Comics from the Decadence Collective
Published by Dave Lander (Lando) and Stathis Tsemberlidis
(Covers to Decadence anthology # 6 and #7)
Decadence is both the name of the anthology and the name of the artists collective started in 2003 by artists Lando and Stathis Tsemberlidis. They’re a collective that operates very much at the artistic end of the comics spectrum, telling tales of warfare, ecology, technology, mysticism and tending to steer clear of anything resembling straightforward storytelling, favouring a more relaxed, almost trippy, dreamlike, near psychedelic style of visual storytelling. I know nothing about anyone involved in Decadence beyond what I can read on their various sites but the whole enterprise, replete with graffiti style logos and bundled cds of ambient electronica smacks of youthful creativity – or maybe just late 20s artistic types who enjoy dabbling in multiple media?
(Island 3 by Lando, as seen in Decadence issues 6 & 7.)
To be honest the material in the three issues of Decadence (5,6 & 7) is patchy and a little too rambling for my tastes with the dreamlike stories just too disconnected from any narrative. The best thing in all three issues are Lando’s bizarre Manga hi-tech illustration style of “Island 3”, a tale of a what seems like a lost colony of humanoid robots seeking purpose after some cataclysm. To give the anthology it’s due you can see potential, but it’s very raw, in some cases too raw, with the comics all wandering visual pieces reminiscent of some more futuristic US Underground comix strips or the stranger parts of Euro comics sci-fi. Likewise Tsemberlidis’ Alpha comic, looking rather old fashioned with it’s A4 black and white cover holds a series of disconnected headtrip visual narratives, stream of consciousness style works that just didn’t manage to engage me at all.
However, the individual works by Lando and Tsemberlidis: Untranslated 1,,2 & 3 and Paradox 1 are much, much better and by far the nicest things from Decadence. They’re very determinedly handmade things; A5, brown card-lite covers, slightly uneven pages put together – but inside there’s a wonderfully free flowing visual style and a simpler, tighter storyline that really makes these books stand out..
(Cover to Untranslated #1 and interior to Untranslated #2 by Lando / Dave Landers)
Lando – Untranslated 1, 2, 3
Three books, all deliberately obtuse and alien looking, starting with the graffitti tag/ alien looking titles. But all three deal in general terms with warfare on distinctly alien soil, whether it’s a battle between alien ecologies or between human looking troops and some alien species. Yet each time the warfare and gunfire gives way to something else, the focus switches from a battlefield overview to a personal one, and we see the individuals behind the shooting, human and alien alike.
(Cover and interior to Paradox 1 by Tsemberlidis.)
Tsemberlidis – Paradox 1
A spectacularly simple tale, again wordless, where a hunting party of soldiers make their way through an alien forest landscape, on the look out for some form of giant ticks or spiders. The important thing is the Future Shock style twist at the end – what looked like an alien landscape proves to be nothing of the sort. Nice twist.
Both Untranslated and Paradox are completely wordless comics and with any work that deliberately does away with words, it becomes all about the art. All the narrative, all the storytelling, it must be delivered through the artwork. And this is a really tough thing to do as any lapses will be jarring, confusing and ruin the flow of the work. And, not surprisingly, there are times when the art on both Untranslated and Paradox stumbles, but (and it’s an important but), it doesn’t happen anywhere near as often you’d expect from young artists with very little work behind them. Overall, each comic conveys it’s story clearly and with a lovely simplistic, fine inked line reminiscent of Moebius’ Incal art. This alone makes these comics worth worth a look.
All in all, the Decadence collective’s work may be rough and raw, but there’s part of me that can’t help but like the fact that they do what they do. I like this sort of self-publishing, the sort of people who say “this is what we, we’d love it if you read it, but we’re going to make it anyway, it’s what we need to do”. Self publishing needs all sorts of books. Most of these weren’t exactly to my taste, but my taste’s highly subjective anyway. Maybe have a look for yourself?