(Josh Bayer / Jason Little / Benjamin Marra / Pat Moriarity / Emma Louthan / Pat Aulisio / Corrine Halbert / Alex Rothman / Andrea Tsurumi / JTW / Jude Killory / Jimmy Giegerich / Jacob Hamrick / Elizabeth Bethea / Matt Crabbe / Mark Burt / Muriel Bellin / Noah Van Sciver / Keren Keller / Eric Reynolds / Jeff Ladouceur / Sabin Calvert / AEdward Nigma / Kelly Larson / Sasha Steinberg / Liz Marra / Kevin Scalzo / Joel Rich / Coco Roy / Sophia Wiededman / Emily Yao / Jason T Miles)
Josh Bayer's Suspect Device anthologies revolve around a simple conceit: an artist takes panels from someone else's comics and then uses these to create their own. It's as if cartoonists are given panels as slices of bread, and, in between, they provide the richness of the sandwich.
For 2011's Suspect Device #1, the bread came in the form of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy strips. For issue #2, early Garfield comics were added. Issue #3 used Little Orphan Annie and Popeye comics. For this current issue, cartoonists got to use panels from Lee Falk and Ray Moore's The Phantom, an issue of Dell Comics' Ally Oop #1 from 1962, and some of the most fucked up images imaginable from The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia.
Needless to say, the collision between all these influences in the hands of great cartoonists unleashes some amazingly depraved, complex, bizarre, and/or wonderful creations.
This is a disturbing collection on many levels, but, as it unhinges, it unmasks and unearths.
Something about the perceived innocence of characters like The Phantom, Little Orphan Annie, and Popeye and the milieu from which they sprang seems to impregnate the cartoonists featured in Suspect Device #4 with a wickedness, a licentiousness, and an almost palatable viciousness. It's as if the supposed incorruptibility of these iconic figures forces their hand. It's like the only modern reaction to these icons and their sensibility is to corrupt and debase, that commentary is to contaminate, that the heart of those lost times needs a big, fat dick stuck through it. Through this, Suspect Device eats itself and, through that, reverberates across the ages.
There is a handshake that occurs through the structure of Suspect Device's conceit. The past and present embrace and that grasp seals some sort of promise wherein we behold our world as it stands and the implications it contains. Who are we now? What have we become? Where are we going? An anthology likeSuspect Device provides the looking glass through which we can examine these questions and gather answers for ourselves. As art reflects, so too does it project.
At the end of Suspect Device #4, Josh Bayer has drawn the likeness of the iconic comic character Krazy Kat throwing a brick upon which is written “Make Comics For Ever”. Above this image, Bayer has written, “Comics: Only Comic Are The Answer” – this is a bold statement, and begs the question, “What is the question for which we are seeking answers?” The comics contained in Suspect Device #4 seem to provide this question, and, after reading the anthology again and again, it bubbles to the surface.
“What The Fuck?”
And this – this question – is the quintessence of the modern sensibility.