a difficult, confusing, and rapidly changing landscape: the particular terrain this comic’s engaged with. With this every artist fights to find their own mode of engagement, and the finest know their smallness. They’re amply familiar, too, with the questionable importance of their work and seemingly apathetic towards it, and from that their art’s much freer.

imageExcerpt from Lando’s contribution.

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