Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dr. DeBunko: When Human Flesh Bursts Into Flames!

Dr. DeBunko: When Human Flesh Bursts Into Flames!, May 2006, Salt Peter Press
by Chris Wisnia
editor: Rob Oder

Continuing my "neighboring APE exhibitors" series, Dr. DeBunko is the brainchild of Chris Wisnia, an artist perhaps best known in the convention circuit for his ongoing homage to classic Jack Kirby monsters. Indeed, while those old "tales of suspense" attempted to persuade readers to believe the fantastic -- that huge monsters could walk the Earth, for instance -- Dr. DeBunko is a "debunker of the supernatural," a realist in a seemingly unrealistic world. Despite such contrast, this minicomic's content is just as compelling. Real monsters may not pummel our planet, but some inquiries have plagued us for years.

Inquiries like, "Can human flesh burst into flames?"

Dr. DeBunko is challenged to answer this question when he arrives on the peculiar scene of Mrs. Numbfelt's untimely death, where the only evidence of her demise is two charred legs and a pile of ash. So, did she burst into flames? Is spontaneous combustion real? The answer is yes. If one falls asleep holding a lit cigarette, with one's oxygen machine on, after fixing a gasoline leak while wearing a flammable polyester jumpsuit, all of which precedes one popping a sleeping pill or three, yes, spontaneous combustion can happen. Dr. DeBunko's investigation may have been brief, but it was also incredibly decisive. I feel more educated just for having read it.

Seriously, Dr. DeBunko: When Human Flesh Bursts Into Flames! is a funny little piece of sequential storytelling that offers poignant insight into the ignorant yet conspiratorial faction of American culture, those folks that still cling to definitively "old world" thinking to explain the peculiarities of nowadays. Wisnia is a multi-faceted artist and seems to have intentionally illustrated his Dr. DeBunko adventures in a mock Victorian style (I was reminded of the old Strand Magazine Sherlock Holmes illustrations I so like), not that these tales take place in that period, but that the perspectives and mysteries therein betray similar ways of thinking. In fact, at APE, a few attendees recommended that Chris tune in to Art Bell and George Noory's late night radio talk show Coast to Coast, usually found on the AM dial, always tackling the mysteries of life -- true "tales of suspense." I concur. Dr. DeBunko could very well be a guest on their show.

The true charm of this little issue is the same dynamic that made the Mulder/Scully relationship in The X-Files so engaging. However, in this case, Mulder is a band of slack-jawed cops and bystanders, and Scully isn't nearly as sexy. Sure, the whole point of this issue is the "serious" handling of a tongue-in-cheek controversy. Yet, the irony of Dr. DeBunko, and the secret to Chris Wisnia's success, is that somewhere spontaneous combustion is still a hot issue. I guess Kirby isn't the only one to make someone shout, "Flame on!"

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