Scott Roberts makes art comics. There’s no other way to describe them. They are, in and of themselves, things of beauty to linger over and let their artistry wash you clean from whatever ugliness you have had to slog through in your daily life. Roberts’ new book, body magik, is no exception. Published through Roberts’ own imprint, Ubutopia Press, body magik is a handcrafted, Risographed, two color experience. body magik focuses on a small group of friends who get together to focus on “the future of body identity”. Underneath all of its comeliness, though, body magik asks serious questions into the nature of the self and the values we attach to that construct.
How do we define ourselves? Is our physical form a manifestation of our sense of self? What does the idea of our “perfected body” reveal about who we want to be? Do those who love us love our form or our identity? As an individual transitions their physical appearance, do they also transform who they are? Is there a core being that will always transcend that which we present to the world? And if so, who are we really?
Roberts’ work here forces the reader to excogitate these types of questions. In this, it becomes a comic for our time, of our times. The political ramifications of this sort of thinking notwithstanding, Roberts is working in the universal. The concepts of identity are seemingly at the core of every conflict we have and every connection we make in this life, both on a personal and on a global scale. How we see ourselves as individuals in our own spheres and citizens on the larger stage frames almost all of our interactions.
And yet all of it is fluid. All of it subject to change. In his ravishing Risographed red and blue pages, Roberts celebrates that which is within and gives it the opportunity to be without. In the layers and swirls that make up the pages of body magik, there is freedom to express, trust among a group, and foundational declarations of possibility. But even within all of this celebratory potentiality, there lingers all the questions asked above. Roberts doesn’t shy away from this, ending body magik as he does in that liminal space between certainty and the unknown.
Roberts trusts his readers to let the experience happen. As his art causes you to disjoint and disconnect from all that you know, it also forces you to examine that which is left behind. In that way, body magik once again demonstrates the importance of art and the inviolability of the dynamic between the artist and their audience.