Strip For Me
Douglas Noble. Purveyor of fine comics, also provider of many, many head-scratching moments in the past, maker of some of the most bewildering comics, but in that bewilderment, with a little work, there’s a genius, and often a stunningly inventive, fascinating, and quite brilliant story.
Dark Matters (with Sean Azzopardi) was genius, and I got so much out of it just because I questioned and thought about it. Complex, his apocalypse on the horizon tale… not so sure about that one. Or Live Static, where I wasn’t sure again, but the work on Noble’s part to create that ambiguity in my thoughts was so well constructed it impressed anyway. And that’s what I like about Noble, the continued envelope pushing he seems to delight in. Each new release is challenging, each new release puzzling.
So his latest comes my way, and it’s absolutely weird.
It is, quite simply, a little book about rocks.
43 of them, all with funny names.
See, here’s the first couple of pages:
Yep, page after page of rocks with funny names. Very nicely drawn rocks of course, in a variety of styles.
But then you start thinking about it. Real rocks? Made up rocks? And if they are made up, why? And where do the names come from, what meaning can we glean from the fragments of idea, of imagery, of language? What do they mean, these rocks with names ….The Hinmost Catch, Jack Drum, Gospel Mitten. Damn, here comes that familiar feeling of insecurity and uncertainty again.
But no. This is dedinitely, absolutely, certainly, just a little book about rocks.
But then again, look at that title… “Don’t Be Fooled By The Rocks”
Damn. Maybe it does have something meaningful in the names, especially once you see Noble’s description of the book….
“The latest issue of Strip For Me features forty-three intimate portraits of stones, obelisks, and rocks, and matches them to the secret names that they are known by. An invisible anthology of folklore, Don’t Be Fooled By The Rocks is a journey through the petrological puzzles all around us.”
So yes, it IS meant to have greater meaning. It’s not JUST a few rocks nicely drawn on the pages. And the trick here is that it’s not the author who’s doing the lion’s share of the work, it’s you, and me, the reader. So you start really going into it, start pulling ideas and imagery. Occasionally something resonates… Hertha’s Mace may well be named after the Germanic goddess of fertility, Lob’s Pound may just be referencing the NE England folklore Lob creature similar to Hob, Hobgoblins, and Puck. But equally some things are just out there…The Ivy Jury, Faid’s Rest, The Hindmost Catch. What do they mean?
And I’m not going to brook any arguments of “but it’s not comics”. Sure it might look like an illustrated book, but if you play along with Noble’s imagination here, what actually happens is you end up creating the biggest panel to panel transitions you’ll ever see. Every page sends you off to fill in every bit of the story, and then brings you back down with the turn of the page to start the next adventure.
So, looking at the three examples you’ve seen thus far… what is “The corruption of stone“? What foul events conspired in the distant past to conspired against what would become this landmark? Ancient demons playing foul tricks perhaps? Or “the corrector’s eye”? Perhaps a poor soul with a job to make things right, pounced upon one night by bandits, one eye plucked out, buried to his neck to die? “The Giaour Cozen” I’m having more trouble with. Giaour sounds vaguely familiar…… off to Google with me.
Giaour: Turkish for infidel. Also used by Byron in “The Giaour” to spin a tale of love, sex, adultery, and punishment.
Cozen: to trick or decieve.
Okay, I dare you, from those two words NOT to have at least some potboiler of a story of love and deception forming in your head.
Now…. your turn…. what does this rock say to you?
So, there’s incredible imagery and meaning to be gleaned from these. As Noble mentions when he quotes Walden’s 1879 piece “A History of ancient sites and hidden places“, could it really be a desire for our ancestors to “… impose their wills, their understanding, themselves upon the very landscape they lived in…“?
Alternatively, it’s JUST a book about rocks with some funny peculiar names.
Or it’s Douglas Noble absolutely pulling an emperor’s new clothes thing, laughing at us all as he does. He might just have made the whole thing up, Walden and his book included.
I’m going with the dense, complex, imagination firing version. But I’ll remain skeptical (especially about Walden), and just the fact I have to ask probably means Noble’s done what he meant to with this.