DELUSIONAL by Farel Dalrymple

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Nothing that Farel Dalrymple has ever done feels complete. From the oddball sci-fi drama of OMEGA THE UNKNOWN to the sweet-hearted downbeat whimsy of POP GUN WAR to the inverted stream-of-consciousness high fantasy of IT WILL ALL HURT, it all seems like a glimpse, a skim across the surface. Beneath the warmly inviting illustration style, the raw childlike whimsy tempered by flawless internal storytelling rhythms, each of these books contains undepicted depths and a spectacularly detailed private universe. Farel’s worlds are icebergs, and the comics themselves are just the bit that juts out of the water, the part that sailors can see.

One of his constant visual motifs is connection – his settings tend to crawl with plugs, pipes, wires, tunnels, speakers, drains, cables. And every portal – every manhole, every powerline, every side-door and burrow and off ramp, these conduits and byzantine pathways with which his work is compulsively filled – leads somewhere into some new story, some undiscovered country: a dirty joke, a harrowing secret, a hidden community, another world containing rituals and hieroglyphs and pocket dimensions of its own. Like in a Robert Altman movie or an Thomas Pynchon novel, it’s sometimes hard to follow the central narrative – your attention is always running off in seven directions, chasing some glimmer of questionable magic that flickers across the page and flits out of view.

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DELUSIONAL, then, while theoretically a book of ancillary material, the bits & bobs of a career’s worth of restlessly inventive cartooning, seems to me to be the genuine article, the thing itself – what we talk about when we talk about Farel Dalrymple. It’s his back streets and back pages – his messy, teeming imagination, given outlet over time in sketches and illustrations and strips. The margins, the gutters between the panels – that’s where Farel really lives. And while we can’t really go there with him, we can chart his progress and receive his reports. We can eagerly await his postcards from the edge, which sometimes arrive in art books like this.

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As anyone who follows this site is probably aware, whatever minor success Locust Moon has had is largely due to Farel, who has been a friend and collaborator since day one. From his gorgeous ONCE UPON A TIME MACHINE cover to his sketchbook pages in QUARTER MOON to his back cover blurb in Rob Woods’ 36 LESSONS IN SELF DESTRUCTION, he has been involved in some capacity in every single book we have ever produced. He is a blood brother and feels like as much a part of Locust Moon as my own partners.

When I think of Farel, I always think of the brutally hot Philadelphia summer of 2011, and the first book ever published by Locust Moon. Farel was visiting from Portland, and we (Farel, Chris Stevens, Rob Woods, Jimmy Comey and myself) spent two weeks locked in a huddle in our failing comic shop with its broken AC, blissfully undisturbed by our as-yet-nonexistent customer base, working til all hours of the night on what we creatively entitled THE LOCUST MOON COMIC, a purposeless but joyful tribute to the imaginations of two little girls.

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To be camped out with these brilliant, passionate people breaking down stories, thumbnailing pages, watching a 22 page comic come together before our very eyes – it was not my first experience making comics, but it was the first time I realized that the only way to do it properly was to throw yourself at it, body and soul. It was my first great high – that incandescent thing that addicts always talk about – and I’ve been chasing it ever since.

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Ever since those nights watching Farel blearily sling watercolors on the couch until 6am, I have been constantly inspired by the full investment with which he approaches his work – giving himself to it completely, refusing to compromise on his bizarre, brilliant vision, sometimes to the detriment of his career, but always to the benefit of his readers and friends. He’s never tried to bring his enormous skills to the marketplace – he’s just tried to find ways to get paid for his inscrutable impulses. The mountain will come to Mohammed. And he’s found an audience that will follow him, marching to the off-beat rhythms of his weird old drum, down alleyways and obscure channels, hoping to trace every wire to its mysterious but self-sustaining power source, searching to see where it all leads.

