Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE GRAPHIC KIND


12/3/1967, BOMBSHELL COMICS
          Echo Park, CA – Periodically at the Calendar we get a novel for review. Though I can’t speak for any other writer here, all the book reviews that I do stem from personal contact just like my CD reviews. On my Valentine Holiday in LA not long ago, I met a comic book artist as I sat at an art gallery lounge located slightly off Sunset Blvd, so to speak. He was sitting with a group of other artists at the table, one of whom I had just interviewed (see the upcoming Art Made Between The Streets). Looking much like a young, handsome, scholarly ‘Dewey Largo’ complete with longish locks, Michael Jasorka, who teaches cartooning, is a spokesperson for Herbert Schirmer, UFO contactee of 12/3/67.        
It should come as no surprise that interesting but quirky things can cross your path when you visit an art gallery that literally exists between two street levels as does Rafas Art Lounge, 1836 W. Sunset Blvd. What was in front of me this night was the first comic book I had seen adapted from a CD recorded conversation; said CD being attached to page 6, a dedicated page facing the beginning of Herbert’s story. Your instructions as the reader are to play the CD as you follow the graphic interpretation of Herbert’s actual words spoken to a group at a UFO convention.  
          In 1967, on December 3, police patrolman Herbert Schirmer, then 22 years old and a navy vet, had an alien encounter where he was abducted. Though he reported the UFO sighting in his log at 2:30 AM, it was when he was questioned about the time gap between the sighting and the arrival back at the Ashland, Nebraska police station that brought on the hypnosis session which revealed the abduction. Herbert’s complete story including his back story is told panel by panel verbatim from the CD dialogue. The result is like hearing a running narrative frame by frame comic story, very unique.
          For those who are not comic book aficionados, the obvious difference between comics and cartoons is of course motion. The comic artist must tell the story in a series of freeze frame panels that advance the plot pictorially within a standard format. This is best done through either the hero’s motion or emotion in the frame, preferably both. The non-linear use of the panel borders can also enhance story advancement and portray emotion like a virtual exclamation point. Michael Jasorka makes full use of all the graphic enhancements to tell Herbert’s story. The reason how and why Michael has Herbert Schirmer’s story is a tale for the sequel, Rocky.
          The comic, which is available at Stories, a bookstore about a block east of Rafas on the same side of Sunset, features a cover that is classic 50s-60s drawn in a style that is more Steve Ditko than Wally Wood, and depicts an occupied police car caught in a tractor beam being pulled toward a flying saucer against a starry night sky along a deserted Route 63 highway. In the lower left corner you have the standard dialog box announcing the contactee’s true story on CD ‘in this package’.
          The first 3 pages present reproductions of the newspaper headlines surrounding Herbert’s sensational story with other reported sightings and then the comic depiction begins. The book panels draw visual personality onto Herbert’s words giving an innocence not felt since Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a hit. The 7”x11” comic starts with the standard 3x2x3 panel page but soon abandons it for out-of-panel 3D, panel over panel overlays, and a full page dissolve [pp. 42] while throwing in a color swatch here and there to break the monotony of black and white drawing. As the story advances, the artwork becomes more complex and detailed, adding a more fleshed-out atmosphere to Herbert’s narrative of his roller coaster ride of UFO fame and ridicule. The last three pages again show archive headlines but this time spotlight Herbert as a MUFON speaker. Also presented are the hand drawings Herbert made of the 40’x120’ ship, the ship’s interior, the propulsion system used, the alien he talked to,     and the star system they came from.
          The first issue printing by Bombshell [www.bombshell-comics.com] is set to be a collector’s item. “CONVINCINGLY NARRATED - ACCURATELY ILLUSTRATED”
         And lest you think UFO activity has died down, have a peek at the latest UFO vid making the rounds on YouTube. Look fast though, because these types of stories get pushed under the rug like Ron Paul’s delegate results. When looking through Wikipedia’s UFO archives, Herbert’s story or any mention of it was scrubbed clean.


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