Pim and Francie: The Golden Bear Days by Al Columbia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've long been a fan of Pop Surrealism, particularly that of the darker variety. Al Columbia is one of my favorite artists of the movement. After "reading" Pim and Francie: The Golden Bear, he remains one of my favorites.
Imagine, if you will, sitting in a decrepit apartment, the kind with sirens down the street, gunshots down the hall, and weeds a'la Little Shop of Horrors growing in the cracks of the sidewalks. It is the mid 1960's, and you are up late watching three black and white televisions at once. One is showing Mickey Mouse's haunted house episode, another, an episode of The Twilight Zone, say . . . Eye of the Beholder and the third, a silent documentary film showing humans and animals being skinned and eviscerated. In the midst of this, you've dropped some mighty powerful bad acid. Really bad acid. We're talking like Monterey Pop Festival brown acid, complete with Wavy Gravy yelling "Don't eat the brown acid!" just as you swallow that Mickey Mouse blotter. Now let it all melt together.
That's our starting point. Or maybe our ending point. Many of the illustrations here are incomplete. Fragments of dialogue, usually running off the page or cut off by misbehaving panels, are interpolated with barely-legible scribbles in the artist's hand. The few that are readable show a semi-obscured dark underbelly to the seemingly innocent dialogue between Pim, Francie, and others.
If you're searching for plot, go back to my description of the ghastly room I've described and ask yourself if anything, anything at all, would be coherent under those circumstances. Now take the darkest interstices of your confused thoughts and mash them onto glossy paper with a printing press. If you're looking for plot, you are never going to come down off that bad acid trip.
Still, there is some sort of coherence to the whole thing. Maybe it's the preponderance of loose-intestines-as-tethers or multi-limbed psychotic killers or Pim and Francie's grandmother and grandfather living, dying, undying and zombifying that provide a tenuous thread that gives about enough to hold onto as David Lynch's Eraserhead or a Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble album.
Not much to go on, but it will have to do. IT-WILL-HAVE-TO-DO!!!!
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