Synopses & Reviews
Monologues for the Coming Plague
is the longest and most ambitious work to date by Anders Nilsen, the talented young cartoonist who has appeared in a variety of prominent comics anthologies over the past few years as well as in his own self-published comic, Big Questions
, and has emerged as one of the most critically acclaimed cartoonists of his generation.
In 2003 Nilsen went on a signing tour with several other artists for the book Kramer's Ergot 4. The enthusiasm of his fellow artists for drawing in their sketchbooks proved infectious, and he decided to employ the same spontaneous method for a finished book.
"I've always worked in sketchbooks," said Nilsen, but I had lost the habit and my way of working had become very slow and deliberate. While waiting in the airport in New York, after the tour, I found myself absorbed in a series of one panel gags about a woman feeding a bird, brainstorming captions and watching ideas follow."
Taking a cue from the school of Automatic Writing, an aesthetic mode championed by Andre Breton at the beginning of the 19th century that became the foundation of the Surrealist Movement, Nilsen began work on Monologues for the Coming Plague. The process is born out of a stream of consciousness followed by limited editing and rearranging.
The book ranges playfully from riffs on the gag cartoon to paranoid soliloquies of a surrealistic apocalypse, with references to contemporary politics, pop culture, and religion, plays on language, and sequential abstractions. Stories intertwine, branch off, dead end and double back. These are experimental, absurdist art comics, but the book is a page-turner, and some of it is laugh-out-loud funny. Reading it is not so much like reading comics as it is watching the artist make connections between ideas, find patterns, and set down the story as it happens. It's a tour de force, beautifully and uniquely packaged, in black and white and color, by one of the most fascinating new cartoonists of the decade.
"The latest offering by the author of the award-winning Dogs and Water is a long series of drawings almost scribbles simple enough to be stuck on Post-it notes. Don't let this fool you; these almost-doodles make a deeply funny and moving book. Whether it's a scribble-headed guy spouting poetry or a woman having a conversation with the bird she's feeding, the short, goofy captions provide a spectrum of nuanced and subtle social commentary. Nilsen goes on quiet feet where few pundits go. Topics include terrorism, semiotics, the eight-fold path and Tide laundry detergent, the last two combined. 'Nothing ever happens here, yet the impending cataclysm is always right around the corner,' says scribble-head. Later he pulls a dinosaur from his pocket, which eventually dismembers him. The bird and the woman also contribute to the discourse, ending with her final 'Do you want the terrorist to win?' Nilsen takes the banal catchphrases of contemporary culture and strings them together like a master DJ. Pushing back the boundaries of comic art a second time, the results are hilarious, whimsical and heartbreakingly real." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An original graphic novel from one of the most exciting young voices in comics.
About the Author
Anders Nilsen lives in Chicago, IL and online at margomitchell.com.