cover image The Projector and Elephant

The Projector and Elephant

Martin Vaughn-James. New York Review Comics, $49.95 (212p) ISBN 978-1-68137-484-0

This handsome repackaging of two classic titles by proto–graphic novelist Vaughn-James (1943–2009) deserves to be considered essential reading by fans of the form. A politically tinged surrealist of the André Breton school, Vaughn-James first released “The Projector” in 1971, but it resonates as contemporary. The story tracks in three acts a bespectacled everyman winding through a kaleidoscope of dystopian drudgery and the madness of crowds. The art scans at times as a stoner take on Metropolis, but its anxieties about consumerism, conformity, and the dominance of screens and surveillance retain their power. Non sequiturs are spliced with random scenes: a man in a space suit wanders through an endless parking lot; spiky desert plants grow into a subway car. “Elephant,” also surrealist in its dreamlike, illogical procession and similarly satirical (an ad suggests people deal with the problem of “Mind Odour” by replacing their heads with toilet bowls), lands as more chaotic and fractured while speaking to humans’ inability to connect with one another. But Vaughn-James retains his comic sensibility, interrupting another everyman’s ruptured reality with a frame of an elephant whose thought balloon reads, “I have a funny feeling it’s Wednesday.” This is a lovingly produced introduction to the greatest anarcho-comic-surrealist readers likely have never heard of (yet). (Apr.)