Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, May 16, 2010
      ( 5/16/2010 02:20:00 PM ) Bill S.  

THE MUD-CRUD & THE RAT: Subtitled “A Surreal Graphic Memoir of My Shadow Side,” Stefan Salinas’ Within the Rat (Camelopardolis) is a slippery, black-and-white picture book of odd and symbol-laden character studies. The winner of a Xerix Grant which allowed San Francisco-based Salinas to self-publish his 236-page alt graphic novel, Rat opens on a trio of kids who are telling scary stories as they camp out in the backyard. After one of the threesome tells of the “mud-crud” -- a “horrible man-eating best with long, sharp claws, ferocious teeth, a spiky tail and beady eyes” -- the crew lights out in search of the creature, unknowingly passing a rat carrying a sack. The rat looks out at the reader and invites us into his lair, where he tells us he’s been working on “a collection of stories; of scenes . . . I dunno.”

In one of these story/scenes, a horse/mother flees her burdensome children, only to return after contemplating suicide; in another, the rat recounts a failed relationship with a lover who is “so full of compassion” that he can’t connect with him. The rat's collection of tales circles around several motifs -- the death of the author’s mother, his pattern of failed relationships, urban anxiety -- before returning to a slam-bang confrontation with the mud-crud. Perhaps the center figure in the midst of this mélange (she’s given the cover spot) is Mildred, the professional mourner, who takes us through her dour weekly routine and rages against what she sees as an indifferent God. In the midst of her rant, the mourner morphs into one more manifestation of the artist, retreating into a pre-natal state and re-emerging as the rat narrator.

This might all be overly self-absorbed if Salinas wasn’t honest enough to acknowledge that his characters’ frequently bleak view of the world comes from within. At one point in the book, a former lover tells the author, “Y’know, some of us men in this book of yours are more comfortable with ourselves than you may realize,” though it's clear the author doesn't believe this assertion. When Mildred the mourner actually hears from her Father/God over the phone and is given some simple sensible advice on how to make a small change in the world, she refuses to listen, instead retreating into a round of self-pitying rationalization. The world may have its monsters, Rat tells us, but nobody can make us as miserable as ourselves. “So many of you are disconnected from each other,” a tearful Mother Nature says late in the book, her tears ironically adding to a flood that threatens our rat hero.

Salinas’s gray-washed illustrations look like something you might find in a precocious child’s notebook: which is apt, considering the blend of naive fantasy and adult angst that he’s working to evoke here. I’m less enamored by his decision to use type font both for the book’s narration and his characters’ speeches, but, then, I’m old-fashioned in this regard. (But if we’re reading from a rat’s journal, wouldn’t it be claw-written?) Still as a debut work of art comics, Within the Rat proves poetic and refreshingly open-faced. Would like to see what Salinas can do with characters who aren’t manifestations of his shadow self.

(First published on Blogcritics.)


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter