Borderland Speakeasy 0002: "They Found The Car"--Gipi's Inverted Noir

One of the all-time classic noir films, Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past tells the story of a retired hoodlum forced to leave his self-imposed exile in the Nevada desert to do one more job for a mob boss: find the gangster's missing girlfriend.

Robert Mitchum gives one of his defining performances as the hoodlum, and his character narrates the film. When he finds the girlfriend, played by Jane Greer, he falls for her (of course), and for a time they try to hide out in Mexico.

Mitchum's character describes sending misleading reports back to the mob boss, played by Kirk Douglas: 'I sent him a telegram--I wish you were here--and then I went to meet her again'

In his study on film noir, Somewhere In The Night, Nicholas Christopher describes the flashbacks in Out of the Past as being arrayed in a 'jagged, fragmented mosaic'.

'Like the voice-over, it is another distancing device that makes the action, and the orbit of the characters, that much more alienated, remote, and unstable', he writes.

David N. Meyers also identifies one of those themes in his description of the film, in his book A Girl and a Gun: 'Mitchum's alienation is key; he's alienated from himself, from sacred love, and, by his betrayals, even from his own kind: gangsters'.

All of this comes to mind when reading "They Found the Car", the second issue in the series Wish You Were Here, by the renowned comic book artist (and writer, cartoonist, filmmaker, musician, and probably several other endeavors) known as Gipi.

The comic begins with a man receiving a phone call late one night. A voice on the other end of the line simply says, 'They found the car'. When the man who receives the call thinks back to that moment, he recalls how those words 'transported him back, in a single moment, into a life he had thought was gone and buried'.

Over the course of one long night, the man and his old partner confront the specter of something mysterious that happened seven years ago. Neither man wants to bring up the past, yet each is forced to do so. And although they may have responded with like minds in the past, now each man responds differently.

From the echoes of 'wish you were here', to the reluctant protagonist who must return to a life he had hoped to leave behind, there are many resonances between Gipi's comic and Out of the Past.

Gipi's "jittery man" shares Mitchum's alienation. However in the comic there's a more directly philosophical angle. The character wrestles with his morality, religious beliefs and sincere fear of being damned to hell. It's as if he "found God" sometime in the past seven years (perhaps as a result of the mysterious event related to the car of the comics' title). The man's violent partner doesn't believe in god, or fate, saying in one key exchange: 'So my destiny, it's in my hands and my hands only'.

Despite the consistent echoes of noir throughout "They Found the Car", the story seems to deliberately avoid some of the genre's classic elements. It's as though the story is trying to invert noir's cliches. For example, Gipi avoids flashbacks, where Out of the Past is built on them. In this respect, the comic feels like a distilled, even-harder-boiled noir story. We don't know the back story because it isn't as relevant as its impact on the characters here and now.

"They Found the Car" also doesn't delve into a labyrinthine city filled with sharp angles and deep shadows. Instead, Gipi's tale takes place in a rural countryside, and breathtaking full-page shots of the wide sky and often empty landscapes, along with a final, wonderful image on the inside cover (the dust jackets are vital storytelling elements in both issues of Wish You Were Here).

'When I draw the sky, I don't do it because I like to draw clouds, I do it because I feel the imbalance of power when I look within me and when I look from the inside out', Gipi says in a ljudmila interview.

'When I see myself as a human being I always feel small... So the only way to show the inner misery -- since that is what interests me most about people, their smallness -- is to juxtapose it to something very clear and powerful'.

A femme fatale plays a key role in both stories. Out of the Past has Jane Greer, and also Virginia Huston as her antithesis (to quote Nicholas Christopher's description again), the good woman in Mitchum's new life, whom he leaves behind. In Gipi's work, the "jittery man's" wife could be a blend of the two female leads in the film. She's good and bad, and she mirrors her husband's religious convictions with a strength that seems ultimately to horrify him.

"They Found the Car" is the second issue in the Wish You Were Here series. The first issue, "The Innocents", told a similar story of a man confronting a character from his past. It's equally compelling, and downright beautiful, though it contains fewer noir elements than the second issue. Both issues seem to be independent of each other so far.

The Fantagraphics Books description of the series suggests the 'jagged, fragmented mosaic' discussed by Nicholas Christopher: 'Future issues will focus on other members of this group of friends . . . with supporting characters stepping into the spotlight as former 'lead' characters become part of the background'.

Hailed as "the greatest Italian comics artist alive today", Gipi is a prolific and award-winning artist whose work in Wish You Were Here, as well as in the graphic novels Notes for a War Story and Garage Band, seems to return to the idea of characters being haunted by their pasts.

Gipi describes some of these 'little obsessions' that run through many of his stories:

'Destiny--what decides our lives? Why am I here to answer to an interview, while some friends of mine, from those 'wild ages,' are dead or are sick or in jail? What makes people make bad choices? At what point do people become bad people? Adolescence. Friendships. These are the things I've always found myself writing about'.



Borderland Speakeasy appears every alternate Thursday and explores classic horror and mystery reprints (such as the recent EC and Warren Comics archives), along with modern crime (non-superhero) comics.


Wish You Were Here #2: They Found the Car

Wish You Were Here #1: The Innocents

Out of the Past (in ten parts):

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.