Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jesse Reklaw's Slow Wave

I've been a fan of Jesse Reklaw's weekly Slow Wave comic strip for at least eleven years now. It used to run in the New Haven Advocate, and it was one of the features in the paper that I always looked forward to. Then I met Jesse, some time in the summer of 1998, and I can say without exaggeration that he has been an inspiration to me ever since.

Slow Wave is a sort of collective dream diary. Each week, Jesse adapts someone's dream into a four-panel comic. The dreams often feature odd encounters with celebrities, small animals of unusual importance, the dreamer gaining strange powers or responsibilities, or the dreamer behaving cruelly or perversely. Reading a bunch of these dreams in a row, which you can do in the archives of Jesse's site, or in his collection Dreamtoons, or in the forthcoming The Night of Your Life (available now for pre-ordering), you start to see the terrain of these dreams as something shared between the dreamers, a world we all live in while we're asleep. I'm not sure if I'm imagining a "collective unconscious," exactly, or just an otherworld like Oz or Narnia (but more deadpan and perverse) to which we all have nighttime access.

Anyway, I bring this up in part because I contributed this week's dream:

Since I started my postcard regimen ten years ago, I've been writing to Jesse at least once a week, often sending him one or more of my dreams. He probably has almost five hundred of my dreams on postcards now, many more than I can remember. Although I'm not really sending them to him in order to submit them to Slow Wave—I think of it more as just our peculiar method of correspondence—I am always happy when he chooses to use one of my dreams.

Back when I first met Jesse ten years ago, he gave me a couple of issues of his comic Concave Up, a sort of antecedent to the Slow Wave collections, and—here's the crucial part—a few copies of his minicomics. A little inch-wide micro-mini called Mime Compliant was my first introduction to the world of minicomics, and I think that if Jesse hadn't given me that comic, I never would have had the notion to self-publish or to draw minicomics myself. I've been conscious of this debt for a long time, but this might be the first time I've spelled it out. Not only are Jesse's ideas (like Shuffleupagus, for example) a continual source of inspiration for me, but he gave me my actual entrance to the community of minicomics cartoonists. I'll always be grateful for that open door, whether it was a gate of horn or of ivory.

Here are two earlier strips that Jesse drew from my dreams years ago. They're old enough that they've disappeared from his online archive, but even in the digital realm I'm a packrat, so I had them stashed away somewhere. This one takes place in the basement of my aunt's first house in Washington, DC:

... And this one takes place in a town I never lived in. I know that in the dream I belonged to a housing co-op, but I've never lived in anything like a co-op.

Maybe it was someone else's dream. On the other hand, I know where the image of the Prince robot came from, and I don't think many people would have this image percolating through their unconscious world:

That's a panel from Mr. Miracle #16, in which young Shilo Norman comes face to face with a group of tiny insectoid monster-villains. They capture him under a stone wall (by making him grow, Alice-in-Wonderland-like, too large to move) then use a "fuser" to put his molecular essence into a pupating larva, so that it looks like him. (Young Shilo looks sort of like a teenage James Brown.) Only it turns out the whole thing was only sort of a dream: Shilo wakes up after three panels of screaming.

Somehow, my unconscious mind decided that if Prince turned into a giant robot in a dream, that's what he would look like.

Anyway, I heartily recommend that you check out Jesse's site for lots more droll, peculiar, and funny dream comics. Also, I exhort you to drop over to Global Hobo distro and pick up copies of the three comics he has on offer there. The latest issue of Couch Tag is one of my favorite comics of all time.

No comments: