B. is Dying (#5). by Tom Hart. Sequential Artists Workshop. 2023. 24 pp. $8.
Tom Hart’s new comics series is about a man dying in a ditch. Well, ostensibly so. Yeah, there’s a lot more to it than that. Tom Hart’s work looks incredibly alive as if it is being created as he’s thinking it. But the end result, the actual content, has been refined in a million different ways. So, come take a look at one of the most alive comics about dying, or any subject.
Tom Hart speaks to the utter disconnection we all must confront as human beings. It’s an existential crisis on a personal and global level, even a cosmic one. The focus here is on the planet and how we interact with it. As a cartoonist, Hart gives it his all to express his dismay and heart-felt desire to find some answers. The reader is led on a journey atop the crust of Mother Earth. What does that mean? It’s a perfect metaphor for how we usually interact with nature, all superficial, never digging deeper.
With a gentle nudge, Hart gets me to thinking about how we routinely take our environment for granted: we exploit it, endanger it and rape it. We are more prone to tear it apart than we are to try to understand what we call home. How can we ever ignore our own home? And yet we do. This comic expresses the collective nightmare we are all having, whether we choose to accept it or deny it. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’re all afraid. Hart leans into that fear with his comics: direct and simple, but not so simple, more elegant-simple. Ah, yes, Tom Hart, the master of the elegant-simple.
I appreciate these comics on many levels, not the least of which is on an entertainment level. I’m thinking of how I cherish any time I spend viewing the work of Buster Keaton or, say, Peter Sellers at their soulful best. I can only imagine what Peter or Buster would have done if they appeared in a Tom Hart comic.
There’s the main character to Tom’s story, a lanky Everyman with hair sticking straight up. He is self-aware enough to know that he’s merely walking on the crust of the Earth. If only all of us could reach that point! It troubles him. It frightens him. It gives him nightmares. He dreams that he’s a helpless/hapless parakeet somehow let loose from the home he’s known as a pet and sprung free into the wild. He is out of his element. He is clueless. He has no real notion of how to interact with nature, just like–you guessed it–the average human being.
Tom Hart’s Everyman is just self-aware enough to know that something’s wrong. He thinks he may have come from a great place but has lost his way. It’s all too easy to lose one’s way, especially if you’re on such an uncertain path. This is not new. This has been going on for a very long time, for as long as there have been humans. Tom Hart has been at his comics-making craft for a long time too, for decades. Tom even makes a reference in the introduction to this issue to a recurring theme in his comics of a lone man in a vague landscape in an existential crisis. Tom’s experiments have led to masterful award-winning work year after year. And one thing is clear: Tom Hart has not lost his way. In fact, Tom has many followers who wish to create comics every bit as good as his comics. Learn more about Tom and his Sequential Artists Workshop where you too can learn the fine, subtle and rewarding art of making comics.