Small press comics that act as samplers to an artist whose work you have not previously discovered are always a welcome entry point into a creator’s oeuvre. Stefan Gruber’s Scentagons from Neoglyphic Media (who we most recently covered here at Broken Frontier) is one such offering. An appealingly eccentric collection of short strips and illustration set in its own pocket universe of “deities, aliens, androgynous fuzzy cryptids and animal characters.”
The comic’s title Scentagons comes from the sound-shapes that creatures like crptozoological oddity Molo use to conceal themselves; a somewhat meta piece of playfulness given the comics page’s visualisation of noise as a storytelling tool. Gruber introduces us to a huge cast of strange entities like extraterrestrial techies the Reiny aliens, the godlike being Jake, and the Bottle Headed Creatures, empty vessels who appear to represent human interaction with the characters’ reality.
With a freeform, likeably rambling, stream of absurdity Gruber takes us on a tour of this world as we watch the ontological reflections of its characters, cast members trying to reach spiritual ascension through chess, and the leisure time of deities. Scentagons’ short page count means that we only get a brief taster of Gruber’s players but the reader certainly comes away from its 16 pages wanting to spend more time in their company.
Pages are often unconventionally structured with separate but inter-related strips co-existing and flowing in and out of each other with little fanfare. When more traditional panel-to-panel sequences are used they tend to be tightly constructed with a rigid uniformity that emphasises comics special relationship with the passing of time and our between-the-panels reading comprehension. Action can burst out of panels, surround panels, cut through panels, and sit on wider background illustrations; all emphasising the wonderfully preposterous nature of this strange realm.
Idiosyncratic and unpredictable, Scentagons won’t appeal to those looking for narrative clarity and carefully crafted plot in their comics. But if divertingly off-centre alt comics weirdness with a dash of the existential appeals then there is much to enjoy in this oddball collection of quirky curiosities.
Stefan Gruber (W/A) • Neoglyphic Media, $5.00
Review by Andy Oliver