So Comic Arts Brooklyn (formerly Comic Arts Fest) was this past weekend and as usual there is plenty to report.

Held the first weekend of each November, in a church on Havemeyer St. in Williamsburg, CAB boasts two floors jam-packed with artists hawking their latest wares. A number of tables stuck out this year, though winner of most “out there” artist has to go to Greece-born, Brooklyn-dwelling Panayoitis Terzis, whose indie comic Trapper Keeper is mind-bendingly weird in all the best ways.

I was lucky enough to nab one of two last copies of Terzis’ earlier Spectrum Test—a ten-page zine that began life in 2013 as an installation on the Lower Eastside. As such, its images are collected and reprinted here from watercolor paintings and sketches the artist made using mostly standard geometric shapes—triangles, squares, circles, rectangles.

Rendered in vibrant hues, the book’s cover looks sorta like a tie-dye t-shirt, or a multi-colored hippie kite. Inside, diversity builds. Page four is a landscape that mimics Mt. Acropolis, replete with psychedelic columns, stacked of spheres and cubes. One column has a pair of feet.

The structures continue on the next set of pages, growing and forming billowy mountains, like something out of Stanton Macdonald Wright‘s synchromist works, or one of Will Cullen Hart‘s Elephant 6 album covers, though slightly more hard-edged. (It’s something of a conundrum that Terzis went for watercolor, a medium never known for concision, though it gives Spectrum its strange organic texture.)

Elsewhere, the artist employs watercolor as a backdrop, onto which he draws ham-fisted sketches that seem to come from an automatic technique. Recalling surrealist attempts at channeling the subconscious, antiquity clearly lies at the heart of Terzis, who collapses time in a variegated swath of hand-drawn masks, birds, statues, and sphinxes. The geometric shapes begin to take on a Pythagorean sensibility as the collection builds, cohering into a kind of lost civilization emerging from a deep fog. Conspiracy is not far behind.

The second to last page features crudely-sketched busts of an alien, a Grecian goddess, and an alligator man. Gargoyles and UFOs encircle them; a dog bone and a sleek space-craft mirror each other at the top-right—an obvious nod to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Like all vicissitudes in the life of a young artist, these familiar influences cry out to be worked through anew. In fact, it’s all so over-the-top and done with such utter conviction that it actually soars. Terzis shows himself to be not merely a connoisseur of high and low culture, but a sort of anti-historian with a real taste for history.

For more than half a century now, mainstream comic book artists have been grabbing from history and mythology, fitting them to whatever hack story meets their next deadline. Is Terzis distilling the process of the workaday artist then? Or is he going for something else? It’s hard to say. At the very least, I suspect he’s trying to remove the dryness from history and scholarship, and give our ancestry back something of its magic, and that’s a worthwhile cause. After all, not everything worthwhile is found on Wikipedia. (Brian Chidester)

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