The comics of Daniel Elisii arrived in the mail in a little cardboard box, so thoroughly packed and obsessively taped that it took me nearly ten minutes to get the package open. Reading them was a similar experience — tugging at loose ends, trying to pry open maddeningly adherent little corners, frustrated and driven by an inexplicable intuition that there might be something wonderful inside.
Elisii is the creator of HEYDAY COMICS, a series of, thus far, five issues. There is some kind of narrative at work here, or at least a universe being built — a harsh landscape of shifting unknowable deities and small, petty creatures. Several tales concern Kokopelli, a skinny insectoid biped, and his quest to find his lost horn, which seems to have mystical properties. We see him beg, dance and wheedle before Dazza-leth, some kind of creator-god figure. We see him murder and sacrifice — finally he gives Dazza-leth his eyes, and is rewarded with the gift of sight.
Honestly, I can barely follow some of the narrative here, and I gave myself a headache trying. This is some kind of intuitive, esoteric storytelling, where plotlines don’t follow one another so much as they bubble up from some kind of primordial mythic stew. They shift in and out of coherence as quickly as their tone switches from roar to whimper, from revelation to bitter humor. There is some kind of dreamlogic at work here, in this bizarre half-world of scurrying organisms and booming disembodied prophecy. But the logic seems to be beside the point.
The glory of this baffling work is in its voice. These comics thunder and slither. They speak through the cracks in the earth and the cavities in your teeth. These are poems, not stories, but the word “poem” calls to mind something gentler, more lyrical than these alienating strips. Their tone seems to come from someplace old and frightening, but reads clean as a whistle. These strips have a drawn-with-the-fist quality tempered by a pure cartoonist’s eye. They are Looney Toons cave paintings; reading them is like discovering an image of Bugs Bunny on the wall of Lascaux.
There is urgency here, though it is muddled by speaking its own language. Though the drawings themselves don’t show the influence, in some ways the otherworldly tone reminds me of Jack Kirby’s late-period work. Like the New Gods, Elisii’s comics refuse to meet you halfway: they stand on the rock and declare their vision and wait for you, the followers, to gather. There is a tiger-force at work.
This voice speaks from who-knows-where and insists on being heard. “The Gods sing a mighty song for those who listen,” writes Elisii. I am frankly not so sure who or what is doing the singing, but it’s clear to me that Daniel Elisii is listening.