At first glance, Hugs: Bloodpond could easily be mistaken for a children’s book. Ok, with it’s graphic depictions of cartoon violence, human sacrifice, drug use and naked women maybe not so easily. But it does star Hugs, a cuddly, retarded looking polar bear floating across a surreal fantasyland on a wild adventure that takes him from Heaven to Hell and to the deep jungle.
Each page of the slender tome is laid out exactly the same: Just two panels, one on top of the other. With the garishly-drawn cartoon figures placed onto fantastically painted backgrounds, the book also gives the appearance of a nightmarish Colorforms set, which come to think of it wouldn’t be a bad promotional item for writer/artist Michael Ogilvie. With Hugs, he’s designed a character made for demented merchandizing.
Hugs careens obliviously through his own tale, unintentionally causing the death of a little doggie. In an act of revenge, the pup’s lover kills Hugs, which sends the big oaf to Heaven where he has a good time thanks to all the free heroin. Not satisfied with this form of non-punishment, a little prayer sends Hugs down to Hell, which turns out to be not such a bad place either, what with all the hot chicks to play chess with. Finally, thanks to the baby Jesus, Hugs returns to life for one last randy adventure.
In just 36 pages, i.e. 71 panels (the last panel is devoted to footnotes), with very simple drawings and a minimum of dialogue, Ogilvie has created a fairly complicated book. It’s a graphic novel one can just simply admire the pretty paintings, since each panel flows so abstractly from one to the next the book could give the appearance of not containing a story at all. But closer inspection reveals a rewardingly bleak tale. My little plot description in the previous paragraph, which leaves out much of the bizarre goings-on, only came from flipping through the book a couple of times.
Hugs: Bloodpond, which is self-published by Ogilvie, is really a beautifully bound little package and the artwork would also work really well as an art installation with the pages hanging up side-by-side on a gallery wall. With a minimum of dialogue — most of it consisting mostly of cribbed, existential quotes from other authors like Dostoyevsky, Cormac McCarthy and Truman Capote — each page, in fact each panel, is it’s own contained experience.
Bloodpond is also a sequel of sorts to a previous Hugs adventure, Thoughtlead, in which the title character inadvertently triggers a nuclear devastation in which he’s partially devoured by a mutant butterlfy, but still manages to get a lttle nookie on the side. This first story, published as a pamphlet rather than a fully-bound book, is fully silent with no dialogue and is definitely more abstract than Bloodpond, but really just as beautiful to look at.