by Brandon Beck Forcefield Fotocomix Vol. 01 is a great idea executed extremely well. A collection of short vignettes involving the crime fighting Costumed Characters, futuristic space DJs and Kushner himself, Forcefield is a vibrant, exceedingly well-shot, and inventive collection of photographic comics. Primarily a portrait photographer (his portraits of The Beastie Boys, Jonathan Ames and Michael Moore, among others, sprinkled throughout the book are gorgeous and evocative), Kushner turned his eye towards bridging his two loves: comics and photography.
Enlisting the help of a few other writers, Kushner uses the "photocomix" form as a way to bring out a depth and realism in his characters that might be difficult to pull off using traditional means, while simultaneously using digital tools to place his real world characters in heightened worlds that would be nearly impossible to create if he were simply shooting photos. The book’s four shorts run the gamut of tones and genres: “Costumed Characters” is a funny short that calls to mind both The Silver Age and the live action version of The Tick; "The Perfect Woman" plays like Sin City without all the Frank Miller insanity; “Luv_Underscore’s_U” a sexy science fiction piece, excerpted (I believe) from his upcoming graphic novel Complex; “Spiders Everywhere” is an unrelenting horror yarn that manages to still be intense despite the fact that those are clearly just plastic spiders.
Perhaps the one problem that Kushner was not able to overcome, and this is not really his fault, is that sometimes the more posed photos, especially during dialog heavy scenes like in “Costumed Characters” come off as just the tiniest bit stilted. This problem isn’t unique to this book. The few other times I’ve seen photographic comics they’ve all had the same problem, one which I’m not entirely sure how to get around when your story has to get talky for a minute. Kushner does his best, and it’s a very minor problem in what’s overall a very clever, well-put-together book. The other minor nitpick is that occasionally Kusher’s ideas can’t quite keep up with his photographs but in the end the book is still fascinating enough that it never winds up being much of a problem.
The highlight and centerpiece of the book is an autobiographical piece detailing Kushner’s life, his process, and how he developed his photocomix procress. As a photographer myself it was fascinating to see his process, and the glimpses of his other work, such as the CulturePOP series were among my favorite parts of the book. After reading it, I went and read a few of the CulturePOP comix (Comedian/WTF host Marc Maron and adult film star Stoya, all available at Trip City) and they were, as I’d assumed, fantastic. Kushner is at his best when he’s visualizing someone’s worldview, be it Maron’s sense of discomfort with the world or Kushner’s own fascination with the world around him.
TL;DR: Forcefield Fotocomix Vol. 01 is a visual delight, filled with interesting ideas attacked through an unconventional, fascinating art form. The photography, while occasionally somewhat stilted, is absolutely phenomenal, and while his ideas sometimes can’t keep up with the beauty of his pictures it never feels anything less than wonderful.
Forcefield Fotocomix Vol. 01 contains "photocomix" by Seth Kushner with stories by Kushner, Dean Haspiel and Chris Miskiewicz. A limited number of editions were self-published by Kushner and can be purchased through his Etsy store. You can see more of his comics work on Trip City.
A review copy of Forcefield Fotocomix Vol. 01 was graciously donated to Spandexless by the creator at MoCCA 2013
Brandon Beck is a writer/director/improviser living in Brooklyn, NY. He earned his MFA in TV Writing/Producing at the TV Writer’s Studio at Long Island University and is now working on bending the entertainment industry to his nefarious will. He is more than happy to talk to you about Phish. You can see inside his mind by following him on the tweetbox at @hellyesbrandon.