||[Oct. 12th, 2008|07:16 pm]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#66 LIKE A VELVET GLOVE CAST IN IRON – Daniel Clowes
“I didn’t know they made movies like this.”
A man named Clay is captivated by a bizarre movie that seems to be nothing more than a collection of surreal scenes strung together, especially when he realises that one of the actors is his lost love. Inspired to track her down with nothing more to go on than the names of the studio and the town where the movie was shot, he sets off into a surreal road movie of his own. His trip becomes something straight out of the mind of David Lynch or maybe Russ Meyer, like the movie he’s just watched, Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron – the title’s a quote from Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Along the way he encounters a parade of freaks including a potato-shaped fish-girl, a Manson-esque doomsday sex cult, a dog with no head and a group of conspiracy theorists obsessed with the secret meaning of a kitsch corporate logo.
Clay’s a passive observer to most of the comic’s inexplicable events, initiating little and avoiding confrontation compulsively, as if he sees how like a movie his life has become and is resigned to watching it unfold while idly munching the popcorn. There’s no deeper significance behind Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron; it’s a dream transcribed onto paper. There’s enough going on to make it feel like a puzzle that adds up to something meaningful, but when you organise the pieces just right all you see is nonsense. While that might make for a frustrating experience while sitting in a cinema, it’s perfect for comics. It can be puzzled over at length or skimmed over as breezily as you like, appreciated only for its moments of oddly whimsical humour and Clowes’ deft caricatures of hideous Americans – when Bill Clinton makes a cameo his big-chinned visage fits perfectly. Disturbingly, he looks just like a Clowes character in real life.