This kind of straddles the edge of literary, but it’s too beautiful to miss: John Hilgart’s blog 4CP takes fragments of vintage comic books and blows them up into wonderful abstract pieces. They go beyond the evocations of Peter Max and Roy Lichtenstein that you might expect, into a realm of the truly weird and beautiful. Four-color process printing (hence the blog’s name) was subject to all sorts of vagaries, including the very iffy factor of registration, and the results have a disorienting and at the same time beautiful formal logic all their own. The cheap pulpy newsprint, magnified, adds a strangely comforting texture, like an old pair of flannel pajamas. As Hilgart points out:
[I]n the decisive, paradoxical twist, four-color process created a form of depth even as it fought against illustrative realism. Whereas contemporary reproductions of mid-century comic art are truly closed and flat, old comic books are visually leaky and deep. Four-color dots perforate the flat surface of the universe, opening onto nowhere—some uncharted cosmos.
Last month HiLobrow featured 10 of 4CP’s greatest hits, with extra commentary from Hilgart that’s worth checking out. Of one haunting humanoid detail, he says:
I can’t resist these lonely little figures in the background of so many comic book panels. They’re the supporting cast in the windows, streets, and crowds. Some artists and inkers took them pretty seriously, but when you blow them up, every micro-detail, hasty ink stroke, and printing anomaly becomes a defining trait of a large picto-human. They’re all individuals, and the best of them have a lot of pathos.
It’s this affection for the incidental and the forgotten detail that takes 4CP out of the realm of gawking and into something more, an appreciation of the hands behind the old comic-book factories. And since those old Marvels and DCs were gateway drugs for entire generations of readers, a little homage is appropriate, and due.
(Above image is a detail of a panel from The Hulk, 1972.)