Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron

Clowes’ America is a surreal and brutal place, where deformity and psychosis are the norm. Teamed up with his stylish black and white artwork, oozing 50s B-movie sleaze, Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron is a portrait of a world that’s dark and messed up.

The story is a bizarre road trip, following surprisingly normal Clay Loudermilk on a quest to find a woman he’s seen in a pornographic film. From his reaction to the movie and the flashbacks we’re a party to, it’s clear that he’s had a close relationship with the actress but has somehow lost touch with her. Some fire is clearly rekindled and he sets off on a quest to find her.

Loudermilk moves though his bizarre world in a distinctly uncomfortable yet strangely accepting manner, though he rarely interacts with it unless it forces itself upon him. Despite launching himself on his quest in the first place, he seems barely in control of his destiny, accepting whatever oddities are thrown at him with a resigned if often distasteful acceptance.

As well as the main story there’s a bizarre conspiratorial subplot involving a strange personality cult. By getting mixed up in this, Loudermilk finds himself struggling to keep up with his original search, as people and events place themselves in his way.

You have to have a taste for the surreal to enjoy this, as it’s deeply strange. Cross David Lynch with a splash of John Waters and a smattering of Russ Meyer, and you’re not too far from a basic understanding of what this is going to be like. Where else in comics are you going to find a fish-girl called Tina, a dog with no orifices or a man having an eye infection cured by the insertion of crustaceans into his eye sockets? In fact, where else in any medium are you going to find such things? This is strange but compelling and charming, in its own disturbing sort of way. This book confirms Daniel Clowes as a comics treasure, bringing something special to the world that probably couldn’t exist anywhere else.

More books by Daniel Clowes:
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