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#277394 - 01/08/07 08:16 AM Re: Can't Get No
Shoegaze99 Offline
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Registered: 06/15/02
Posts: 5325
Loc: Not Applicable, USA
Review of CAN'T GET NO from DVD In My Pants .

As an artist and writer, Rick Veitch has paid his dues in the world of comics. While probably best known for his work on Swamp Thing (first as an artist with writer Alan Moore, then taking on full duties with his own acclaimed run) and Heavy Metal magazine, as well as other Moore collaborations, including 1963 and co-creating ABC Comics' Greyshirt character, he has in recent years built up an impressive library of graphic novels, including The One, Brat Pack, and Abraxas And The Earthman.

The most recent addition and one worthy of inclusion on your bookshelf – if you're up for a challenging read, that is – is his latest work, Can't Get No. Billed by some as a post 9-11 work, it's far more than that.

Chad Roe, a businessman who is down on his luck, gets terribly plastered one evening and against his will is tattooed from head to toe by two women. This sends his life into a downward spiral, a spiral accelerated when he is witness to the attacks of September 11, 2001. What follows is a journey of introspection and self-discovery.

First and foremost, and the hardest thing to avoid when talking about Can’t Get No, is the presentation. Not as much the sizing of the pages – it is presented in a “widescreen” 7.25” x 5.75” format, which made for some attractive layouts - but rather the mix of image-driven storytelling overlaid with a twisting, druggy poem of epic length. The images crispy, clearly and dynamically tell a story, while the text is a book length, sometimes pretentious poem that ostensibly has nothing to do with the narrative, yet more often than not intertwines with and comments on that narrative. I really enjoyed this device. While from time to time the two would drift a bit too far apart, when they two came together they really impacted one another in a big way, the verse adding weight and heft to the story, and vice versa. When we see the markers that will disrupt Roe's life in several ways, and the text speaks of a “suffocating self-embrace,” the two separate works become one. Very effective technique. It moves along at such a smooth and rapid clip that the moments when the text gets jarring or clunky or pretentious (and there are a few, most especially the latter) are put behind you swiftly. Far from being a gimmick, it’s truly an essential part of the experience.

It's also a device that seems to speak directly to the state of mind Chad Roe is in. Early on in the story, when our main character was still grounded in a reality we can sort of relate to, the overarching verse and the image-driven narrative are locked into one another. Constant bang, bang, bang. One commenting on the other; clearly, focused, in sync. Yet the further along he gets in his journey of self-discovery, loss, humanity, and self-examination, the more fractured it all seems to be, coming together less and less frequently as the graphic novel moves along. As a reader, trying to make sense of how it all links together becomes an exercise in leaps of confusion – which is totally story appropriate, I might add. By the end, though, it comes back full circle (presumably for story-related reasons). I’m not sure how purposeful this was, if it was truly planned this way, but it managed to bring the whole thing home for me. The end especially tied the whole piece together nicely.

With Veitch's resume, it should come as no surprise that the art and storytelling are strong. You could easily strip away the words and still have a crisp, clear narrative.

And speaking of the narrative, despite a hefty 350 pages or so, it’s pretty tight. Few are the times it drifts or meanders to the point of distraction. Oh, it does from time to time, taking little side paths here and there, but most of the time when you feel as if you’ve gotten off the path it snaps back into place pretty quickly. That, or there is something there worth reading despite the left turn in the narrative. I’m thinking in particular of a journey through giant models of dead presidents' heads. (Trust me, it makes sense in the story.) I'm not sure how much I enjoyed that as part of our main character’s journey - in fact, I know how much; not a ton - but the visual commentary was so rich here I was willing to take the ride. Segments with JFK and a Jackie O look alike were great.

Overall, really strong stuff. That Veitch managed to make me like the two awful women who did the markering job on Roe surprised me. That he managed to tie 9/11 into the story in a tasteful way that was essential to the story without being the story – despite what you may have read, this is not “a 9/11 graphic novel” – deserves praise. And the fact that he tried something with the medium that felt fresh and creative and unlike anything I had read before was a breath of fresh air. It has its flaws, not the least of which is language that often seems cumbersome just for the sake of being cumbersome, but in many ways those 'flaws' are Can't Get No's strengths.

