The Naked Cosmos (DVD and mini-comic)
By Gilbert Hernandez
Published by Bright Red Rocket; $15.00 USD
Cartoonist Gilbert Hernandez wrote, directed and stars in this strange multi-media showcase about what could be called "Cosmic Philosophy."
If you've ever seen Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer on television, imagine that low-budget program overhauled by Ed Wood on a TV network owned by David Lynch. Quintas (Hernandez) hosts these strange broadcasts and insists viewers "Look to the skies; LOOK to the skies; LOOK TO THE SKIES!"
Hernandez plays the part with a blonde Beatle wig ("Is that your real hair?" asks a caller to the show) and eyes so wide that they may pop out of their sockets at any moment. Quintas is assisted, opposed or visited by a number of odd characters (including one played by Hernandez's wife herself), as he reflects on the nature of the universe amid landscapes that will be oddly familiar to anyone who remembers the cheesy "alien worlds" of the original Star Trek.
Somewhat reminiscent of Hernandez's weirder Love and Rockets strips, The Naked Cosmos would not be out of place playing on a TV in the background of almost any of his strips. The DVD's four episodes posit an entire universe with which we are unfamiliar, but it's presented in so charming and deadpan a manner that this will almost certainly be subject to much repeat viewing by anyone with a sense of humour and an affection for the outright bizarre (and faux-scary organ music). The lo-fi nature of the endeavour may have been dictated by the project's budget, but the end result adds to the attraction of the shows, it does not detract.
Conspiracies, old grudges and mysteries pass through the episodes, and they continue in and are at least partially answered by the accompanying mini-comic. In 20 black and white pages, Hernandez explores the origin of Quintas and his opposite number Kalisto. The art is expressive and as much of a pleasure as Hernandez's other, better-known work. The story is freaky but satisfying.
Extras on the DVD include a funny, revealing blooper reel that allows viewers to get a feel for the production process (from lost toupees to talkative, offscreen kids), a gallery of art by Gilbert Hernandez, a guest gallery with a few pieces by other artists including Johnny Ryan, bios of Hernandez and his wife, information on Bright Red Rocket, and a trailer for their other major comics DVD release, God Hates Cartoons, with animated offerings by Jim Woodring, Ivan Brunetti, Tony Millionaire and others. As DVD bonus features go, this one isn't packed, but there's enough bonus material to make you feel like you got you money's worth.
The Naked Cosmos is aimed at "The Children of the Cosmos," but it's also essential viewing (and reading) for anyone with a sense of adventure and an appreciation for over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek weirdness. For Love and Rockets readers, there's no question that you'll find this DVD/comic set a crucial side-project to one of the most justly celebrated comics in history. Grade: 5/5
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