by Hariton Pushwagner
New York Review Comics
A city of towering skyscrapers is filled with nearly identical humans. Men don bowler hats and head to work in long, orderly queues of traffic while women look after what seems like a world of only children. This most regular of realities, comprising endless squares and rectangles (windows, mirrors, strip lighting and screens), perfectly blueprints the most uniform existences. Workers line up like factory hens at a sinister, Trumpish-sounding corporation: “If you don’t make it/You’re fired/If you’re fired/You are finished.” If the gender politics sound outdated, that is because they are: Soft City was begun in 1969 and the comics – lost for decades – were briefly voguish. The book’s depiction of one empty, repetitive day reflected the circumstances of its Norwegian creator, Terje Brofos (Pushwagner is his nom de plume), who suffered severe bouts of depression. What makes Soft City a great and expansive work of art are the flashes of deep if unsettling emotion: the woman counting to 10 as she kisses her husband goodbye; the enigmatic portrait of paternal love. Pushwagner’s obsessive dystopia of mankind in thrall to work, football and conformity feels prophetic enough to make you hug a tree. Genius.