The stars must have aligned once again, because it’s time for another all-star Cage Match over at Comics Comics!
The basic idea is the magic triumvirate of Tim Hodler, Dan Nadel and Frank Santoro engage in a lengthy blogging critique of an either new or well-established graphic novel (past victims include Omega the Unknown and Heavy Liquid). This time the crew is taking on David Heatley’s newest (and largely autobiographical) work, My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down. Frank lays the opening salvo:
But Heatley’s new book just makes me angry. And I think that’s what he wants. He wants to provoke reactions like mine so that he can “work out” his insecurities, his racism and his issues with women on the page. And be forgiven.
I’ve been waiting to see this cartoonist take the next step and I think his new book is incredibly disappointing.
Dan picks up the ball from there (to mix my metaphors:
I think what riles people up about this book is precisely the public/personal nature of it: That is, it’s a book explicitly about coming to grips with some notion of morality or a way of accepting one’s own behavior. Unlike the demonstrative fantasies of Crumb or meandering autobio of Joe Matt, this is direct, speaking to the reader kinda stuff. It’s specifically drawn as, in a sense, therapy. That such a process becomes so public is what, I think, some people fine alternately compelling or repulsive about it.
As for me, I find myself somewhere in between Frank and Dan’s takes on the book. I think Heatley shows a good deal of promise as a cartoonist and I admire his willingness to bare the intimate and embarrassing aspects of his life, but a lot of the stories in Brain strike me as shallow, like they’re a cataloging events instead of an evaluation of them. I didn’t come away with any better understanding of Heatley as a person after reading his “Sex History” than I did before I began it.
Be sure to read the comments section as lots of thoughtful folks like Tom Spurgeon, Dash Shaw and Eric Reynolds enter into the fray.