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DELUSIONAL is a guided tour of this strange & extraordinary imaginative machinery, and we are privileged to watch it work and worry over more than a decade, knotting and unknotting, stringing and contorting itself along ideas and tensions that are never resolved, but return in new forms, speaking with new voices, adapting, vanishing and reappearing down those outlets and burrows that connect page after page. It sometimes reads as compulsion, not intention: there’s an imbalance – too much is going on in this brain and spirit, and it needs release. Farel’s characters aren’t sock puppets that he uses to tell stories, they’re not slotted into plot points – they’re organic, evolving creatures, and sometimes they need to be taken out for some light and air.

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And that, maybe, is the delusion of the title – Farel thinks these people are real. Orson & Smith, Barch & Belf, Almendra Clementine, the Regular – Hollis the pudgy sad-sack superhero, Percival the bespectacled goldfish, Emily the cool-tempered rocker – the space-suited kids with detachable hands, the robotic mice and virtual reality cats, the dorks in helmets, the barbarians with broadaxes, the astronauts in trouble – the creeping Shadowsmen that seem to slither their way into story after story – these and so many others keep returning, swimming into view, weaving in and out of the pages of this book freely, without the strictures of master narrative to pin them in place, changing forms, swapping personalities, appearing in various versions. There is no playing-pretend in these comics about flying fish and talking rats – there is just giving voice to these singular characters and their urgent, muddled messages.

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The sensitivity of this exploration and cartography, the absolute obedience to the internal voices and their various ways of expressing themselves, the willingness to follow rather than lead – that’s the true negative capability required of great artists. Above all, Farel listens, watches, thinks – lets the wind blow through him.

And I’ll be damned if this snazzy little casebound hardcover – appealingly designed by Chris Pitzer with subtly shifting colored paper and a vibrant sky-blue cover – this collection of by-definition non-essential material might not be the best place yet to see Farel’s remarkable imagination at work, absorbing everything, observing itself, processing the world into strange, moving comics and drawings.

Or, as Farel more simply puts it in his detailed, conversational index, “Most of the stuff in this book is stuff that came up out of my own brain.”

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-Josh O’Neill

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good this week

the mercenary sea #1 : this throwback adventure book is all high seas and searches for lost islands. toss in a nod to king kong and some animation cel style art that makes great use of blacks and i’m on-board for the next issue.

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she-hulk #1 : this book surprised me. it has a kinda HAWKEYE feel, and that’s a good thing. if they can keep it up we’ve got a good book here.

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the fuse #1 : a cop show set in space, this book sets up its two main characters in a way that makes the veteran/rookie pairing that’s a staple of this kind of thing feel fresh. let’s see where it goes.

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prophet volume #3 : brandon graham and company continue their trippy journey through the prophetverse, and this volume is all decked out in a brand new cover from farel dalrymple.

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invisibles deluxe edition volume #1 : one of the all time great series gets the hardcover treatment. grant morrison’s wildly imaginative counterculture spy saga drips with blood, intelligence, and heart. highly recommended.

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spongebob comics #29 : sandy the squirrel takes center stage. spongebob and squirrels. yee haw!

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–chris stevens

The LOCUST MOON TOP 40: January 2014

40. AURORA WEST

Yeah, there’s a bit of a wait. We’ll be standing in line over here.
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39. DEADLY CLASS

Between BLACK SCIENCE and DEADLY CLASS, Rick Remember is on a roll, launching wild new mythologies at what looks like the speed of thought. His tantalizing story is perfectly matched by Wes Craig’s stellar art, and we can’t wait to see where this one takes us.
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38. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN ELDERLY SUPERHERO

These richly detailed oil paintings detailing the adventures of a hero who we have dubbed GRANDPAMAN are surreally funny and a little bit heartbreaking.
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37. SUPERZELDA

With the manic, propulsive energy of a Gatsbian lawn party, this beautiful two-color bio details the graphic life of a fascinating woman whose story too often gets folded into her husband’s.
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36. THE SAVIORS

James Robinson’s low-key sci-fi-stoner shaggy dog story is presented in J. Bone’s enviably crisp, energetic black & white.
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Continue reading

LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM update

the beat goes on…spotlighting more of the fabulous folks riding the slumberland express.

