The Unexpected; or See Bob Run

See Bob Run

“Vaulting” —  a recent “Bob the Angry Flower” comic by Stephen Notley — is a riot. 

I >think< it’s supposed to suggest the arrogant foreign policy of the United States…and it’s a pretty clever stab at that… but to me, it’s really a study in the art of surprise…if not the surprise of art.

I can’t really get into discussing it without creating a “spoiler” so click over to “Vaulting,” read the whole page of the comic, check out Notley’s other weird work while you’re there, and then return here for a little brief discussion and deep thinking. 

 In “Vaulting,” Notley tricks us by creatively “blocking” the shots, so that we never quite see what’s coming in the path way of our driven pole vaulter, Bob.  Well, okay, it’s a mean trick because the character who is in Bob’s path isn’t merely ‘blocked’ — we’re never even told he’s there to begin with, so for all we know Notley just dreamed it up on the spot the second that he got to that frame of the comic. 

I want to suggest that that surprise might be the very meaning of this comic, beyond its hilarious choice for surprise.  And maybe some readers feel cheated by that, but to me, it’s fine, because the character (Kofi) is the last thing I personally would expect to find on a pole vaulting strip; the incongruity of expectations and contexts is precisely what makes this so hilarious. 

But it could very well be that Bob is a metaphor for the artist’s drive toward creation.  I, too, aim for a surprise like this when I’m writing, rushing forward with determination, sprinting toward some abstract goal but not really knowing where it will take me and — bing — next thing you know I’ve spiked something wonderful (or in my horror fiction, wonderfully disgusting) along the way.  I’d like to think that’s how Notley came up with “Vaulting.” 

That’s right:  I’m suggesting the creative process is something akin to roadkill.

I also wanted to point out just how neat that clip at the top of this blog entry really is.  The comic as a whole makes a rather simple point but look at how clever the use of lines is in this three-framed image of Bob’s rapid run toward the vault.  Notice how what begins in frame one with rounded corners transforms into sharp, straight lines by frame three, indicating the velocity of maximum speed, reinforced by the flattened intensity of Bob’s body as he leans forward into a flatline of fury.

This intensity — this artistry — this too is what art is really all about.  I think that third frame is really the climax of the piece; what follows is a sort of afterthought that in its silliness sort of comments back on itself as being irrelevant compared to the intensity of the artist, vaulting forward at maximum speed toward….



… Sorry!


p.s. I recommend the Bob the Angry Flower book, DOG KILLER. Here is my full review of it from last year.  
Guest blogger Michael A. Arnzen is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the flash fiction collection, 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories, and the novel, Play Dead. His most recent project is a spoken word cd called Audiovile. A collection of his best fiction and poetry to date — called Proverbs for Monsters — is due soon from Dark Regions Press. You’re invited to subscribe to his newsletter, The Goreletter.


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