Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened once a month to champion a book that we adore and you should read. The latest: Fütchi Perf, available now from Uncivilized Books.
by Arpad Okay. What does utopian science fiction read like? Our go-to images of a perfect future are all from the past; we’re living in the years it envisioned and its promise has been reduced to memes about when double-decker tacos left the menu. What would utopia look like ten years from today? What if everything that could go right between now and then did? You could move with me to Cleveland, where things are perfect. The future of Karen Czap’s dreams is a nice place to be. Say it like you mean it. Fütchi Perf.
The vision is technology and infrastructure made to encourage and support cultural wealth. In a city where public servants are elected into politics, the funding comes through for arts and entertainment, by and for the community. Social media isn’t a filter that distorts reality, it’s a way for us to stay connected. The same Kid Mind that points you towards the hype you desire ensures that the quiet acts not for everybody are thriving, too, in their own way. Authority has been divested. Hand the microphone to the professor on stage and this is what they have to say: by learning you are showing me how to teach, let the knowledge I give you show you my thanks.
Whether or not you are familiar with the house show, anchoring the heart of the city there is a blast. If you’ve been, this is the dream. Shout out to Rea’s Coffee House basement shows for showing a fourteen-year-old me what a good time really was. For those who haven’t been, yes, a performance taking place in someone’s living room is as intimate and powerful as it seems; it is also the dream you think it is. Czap has deconstructed the systemic need to travel to a concrete zone of urban renewal to see live music. But Fütchi Perf captures the intangible experience of the punk rock idyll by letting the stories in these dreams of a better tomorrow stay personal. The big moments are little. The way people behave is still real, makes sense, makes no sense. Riding the wave from the party, shaving your head and staying up painting is what will let you finally fall asleep.
Play the game with them. Look at what we have that could cause Fütchi to go Perf. Look at what they have you want. How do we stop that from not happening? Besides venues for the arts, what does a neighborhood need to become a viable alternative to a city center? My dream is in there, moving teaching away from a transaction, where one obtains knowledge from the other, to a triangle, where a facilitator and a novice move towards knowing more about a subject together. Who curates the museum, right now? I can make a list if you want, but I’m sure you’ve got yours. If The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis was uncompromising values in a cynical, realistic world, Czap’s Fütchi Perf is teaching the same course on comparative visions of worth, but dreaming of abundance instead of perseverance.
Fütchi Perf is told as poetry. Art is a foundational aspect of the Garden of Cleveland-Eden and the story reflects it structurally at times. To be true to life, sometimes what makes art work doesn’t translate as a series of linear thoughts, ordered sentences on the page, panels in a grid with structure. The “Seventh Energy” vignette leaves characters (until the end) and zooms around the city, the eye in the sky revealing how industry and nature harmoniously power utopian Cleveland. Reminds me of the Richmond Lewis/Dave Mazzucchelli collaboration from the first issue of Rubber Blanket, abstract and concrete paired, one foot in comics and the other in printmaking. Fütchi Perf is often allegorical even when straightforward, a puzzle for and from the thoughtful..
The art is, to me, perfect. Zine art but more invested into process, fine art but less distance from the audience. Erica Henderson vivid and bold with a hint of Tradd Moore wiggle. Jillian Tamaki, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, where YA and raw real gently commingle. Radical softness. The linework is all free: the weight of the strokes are wildly expressive, as are the people and places they depict, loose and vividly gestural. The effortless beauty of the perennial cartoonist, where the thoughts always come out part-words, part-pictures. The contemporary futurism aesthetic of the book lends to comparing Czap’s style to other modern powerhouse innovators, but me reaching for references shows how it can’t be pinned down, because that wasn’t enough. Look: it’s much more abstract than (most) newspaper comics, but there’s definitely also something to Fütchi Perf that reminds me of the 1930s contemplative Gasoline Alley strips, or Crockett Johnson (both retro kids and math art).
The sequential art is different! Czap uses color and layers and unorthodox structures to move you around the page. The content is clustered around a repeated character, their thoughts, or a broadcast, and the sequential art forms a natural flow where you skip from touchstone to stone, all around you the story blossoming. There is a tremendous amount of added imagery that expands on the ideas in the text, seeding a wider universe from the page to the readers’ mind. Maybe a hint of infographic! But embedded into sequential storytelling so that it feels more like a movie montage than it does an idea tree or mood board.
Offset layering techniques in the design goes a long way to enable a more multifaceted expression of ideas. Cross-discipline sequential art, we love to see it. Czap draws from a wide range of different backgrounds and interests from manual printmaking to anthropology to turn speculative fiction into a posi-political manifesto. Fütchi Perf makes you think and feel. Dream of better. Cherish the buzz of the moment (reading a book that won’t let you go). Start your own perf today.
Uncivilized Books / $15.95
Written and illustrated by Karen Czap.
Fütchi Perf is available now. For purchasing information, click this.
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