That Whole Handcuffed-to-a-[ something ]-with-a-Hacksaw Gambit

Eventually it doesn't even cut the mustard anymore

♪ ♫ Saaaaaaaline …
♪ ♫ Saaaaaaaline …

Of course, the Saw franchise upped the ante.

To put it mildly.

But we're not talking about the need (or the twisted desire) for escalation here. This is no cry for über-Guignol shenanigans gone troppo to please the ravening Karo-syrup-and-food-coloring crowd. This is, rather, just an introductory point noting that the handcuff/hacksaw trope was old before Alan Moore featured it to such good effect via Rorschach in his brilliant Watchmen, and that if you're gonna use that same-old same-old in subsequent narratives – say, The Walking Dead – then Geoff Sebesta is gonna take a little time to give you what-fers.

Sebesta's critique of the popular zombie series – the TV version, specifically – and lovingly illustrated by Kevin Kobasic – is part of the latest issue of Rocksalt magazine, the occasional Austin-based comics anthology edited by him and Jeanne Thornton, and this brief takedown succeeds through the classic method of reductio ad absurdum. Or, to be more precise, its opposite: It succeeds by transferring the absurdity of a fictional situation into the more problematic details of the quotidian world that we non-televised mortals must perforce dwell within.

You know: Reality.

Anyway, welcome to the ninth issue of Rocksalt, where reality in its many forms is celebrated – or lambasted or perverted – in the form of sequential art. Single strips, full-pagers, even a few static poster-pages, are contained within the newsprint volume. (Note: Cover by Gil Smith. Note: Centerspread by Gewell Kafka.) Here are people with something to say. Here are works by ragers-against-the-machine, historically fluent philosophes, arch observers of humanity, and silly-ass cartoonists. You can find the current issue in coffeeshops and such around Austin, especially in the UT campus area, and inside that issue you'll see comics by such notable artists as Sam Hurt, Mack White, Kathleen Jacques, Jason Poland, the aforementioned Sebesta and Thornton, and more.

And why can you find it around town?

"There are only two reasons that people will pick up a newspaper," says Sebesta. "Local news, and cartoons. Austin has several magazines competing to do the first and none at all that accomplish the second."

"Comics give you a kind of mainline access to people's psyches, people's minds, people's concerns, people's fears about life in this city or about life generally," says Thornton. "The comics we publish in Rocksalt are with rare exceptions one-person affairs: Individuals, who mostly live within Austin, responding to their lives in very direct ways, mediated through impressive technique. Shouldn't there be some reflection of the fact that there are a huge number of independent, amazing cartoonists in Austin? That Austin Sketch Group's weekly meetings routinely fill coffee shops, that Chris Nicholas can put on a major independent comic convention, STAPLE!, every year for ten years now, and largely draw his talent pool from indie Austin creators? Should this remain a secret that comics people keep to ourselves?"

We think not. Which is why we're pleased to note that you can also find Rocksalt online right here, via Scribd. But we more highly recommend grabbing an issue in your favorite java joint and locking yourself to some easy chair with caffeine handcuffs … and using the paper hacksaw of Rocksalt #9 to cut (if only for a few golden minutes) your cortex free from the constraints of immediate reality.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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More by Wayne Alan Brenner
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Rocksalt Magazine, indie comics, alternative comics, Jeanne Thornton, Geoff Sebesta, critique of The Walking Dead, Austin Sketch Group

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