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Crypto Zoo
By Rick Veitch
Published by King Hell Press; $17.95 USD

There's an eerie commonality to dreams that paradoxically is seemingly impossible to recreate in waking life for most people. David Lynch's Eraserhead probably comes the closest of any attempt to sustain the tone of a dream with its inherently illogical internal mechanisms, progressing like clockwork as dreams often do into a nightmare vision that one is glad to wake from, but fascinated by whatever it was you just experienced.

Rick Veitch is the comics industry's dream specialist, having made something of a career of depicting his dreams in his series Roarin' Rick's Rare Bit Fiends, issues #15-20 of which are reprinted here (along with a long essay and a colour story from the Heavy Metal 20th Anniversary Edition).

Of the works included in this latest volume, Veitch says they "were drawn in 1996 working from a detailed dream diary I made in 1974. Reflecting my mental state at age 22, they offer some of the wildest and most archetypal imagery yet. They also represent a sort of blueprint for my life..." A long, strange trip, indeed.

Dream analysis isn't a speciality of mine, and I generally fall into the camp (discussed briefly by Veitch) that tends to think dreams are mostly the detritus of the mind, cast off urges, images and impulses firing away in our sleeping hours as a mental re-boot in preparation for a new day. Veitch clearly comes to the issue with a wholly different perspective, and this volume provides a powerful argument for his perspective.

The comics themselves are fascinating, bizarre things: Veitch's friends act out strange scenarios in concert with Disney characters, Jack Kirby, Alan Moore, a plethora of Playboy Playmates and, of course, Veitch himself. This provides for juxtapositions both funny and telling: Veitch reads a comic strip in which Dagwood asserts his manly authority to a disinterested Blondie, then is immediately approached and flummoxed by a buxom Playmate who wants to make love to him. Some friends whisk him away promising "beer and weed," leading to a disastrous Evel Knievel motorcycle stunt. All very odd, yes, but Veitch's essay introduces a synchronistic real-life component to the sequence that at least indicates that coincidence is a major element in his life, and perhaps something even larger and more strange.

The essay at the end of the volume casts all of the book in a new light, inviting the reader to reassess the just-read work with Veitch's perspective and understanding of the meaning and portent of his dream life. It would be all too easy to dismiss this volume, and in fact decades of Veitch's work, as a strange sideline to his more public career in corporate comics. But the essay, and the comics themselves, are such passionate and fascinating works that it's clear that this is where Veitch truly comes alive as a creative person. Successfully interpreting his dreams isn't at all necessary for the reader to come away from this volume with a new understanding that the world is stranger than we imagine. It's enough to watch them unfold and wonder at their hidden narrative and its implications for Veitch, and for the world he inhabits. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane



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