Lots of myths have been used as fodder for science fiction and fantasy, and some of the more interesting ones turn the gods into cosmic entities, or extensions of our own humanity. Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, for example, imagines a group of posthuman astronauts who take on the personas of the Hindu pantheon. Then there are comics, such as Jack Kirby’s Asgard, a techno-mystical dimension, where magic and technology are indistinguishable (to butcher Asimov’s famous dictum). One story that has not garnered much favor by writers and artists is the biblical creation story. But they are missing out on a vastly strange and cosmic tale, and when combined with Kabbalistic ideas of how the world was created, you have one of the most far-out psychedelic-inflected tales that, if used right, could do wonders for a science fiction/fantasy story.
The problem is, it would take a pretty weird imagination to know what to do with it. The solution is Jesse Moynihan. Moynihan’s day job is as a writer and storyboard artist for Adventure Time, one of the greatest cartoons ever produced (sorry for the hyperbole, but it’s true). In Adventure Time, mythology and pop culture – including some brilliant shout outs to Dungeons & Dragons – are combined into something that is both whimsical and profound. After a few episodes, however, you can begin to see the self-imposed limitations. It is a kid’s show after all. In Moynihans’s own work as a comic writer and artist, his vision is let loose.
Forming, published by Nobrow in the UK, is currently in two volumes, with a third on its way. The comic is essentially the biblical creation story, with any number of other creation mythologies thrown in, told as space opera. It’s then filtered through contemporary colloquialisms, slang, and an imagination so thoroughly steeped in pop culture and psychedelic lunacy, it’s a thing both sublime and profane. On the one hand, Moynihan is trying to get at something essential here, asking real questions about consciousness, the idea of the soul, mysticism, and even colonialism and subjugation of native peoples. On the other, he fires on all cylinders with puerile humor and comic-book violence. The result is a deeply affecting, funny, and human story.
All of this is built on the groundwork of delightful, hyperactive, explosive artwork. Simple, but expressive human (and alien) figures give way to psychedelia, with panel after panel dotted with some form of symbolism. Along the way, Moynihan is able to figure in some of the most esoteric ideas alongside things like Garbage Pail Kids. But these asides never distract from what feels like something very personal. This is not a comic that merely grabs from multiple sources to be clever. There appears to be something at stake here, and sometimes it feels as if we are reading Moynihan’s own spiritual hopes and confusions.
Forming Volume 2
by Jesse Moynihan
2014, 128 pages, 9.2 x 12.1 x 0.7 inches
Forming Volume 1
by Jesse Moynihan
2011, 112 pages, 9 x 12 x 0.5 inches