This graphic novel doesn't meet you halfway; it challenges you; it asks you to take a chance with it, and rewards you for doing so. I really appreciated that.

At only about $12 from Amazon.com, if you're looking for something unlike anything you've read before, this is money well spent and a comic experience you’re not likely to forget.
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#277395 - 01/11/07 07:09 AM Re: Can't Get No
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
The Sunday Guardian has included CAN'T GET NO on a list of "exceptional books that attracted attention" in 2006.
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#277396 - 02/15/07 02:43 PM Re: Can't Get No
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
DC hasn't actually announced it yet, but if you slip on over to their podcast page you can find and download a 49 meg file of me reading the text to CAN\'T GET NO.

Engineering and ghostly soundscape courtesy of my son, Ezra Veitch.

Enjoy!
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#277397 - 02/19/07 09:32 AM Re: Can't Get No
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Here's a weird one. When I created the rundown Bicentennial theme park full of giant busts of the presidents, I didn't realize that something like it actually exists!

The Presidents Park, in Williamsburg VA.

[img]http://www.williamsburggrouptours.com/images/theme_PP_park.jpg[/img]
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#277398 - 02/19/07 10:33 PM Re: Can't Get No
mollygal Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/10/03
Posts: 30
Loc: NY
HAW! I never heard of this place.
Completely hilarious!!!

And an easy location for the movie version too.

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#277399 - 03/28/07 04:07 AM Re: Can't Get No
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
This thing is STILL getting reviewed! This from Sarah Jaffe on Best Shots at Newsarama.

Can’t Get No
Written & Drawn by Rick Veitch
Published by DC/Vertigo
Review by Sarah Jaffe

Can’t Get No is an allegory and yet a simple narrative, a story of a businessman whose product is wreaking havoc—minor havoc, admittedly, compared to the corporate malfeasance that we’re accustomed to these days. A permanent marker that really won’t come off seems harmless compared to Enron or any number of pharmaceutical disasters. With his work life in shambles and his personal life almost as bad, Chad Roe sets off to drown his sorrows and hooks up with a couple of women (one with an absolutely terrifying face—Rick Veitch has a knack for the creepy and the all-out disturbing in his stark black lines). When Roe wakes up, he’s become the target of his own product. His entire body, including his face, is permanent-marker tattooed. At first he tries to hide them, to attend a business meeting in the World Trade Center, but the makeup starts to melt off like the façade of his perfect life, and he flees the city—just in time to look back and see the planes crash into the Twin Towers. It’s September 11, 2001, and this book is an attempt to put feelings to paper in its aftermath.

Chad Roe finds himself in a creepy Americana theme park filled with giant hollow heads of presidents and relics of more innocent times—including a woman dressed as Jackie Kennedy who reappears several times. The heavy focus on Kennedy perhaps is meant to draw a parallel between the death of the President and the collapse of the Towers—not in magnitude, perhaps, but in the feeling of loss, the chaos that followed, the sense of innocence lost.

To take any part of this story purely at face value would be to miss the entire point, however. It invites thought, evokes discomfort, and gives us no pretty answers. It leaves politics the hell alone and deals instead with the collective unconscious of us, America. Its America is a road trip in a ’59 Cadillac with a Jackie Kennedy impersonator and a bag of pot, a backwards baseball cap and a smile. It’s strangers holding hands in fear, and it’s a sand-sculpture of a tank and a brutal, xenophobic attack on a beach. It’s a man alone in the desert. In Veitch’s own words, it is “A culture in which separation . . . From the eternal . . . is a matter of business.”

It isn’t really a graphic novel so much as a story told entirely through illustrations, with a prose poem overlaid for narration. I was tempted to copy out the entire text without the pictures to get the full effect of it, but that would defeat the purpose. It at once shows the complete effectiveness of sequential drawings as a storytelling device (and might serve as a lesson to some writers who provide unnecessary narration), and gives you words simply for feelings, emotions, fears and hopes. The words are beautiful and slightly painful and ask you at once to consider the sacred and profane, the serious and the absurd. For example: “Every moment is a Bach Fugue, conducted by Salvador Dali. Hallucinated on henbane. Performed with period instruments . . . by a traveling flea circus,” or “A rattle rushes up the throat . . . to die like a fib on the lips of an evangelist.” It reads like a T.S. Eliot poem for our times, a list of images, impenetrable but evoking feelings, events, different meanings for all of us and yet somehow the same feeling of loss and maybe, somewhere, redemption.

