Come with me now, on a journey through the depths of Livejournal and Y!Gallery, vore message boards and AIM chat logs where links were exchanged like whispers. (Or maybe VD. That metaphor always gets away from me.) This is during my very first foray into public college, seeking my Associates degree in long mornings at the printing press with inky elbows and hands shaking from caffeine withdrawal. So tender then, flipping through art books and living on deviantART, devoting Friday nights to manga scan groups on Livejournal and vore discussion posts. I was just beginning to get my feet wet in the horror genre as a writer back then, heavily influenced by Japanese comics and art culled from the bottom of the 4Chan barrel. Those were the days before Tumblr, you see, where we can now search well-organized tags for pictures of medical dissections and crime scene photos, mutilated bodies and medical conditions. We actually had to comb the dirty back alleys of the Internet to find our creepy shit. (Can you imagine? Expending time and effort on something? Insanity by today’s standards.) So when people started showing me the work of comic artist Ramiro R., I was very excited, and rightfully so.
Okay, so, I’ll be honest: I love this book. I mean, I really love this book. I love every comic in it, to one degree or another, having coveted them online over the years. (In my defense, I meant to buy the single issues, but every time I went over to purchase them they were sold out, so. Whatever. But I bought the book so get off my back.) So much so that I may or may not have taken the book out to a fancy dinner to celebrate UPS dropping it off at my door. The point is, I’m terribly biased about the quality of Ramiro’s work, but since nobody else that I know of out there is doing a review of this book, I guess you’re just going to have to live with it. So, that said, let’s get on with it.
If you like horror, this is a book for you. If you enjoy independent comics, this book is for you. If you enjoy visceral gore with a side of existential questioning by way of David Lynch, this book was made for you, gently gift-wrapped with a bow. (Made of like, sheep intestines or something. I don’t know. But it’s metal.) If you’re one of those wee-a-boos who fell asleep in Art History class, and consider every stylized representation of the human form as “Anime” and therefore obnoxious to your palette, there’s the door. I can’t stand that kind of narrow-minded definition of art and comics, and you people make me punch computer screens, so I’d rather you get out now before I’m forced to throw something at you. (I’m talking to you, Guy in All of My Classes, with your stupid ponytail, trying to tell me how the horror genre works. I’ve been published more than you’ve had sex, so, please, go play in the street.)
Ramiro’s comics are like dreams: Tiny, quiet moments, spent on tip-toes peering through fogged windows to get a peek of what’s inside. They’re sparse, uncomplicated, but loaded with such terrible dread. Imagine a dreamscape made of bedrooms and winding staircases, populated by octopus women and boys with holes in them; a pitter-patter of blood, insect song competing in the hum of silence. There’s something sexual and violent hiding inside these dreams, tempered by the innate loneliness his characters seem to exude, a palpable sense of disconnect. Think Junji Ito. Think Silent Hill. Think David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Think what you want, really, as Ramiro presents each story without a statement of intent. Every comic becomes a self-contained nightmare that we watch from the margins, putting a meaning to them for ourselves. I think it’s better this way. I find what I took away from comics that I read two years ago has changed somewhat reading them now. A good comic evolves with its readers, and I feel that these comics work the same way, just open enough to allow the reader to find something new every time.
Some comics are more narrative than others. Family, Skincube: Cut and Skincube: 2, for example, are more straightforward stories. Family is about a young boy and his mother. and how unusual families (which is the mild way of putting it) are no less cohesive and loving than traditional ones. The Skincube comics are separate horror stories with a common theme; Skincube: 2 proves to be a very poignant story of two young brothers, and is one of my favorite comics from the collection. Shapeshifter and Telecar, for those of us with a taste for grotesque, are more like loose musings, highly visual and disturbing without having a concrete meaning assigned to them. There are other comics and cool visual material in the book as well, such as the AX2008 flyer, which begins as an advert for Ramiro’s booth at Anime Expo 2008 and kind of goes out of control from there. An Open Window at Night is another enjoyable little comic, both fun and darkly humorous, and a nice break from all the evisceration.
Overall, if you’re looking for a varied group of stories, from the uncomfortable to the poignant, the gross to the amusing, this is a collection worth picking up. Short, digestible, and full of memorable imagery, it’s worth every penny. My only complaint about the book, if I had one, is that my all-time favorite Ramiro comic Hole was not included. It was the first of his comics that I ever read, and holds a warm place in my heart (pun not intended). With its graphic and disturbing sexual nature, however, I can see why it wasn’t included. If you’re curious, you can read Hole online at Ramiro’s website, but I wouldn’t suggest reading it at your mom’s house. Unless your mom’s into body horror, I guess. In which case, knock yourself out.
You can pick up Red Museum at Amazon.com for $10. I suggest that you do.