Comic: "Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron"
Published by: Other
Written by: Daniel Clowes
Artist: Daniel Clowes

Reviewer: Max Burbank
Posted: 1/17/2008

Plot: Clay goes to a run down porno theatre. After the usual fare, he sees a strange short art film. One of the actors is an ex-girlfriend of Clays who left him some time ago without explanation. Clay borrows a car and sets out on an ill fated quest a quest to find the makers of the film, and through them, his ex. Along the way he runs afoul of a Manson like cult, conspiracy theorists, corrupt cops, a brutal, shirtless enforcer, and more than one freak before finding a kind of peace.

Review: Daniel Clowes is best known for the critically acclaimed graphic novel “Ghost World”, which, while odd enough, presents a straightforward, realistic narrative. While I’ve yet to read anything by Clowes I didn’t like, “Velvet Glove” is his most ambitious work, and my personal favorite. The stark, simple drawing style and rhythmic layout (many pages are divided into an even nine panel grid and each chapter opens with a three quarter page portrait) provide tension with the logic of dreams that drives the story. Like a long complicated nightmare, no matter how impossible the situations Clowes confronts, they are presented as real, puzzling but not abnormal. Early in the action, a friend complains he is “Having trouble with his eyes”. When we meet him, two wriggling crawfish-like tails dangle from his empty, black holes in his forehead. “It’s an infection of the eye sockets,” his friend explains, “The way they cure it is to remove the eyes and freeze ‘em and then they put these rare Asiatic sea crustaceans in there to eat out the bacteria.” A headless dog kept alive for years by injection, a hideously deformed waitress resembling a potato with artificial limbs are unsettling, but no more so than the stolen car or indifferent customer service Clay must deal with.

The story is tied to, perhaps a telling of, the old English ballad “Barbara Allen” about a man who dies of unrequited love, and his seemingly uncaring mistress who dies of grief soon afterwards. While Clay’s ex girlfriend is indeed dead, only his dismembered limbs lie in the grave next to hers. Clay, now a quadriplegic, lives on.

While decidedly not a book for those fond of understanding what happens and why at the end of a story, there’s far more here than meets the eye. Careful attention to small, background details answer some questions, but ask more.

Hilarious, upsetting and stark, “Velvet Glove” stayed with me much longer than Clowe’s early straight comedy or the deservedly famous “Ghost World”.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Forum Virgin
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:14 AM
Potatoes? Who wants some?
James Brown in hiding
Jan 17th, 2008, 05:39 PM
I dunno, I found his stuff to be pretentious and pandering.
The Goddamned Batman
Jan 17th, 2008, 06:48 PM
I have read very little Clowes (only some Eightball and Ice Haven), but this is definitely on my list!
I likes PIE!
Jan 17th, 2008, 10:55 PM
In Scarlet town where I was born,
There was a fair maid dwellin'
Made every youth cry Well-a-day,
Her name was Barb'ra Allen.

All in the merry month of May,
When green buds they were swellin'
Young Willie Grove on his death-bed lay,
For love of Barb'ra Allen.

He sent his servant to her door
To the town where he was dwellin'
Haste ye come, to my master's call,
If your name be be Barb'ra Allen.

So slowly, slowly got she up,
And slowly she drew nigh him,
And all she said when there she came:
"Young man, I think you're dying!"

He turned his face unto the wall
And death was drawing nigh him.
Good bye, Good bye to dear friends all,
Be kind to Bar'bra Allen

When he was dead and laid in grave,
She heard the death bell knelling.
And every note, did seem to say
Oh, cruel Barb'ra Allen

"Oh mother, mother, make my bed
Make it soft and narrow
Sweet William died, for love of me,
And I shall of sorrow."

They buried her in the old churchyard
Sweet William's grave was neigh hers
And from his grave grew a red, red rose
From hers a cruel briar.

They grew and grew up the old church spire
Until they could grow no higher
And there they twined, in a true love knot,
The red, red rose and the briar

Barbara Allen. an early hit for Joan Biaz. it has over 80 known version Child number 84

thanks i;m going to have to pick this up
The Magnificent Bastard
Jan 17th, 2008, 11:45 PM
This looks fantastic! I'm definitely checking this out!

I love twisted stuff like this.
Your Doing It Wrong
Jan 18th, 2008, 05:28 PM
I have this in my collection. The visual oddities,the art, the insane conversations, everything about this gp forces you to love it. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who is tired of reading stuff that occasionally makes sense. I promise you'll like it
Creepy Old Fart
Jan 20th, 2008, 02:37 AM
I'm glad this story got some attention. I have as a graphic novel and it is a fave. Disturbing yet extremely engrossing. You think David Cronenberg needs an idea for a new flick yet?
From the Home of MST3K
Jan 21st, 2008, 09:29 AM
I must have it!

To the comic book store! AWAY!
Jan 30th, 2008, 04:11 PM
The picture of the eye socket shrimp told me right away just how good this book must be.
The Moxie Nerve Food Tonic
Jan 30th, 2008, 04:25 PM
For those who liked the dream feel of this, I also recommend "Ed the Happy Clown" by Chester Brown.

I'll review it at some point for sure, but I'm stymied by the very idea of trying to summarize it's plot.