Saturday, 24 January 2015

Here by Richard McGuire Review

Richard McGuire’s Here looks at a corner in a living room through the ages. Using the same angle throughout, McGuire shows us what the corner looked like from millions of years ago to thousands of years in the future with everything in between. 

So one page will show the corner of the living room in 1957 where a child sits playing with a toy, then in the corner of the page will be a cat walking through in 1999 and the framing might be from 1821 where it wasn’t a house yet and was simply a field. 

There’s no narrative and it’s all about this concept of focusing on a single simple part of a room in a house, using it as a window through history with glimpses of the lives lived in this part of the world. The babies who became children who became adults who had babies who became children, and so on and so forth.

I’d never heard of McGuire’s original 6 page strip that appear in Art Spiegelman’s Raw magazine in 1989 but you can easily find this online and read it for yourself. Apparently it was “ground breaking” and showed the enormous potential of comics though I don’t really see its importance in those 6 pages. Comics, like many forms of storytelling, have always used time jumps to tell some stories - putting them together on a page as part of a collage doesn’t really strike me as all that brilliant. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it done before in other art.

This expanded 300 page book utilises the same idea without building upon it. It’s the same approach on every page that repeats itself over and over and then just ends. I’m not sure what the effect he’s going for in this extended version of Here. We’re all mortal? Nothing lasts forever? Does he really think these thoughts haven’t already been thought a zillion times already?

In fact, if you arranged it so that the various images lined up linearly from oldest to present to future, the comic would have the same effect. It’s completely all about style over substance. 

Sure it’s not black and white like the original 6 pages, it’s in colour and looks great, and there is a hint of a narrative dropped in there, but I feel like McGuire achieved the same thing in 6 pages more than 25 years ago that he did today in 300 pages. Here is a fine arty comic though it isn’t nearly as impressive as some would have you think.


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