“The Social Discipline Reader” by Ian Sundahl

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Steadily devoted to publish comics standing out as raw, far from any contemporary pattern and without commercial ambitions, Brooklyn-based Domino Books is one of the most interesting small presses of the US scene. Founded by Austin English, Domino looks just like his patron at a rough and spontaneous line, able to record odd situations and ambiguous feelings on the page, neglecting the cute aesthetics of most of today’s comics. In a world where every style, even if different from the dominant one, tends to become canon to the point of sterilizing itself, Domino’s artists are genuine examples of purity and expressive uniqueness with few equals. I think at the works of E.A. Bethea, of which I have already spoken some time ago in this post, or at Ian Sundahl‘s art, between comics, poetry and literature, marked by a deliberately raw sign, the result of an original aesthetics. Sundahl can really draw and this is obvious especially when he chooses free and intense lines, but sometimes he prefers to rely on sketchy and imperfect forms, in harmony with the material of these comics – dense stories of outsiders, prostitutes and misfits set in darkly lit bars, dusty suburban roads, smoke filled casinos. Sundahl is a Portland-based artist who self-released so far eight issues of his zine Social Discipline. English noticed him and put together The Social Discipline Reader, a 40-page “best of” published in an edition that is the mirror of a direct and no-frills approach.

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The book is a jumble of short stories, illustrations, drawn essays. They range from the modern adaptation of the nineteenth-century memoir My Secret Life to Where You Are King – four packed and dark pages in which a prisoner tells a story of sex, jealousy and at the end violence – passing through a series of illustrations of people sitting in front of slot machines, reproductions of pictures taken on the road, two pages about heels (a recurring theme in Sundahl’s art, since he also released an issue of Heelage zine and a new one is on the way). The mood is sometimes very prosaic (“Nothing is so delicious as the intimacy established between a man and a woman by a fuck” begins one of the pieces from My Secret Life), other almost transcendental in depicting men and women as toys in the hands of fate, whether they are subjugated by the impressive shapes of Nevada slot machines or they witness mysterious apparitions of phantom ships.

sd test5Fascinated by the world as told by Ian Sundahl – pulp and visceral as a certain literature and a few comics can be – I made available some copies of The Social Discipline Reader in Just Indie Comics online shop, where you can also find a section with other fine titles by Domino Books.

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