cover image Abysmalation: Collected Short Works

Abysmalation: Collected Short Works

Josh Bayer. Birdcage Bottom, $18 trade paper (148p) ISBN 978-1-95779-5980

Bayer (Theth) collects short stories, story fragments, personal observations, and experimental comics in his uncompromising, gritty, and scratchy style. The focus is often deeply personal, detailing Bayer’s journey to becoming an artist as he deals with depression and self-doubt, doing so with little support. In one story, an idol of Bayer’s grifts him for a tarot reading, even as he’s desperate to catch a hint of the secret to her talent. He relates an acid trip in which he fixates on the idea that he will one day become homeless, or appropriates the classic comics character Nancy for all kinds of violent adventures, such as one where her eye becomes a black hole. That’s part and parcel of Bayer’s absurd remixing of famous characters, including an extended riff in which he imagines himself appointed the new artist of Garfield and is hunted down by a maniacal Jim Davis. Fandom also comes up for scrutiny in amusing anecdotes of encounters with musicians Daniel Johnston and Ric Ocasek. Bayer’s melty character design and anarchic, scribbly sensibility merges with a rock-solid sense of composition; the book is set like pages pulled from a notebook photographed on a messy countertop. This varied, frequently confrontational, and unsparing introduction to Bayer’s aesthetic offers rewards for readers who stick with parsing his riotous quavery line. (Sept.)