Eamon Espey was born in Boston, MA in 1977. In 2002 he moved to New York to attain a Bachelors Degree in Cartooning from the School of Visual Arts. Around that time he began self-publishing the comic series Wormdye and co-founded Mount Olympus Society. His work has appeared in Critical Citadel, Free Radicals, and The Spitting Anorexic. Today Eamon lives and works in Baltimore, MD.
IN THE EMPORIUM
Eamon’s comics can be found in the Secret Acres Emporium here.
In assembling a top 100 list for 2000-2009, it’s important to remember that for the first time, it’s pretty much impossible to come up with something that resembles a definitive list that spans the world’s output of comics…
21. Wormdye, by Eamon Espey (Secret Acres). Espey creates a bizarre, hallucinatory world filled with nightmarish dream logic. Espey mixes dark humor, naivete’, visceral violence and a take-it-or-leave form of storytelling in his short stories that are related by theme and tone more than specific content.
– The Comics Journal
Strange book, this medieval Wormdye; a succession of short stories forming one heterogeneous whole: one doesn’t quite know if one is dealing with a graphic novel spun out of control, or a collection linked by some mysterious cosmic order. The only certainty is that Espey takes a merciless look at family, religion and mankind, painting a chilling, merciless portrait of humanity as an emotionally devastated mass, crawling with vices. A series of illustrations without text are interspersed throughout the narrative, like antique engravings, endowing this modern tale with the power of myth.
– GQ France
It’s tough for authors to figure out what to do at a graphic novel reading: Do you show slides? Talk about the book? Jump straight to the Q&A? Cartoonist Eamon Espey presents a unique solution: a shadow puppet show adapting a chapter of his newest book, Songs of the Abyss, that is “based on the true story of a man that has often been referred to as ‘the last wild Indian.’” The rest of Songs of the Abyss features Egyptian gods, biblical figures, and the revelation of Santa Claus’s true job: agent of Satan.
– Paul Constant, The Stranger
For the release of his newest book Songs of the Abyss, Espey joined forces with Baltimore puppeteer Lisa Krause to create a puppet show adaptation of one of the book’s stories, “Ishi’s Brain.” The apocalyptic tale of alien invasion, pagan worship, and mountain goat abduction was presented using every type of puppetry possible. These included shadow puppets, marionettes, and finally Espey himself donning a papier-mâché skull mask as the story’s main character/demon. With zero speaking or text the story’s narrative was slightly hard to follow, but the haunting tone of the visuals and the eerie soundtrack were spot on. Espey is a master of meticulousness, though none of his highly-detailed comics come off as visually overwhelming or cluttered. This same meticulousness carried into the puppet show and, along with the other presentations of the night, shed new light on the ways in which comics can be brought to life.
– Lillian Nickerson, CityArts Seattle
Espey’s newest book, Songs of the Abyss, is a masterwork. He tells his tales almost entirely through black and white, psychedelic imagery that is 50% beauteous and 50% grotesque. There’s so much going on in each story, in fact, that it feels overwhelming at first to dive into to his soup of disturbing pictures and seemingly nonsensical associations. Masturbation, incest, dismemberment, murder, flatulence – it’s all in here, rendered boldly and madly in a frenzy of line and texture. But there are also mesmerizing patterns that rival the most splendid mandalas, constellations, deities, and secret hieroglyphics that beckon you to come closer. Though I recognized some of the mythic references – and he draws from many paths, including Egyptian, Native American, and Mayan – I was delighted to find that the captions of the pieces were kept from us until the end of the book, to be used as a sort of a visual glossary. This encourages the reader to let go of the impulse toward narrative and immediate meaning-making, and instead allows one to engage with the works in more of a state of shocked reverie. Still, fun to go back afterwards and pin Espey’s words to his pictures. I highly encourage everyone to pick up a copy.
– Pam Grossman, Phantasmaphile
– Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
In Eamon Espey’s second book of comics, Songs of the Abyss, Santa Claus gets his dick sucked by a demoness as the pig-faced Queen of Hell approaches him astride a monster. Subsequently, Santa goes on a shooting spree, burns Mrs. Claus and the elves, shoots himself in the head, which, somehow, in a nod to a Residents’ song, becomes affixed to the body of a dog, Santa Dog…
This gorgeously rendered, wordless book of pen-and-ink drawings begins with the Egyptian story of the creation of the world as we see Atum masturbating into his own mouth and vomiting out Tefnut and Shu as progeny. As these two figures wander away from their creator, Atum pulls out his eye and throws it as far as he can, until it finds them. When it does, he weeps and creates the first human. From here, the story migrates to the biblical tale of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel (though, here, they are Tommy and Marco, recurrent characters in Espey’s work).
