RUNNING IN THE COMPANY of comics weirdos like Blaise Larmee and Austin English, I heard about Jason Overby's work through word of mouth. People spoke wistfully of his short print-run, self-published works, like, Man, I wish we had those comics, right here, right now. So I was excited to hear Portland comics-reading-night-turned-small-press-publishers Gridlords (a night I've read at in the past) were curating a collection of Overby's short stories and his longer work, Exploding Head Man, which was notably included in the 2010 Best American Comics. The end result, The Being Being, is a white, pristine, hardbound art book, emblematic of Overby's high-concept introspection.
Overby's comics are exceptional from a standpoint of sequential art theory and form, but inner monologues about perception and experience also dominate The Being Being. As a reviewer, I hated having to read this collection at a regular clip—there are a lot of ideas to digest in each piece.
An immediate standout is Jessica—originally self-published in 2008—a comic focusing on a drunken man's attempts at coming to terms with his ex-girlfriend. The man (possibly Overby) is outwardly dismissive, but he spends a great deal of time thinking about Jessica and what they were to each other. "I mean," he narrates, "if reality is just a hypostasis made up of each individual's hopes and fears, then I have no idea how she feels."
In another favorite, "Rube Goldberg vs. Occam's Razor," from the section labeled Solipsist's Doodles, Overby explains an "epic, metatextual, autobiographical superhero comic" he was working on. "I'd developed an obsessive style of drawing where I'd texture every panel completely and then draw over the resulting pattern while also erasing it little by little to create an image." He scraps the drawing style to tell a simple story about it and simultaneously refute something David Foster Wallace said on a radio show. The text is handwritten and placed perfectly in sparse, hand-drawn panels. The flow is masterful, broken up to imitate speech patterns. It's the sort of thing I'm glad not everyone can get away with, but when Overby pulls it off I want to cheer.