This article was originally posted at Haute Macabre on January 31, 2017.
Whilst traversing the dense, darkened thickets of Tin Can Forest‘s midnight woodlands, one may become disoriented by the bizarre, bestial, visions they encounter: shadowy, hircine cabals solemnly roaming about in ornate, traditional dress; nocturnal gatherings wherein witches, demons, and villagers skulk and cavort with all manner of talking beasts; families taking tea with raccoons and suffering the philosophical ramblings of an oddly articulate house cat.
The vivid imagery of these tangled tales and illustrated texts tugs at the memory, recalling vague, dreamy bedtime stories read to a younger you, still too green to understand the metaphors and allegories, yet on the verge of glimmering a deeper truth– for these darker narratives trigger memories more ancestral and arcane, reviving fears and beliefs borne in the blood, not learned during a child’s storytime.
In Tin Can Forest’s We Are Going To Be Musicians In Bremen, a cock-sure rooster declares, “I am prepared to accept that what you are telling me is true,” and by the time one is thoroughly ensconced in the shifting, ectoplasmic threads of these stories, one has learned that there is no other choice but to make that acceptance as well. These are truths– fantastical, terrifying–that we have forgotten, but which have always lurked in the corners of our subconscious, awaiting a revelatory awakening once more. Tin Can Forest’s lovingly crafted illuminated manuscripts are a stunning (though, on many levels, utterly mystifying) vehicle for these fluid truths and lost mythologies.
Tackling “ancient narratives from the perspective of the shadows,” Tin Can Forest is the collaborative duo comprised of Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek, Canadian artists based in Toronto Ontario who create sequential art, film and books.
Illustrated with moody, fog-saturated colors in Tin Can Forest’s distinctive style, and drawing inspiration from the forests of Canada, Slavic art, and occult folklore, each of their offerings is presented in a beautifully lush, full-color beautiful comics format, every page interwoven with secretive symbolism, esoteric emblems, and magical motifs.
Like poetry, or half-remembered dreams, or writing poems about half-remembered dreams while under the influence of something strong and strange, these fables meander and twist, a miscellany of deep folklore and nonsensical cautionary tales, and populated by an nightmarish menagerie of creatures, spirits, and familiars.
Amongst Tin Can Forest’s offerings you will find a number of surreal and enigmatic tales :
Cabbage in A Nutshell, “…the first installment of an anthropological mystery set in a bygone future as told from the vantage point of an occulttastically informed super-future.”
Wax Cross which debuted at the 2012 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, is “an alchemical folk-tale set in the twilight of the modern age, when the moon has devoured the sun, the mechanical ocean has evaporated into silence, and the decaying corpse of electric current sleeps eternally in a casket of orange lichen.”
We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians, a collaboration with accordionist and novelist Geoff Berner, is of a” dark, strange German folk tale about four animals running away from their masters to become town musicians in the city of Bremen.”
Baba Yaga and the Wolf is, in true representation of oral tradition, a story told to a young woman by her great mother, who “…lived in a time when the wilderness was everywhere, vampires roamed the treetops, and devils traded opium and vodka for human souls by the roadside.” Baba Yaga and the Wolf tells the story of Katerina and the journey she takes to the edge of the Underworld and its gatekeeper, Baba Yaga, in order to save her husband Ivan from a terrible fate.
What Is A Witch, written in collaboration with Pam Grossman, is parts storybook, grimoire, and comic book, and is “an illuminated incantation, a crystalline invocation, a lovingly-crafted celebration of the world’s most magical icon.” The book’s lyrical language of night-song and half-rhymes, when given voice (and it absolutely must be read aloud), becomes a wild, witty, wondrous invocation, threaded throughout with fanciful visions, whimsical allegory, and magical truths.