Sunday, March 4, 2018

Get Naked

Written by Steven T. Seagle
Art by Mads Ellegård Skovbakke, Fred Tornager, Thorbjørn Petersen, Sim Mau, Rebekka Davidsen Hestbæk, Emei Olivia Burell, Andrada-Aurora Hansen, Erlend Jhortland Sandøy, Ingvild Marie Methi, Thomas Vium, Christoffer Hammer, Aske Schmidt Rose, Silja Lin, Angelica Inigo Jørgensen, Tina Burholt, Hope Hjort, Bob Lundgreen Kristiansen, Cecilie "Q" Maintz Thorsen, Patricia Amalie Eckerle

As I've mentioned recently, I've long been a fan of Steven T. Seagle's comics work.  Also, confession time, I love a nice soak in heated water, and don't often care if there are other people around while I do it.  Therefore, Get Naked, Seagle's new book of "graphic essays" about coming to terms and experimenting with social nudity appealed to me.

Seagle has described this book as being in the style of Spalding Grey or David Sedaris's autobiographical essays, and while that's a fair comparison, what makes this book incredibly interesting is the way in which his massive list of mainly Nordic collaborators have chosen to interpret and present his words visually.

Every essay in this book is set in a different city, and concerns a time when Seagle ended up getting naked in front of other people (mostly physically, but occasionally emotionally).  We see him have touristic mishaps in a small Czech town, find his way into a mixed-gender nude swimming complex in Berlin, enjoy a nude celebrity encounter in a Korean spa in LA, and stress out about having to get naked with some comics fans in the showers after a soccer game in Spain.

Many of these stories are pretty funny, especially as they deal with a very common form of neuroses that just about everyone can relate to at some level.  It's interesting that Seagle is determined to become more comfortable in his own skin, despite some awkward experiences.  For a while, I was confused as to why he keeps returning to his fear of nakedness, but then it's revealed that he has to take up swimming for health purposes, and things become a little more clear.

In the final analysis, this book can also be seen as an exploration of one of the ways in which America is so different from the rest of the world, in terms of its discomfort with nudity.  In the countries that Seagle visits (Japan, Korea, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Australia, Estonia, Czech Republic, and others), no one is too hung up on their appearance, nor are they as terrified of having someone catch a peek at them as Americans (and, often, Canadians) seem to be.  Seagle, who travels extensively for his animation work, and to appear at conventions, never seems to miss an opportunity to experience local customs, and that's pretty cool.

This book feels liberating in a number of ways, and features some terrific artwork by such a large number of collaborators.  Some of the chapters are very detailed artistically, while others are loose and very cartoony.  At times, the writing and art styles didn't exactly match, but in most cases they were very complimentary to one another.  Each chapter opens with a "travel poster" by Emei Olivia Burrell, and these were gorgeous.  I could easily see them framed and hanging in spas all over the world.