The Colossus Crawls West

The acquisition of knowledge is not progression from point A to point B. There in fact, is no point B. The Colossus crawls ever westward, overlapping its own footprints, making new impressions in the Earth.

The Concrete Jungle Book: Characterization of Space in Brandon Graham’s “King City”

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In the first pages of King City, we are introduced to the main character Joe and his magical cat, as they break into a vault deep underground. Our journey follows these two characters and their companions Pete and Anna at different intervals throughout the comic. Before we know the names of the main character or his cat (Earthling J. J. Cattingsworth The Third) however, we are introduced to the only character who appears consistently in every section of the book: King City itself. All of the weird things that happen can be traced back to the setting of the story, a city which is said to house not only “The brains of Walt Disney and Theodore Roosevelt in jars” (1.5) somewhere in its depths, but also an arena with robot spiders that fight each other when the aforementioned brains are inserted. It quickly becomes clear that although this story may follow Joe and Earthling, Anna, or Pete, all of these stories take place inside, and because of King City.

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Since the King City is a characterized space, it is uniquely present for many of the events that most of the characters are not. The reader may actually have no choice but to relate the most to the City, as they similarly follow all storylines with a kind of omniscience which is impossible for any individual. The reader, for instance, is present for the final battle with the Demon King, an event not even the protagonist bothers to show up for. The reader inhabits the space and perspective of King City and as such can be simultaneously present for a battle with a giant monster and a mundane afternoon eating food in an apartment (with the main characters). We are able to see, on several pages, multiple characters in multiple locations all at once. Space is folded in on itself an we are able to perceive everywhere as though it were in one location. Distance has no meaning because we are looking through the eyes of the city itself; we are not unaware that our foot itches simply because it is several feet from our head.

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As a former graffiti artist, Brandon Graham fits mass amounts of art and character into areas that are often either static dead space, or part of the action of a scene. In this way the background is both part of the scenes, but also separate from and larger than the events that unfold. The backgrounds of scenes are crammed with jokes and sight-gags which take a focused second or third run-through just to grasp, which, like the graffiti they are based on, house tons of varying stylistic and rhetorical elements. It’s almost as if the blank pages were city walls and King City is the artwork Brandon Graham has illegally sprawled across them in the dead of night. The aesthetic not only lends to the story, it is an integral part of it. The series is named for the city, not for any of the characters or events, which since the main characters ditch the story’s climax,  these seem almost secondary. The only constant in this book is the City, and the city is alive in the art used to represent it.

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This entry was posted on April 2, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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