September 12, 2012 by raconteurmagazine
by Nick Gonzo
Menton Matthews the Third is a cryptic art guru. Ghostly, he sits in a perpetual haze of light steam and mystery. His ragged beard and suited body is thin, blade-like. He is a comic book wizard. His style straddles the realms of fine art and so traditional comic book art, filled with a class and distinction apart from the swollen abdominals and tumourous chins of early nineties comics that are looked upon with derision down the noses of haughty gallery crowds. Menton deals in oil paints and soft focus photo-shop brushes to capture a dream-like surrealism and sensuously sinister atmosphere. He is also a mad bastard.
Luckily for humanity, he is one of those brilliantly Mad Bastards that throws his creative energy into artistic expression rather than butchering people and turning house-pets into lamps. So, to that end, he formed the creative ensemble 44 Flood along with sassy squid-loving Australian comic-scribbler Ben Templesmith, Nick Idell the owner of AlleyCat comics and the art-agent/biopharmaceutical entrepreneur Kasra Ghanbari. Their first Frankensteinian creation is Tome.
Initially intended to be a hardcover book of 178 pages, Tome is a collaborative anthology pitching some of the finest talent from the worlds of art and writing to express the modern era’s most abused and distorted whipping boy; Vampirism. Initially this acted as a dampening factor to my interests, cooling the fire in my blood and wiping the flecks of spittle from my hungrily salivating mouth.
Vampirism and vampires as a subject have been given the once over, jacked up by their overexposure; convoluted, confused and all in all fucked over by all mediums. Whether Twilight’s sparkling idiots, or True Blood’s nymphomaniac underwear models, or any of the other sub-par bastardisations of myth and legend, they openly urinate into the faces of Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad the Impaler and all the other Medieval warlords who spent a lot of time and energy being absolute shits to everyone to provide the chilling tales of pale virgins and cobweb-packed cliff top castles. Does the world need another rehash of these ideas?
The themes and ideas, the very philosophy of vampirism and the relationships it creates is a fascinating, tantalising deep creative well. Menton puts it best when he states: “When we say Vampirism, we’re talking about the misuse of power, and the objectification and exploitation of others.” If you look at the bare bones of the subject, the raw definition, you can get past the fangs and the capes, and the corseted, frilled Goths. Get to the heart of the matter.
Draining and Parasitic.
Betrayal of innocence.
Sexual lust and depravity.
Taboos explored and dissected; the consumption of flesh for personal gain, the limitations of humanity and the monsters we make of ourselves to keep on living. It’s a dark, adult subject and needs to be reassessed in dark and adult ways.
This sort of thinking is probably why Tome exploded in popularity; originally asking to raise $18,000 through pre-orders and print sales on the crowd-funding site Kick-Starter, it had made its target within a day. At the end of its allotted 64 days on the site it had managed to gain a hefty $132,538 worth of momentum. Instead of resting on their laurels and simply seeing it as a massive success, Menton and crew expanded upon their product. The book grew in size and page count to a total 200 pages, full colour, professionally printed at 12×18 inches. To put the sheer scale of this book into perspective, when open it will be 24 inches by 18, meaning that in many cases, you’ll see the art in the size it was painted. It has an amazing respect for the art brought to the table by the creators themselves.
And what a collection of creators it is. Becky Cloonan, artist on the award winning Demo, metal sculptor and fine artist Tim Roosen, Chet Zar famed for his disturbing music views for Tool, Jill Thompson and George Pratt who worked on Sandman and Scott Radke who worked on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. 64 contributors in total have put their oar into this spectacular anthology so as well as the prospect of the subject, their dedication and passion was another baiting factor for backers. Templesmith, scribe and artist on the Wormwood Gentleman corpse series of books, tells us in their Kick-Starter advert video that “Art is the part of life that makes it worth living,”, “civilisations are often judged on two things, their engineering and their religion, and both are examples of art”.
The increase in their bank balance allowed 44Flood to expand their exploration of the subject into various mediums, leaping from the page and into a music compilation and a documentary. The CD contains musicians such as Collide; the creators of the Underworld; Awakening soundtrack, Edward Ka-Spel of The Legendary Pink Dots. Sarah Matthews of Sunday Munich and Saltillo says that “To me music is the auditory thread of the human experience, it can change your ideas and open your mind… make the common experience, the common everyday occurrence seem better.” And as such the CD is an emotive and blood-quickening collection of beautiful and experimental music; including Trip-hop, Choral music and traditional singer-songwriter combos.
The documentary, instead of being a self-celebrating tribute to their colossal crowd-funding victory will be a dissection of the processes of thought and craft that an artist uses to forge their creations. Kasra describes art as “a form of communication that goes beyond reality and dreams or anything else that we can even comprehend, a mechanism by which we can evolve and move forward” and the film will delve into the way we express ourselves and the world around us, exploring; “What is art, where does it come from, what is the process through which a person creates?”
This is a truly unique project and not only a series of products, but a collective of artists collaborating together to create great art. I also expect it to work as a great template for others to do similar fantastic things, but only if you are magnificently mad.