Underground Film Journal

Posted In » Comic Reviews

The Bart Dickon Omnibus

By Mike Everleth ⋅ February 25, 2006

Good–even adequate–comic book art should serve the same function as watching a film with the sound turned off. Without any dialogue or captions, comic art should be able to tell the story by itself, as much as a comic without any words is able to.

The “collage comic” then is an entirely different beast where, for example, one character can be represented by several different drawings of people cut out from various magazines, books, comics, etc. The writer is then forced to tell the story entirely through words, including explaining to the reader what he is looking at, such as pointing out that the chap in Panel 2 with blonde hair is the same chap seen in Panel 1 with black hair. The artwork then serves simply as an object, providing general scenarios onto which a story is overlaid.

This isn’t a criticism of the collage format, but I just wanted to point out that it’s a totally different reading experience from traditional graphic novels. Collage comics almost take a certain kind of patience that other comics don’t demand. This is almost doubly so for the Bart Dickon Omnibus where creator Borin Van Loon creates collages of words to go along with his art collages.

Omnibus is an absurdist comedy adventure following the travails of the titular “ideologically sound secret agent.” However, Bart never really seems to do any secret agenting. The book, which is a collection of short strips Borin created for different comic/magazine anthologies, is just an excuse to throw the main character into various ridiculous situations, not unlike Bugs Bunny in old Warner Bros. characters.

Aside from some unrelated short bits, the Omnibus collects the serial “A Severed Head” that begins with Bart’s conception, his birth, a trip to outer space, a visit to a haunted house, plus an adventure where a succubus bites off Bart’s head, which is rescued by his female partner and her doppleganger from another dimension. The stories, though, are really just excuses for Borin to be silly and layer each page with both visual and verbal puns.

Images are culled from a variety of sources, mostly unknown to me–although Borin thanks in the front of the book “the largely uncredited, anonymous talents of engravers, artists and illustrators from the last two centuries”–and some known, such as classic movie stills from the original King Kong and From Here to Eternity as well as comic staples like the ubiquitious 1940s Charles Atlas ad. Borin also seems to have some sort of fetish of pasting down giant baby heads in the middle of his collages.

The writing, in dialogue and captions, are largely an excuse for Borin string along jokes and bad puns, some sexual and others just plain goofy, like this exchange from the haunted house chapter:

“What evil swarm of purulence is this, the pustulent, bubbling, warty surface cracked & oozing an unspeakable putrescence & giving off foul & billious odours, you spawn of satan, you?”

“That’s my meatless tofuburger. Want one?”

I don’t normally find tofu jokes amusing, but that one made me laugh out loud. Much of the humor, too, is very British in nature.

As I said, a collage book like the Bart Dickon Omnibus requires a bit of patience to get through, but with the strange, dry humor of it’s author that patience is well rewarded.

The Bart Dickon Omnibus is self-published by Borin Van Loon and is available at Borin’s website.