Flat cat? No, this is not about roadkill! This is a follow-up, of a sort, to the last post on the peculiar process of making comics.
Long, long ago, (post no. 33 -I had to look it up), I mentioned a crazy idea and paired it up with a disjointed one-page comic called the “Mighty Mutt Fragment.” It involved a group of 2-dimensional beings who were “comicologists.” One of those things conveniently called “anomalies” that Star Trek is so fond of, had resulted in an intersection of a comic book and a 2-dimensional world inhabited by a species of intelligent and curious people.
After generations of study, the 2-d people realized the images in the comic were 2-d representations of 3-d world. Moreover, they realized that in at least some of the instances the symbols in what we know as “word balloons” correlated with the images!
After even more generations of diligent and ingenious study, these beings were able to translate the words. These studious beings, who now considered themselves “comicologists” had revolutionized their world with this study, which had applications far beyond mere entertainment. Discovery of a third dimension lead to innovations in their science and technology -to new sources of power and computing they had never dreamed of previously.
These ideas were all appealing to me, but they didn’t fit in with the comic I’m working on -“Pause and Reflect Comics,” which among other things, has to do with an ET encountering Buddhism. I went through all sorts of mental contortions trying to tie it in to P&R, but no go.
When I finally came to accept that the comicologists were a whole different direction, I then proceeded to get hung up on the idea of drawing them as 2-d beings. Blog post. no. 40, “Comicologists Return” included 2 full-color comic pages where I was straining to make these beings entirely flat and with an imperfect (and in retrospect, unfortunate) mastery of English.
It finally dawned on me that these conceptual struggles were all unnecessary. Why couldn’t the comicologists have an entirely sophisticated understanding of representing 3-d space in 2-d as well as be fluent in English?
So I could represent them any way I wanted to. And I didn’t have to add language difficulties on top of everything else. Condensing comic-book prose is a tough enough task as it is!
Cats naturally came to mind. Although I’m both a cat- and dog-lover, we are dogless at present and have two pampered and highly appreciated cats. Plus, cats have an air of mystery better suited to the subject that the open-hearted nature of dogs (IMHO). Plus, and more to the point, I like to draw anthropomorphic cartoon cats. The name “Ghost Cat Comics” came up. The whole “comicologist” label seemed another unneeded contrivance.
Then I happened to open up the 2018 edition of Best American Comics, edited by Phoebe Gloeckner and Bill Kartalopoulos, with a stunning cover by Lale Westvind. (Here’s a review of it by H. W. Thurston in The Comics Journal.) The first selection in the book is an excerpt called “Ghost Cats” from Everything Is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell. “Ghost Cat” was already taken. Darn it! It had such a nice ring to it even if it didn’t really make sense.
So I’ve switched to “Flat Cat Comics” as a working title. Ideas keep bubbling up about this project. Most of it is going to be tabled until I manage to finish up the first issue of P&R.
Maybe it’s just as well. Right now the Flat Cat ideas are spinning around without any gravitational center to stabilize them. It’s going to take time and a lot more drawing and daydreaming before the ideas settle into stable orbits so I can link them together in a way they’ll make sense and satisfy whatever morphing, impermanent, self that can coalesce around them. And maybe then I can avoid mixing metaphors.
How do I make comics? I dunno. Still working on it.
MORE ON THE MULTIVERSE: Since I’m the author of a comic book called “Multiverse Comics and Stories,” I make an effort to keep up with multiverse concepts (as long as higher mathematics are not involved). I stumbled across an article today in Scientific American: “Quantum Monism Could Save the Soul of Physics,” by Heinrich Päs. In case you don’t know, contemporary physics, like Eyesaur, has a case of the blues. Quantum mechanics and Einstein’s Relativity still don’t mesh. Although String Theory has the potential to unify everything beautifully, it requires the existence of a bunch of extra dimensions, it’s equations are poorly understood, and experimental proofs are at present far out of reach. As Päs notes, theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder has argued that the universe may not be instrinsically elegant. What if, she argues, we live in an “uglyverse?”
Yet from a human perspective, there is so much beauty in form and function in this existence, the notion of an underlying beauty is deeply compelling. From the viewpoint of a mathematically ignorant comic book artist at least, the belief in the fundamental beauty at the root of all seems impossible to abandon. Especially when I’ve had a few brief noetic experiences that I choose not to dismiss as delusions.
Päs goes on to describe “Quantum Monism” as put forward by Rutgers University philosopher, Jonathan Schaffer. Schaffer’s idea is that “the fundamental layer of reality is not made of particles or strings but the universe itself [can be] understood not as the sum of things making it up but rather as a single, entangled quantum state.”
Multiverses, and other weird and wonderful notions (see the description in the article of quantum entanglement) can all be reconciled by Quantum Monism as a matter of one’s perspective. Päs says it “explains why ‘beauty,’ understood as structure, correlation and symmetry among apparently independent realms of nature, isn’t an ‘ill-conceived aesthetic ideal’ but a consequence of nature descending from a single quantum state.”
This sounds good to me. I don’t understand it, but I like it. If anyone can explain it to me, please feel free.
NEXT TIME: Virch and Zeldoid enter the Simulated Ivory Tower of Dr. Dud and things start to get weirder.