I&I

Recommended: Frontier #13 (Richie Pope)

Frontier’s latest offering, Fatherson by Richie Pope is a colourful work which explores, in Pope’s words, “the gaze and experience around black fatherhood.”

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The comic reads more like an illustrated book (perhaps to mimic a children’s book?) but its simplicity is deceptive. The narrative playfully collapses the role of adult and child, confusing your reading of the story: are you looking at a father behaving like a son or a son behaving like a father? It also complicates the reader’s relationship to the text by adopting an instructional, second person voice: are you observing and evaluating the text as though you are a parent, or is it giving you advice as though you are a child? Like the positive face of the fatherson appearing in the negative space of the fatherson’s body in Fatherson‘s cover, we find our perspective flipping throughout the comic.

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Fans of Michael Deforge will definitely want to check this issue out as the pseudo-scientific, instructional narratives that appear in many of his comics share the same surreal play on an authoritative voice that characterizes Fatherson.

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An anonymous, objective authoritative voice guides us through a surreal world in Deforge’s comic

Interestingly, both artists are visible minorities, and even if it is unintentional, I think there is something delightfully subversive in taking an objective, neutral and authoritative voice (arguably implicitly “Western”/Caucasian and/or patriarchal) and using it to describe something fantastical with a touch of the absurd. Rather than launch a direct, formalist critique of this voice, both Pope and Deforge work entirely within formal norms, adopting a vocabulary and tone that is familiar to us. But by pairing this voice with highly stylized imagery and bizarre, imaginative worlds, the authorial voice takes an off-kilter cast and becomes twisted and undermined on the sly. Like someone who is so deadpan, you’re not sure if they’re being mocking or not. It reminds me of something I read recently about hacking: that it’s more damaging in the long run to infect a system than to break it down completely.

I received my copy of Frontier #13 as a digital subscriber to Youth in Decline. You can purchase a copy on the publisher’s website or find it carried by these stockists.

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