The plot remains frenetic throughout Songs of the Abyss. The wild action (often sexual in nature) of the characters—who are simply drawn—is set in brilliant contrast to the highly decorative patterns of the backdrops. The elegant black-and-white style owes a lot to Edward Gorey and shares similarities with Marjane Satrapi, but the subject matter has more in common with R. Crumb and the other “freak” comics of the ’60s. For instance, in one scene, the gun-wielding Santa finds either Marco or Tommy in bed with a woman, while the other hides underneath. But the wood grain of the floor, the pattern of the quilt on the bed, the weave of Santa’s clothes, and the lines of the dresser (on top of which is a puking cat) are so densely textured that the relatively simply outlined characters seem to jump out from the page in a violent and grotesque glory.
The result is stunning and should put Espey on the level with almost any comic artist working today—and not just in Baltimore.
– Baynard Woods, City Paper
Eamon Espey’s Songs of the Abyss is an unsettling balance of the cartoonish, the grotesque, and the divine; an hallucinatory fever dream filled with surreal, nightmarish imagery, it’s also a vivid and meticulously rendered mosaic by an artist with a formidable command of his own composition.
The artwork is in stark black and white with a bold line quality which lends the panels a woodcut like texture, as if they were tablets recovered from some forgotten peyote cult obsessed in equal measure with Mayan iconography, Hieronymus Bosch, and Tijuana Bibles…
The element that holds it all together is, again, Espey’s striking artistic ability. In spite of the strange and often disturbing subject matter portrayed, the most powerful and resonant dimension of Songs of the Abyss is the artful draftsmanship and the brilliant execution of it. There is an hypnotic cumulative effect to it, an almost narcotic sensory response to the sustained visual assault. The book alternates between traditional six panel pages, full page illustrations, and many permutations in between; despite it’s own abstract obliqueness, it unfolds in an oddly fluid way, with a logic that resonates from the deepest recesses of the human id.
The book of the year: Wormdye by Eamon Espey (Secret Acres), a plunge into the subconscious of contemporary America. It’s a portrait of life in a merciless world, with every perversion you can imagine (sadism, cannibalism, drug abuse and lactating grandfathers). It is about everything and nothing; it’s an orgy of primitive imagery, an appeal to your primal senses and most basal thoughts. Espey manages to combine Mike Diana’s scandalousness with Crumb’s obsessions, and lifts it all up to incredible heights. Wormdye is nothing less than the Howl of comics. I cannot find any higher praise.
– Wim Lockefeer, Forbidden Planet
Well. Secret Acres isn’t going to dispel its reputation for weird, arty comics with this one. If you’re into superheroes, you might as well stop reading, but then you’d miss Eamon Espey’s unique vision. Although his work bears comparisons to both Theo Ellsworth (whose The Understanding Monster we reviewed here) and Jim Woodring in its loopy journeys into the unconscious mind, it has its own charms, neither as driven by connected events as Woodring’s stories nor as disjointed as Ellsworth’s. Rendered in black-and-white in a highly patterned style, his characters trace archetypal narratives, discernible to some extent even without the notes in the back that provide captions of sorts for each page. A creation story, a tale of brother killing brother, echoes of American Indian and Egyptian myth are all present, along with heaps of genitalia, vomit, and violence. Do your kids still believe in Santa? Then you’d better keep Song of the Abyss on the top shelf, as Espey depicts him as an agent of his anagrammatic master, Satan. It’s possible the book is too blissed out and psychedelic. There are long passages where you may lose track of what’s happening, and yet it’s all reminiscent of trying to reconstruct the thread of a rapidly dissipating dream, which makes it, in spite of its dogged difficulty, an experience worth having.
– Hillary Brown, Paste Magazine
I love Eamon Espey’s comics – black and white, psychedelic, neo-tribal, they frequently tap into a portion of the brain most of us don’t want to acknowledge we have. Egyptian gods, biblical monsters, and a homicidal Santa Claus doing the devil’s business. And worms. I love the worms in Eamon’s books. Eamon Espey is a one-of-a-kind comics genius.
