Comics

Nocturnal Conspiracies

Sara Cole

Dreams are presented as reports with no analysis. In fact, readers get the sense that they are having the dream themselves, as they are equally lost and unaware in these curious dream worlds.


Nocturnal Conspiracies

Publisher: NBM
Subtitle: Nineteen Dreams from December 1979 to September 1994
Contributors: Translation: Joe Johnson, Lettering: Ortho
Price: $14.95
Writer: David B.
Length: 124
Formats: paperback
ISBN: 978-156163541
US publication date: 2008-12-31
Writer website
cat_label_url
Amazon

In 1899, Sigmund Freud published a book called The Interpretation of Dreams chronicling his theory that dreams serve as an exceptional tool for uncovering unconscious mental functions. One hundred and ten years later, it seem dreams continue to be a mainstay in art, film, and literature, with the years in between seeing the use of dreams or dream-influenced works in artists and writers such as Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, and David Lynch. With this in mind, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that there haven’t been more comics dealing with the subject of dreams. It seems that comics would be a medium particularly well-suited to wading through both the bizarre image and word landscapes of dreams, and with the notable exception of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series, there isn’t that much out there in the way of dream-related comics. This is why it’s exciting to encounter a work like David B.’s Nocturnal Conspiracies, as it gives us an account of just how dreams might be dealt with in the graphic novel medium.

The book follows 19 of David B.’s dreams. Most of these dream episodes last about five pages and are numbered. There is no transition between dreams and sometimes the only way you know that you have moved from one dream to the next is a number and new title on the top of the following page. Following the number and title of the dream, there is usually a description of about when the dream occurred, but other than that David B. makes no attempt to situate the dream in a larger context. The dreams are given as reports with no analysis. In fact, readers get the sense that they are having the dream themselves, as they are equally lost and unaware in these curious dream worlds. These dream comics start without warning and end just as abruptly. For instance, in one episode called “The Bed,” David B. recounts being pursued by a killer in an orchard, then moves to his chance meeting with an Arabian prince followed by the dream commencing with the narrator being chased by a bull and hiding away in a bed made out of rocks.

David B. is a member of L’Association, a group of French comic artists who started their own alternative comics around 1990. In 2005, the full English translation of Epileptic was released by Pantheon’s comic division and almost immediately became a great success. Following its release, David B. received a number of awards including the Ignatz award for Outstanding Artist. A largely autobiographical work, Epileptic is a much different work than Nocturnal Conspiracies both in tone and subject matter, but still follows a lot of similar themes in terms of fantasy life and dreams, as well as containing a similar drawing style. But whereas Epileptic was both narrative and explicitly personal in style, Nocturnal Conspiracies is episodic and topical.

While different in structure and tone, Nocturnal Conspiracies does share a lot with the earlier book’s drawing style. In each of the books, the art can be both simplistic and fantastical. The pages are filled with grotesque monsters as well as complex and foreboding architecture. If anything, Nocturnal Conspiracies reaffirms the idea that comics can stand in as art, while still maintaining a distinct style of their own.

While the art is certainly one of the biggest draws of David B.’s new work, what truly makes it a distinct and interesting contribution to the graphic novel community and beyond is both the subject matter of dreams themselves and the way in which those dreams are treated. While Freud advocated the rigorous analysis of dreams to better understand human beings and their unconscious drives, David B. resists this approach and instead presents just the dreams themselves. By resisting interpretation of the dreams portrayed, David B. makes the implicit argument that there is something about these dreams that is valuable in and of themselves. In the short introduction, the only text of the book that is not a dream itself, David B. notes that “the repetition of [these] themes made me want to draw those dreams. I love their chaotic and poetic structure. I love their mysterious logic. I love their enigmas without solutions. Each of these dreams is a chapter in my dark novel.” Instead of thinking about how dreams may figure or be used in other artistic forms, David B. argues that they have a structure and logic all their own, distinct from both creative and real-world configurations.

As memoir comics and comics reflecting on their own creative process continue in popularity, it seems that comics reflecting on the process of dreaming may be the perfect complement to further understanding oneself and one’s creative process. However, as Nocturnal Conspiracies argues, dreams might also be their own autonomous art forms, with meanings separate from their dreamer, worthwhile in and of themselves.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam
Music

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.

Music

Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.

Music

L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.

Books

Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.

Music

Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.

Music

Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.

Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.