[J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs]

Stang reviews SCHWA

It's rare that an artist can simultaneously be subtle and still bludgeon the viewer. Bill Barker's SCHWA series isn't really about UFO abductions. It's about religion, belief, self-subjugation and all control systems. He might just as well have used Jesus or Mohammad as thematic motifs. But UFOs are more dramatic and probably more relevant.

SCHWA is a "major work." It has sweep, and vast dimensions, and hideous brain-curdling revelations, yet it's all culled down graphically to the fewest lines necessary. It uses stickpeople and spare ovals -- small, simple things -- to represent something VERY VERY BIG and all too complex.

I'm no fine arts critic, but Barker's use of repetition of forms, such as the UFO-and-alien-eye oval shape, layered upon layer, and the incredible consistency of stylistic and thematic integration strike me as UTTERLY FANTASTIC. Each deceptively simple drawing represents a whole plot, and the sequence of the drawings presents an even more whole plot. The sequential progression of the cartoon folds in on itself, looping and reflecting back and forth in a that renders it COSMIC. It's beautiful, apocalyptic end-times craziness, intuited down to basics.

No it isn't about the aliensÑ it's about the humans. Those who await the aliens, those who hate the aliens, those who serve the aliens, those who study them, and those who are them. The chunk of skull flying off JFK's brain is the same shape as the saucers. There is no escape, because they are BIGGER THAN YOU and that's why YOU MUST LOVE THEM.

And everything they do to you, you do to your neighbor, one way or another. The universe is a food chain and we're near the bottom. The cloud without water offers you free food and drink, and you'll line up for it. The ones who would brand you have plenty of help from your peers. You can try to hide in their shadows but they see you there, too. It's not paranoia if you really are out to get you. You are happy to turn yourself in to their altar/slaughterhouse because it seems normal...every other stickperson is doing it. You can relax in the tub while they torture you and enter your dreams. You can blast the big oval out of the sky, but the tiny ovals will make a mess of your immune system. You'll be processed either way.

This is the best book about UFOs ever drawn, and Bill Barker must be one of the best archetype-jugglers yet seen in this circus.

-- Ivan Stang


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