Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rory Hayes: Where Demented Wented

Rory Hayes had one of the most extreme visions among the transgressive artists of the comix underground. The leading lights of the scene in the 70's considered his disturbing and primitive stories to be minor masterpieces of paranoia and terror.

There's a child like dread in his stories, crudely delineated, starkly presented and usually featuring a button-eyed anthropomorphic teddy bear in tales of murder and mutilation. I was introduced to his work in the 80's, in an article about underground horror comix in Marvel's news-stand fantasy magazine Epic - a short lived attempt to compete with Heavy Metal - and have sought it out ever since.

They're like the scrawled nightmares of a traumatized child dosed with heavy psychedelics.

Hayes had serious problems. His nightmarish comix reflected an equally nightmarish inner world. He was an enthusiastic user of drugs and ultimately died of an overdose. Vancouver comix artist Colin Upton, who I briefly knew back in the 80's has flatly said that "Rory Hayes was nuts. I mean, really, truly insane."

Others have argued that positioning Hayes as an 'outsider artist' a primitive stylist pouring his mental illness onto the page is too simple, among them Dan Nadel, co-editor with Glenn Bray of a new Fantagraphics retrospective of Hayes work:

"Where Demented Wented: The Art and Comics of Rory Hayes"

"This idea that he was some kind of outsider artist is overstated. He was an artist pure and simple, and very ambitious. He suffered from personal problems and was self-taught, but then R. Crumb was self-taught and suffered from personal problems. It's not that different from Krazy Kat. But Herriman was canonized and Rory wasn't."
But regardless, the work of Hayes elicits strong reactions from anyone exposed to it ranging from disgust to fascination.For more of Hayes work including several complete strips check out MONSTER BRAINS.

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