2/18/2009

POWERFUL PANELS: Madwoman of the Sacred Heart by Moebius

Moebius and Jodorowsky's collaboration on Madwoman of the Sacred Heart feels relatively sane and down-to-earth in contrast with a sci-fi epic like The Incal or the picture book sex parable, Angel Claw. It takes place on this planet, it's concerns are more humane and gritty, and it's an all-out farce of religion, intellectualism, and the two dirty old men that wrote and drew it.

Let's just say, the movie of this one wouldn't manifest itself as a quasi-rip-off by Luc Besson, but a radically individual auteur like James Toback, an obsessor of obsessions, a reckless hedonist, and a dude just as comfortable pacing around a classroom spewing about in the world of the forms. Jodorowsky and Moebius (and Toback too) are Professor Alan Mangel, the main character of Madwoman and this sense of knowing connection and harsh satire fuels the schizophrenic plot that plays-out.

And the image above, of Daouda, the man Mangel's wife leaves Mangel for, at his own birthday party, in front of all his friends, while laying-out the reason(s) loud and clear (They haven't had sex in eight years), is a good place to start unpacking Madwoman's weird merging of opposites. In that image, Daouda's both given a lot of humanity, in his truly embarrassed "I wish I wasn't here" facial expression as his girlfriend cruelly prattles on at her ex, and sort of mocked in Moebius' stretched-out exaggerations of an embarrassed, "uppity" black man. Daouda knows why this chick he's with is nutty but doesn't care or enjoys it or something. That's the brilliance of good satire and farce, this multi-directional parody with a dash of sympathy too.

The punchline of this scene is Mangel's Wife using the younger, more exotic Daouda, to further embarrass Mangel and feed into her own "progressive" interests, to contrast with her stodgy, philosopher husband. On the page following the one I took these scans from, she self-consciously celebrates and justifies her relationship: "I may be twenty years older than he is...maybe I'm fulfilling some kind of mothering instinct...or going with a "White Woman" might be some kind of status symbol for him...but I don't care!". Of course, if she really didn't care, she wouldn't have footnoted her declaration of "love" like that. It's both a scene of out-there satire and unfortunate realism, as we've all probably heard some hyper-self conscious "it's not like that" speech from someone, the whole time thinking you know, it's totally like that.

The entire scene tows this weird line between being as out-there over-the-top impossible as any of the shit in The Incal and depressingly realistic. Even that name Daouda, while a real African name, seems goofily exotic or like, too-perfect, you know? And because we've witnessed and been subjected to more than a hundred years of racist caricature, we look at even realistic images of black people with a suspicious eye, so it's sort of brave for Moebius to really balance this line between his cartoonized style, real-life accuracy, and broad satire.

There's just something goofy-looking about Daouda, the attempt at a refined version of the flattop, the silent-move villain moustache, his slight neck-fat...you're kinda sizing him up as goofy-looking asshole the same way Mangel or really any now ex-husband would do to the wife's new lover. But like I said, there's something really humane about him too. He seems like a decent guy and he's clearly affected by this insane bit of melodrama playing out in front of him.

Moebius places the close-up of Daouda right after a similar close-up of Mangel, and really, the intention isn't to contrast the two--as Mangel's wife is doing--but to see their similarities. They both respond properly to the Wife's tirade: Mangel a kind of "whatthefuckisthis" attitude, Daouda, sincere confusion. Mangel's ire though, is in part directed towards Daouda, his wizened glare looking across the frame into Daouda's panel. Dauoda just tries to avoid eye contact and affect a "I'm not here, this isn't happening" look, even as Mangel's Wife's words invoke him in this weird attack.

Mangel's Wife's words too, hover above Daouda's--and Mangel's--head literally. While she's explicitly demeaning Mangel, her references to the many lovers she took kinda devalue Daouda or at the least, don't really set him up as being all that important, even as she's using him to represent the perfect lover in contrast with the can't-get-a-boner Mangel. The panel of Daouda's expression reveals something to the reader that Mangel's Wife is too blind with spite and anger to notice or just doesn't care. Moebius renders the face perfectly, showing Daouda's abashed expression and hinting that this isn't the first time he's been privy to his girlfriend's freakouts, making him look a little absurd and pathetic, but sympathetic too.

4 comments:

brandon g said...

awkward...

I've always been kind of luke warm about Jodorowsky's writing. I even traded my copy of Angel claw to a friend right after getting it.But now I wish I had it. God damn that dude can draw.

I like how vile he draws the ex wife with her gnarled lower row of teeth. and that great face on poor Mangel.

brandon said...

brandon-
Basically, I picked this panel because it's hilarious-looking but then I couldn't really explain it.

I'm a big fan of Jodorowsky, but he tows this weird line between being ridiculous and brilliant. I just like shit like that.

I found 'Angel Claw' at this comics store in Raleigh, it's so crazy and weird. Moebius is really working some shit out on paper and it's amazing.

How do you mean "awkward"?

BG said...

I was thinking I really like the part in the book that shows the 2 old people fucking because it's gross but so well drawn that's it's beutiful.

Mostly my Jodorowsky feelings come from liking Moebius by himself better so maybe it'd nothing personal. I haven't even watched Jodorowsky's movies.

and I just meant awkward because that poor bastard in the Mad woaman panel.

Viagra said...

Madwoman has never been of my likes. I read the first issue (or the first 2 i don't remember) and it couldn't make me want more of it. The panel you post was a good one but it just didn't had the "it" effect on me.