by Charles Burns
Charles Burns is a big deal in the world of avant-garde comic books. The genre’s more pompous aficionados probably prefer “graphic novels”, a term I reserve for American Psycho. But, with Last Look, this proves fitting. The book compiles three stories that position Burns as the bastard son of Hergé, Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman. Our hero, Doug, is reconfigured by the memories of his own phantasmagorical imagination. On first sight, he looks like Tintin in negative. He has a black dye-job and instead of Snowy (the white dog), he has Inky (a dark cat). There is even a reversed “Nitnit” comic glimpsed at one point. This bequiffed Doug is the stylised, traumatised alter ego of an actual young man. He falls in love with an enigmatic artist, Sarah, whose tastes run to such things as bondage and self-harm. Doug’s fantasy life, meanwhile, mixes William Burroughs’ Interzone, David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Mos Eisley in Star Wars. “You like comics, right?” Sarah asks. I certainly do, though “like” may not le mot juste where Charles Burns is concerned.