Goodbye by Ben Passmore

Saw the cats from Owl Bike or whatever at the Local Color gallery’s zine fest in downtown San José and seized on the opportunity to find out whence all the commotion about Louisiana artist Ben Passmore‘s comic Goodbye.

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Besides being surprised by the smallness of its quarter-sheet format (because the ad I got in the mail is legal size? Were they trying to impress me?), one association I made for myself when I first started reading was that both Goodbye and Pantomime Horse have a frame of this dead guy lying on the ground, who ends up representing a major conceit in the book revealed later.

I’ll give Ben this commendation: his stuff makes us want to reread it, largely because he has a skill for illustrating and talking around themes rather than hitting them on the nose, which many of us don’t, either for lack of skill, focus or confidence.

Goodbye deals impressively with values, action, and dialectic. In the comic, Passmore transports us from a somewhat startling shift in perspective about yuppie vacationing, through a mysterious and doubtlessly magical explosion, into a self-aware allegory about the conflict within a person over what counts as meaningful intentions and effective action. On the spectrum (sorry, Ben!), Passmore is much more a writer than an artist although the neat and tidy art has its charm.

In guiding us through this dialectic, Passmore wisely begins with the sense of community that we had when we were stupid, unmobilized kids with lots of time and few commitments, rather than shooting straight for self-critique about direct action against the fuckeries of late capitalism and anti-intellectualism. He makes a genuine case for the tiny sweetness found between people when partying and trying to figure it all out. He makes fun of bay area outwanderers (scheiss Auswanderer!) who impose their whatever on our scene –if only they’d move to red states in order to influence federal-level voting trends like Bernie’s meme machine said to without gentrifying our fucking domestic light beer establishments! Believe me Ben, I’m in San god damn José, where they paved the valley of the heart’s delight to make the god damn eBay, and I feel you.

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He then makes a joke about group sex and lands us in the lap of a local anarchist, soon to draw us into his spirit with a breath of the aging process and times gone by. Ultimately his message is for us to find the common ground and get together again. What, then, does goodbye mean? Maybe it just means that parting is not the end, but rather the beginning of many happy returns.

As noted above and in our comments on Pantomime Horse, Passmore seems always to be talking around the invisible on several levels, one of them usually comprising hilarious and true imagery from the circles of people in which we operate, and one that’s very personal and spiritual, and which colors the reportage with its tone.

Ben could be a great artist one day as long as he avoids the ironic bullshit and stays on target. Goodbye should get its due respect in the short story world. I wonder if Bird in the Hand or whatever know what they have in him. Get Goodbye! Get several copies and give it as a gift! As Ben rightly reminds us, there are no rights to reserve!

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