AARON CONLEY

aaron blew us away with his hyper-kinetic, lavishly detailed work on the breakout book SABERTOOTH SWORDSMAN, and we can’t wait to see him chop through wonderland with the same crazy verve and intensity.

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DAVE DORMAN

you know, they should just let dave make these new star wars movies…

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…see what i mean?

there’s also this…

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dave’s doing a spread, and that’s as it should be.

FAREL DALRYMPLE

meathaus. pop gun war. omega the unknown. delusional.

THE WRENCHIES!

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need we say/show more? fall, 2014. meanwhile, farel maps out his own territory in slumberland with a spread of his own that shall mark the way to and fro the land of wonderful dreams.

–chris stevens

We’re keeping this list of Nemo names updated with most of the contributors we have publicly announced – so check it out if you’re wondering who else has signed up! And our first revealed pages from the book can be found here.

good this week

the midas flesh #2 : i missed the first issue of this charming little sci-fi series from the creators of the ADVENTURE TIME comic. with a solid gold concept, breezy dialogue, and pleasing, clean art, this book was a nice surprise and one i’ll be looking out for from now on.

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pretty deadly #4 : another magnetic issue from a sure-fire series of the year candidate–and we’re less than a month in. this issue sets things up for a walloping climax to the opening storyline.

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there’s also a killer brandon graham pin-up…

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judge dredd mega city two #1 : the venerable judge steps into a wacky west coast version of mega city that’s modern day L.A./hollywood to the max. but what really matters here is ulises farinas’ crazy-in-the-best-way artwork. i haven’t had so much fun poring over background details since zander cannon and gene ha delivered the goods in alan moore’s TOP 10. mixing insane detail with hyper-clean lines, ulises brings his A game and firmly announces himself on the scene.

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deadly class #1 : rick remender and wes craig kick up some dust in this elegantly designed & drawn entry into the teenage assassin club genre, with the twist being this feels kind of like an inverted real-ish world original x-men. let’s see where it goes.

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yearling masked detective #1 : rich tommaso’s super avenger crime series kinda reminds me of a straight-edge, non-team version of COPRA that’s more interested in dan clowes than jack kirby and frank miller. with a 1st issue that’s all set-up i’m curious to see where he takes it.

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unwritten apocalypse #1 : as one of the best modern day vertigo series looks into the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a good time to celebrate what mike carey, peter gross, and yuko shimizu have accomplished. get into it, whether you start here or with volume one.

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ff #16 : sad to see this book come to an end, but it’s a glorious end, with 15 extra pages of art from mike & laura allred and all the character moments and then some that you’ve come to expect from this first rate series. one of the more endearing marvel books of the last decade.

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–chris stevens

Tuesday Tease

this week we take a look at a series we have been working on called SHAMAN. the way this project came about is an interesting story. when we closed down the original locust moon there was about a year in-between opening up the current shop. during that year we were still obligated to receive books from diamond, and each week i’d meet the ups guy and haul the boxes of books up to my tiny apartment. this was a pretty shitty situation that was made a lot more tolerable by the fact about a dozen of our customers were loyal enough that they continued getting their books from us, meeting me in my apartment or outside my building. one of those customers was ben kahn, who was getting ready to graduate from upenn. ben had a real passion for the medium and a strong desire to create his own comics. once i realized that he was serious about it, i set off to help him make it happen. written and created by ben, illustrated by bruno hidalgo, and lettered by jason arthur, you will be seeing a lot more of SHAMAN in 2014. for now, here’s a look at the cover by farel dalrymple to the first issue and a page from bruno. SHAMAN logo designed by rob woods.shamanfarel_150dpiSHAMAN_ISSUE2_PAGE24

–chris stevens