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Nine Years Of Bringin’ The Meta

See, the thing about Brad Guigar (aside from the obvious, such as he’s a hell of a nice guy, he has the world’s most understanding wife, and he laughs a lot) is that he’s almost more interested in the question What’s behind the curtain? than the question What is it? And by that I mean, rather than be content with a comic strip, he’s compelled to abstract things by a layer or two and look under the hood.

When he started comic strippin’ with Greystone Inn, he put recursion in plain sight; from the Google search on “Greystone Inn”:

Greystone Inn, by Brad Guigar
A comic strip about a comic strip, featuring Argus the gargoyle.

“A comic strip about a comic strip.” This wasn’t just using a comic to talk about comics, this was using the story structure to comment on itself and everything else comicstrippy. Sure, you see things like this, but not entirely — 30 Rock is a workplace comedy about making sketch comedy. Greystone, on the other hand, is a workplace comedy about making a workplace comedy — you get topic and medium recursion. It’s a little mind-blowing when you think about it.

Which maybe explains why it was never a gonzo-huge success. The meta maybe showed a little too much, the conceit maybe took too much of the place of the funny? In any event, Guigar found it not as satisfying as it could be (I suspect for both the audience and himself) and oh-so-smoothly (and this is where his technical mastery of the comic strip form really shone) transitioned it to a completely different strip, with a completely different premise.

Enter Evil, Inc., about a supervillian-run corporation. Still room for metahumor there, but also satire of society in general, and the occasional musing on the nature of Good and Evil (including a lengthy arc where the supervillian company had to be run by a hero following a hostile takeover — the herioc and the villainous need each other, but the Good Guys still tried to run the company as poorly as could be plausibly explained).

More impressively, Guigar has demonstrated that you can translate the capes ‘n’ tights genre into the four-panel form and still make it work. Hey, creative team behind Spider-Man on the comics page? Somehow, Guigar manages to move a story forward without spending the first panel recapping yesterday, the last panel previewing tomorrow, and the middle panel narrating what the characters are doing. Seriously, there’s more action and better villians in Mary Worth (meth labs!) or Judge Parker (murderous strippers!).

So congratulations to Brad Guigar for nine years of continuous explorations of the four-panel form (unlike most of his contemporaries, I can’t recall a time that Guigar has let himself outside the boundaries of a four-panel-sized entry). Guigar is celebrating his milestone not in the traditional manner (drugs and groupies), but rather by auctioning a piece of original E,I art, with the proceeds to benefit a Quaker school in his hometown of Philadelphia.

“When he started comic strippin’ with Greystone Inn, he put recursion in plain sight.”

He also put in the very first comic!

“with the proceeds to benefit a Quaker school in his hometown of Philadelphia.”

I hope to god I’m not the only one who chuckled that the school does go by the initials FFS.

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