Art Spiegelman and Robert Coover make a tiny magazine
The latest issue of pocket-sized publishing project Isolarii is a single work of around 100 tiny pages called Street Cop. A piece of short fiction by American novelist Robert Coover and the iconic Art Spiegelman, Street Cop tells the story of a crooked, recovering drug addict cop who roams a dystopian city on the hunt for a murder that may or may not have been committed by a reanimated corpse.
Art Spiegelman is the author of the Pulitzer-prize winning comic Maus, which is about his relationship with his father, a Holocaust survivor. Isolarii is billing Street Cop as Spiegelman’s first original work in over a decade, which leads you to expect something that is predominantly a comic. Street Cop might more accurately be described as a short story, by Robert Coover, with illustrations by Spiegelman. Some of my favourite spreads are ones where the words and images are most intimately threaded together, though. When the street cop tries to leave a speeding car, we see an illustration of a miniscule car and cop dangling from the top left hand corner of the page. The cop describes the city, seen from above, as looking like the motherboard, and we see a grainy close-up photograph of a motherboard to bring the simile to life. The integration of photography and cartoon here on the tiny page makes the reading experience thrillingly visceral.
Street Cop is set in a seedy American alternate reality, where your most intimate relationship is with a personal operating device, and where the government is always watching you. The sci-fi format is familiar, but what makes Street Cop different is the grotesque imaginations of its creators. Much of the drama is based around a pet shop where customers can buy mangled corpses and keep them as pets. When the protagonist’s pet eventually dies, the description is oddly touching:
Electra is now nothing but a scattered splatter: on the street, on the van, on him. As traffic resumes, the various patches twitch once or twice; then, as the traffic rolls over them, they stop twitching. On his cheek, it feels like a dry puckery kiss. Like the kiss his grandmother gave him on her deathbed. Letting go.
Coover and Spiegelman have created something at once horrible and oddly romantic. The latest Isolarii is the treat you never knew you wanted.