Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Blubber by Gilbert Hernandez

The urge is to just post that Samuel Johnson meme - you know the one - and leave it at that.

Because Gilbert Hernandez's Blubber is easily the most what-the-fuck book I've ever seen, and I used to see self-published lunacy on a regular basis. (Not to mention Steering Locks!, a unique mostly visual jeremiad against the way cars are secured that was the one thing lost in my 2011 flood that I most regret.)

Maybe the way is in to try to be factual.

Blubber collects what are threatened to be the first six issues of the comics series of the same name; the copyright page says 1995-2021, so my understanding is that it is very irregular. (Well, yes, but in publication frequency as well.) According to the Grand Comics Database, the first issue actually came out in 2015, so it's roughly annual, which is slightly more frightening. Perhaps some of the material had been lying around for twenty years and Hernandez only now published it?

This is not set in any of Hernandez's established fictional universes, for which you can thank whatever deities you believe love and cherish humanity. In the way of a lot of Hernandez story-series, it starts out by doing a thing, and rings a whole lot of changes on that thing before finally turning somewhat meta and deigning to explain, slightly, in passing, what the hell the deal was with that thing in the first place.

OK. <deep breath> The thing is: there are these monsters, or people, or animals - Hernandez calls them "cryptids," starting very late in the book, after the reader has settled into whatever completely different explanation that reader prefers - who live in a parallel universe. (The where is much less important: it's mostly just backgrounds so the creatures aren't hanging in mid-air.) Some of them look like human beings, and maybe they actually are. Most of them look like bizarre grotesqueries, because they are. There are also some characters who are humans from our universe, maybe, or who at least claim to be. They are all weird, they are all different, they are all extreme, they are all energetic.

They are all monsters of the id. They are all creatures of vast and uncontrollable and all-encompassing appetites.

What do they do? They fuck. They shit. They kill each other. Occasionally even in that order. Often in vastly more baroque ways than I feel competent to describe. Without doing a count, my impression is that well over two-thirds of them have dicks, so more of them can do the fucking. (Has anyone done a scholarly paper on the place of the futa in modern drawn porn? This is where my thoughts drift while looking at what feels like endless pages of anatomical unlikelihoods punctuated by deliberately goofy dialogue.)

Again, Hernandez starts by just showing this. A parade of weird-looking creatures, as if in a demented, scat- and sex-obsessed nature documentary, appear, engage in reproductive and feeding behaviors, and are replaced by other creatures who do the same. Eventually, human beings are part of the mix - though they are just as grotesque, in their appetites and in their body proportions, as the "cryptids." (They are, I will admit, somewhat less likely to die randomly and unpleasantly at the end of a story, but only somewhat.)

Oh, and, for something like a reason or structure, multiple characters start insisting around about the 75% mark that the only way to get back to the real world - to be clearer, to gain the ability to travel between the two worlds at will - is to fuck a cryptid. It is unclear if this is true, if it was part of the story-world from the beginning and Hernandez just neglected to mention it, or if it's just yet another crazy notion thrown in for yet another what-the-hell reason.

I believe that all of Blubber is supposed to be funny. I gather it is meant to be a satire of something, but I suspect it's even more a writing & drawing exercise for Hernandez himself - "do five pages of random things fucking, no filter - GO!" I generally did not find it to be funny on purpose, though its extreme lunacy is not un-funny. Some of it has very, very dry humor that I appreciated, but it's generally so far over the top it would be difficult to make out the top with high-powered optical instruments.

Do not read this in public. Do not leave it anywhere people of weak minds, or any children or housepets you particularly like, could find it. If Birdland was Hernandez doing relatively straightforward porn and Garden of the Flesh was him using porn to make (to me, unclear and muddied) comments on religion, Blubber is Hernandez subsuming everything about story, character, setting, and plot to the most all-encompassing, pansexual, rampaging-id version of porn he could conceive. It is pornographic, yes, but it's deliberately unpleasant pornography, made so that no matter how outré your fetish - you may be a bisexual vore furry thinking this is totally up your alley, and I am here to tell you Hernandez will creep out even you - you will come away thinking that this Hernandez character definitely goes a bit too far.

Blubber goes too far. That's the point.

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