A man gets to China by boat and, as soon as he sets foot on the harbour, some locals that mistake him for a spy arrest him and lock him up in a cell as gloomy as huge, a cell with really high ceilings, with just one window located in one of its corners. Without a doubt, there’s something Kafkian in the whole situation. When the poor prisoner discovers the window, his neck stretches towards the sunlight, in disturbing correspondence with the title of the story, which seemed to anticipate something much more candid: Hacia el sol, como las plantas [Towards the Sun, like Plants]. And, indeed, as a plant stalk in need of some photosynthesis, the man’s neck keeps on stretching and stretching towards the window frame that the wardens, due to it being so high, have decided –with the criterion of someone that doesn’t believe dreams to be prodigiously possible– to leave completely devoid of any kind of bars. Once there, the wavy neck looks out the window and realises something that would better suit a Junji Ito or Suehiro Maruo horror manga that this territory -more on this later- not too given to disturbing images: “My body can’t come out, but my neck keeps on becoming thinner and thinner…”. And indeed, it becomes so thin that it seems to belong to the Yokai witch of Japanese folklore, the snake neck of whom could go round the neck of any unfortunate person as a scarf. And thus the climax comes, served through an image that makes the bet even higher: the head is severed from the neck and flies away thanks to some recently grown Dumbo-like ears as propellers, and soon after comes this week’s Stolen Cartoon, in which the Kafkian nightmare becomes purely a magic spark of a, let’s say, Bruno Schulz.
By Jordi Costa
Yes, the trace can’t belong to no other: the author is Benejam, and this was published on the pages of TBO. A Benejam that, should we give credit to the memories that Rosa Segura described in the book Ediciones TBO ¿Dígame? Memorias secretas de una secretaria, was “an extremely modest and communicative person,” but, it would seem, with a very rich and tumultuous unconscious that in this story popped up to the surface as a kind of delirium, as an escape from so much everyday life observation (La familia Ulises, Melitón Pérez) and so many well-intended colonial jokes (Eustaquio Morcillón y Babalí). Hacia el sol, como las plantas seems Barcelona’s answer to the tradition opened by Winsor McCay at the beginning of the media with his Daydreams and Nightmares and, above all, with his immortal Little Nemo in Slumberland. In the last strip, this Flying Head arrives home and there wakes up from his slumber because the maid wakes him up for dinner. “Oh, what a weird dream!!” the character says. So weird that I suspect that Benejam didn’t imagine it, but had it himself, dreamt it. And if this was so, putting all that unexpected event to paper wasn’t short from a shot at psychoanalysing himself, of deciphering the roots of that angst that becomes nightmare and at the same time dissolves in a liberating and triumphant dream.
I’m not exactly a PhD in Psychoanalysis, but the most obvious reading of the story would be considering all this as the dream of someone who, in sum, feels locked up, of someone who, like a Disney heroine at the time of Alan Menken and Tim Rice ballads, would love being somewhere else, in an ideal world, a free territory. Why did Benejam feel trapped? And where? Was it post-war Spain? Or was it Barcelona’s Eixample? Or maybe in TBO‘s industrial dynamics, with the everyday life register of its most famous characters? The answer will remain a mystery inasmuch as this Unique Cartoon will remain a mystery within this unique, dysfunctional, anomalous and, by the way, beautiful page. Up to now I hadn’t thought that this TBO page might even please David Lynch himself.