Wednesday, January 11, 2017


TIME OUT OF MIND (Graphic Serials)
4 issues, 1985-1985 

Inherent in the DNA of pretty much any self-published comic from the black-and-white boom period is an enthusiasm that far outstrips ability. This might sound a little bit like an insult, but I swear that it is something I immensely admire in these books. In fact, it might be the only thing I admire about these books on the whole, outside of the bare-knuckle brass ones it took to self-publish in that market in the first place.

But if you think of enthusiasm as fuel and ability as engineering, then you realize that these books wouldn't have even been possible without an abundance of hyped-up chutzpah. After all, if you have the skill to build a perfectly aerodynamic vehicle, flying without so much as a ripple of wind resistance, then you can get that thing up in the air with a little push. On the other hand, if you're trying to launch a wheelbarrow into orbit, you're going to need the nuclear option.

Even for stealing candy from babies, that is an
unacceptable way to do it.
A space-bound wheelbarrow riding a nation-shattering explosive wave is a pretty good metaphor for Time Out Of Mind, a 4-issue series which had ambition, incoherence and the typical presumption of the young comics-publishing magnate in equal measure. As for the plot, I don't know what to tell you.

For instance, each issue begins and ends with the type of thumbs-under-the-suspenders, self-promotional speechifying that was so typical of the black-and-white comics of the time. Covered in the inside-front-cover intro of the first issue was a reassurance to the book's allegedly-already-extant audience of eager readers that their patience and loyalty will pay off in the upcoming, planned, epic tale covering the next eight issues or so. Optimism is the hallmark of these books.

So is jaded admonition, which Time Out Of Mind hits by issue number 3. That's where the author/editor/probably-everything-on-this-book takes a moment to wag his finger at "the young people" who complain about indie comics pay-rates. Life comes at you fast.

The third issue is also where I actually was able to learn about what was going on in this book, thanks to a "Our Story So Far" sidebar. It goes like this; we have a trio of characters. Adriac, a Sci-Tech from the realm of the futuristic Temporals ("Emissionaries of the Creator"), is sent to present-day Earth to prevent a weapons manufacturer ("Patentholder: 1979, Concussion Blaster, used by Law Officers during crowd control"), Wm.Connors, from traveling back in time to contact and make deals with ancient Mayan/Egyptian alien beings.

Adriac gets shot, crashes into an apartment building and welcomes a knife into his abdomen, all in the first two minutes of his mission.

Cutting their losses, the Temporals hire a comic book-obsessed grown-ass adult nicknamed The Arkansas Traveler (real name: Travis) to pick up on Adriac's mission. He does this with admirable elan, I think, although it's tough to pick up the specifics of what's happening from panel to panel.

About three days into the weeks-long
rape scene.
Making it worse is that the Traveler's wife looks exactly like the third hero of the book, more or less, hooker and med student Rhoda Moore. This is not a plot device, it's just that the only two female characters in the book are drawn in exactly the same way. The only way we, the audience, can tell the difference is that the Traveler's wife spends most of her time taking care of a baby while Rhoda primarily gets stuck in a pre-rape sequence which lasts the better part of two issues. Rape is overused as a device in comic books to begin with, but a full two issues of poorly-actualized gang-members threatening Rhona that they'll "show you a real man" is really going for some sort of award.

Traveler burns most of the ink in the book flitting around time and trying to find/retrieve/fight/I dunno the corporate raider Connors. We also learn that some side-effect of radical science has turned Connors into a nuclear time-bomb, set to go off in 36 hours, whatever that means in a time travel book.

I don't hate Time Out Of Mind, excepting the four thousand pages dedicated to a presaged sexual assault. But the greatest appeal of the book comes from the author's tendency to add one letter too many to fancy words. A prison is described as part of the "penial" system, the book is a "triology," plentiful oxygen is "too substantiall," it's pretty great. There's also random capitalization going on in the typewritten dialogue balloons and captions, so random words take on Significant Meaning without any Particular rhyme or Reasion. It feels like the entire book is being described at breakneck speed by someone hopped up on cough medicine.

Where Time Out of Mind would have ended up had it gone beyond the four actually published issues is laid out for the reader. This is a handy failsafe device for books with a limited lifespan. What we missed out on, therefore, after our heroes finally assemble in the same place (and Traveler gets an opportunity to beat Rhoda's would-be rapist with the handlebars of a bike that must have been off-panel) is the routing of a terrorist hijacking of a plane-full of United Nations diplomats and a near-nuclear showdown between the US and USSR over the existence of Travis, which I could explain further but choose to leave at that compelling sentence fragment.

"Near-nuclear showdown between the US and USSR over the existence of Travis." Rumors of Travises have been at the root of all international dilemmas, really, if you read the right history books.

"And it's about to get a lot dirtier!"

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