– Largehearted Boy
This release by promising new publisher Secret Acres took me by total surprise. Espey creates a bizarre, hallucinatory world filled with nightmarish dream logic. Espey mixes dark humor, naivete’ and a take-it-or-leave form of storytelling in his short stories that are related by theme and tone more than specific content.
– Rob Clough
Wormdye’s plot points alternate between what feels like arcane mythologies—origin stories from a time when our gods were far less well-behaved—and small tributes to a time before Disney, when fairytale heroes were potentially every ounce as wicked as their villainous counterparts. Taken individually, they add up to little more than a collection of demented grotesqueries. Taken together, Wormdye’s story, like its art, is a fascinatingly complex tribute to the traditions of a bygone eras—one whose nature will almost certainly take several repeat visits to fully understand.
– The Daily Crosshatch
Espey’s vocabulary as a cartoonist is indeed that one-two punch of cruelty to children and animals coupled with sexualized violence that we’ve seen from Josh Simmons, and to a certain extent Hans Rickheit or even Al Columbia at times. As with Simmons and Rickheit, Espey’s line is a thick thing, deliberately ugly, all hyperthyroidal eyes and short, squat, grotesque figures, occasionally flourishing into what can only be described as bad-acid-trip vistas of depravity. He broadly lampoons every sacred cow in the herd–the Pope, the family farm, childhood, science. He undermines collective-unconscious root storytelling–fairy tales, mythology, primitive religion. to quote The Exorcist, he wants us to see ourselves as animal and ugly, shitting, killing, fucking, torturing, raping, lying, screaming, crying, cowering. His work is effective. Whether it’s an effect you care to experience is perhaps another question.
– Sean T. Collins
Wormdye is perhaps the most unique and truly bizarre graphic novel I have read in years. Eamon Espey crates a world filled with its own mythologies and often shocking imagery. Though not for the easily disturbed, Espey’s allegiance to classic comics shines through and the stories are disarmingly funny.
– Large Hearted Boy
Reading Wormdye is literally like a rollercoaster, an orgy of primitive images and metaphors, all depicted with equally primitive style. What is important to Espey is not the depiction of events, but the depiction of primeval feelings and basic thoughts. For this, he often reaches back to the pictorial language of ancient civilizations, while at the same time working in the underground tradition of Robert Crumb… Without doubt one of the most important, if not THE most important, book of the year.
– Stripgids (Belgian comics review)
The talent level of Baltimore’s art comics community increased exponentially when Eamon Espey moved back to town earlier this year. And his latest mini-comic proves why. We have little idea as to what’s going on in Wormdye #4—something about a survivalist extended family living on an island, and things keep going horribly wrong, such as finding a radio transmitter in an ear of corn that forces them to desert their home . . . maybe—but perhaps it would help if we had read the previous issues. It doesn’t matter, though, as Espey’s storytelling is so clear that the abundant surrealism—a man’s nipple starts spouting gallons of milk, people-drones shuck all day long at the Mitchell Corn Palace overlorded by pig people–goes down easy. Espey’s so-dumb-they’re-brilliant drawings, full of patterns, wavy lines, and crosshatching, are just plain fun to look at. And dead-eyed chickens pushing a balding farmer down a well? That’s never a bad thing.
– City Paper
Original and unique, Wormdye is a graphic novel like no one has seen. A bizarre story involving alien technology, the River Styx, and corn, the entertainment value is nonstop through the whole thing. Through its humor it also offers insights on the human experience as a whole, from everything from relationships to religion to death. Wormdye is a must for anyone seeking something offbeat and different.
– Mid-west Book Review
If it doesn’t make any sense to you and you hate it, well, chances are the rest of the book isn’t going to do much for you either. I thought it was brilliant, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much attention to detail in every single panel. Really, if he took any shortcuts here at all, they were well hidden. So what are the stories about? Well, King Tut, pee, suicide, cockroaches, Most Valuable Employee, maggots, and a robot.
– Optical Sloth
The Top 30 Minicomics of 2011
5. Ishi’s Brain, by Eamon Espey. In terms of narrative, this comic is much more straightforward than many of Espey’s nightmare-logic minis, making it an excellent entry point for readers new to the artist. As always, Espey’s comics inspire laughter, dread and revulsion all at the same time.
– Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
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