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Cats Don't Exist
By JIS (Jose I. Solorzano)
Published by Fantagraphics Books

Wow! This book just took my breath away.

Cats Don't Exist is, I think, one of the deepest, weirdest, most self-revealing comics to hit the stands since R. Crumb came out with Zap.

The title story is what really caught my attention. It shows a unique awareness of the underlying mythological framework which we as post-modern heirs (or victims) of Western European culture are prone to employ. This is a man whose work reminds me of Jacque Vallee's Confrontations and Passport to Magonia.

Jose Solorzano is a man who looks deep within himself, with an eye unflinching (or at least mostly unflinching), and draws upon his innermost drives, including (in the best underground comix tradition) his sexual needs and wants. This sort of inward journey is I think inevitable for anyone who spends time with teonactl, as Jose apparently has.

His interest in sleeping women is a bit disturbing to me, especially when you consider that to want sex with a sleeping partner is sometimes a prelude to interest in sex with a dead partner, and that at least one necrophile serial killer used to ask his victims to pretend to be asleep when he began to have sex with them. As he approached climax, he would force his arms over the women's throats, killing them by thus choking off their air supply. The sexual unambiguity of Solorzano's images of women hanging from nooses, women who are simultaneously shown as being desired, desired from a hidden place, a way perhaps of denying his own ego at the moment of realization...

I only hope and pray that, like Crumb, he confines himself to working out his more anti-social and murderous fantasies on paper only.

Of course, I have heard of "erotic asphixiation," in which choking someone (or being choked by someone) becomes, usually through early imprinting, associated with and a part of sex. So long as everyone is a consenting adult, I have no objections to anybody's bedroom past-times, even if I personally am turned off. Just don't do it in the street and frighten the horses.

"God is Very Sophisticated" is an interesting look at a typical acid or mushroom head's ruminations. It is entertaining and revealing of the mental processes whilst in the bemushroomed state.

"To Our Dear Enemies" is the acid-head's typical insight into the balance of left and right, up and down, prudes and swingers...This typical sort of illumination (which all who SERIOUSLY, as opposed to recreationally, employ entheogens eventually realize) about a dualism which is usually invisible to the unilluminated mind, which is snared by the fact that it is in the midst of the event, and cannot rise above it to see the greater balance...that guilt can be a sexual turn-on, and that to suppress the sex drive is to heighten desire. Some of the best, weirdest, most interesting sex I've had is with catholic girls. Those twisted sex-denying dogmas really can create a wild and crazy libido! (The works of Alan Watts, another psychedelic philosopher, is especially insightful in this regard.) Of course, it also gave us the S&M excesses of the Inquisition...

The "Paso sin Ver" strip on page 76 that shows an astronaut struggling for the moon in the face of mass opposition and later being reduced to begging to get there, is a wonderful example of the multi-levelness of Solarzano's art. On the surface, it exposes the plight of those of us who want to get Humanity into Space, yet it can also stand for ANY individual aspiration which the "many-headed" opposes and frustrate.

On the same page is a quietly funny deconstruction of Carlos "Fraud" Castaneda, whose books on Yaqui Indian shamanism are (at last!) sold as "fiction" in bookstores. I will not go into details about Carlos' misrepresentations, but instead direct the readers' attention to Jonathon Ott, who in his masterful work Pharmacotheon, (a book Solarzano would enjoy reading, I think, if he has not read it already) has shown that Castaneda simply lied about his experiences. As Solarzano says, "It was all a lie..."

"God Forgot This Sandwich" is a magnificent look at Christian theology.

My favourite of his works in this book is called "Silent Strip". The conception is wonderful, yet I cannot help but feel that in this case, his artwork was not quite up to the task he had in mind. I wonder if it is an earlier work? The design of it touches those mythic depths in me...

Solorzano's artwork is reminiscent of Gahan Wilson on (even more) acid, but with of course a strength all its own.

Of course, every artist is at some level dissatisfied with their own work: that is a given in ANY art form, be it drawing or writing or sculpting or music. Sometimes the material is so powerful that no pen or paintbrush can really do it justice, and that is the case with this "Silent strip." This idea is so big that it would be a ripe field for other creators, working in other media, to explore...

I would love to see this page painted, for example, possibly by Barry Windsor-Smith... A musical version would be wonderful, if it could be attained. I'd like to try to compose a poem around it, but the SILENCE of the strip is part of its impact. Words have not soiled it...

It for me captures the essence of Solarzano's genius as a creator.

I can just go on and on, but you should buy the book for yourself and see. Not everyone will like Cats Don't Exist, but for those whose intelligence is sophisticated enough and whose humour is dark enough, it will be regarded as a treasured jewel. Grade: 5/5 (for style), 6/5 for entheogenic truths.

-- Marshall O'Keeffe

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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