Richard McGuire’s Here and Art of Warping Time in Comics

19 April 2015

The 24 November 2014 cover of The New Yorker, called ‘Time Warp,’ saw a man at a Zebra crossing in (presumably) New York. The man was joined by his ancestors from 1620, 1915, 1957 and 1968, as well as his descendants from 2492 and 2525. The temporal interventions were achieved through what could unironically be called “time-frames.” The limbs superimposed expertly and the frames were imbued with impeccably observed period details: flower-power pants for the 1968 hippie; wrist-watch and suitcase, a Mad Men ensemble for the 1957 professional; and suitably futuristic looking overalls and a smart phone for 2525. The cover was commissioned by Françoise Mouly, one of the most influential arts editors of the past three decades. Mouly produced more than a thousand covers since 1993, when Tina Brown, editor of The New Yorker from 1992 to 1998, appointed her as the weekly’s arts editor. The Obama fist-bump caricature, the Mother’s Day cover featuring a two-mother family, the black-on-black twin towers tribute were all produced under Mouly’s watch, and The New Yorker’s covers became as much about the power of ideas as their raw visual appeal.

The artist who created this cover was Richard McGuire, a toy designer and illustrator among many other hats, who built on this idea in his recent book Here. Across its 300-odd pages, Here remains fixed in space but not in time, following the same American suburban living room over billions of years. There are accidents and conspiracies, births and deaths, disputes and reconciliations, all meshed together in the cosmic dance of McGuire’s imagination. It is a unique work which, one suspects, will be remembered as a watershed moment in the history of graphic storytelling.

The first few pages of Here depict the room circa 1942, 1957, 2007 and 2014, respectively. We then see the first human character in the book, a woman, who asks herself, in 1957, “Hmm… now why did I come in here again?” She’s accompanied by a black cat walking coolly across the room in 1999. In the very next two-page spread, we see the woman framed, marooned in the middle of a scene from 1623. The house hasn’t been built yet and the area is part of a bleak, leafless forest. The cat, meanwhile, is licking its paw in 1999. In the next spread, we see it walking away from the action.

Aditya Mani Jha is a 29-year-old writer, currently working as a commissioning editor at Penguin Random House India.

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