By Ben Boruff
Earlier this year, I discovered filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt. Rejected, his quirky Oscar-nominated short film about a collection of rejected commercial segments, has had a cult following for over a decade, but I did not discover Hertzfeldt until Netflix suggested World of Tomorrow, his kaleidoscopic 2015 sci-fi short film about a little girl who travels to the distant future. Since then, I have watched a number of Hertzfeldt creations, including his peculiar and insightful Bill trilogy. Short films are an often underappreciated form of art, generally relegated to YouTube videos and special arthouse screenings. Some dismiss short films as less complicated versions of feature-length movies, but many short films contain an impressive amount of emotional and narrative nuance. The Groveland Cleaver, a comic by Harry Moyer, contains three short stories, and—like Hertzfeldt’s short films—these stories have emotional depth. The three stories—“We Need to Talk,” “Push Notifications,” and “The Wolf and the Lamb”—each offer a unique social commentary. “We Need to Talk” examines the effects of selfishness; “Push Notifications” highlights the dangers of isolation, escapism, and technology; and “The Wolf and the Lamb,” which is based on one of Aesop’s fables, is a bleak depiction of evil’s interactions with innocence.
Harry Moyer’s artistic style is a blend of Fernando Botero and Gary Larson. Most characters appear somewhat bloated, and their curvy, elastic outlines add motion to the panels, giving the impression that the characters are swaying—or shaking. Moyer’s artwork emphasizes the flawed nature of humanity: we are an overstuffed, uncertain species. When paired with the dialogue, Moyer’s drawings offer a dark, mildly humorous portrayal of how human beings interact with one another.
Because of the nature of the narratives, many short comics end with a punch line, an emotional shift intended to leave the reader with a new thought or emotion. All three stories in the first issue of The Groveland Cleaver accomplish this task. Some ideas linger longer than others—and some seem almost trivial—but each story offers readers a thought to digest for several moments after reading the last panel. Some readers will roll their eyes at these stories, and others will reread them several times. But all readers will find something worth discussing.
The Groveland Cleaver #1
Writer: Harry Moyer, ft. Bobgar Ornelas
Artist: Harry Moyer
Publisher: King Bone Press/Self-published