Friday, October 10, 2008

Where Demented Wented

The Art and Comics of Rory Hayes
Edited by Dan Nadel & Glenn Bray
I first experienced a Rory Hayes work in a small gallery in Chicago during Ivan Brunetti's curator's talk at his "Cartoonist's Eye" exhibit in 2005. I say "experienced" because it was a powerful, one-of-a-kind image to behold that left a lasting impression. I'd never been so taken by an image as I was then, and I became a fan of Rory Hayes instantly, having never read a comic from the underground cartoonist. Where Demented Wented: The Art and Comics of Rory Hayes is the first career retrospective of a deserving artist whose career was cut much too short. I am pleased that Nadel and Bray took enough interest in Hayes' work to produce this book, and in a great package, with an introduction that puts Hayes' artwork in perspective, a memoir by his brother, and an interview with Hayes himself.
I vividly remember those images of teddy bears with knives still, they were so striking originally, and many of the comics through Hayes career feature teddy bears as the main characters in disturbing works. Influenced by EC Comics, many of the comics from Hayes' early career are cheesy horror stories with silly endings that he made up as he went along. But they're really fun, especially "The Creatures In the Tunnels," which was actually pretty creepy and effective. Later, Hayes takes up illustrating sex comics with his usual twisted take, castration and other violent behavior running rampant through the scenes in completely unfiltered drawings from the mind of the artist. And not long after this, he shifts focus again as he translates his experiences with drugs to his comics in some rambling hallucinatory narratives. Also sprinkled throughout this collection are various paintings and comic covers that are really quite fabulous. But if I'm honest with myself, actually reading Hayes' comics doesn't quite recapture what I felt beholding his work for the first time on the wall of an exhibit. I don't know why this is, but I just feel like that's the best way to showcase his work. That being said, I am glad that this book exists, because ultimately, Rory Hayes created comics and this is how they were meant to be experienced. I just wish I was as struck by reading through this great presentation of his work, as I was when I initially caught a glimpse of his wild imaginings.

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