Can’t Get No is a fever dream of a book, a psychedelic vision-quest through a nightmare America and an attempt to get at the fears of a once-invincible society after a shocking wake-up call. The text often has nothing to do with the picture and yet you can feel its relevance as you get lost, with the protagonist, in Veitch’s visions.
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#277400 - 04/27/07 09:32 AM Re: Can't Get No
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Reviews still trickling in.. Here's one that takes on both CAN'T GET NO and ARMY@LOVE from Signal Bleed.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Veitch @ Vertigo: Can't Get No and Army @ Love

Although Rick Veitch is something of an icon of indie comics and the early days of Vertigo (collaborating with Alan Moore on Swamp Thing and later taking over as both writer and artist), I wasn't familiar with his work until recently, when I happened to read his 2006 graphic novel Can't Get No and the first issue of his new ongoing series Army @ Love (both kindly sent over by DC/Vertigo) around the same time. These are very different works in many ways - obviously foremost in format, with one a longform, self-contained work, while the other is a serialized, open-ended story (the second issue was out last week, although I didn't read it). And Can't Get No is somber and sweeping, even in its moments of humor, while Army @ Love is a full-on satire.

Let me get this out of the way before I go any further so you can understand my opinion on Veitch: They are both really, really bad. In fact, Can't Get No may be the most unbearable reading experience I've ever had with a graphic novel. It only took maybe 10 pages for me to realize I was going to hate it, and yet I read all 352 pages of it for the same reason, I suppose, that I refuse to walk out of a movie or turn off a DVD even if I can't stand what I'm watching. Veitch's art is clear and accomplished enough, but his subject matter and storytelling style are so pretentious and cloying that they easily overwhelm any enjoyment that comes from the appealing visuals. The book is in an odd horizontal format, with long, squat pages, and the art is simple, black-and-white linework. The most striking formal element, though, is the disconnect between the words and the pictures. There are no dialogue bubbles or thought balloons; rather the entire book is filled with narrative captions that form sort of an epic, free-verse poem, using overwrought and pseudo-profound language that generally has little if anything to do with what the reader is looking at.

On top of that, the subject matter here is 9/11 and its aftermath, which is certainly legitimate but takes a special touch not to seem like exploitation. Veitch's meaningless, irritating narration makes it look like he's tacked it onto a national tragedy in order to give it false resonance, and the actual story, with a protagonist covered accidentally in indelible ink, seems like some sort of hazy metaphor for the country being marked by something it can never erase. While the art is good, it can't really convey much without dialogue, and thus the characters are all just ciphers. Veitch seems like someone with very strong political views who has trouble expressing them without resorting to obtuse literary devices.

Which is essentially the same problem with Army @ Love, an unfunny and completely bizarre satire that, although it's told in a much more straightforward style, is no less baffling than Can't Get No. Veitch's near-future world in which the U.S. Army uses battlefield sex to recruit people and makes war cool again is both illogical and confused, and I'm not exactly sure what aspect of current political or military life is being satirized here. It's so over the top that certainly none of the characters are sympathetic or easy to identify with, and the humor seems rather dated. Again, the art is solid, and helped by Gary Erskine's strong inking, but Veitch's point is lost under his strained efforts to shock. I also can't imagine how this is sustainable as an ongoing series.

Not many people are doing explicit political commentary in mainstream comics (unless you count something like Civil War, which I wouldn't), so it's good that Veitch is making the effort and Vertigo is supporting it, I guess. As much as I admire grand, ambitious failures, though, I'd much rather see something more down to earth with fully realized characters that makes its point less showily, but maybe with greater effect.
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#277401 - 05/10/07 04:48 PM Re: Can't Get No
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
CAN"T GET NO has been included on the New York Public Library's 2007 list of recommended graphic novels for teens.

Newsarama.
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