Masterpiece Comics by R Sikoryak

Sikoryak, R. Masterpiece Comics. Drawn & Quarterly, 2009. ISBN: 9781897299845.

Masterpiece Comics is a collection of R. Sikoryak’s short works from various anthologies and publications. These works are all pastiches of various comic strips or styles used to tell stories from classic literature. In some sense, these are analogue mash-ups, two disparate sources put together to form a new work. Inarguably, Sikoryak is extremely skilled at the work of pastiching other cartoonists, a master in this regards. Whether he is “doing” Schulz, McKay, Kane, Stanley, or others, the images and style are, but for their actual narrative content, remarkable simulacrums of the originals. This holds not only for the visual style of the drawing, but also the page layouts and compositions and the colors. For instance, his combination of The Picture of Dorian Gray with Little Nemo, allows for McCay’s commonly used method of slowly transforming an element of the comic from one panel to the next (in this case, the portrait). These visual pastiches offers an immediate engagement, a novelty, that is hard to resist. Finding these works in the pages of an anthology was always a refreshing surprise. You read them, chuckled at the two disparate sources juxtaposed together, then continued on.

As a collected volume, though, I am left… bored. Once the novelty wears off, what is left? Telling the story of Faust (Marlowe’s version) through the characters and style of Garfield (“Mephistofield”) is amusing. Garfield as the demon, John as Faust. The roles work in light of both originals, yet I don’t feel any new perspective on either works. The least successful stories here are of immediate humor that quickly disperses, offering no real connection at all between the sources. Why Dante in the form/style of “Bazooka Joe” comics? Why Little Lulu and The Scarlet Letter? Other examples have a more relevant connection (like “Mephistofield” or Blondie and Dagwood as Adam and Eve), but still lack any depth.

The two superhero works here–Superman covers telling the story of The Stranger, Batman as Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment–are amusing primarily because, while Sikoryak is pastiching the original versions of these characters, the novels he chooses put the characters much closer to contemporary (dark) versions of superheroes.

I was excited about this book when I first heard about it, but I realize that Sikoryak’s works are better seen as one-off, a pleasant divergence from other comics, not as works able to stand on their own.

[This is part 15 of a 30 part series where I am writing daily reviews for the month of December.]