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Goddess Head
Review by Christopher J. Shelton

Story
Goddess Head

Story
Dash Shaw
 
art
Dash Shaw

Publisher
Hidden Agenda Press
 
Format
Softcover Original
 
Publish Date
November 2005
 
Cover Price
$11.99
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Goddess Head is different from the normal comic fare. You won’t find Superman or Lois Lane hanging around, and it’s not a story about the goddess Aphrodite or any of her fellow goddesses. This graphic novel, which contains mature themes, doesn’t have one standout hero or villain. A reader isn’t taken from point a to point b in the normal fashion. I enjoyed not having the restrictive boundaries you’d see in a Spider-Man or Batman comic. With normal comic fare, you get one or two underlying messages—spelled out in bright neon letters. Goddess Head delivers many messages, some of which you have to think about for a second (remember: mind’s eye, unlock, yadda yadda). Goddess Head also delivers the tougher aspects of human nature in an in-your-face style not found in most comics. Shaw gambles using this style, but it ends up working for him in my opinion.

Along with the originality, I also dug the cast of characters Shaw employs. The lust-controlled guy and the suicidal banana, both in the first story, are funny and sad at the same time. Shaw throws the characters from the board game Clue into a figurative meat grinder for the second story and the innocent anonymity each had is blown away and replaced by twisted versions of the characters, warts-and-all. I wouldn’t advocate this tale as bedtime reading for the kiddies. In the short story, “Time Travel,” Shaw uses kids to represent innocence and uses adults to represent a loss of innocence. Both the kids and adults want to live life to the fullest and they struggle to stay alive once the ship they’re traveling on starts to sink. Shaw writes characters as flawed, desperate, loving, angry and distraught. I felt like I got my money’s worth with the diverse cast of characters and the many emotions that were on display.

The dialogue in Goddess Head is short for the most part, but that’s not a bad thing. For me some of the panels with fewer words spoke volumes. I thought the dialogue between characters and to readers ran the gamut of being obscure, profound and outright blunt. The short stories as a whole left much to the imagination.

Art
Goddess HeadI would describe the art in Goddess Head as avant-garde. The ink blot on the cover invites readers inside to see what they can see. Shaw offers characters that are stripped to the bone. He knows how to use space on a page. In the first story the lust-controlled guy decides to leave the suicidal banana and Shaw depicts this split by showing a close-up profile shot of the guy moving to the right side of the page—further away from the distraught banana. At first, I didn’t like the blank spaces on some of the pages, but I changed my mind after seeing how they were being used. They help emphasize poignant moments in the short stories. Shaw uses heavier lines and darker shading for some of the more serious moments, and some pages have more detail than others. Jane Samborski’s paper cut-out titles that kicked off most of the short stories are intricately designed pieces. Those cut-outs along with the opening title dot face by Lane Kuhlman fit in well with the rest of Goddess Head. I like a shot of avant-garde every now and then.

I liked a lot of the art in Goddess Head, but my favorite art moment was the splash page of the ship opening up the short story, “Time Travel”. I like how the sun in the picture is depicted by repeating the word “heat” in a circular fashion. The ship is huge and takes up most of the page, and the one page encapsulates what the whole story is about.

I couldn’t really find an art moment in Goddess Head that I didn’t like. Even the pages of graphic sex and language—although surprising—weren’t enough to spoil my enjoyment of the stories.

Bonus Features
Goddess Head’s bonus feature is a thoughtful, question-answering afterword by comic creator and teacher Tom Hart. Readers who like to have the answers ahead of time probably would’ve have preferred to have had a foreword in Goddess Head, but I think that would’ve ruined the experience. I was able to dive in without any preconceptions, and enjoyed the afterword that followed.
Final Words

Goddess Head goes against the grain. Initially, I felt provoked and challenged by the graphic novel—due in large part to the mature content. Having read mainstream comics for so long, I doubted Goddess Head could have anything to offer me. But I looked a second and third time and found out that I was wrong. It didn’t hit it out-of-the-park for me, but I liked what I read. It would be easy to dismiss Goddess Head as just another independent graphic novel. Society, for the most part, is so desensitized to mature content that Shaw’s graphic novel could have a cover picture of a hundred couples having sex and people would still pass it by without giving it much thought. People should not dismiss Goddess Head. They should instead kick-start their brains and think about something other than who Spider-Man is going to fight next. Unlock that mind’s eye baby!

Recommended


Once nicknamed Richie Rich, Christopher Shelton (email) nowadays wishes he had gotten Richie’s money, instead of the nickname, so he could support his comic buying habit. Born under the Year of the Monkey, his favorite B—list comic book characters include Iron Fist, Paladin, and the Human Fly. Christopher has worked as a movie extra in Spider-Man and Renaissance Man. He’s been a radio disc jockey who has spun tunes in the alternative format among others. He’s also tackled the production side of radio, working in sports talk and in news talk. He’s currently climbing the copyediting/writing ladder in San Diego.
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