Strangers Fanzine Presents: ‘Dear Mother & Other Stories.’
Created by Bhanu Pratap.
52 pages – Black & White – Magazine Format.
What Strangers Fanzine Says – ‘A collection of 5 different short stories, many of which are absolutely unsettling body horror. Bhanu Pratap is a master at creating deformed shapes and beautiful design to create a completely unnerving experience! ‘
Trying to Put My Thoughts Down – I got my copy through the post this week with a number of other interesting offerings from the Strangers Fanzine Distribution. Dear Mother & Other Stories was the first one I tackled. That was last night and I have been thinking a lot about it as I worked today. Trying to get some of these thoughts down onto the site seemed like a fun exercise. It may also inform you, dear purchaser/reader. You may decide to buy a copy for yourselves and I do urge you to experience this strange and haunting comic. The links for your ease are at the bottom of the page. But slow down, first you need to get a sense of what you are walking into.
Let’s start with the basics. The outside image is a convergence of both what you will find inside on the comics pages along with the faux appearance of being a catalogue for a modern art exhibition. The fleshy and warped almost nude human/humans with a little hint at hair, an ear and buttocks hung mid spasm on a white rope that is somewhere between panty and washing-line. All the while surrounded by arched gothic lines of some form of architecture that race off to a vanishing point. It is an unforgettable and iconic image – it is also highly intriguing.
So, that’s my attempt at describing the cover, something that you can actually see for yourselves above this piece. So, you are free and able to make your own mind up about that, obviously. But next, let’s tackle the interiors. Something maybe a little more difficult. Again I turn to those basics. The comic as it’s description pronounces is indeed segmented into five separate stories. Each page of each story is again sectioned away into four panels that quarter the pages. I again offer images to help your grey matter acclimatise.
The stories are profoundly twisted in narrative and visuals. In all ways – literal and otherwise. Subjects tackle sexual and criminal proclivities. Pratap uses motifs and frameworks utilising formations such as masturbation, incest, antacid tablets, car crashes, domestic violence, consumption, transformation and more. The graphics present the reader with a slippery fluidity of line and structure. This is like a darkly lit series of claustrophobic plays where nakedness and a strange vulnerability play into narratives of lust, loss, and madness. As a reader we are awash with bodily fluids in a number of forms as well as an hypnotic swirl of dystonic spasms.
‘What about all that which flows inside? What about his dying cum? His drying blood?’
The stories work brilliantly but are also a mix of transgression and diabolically dark non-sequiturs. They are a joyous joining of the bizarrely puerile and a purposeful confusion. There is no overwriting on show here but what does exist on the page cuts into and out of each subject. Care has been taken to strip back to only what is needed.
The oedipal kitchen sink drama that is the last and titular story in the book, ‘Dear Mother‘ may shock you with it’s underground comics stylings and subject matter but it is wonderfully grotesque and totally readable. The art here is astonishingly fresh and I have dipped back into the collection all morning. It wears the ghosts of Francis Bacon with that whiff of the drawing table of a Zap or a Weirdo. Fleener, Crumb et alia.
In Conclusion – I’m not totally sure that I have made a dent in explaining or reviewing but I can offer this piece as a recommendation. Eddie at Strangers sure knows how to pick them. This is the nearest you will get to experimentation in a comic and the creator deserves any accolades that come his way. I will certainly be on the look out for anything new from him in the future.
You should buy this book. And, honestly, anything else that Strangers says you should try too. Head over to their site and see what takes your fancy. This is the link you need.
Many thanks for reading.