Welcome to Marwencol (self-published)

Mark E. Hogancamp shares his life’s work with the world, a photo-comic that meticulously creates a mythical World War II town using scale models, as seen in the upcoming documentary film Marwencol.




78 pgs., color; $25.00
(W & A: Mark E. Hogancamp)
You’ve probably never seen anything like Welcome to Marwencol, which is all the more reason you should check it out. It’s a photo-comic (or fumetti)set during World War II, and every frame is an astonishingly-detailed tableau created and shot by the author using 1/6 scale dolls and sets which he built in his backyard. As Douglas Carter Beane once said his adaptation of Xanadu, at this point you’re either in or you’re out. My recommendation is to stay in and check out this unique comic created by Mark Hogancamp.
In the first installment, Welcome to Marwencol, you meet the writer/artist’s alter ego, Captain “Hogie” Hogancamp, as he crash lands in Belgium and finds his way to the town of Marwencol. There he sets up a bar that offers staged catfights for entertainment and has only one rule: everyone, regardless of nationality, has to be friendly with each other. It’s sort of like the famous Christmas Truce of 1914 except that it lasts more than a day. But there’s one group which doesn’t observe the truce nor do they follow normal rules of human decency: the SS, who are clearly distinguished from ordinary German soldiers and are treated accordingly. So Marwencol is a completely realized fictional universe with its own logic and rules but which is close enough to our own world that you can immediately understand the characters and their behavior.
It helps to know a bit about the author because it’s relevant to his work. In April 2000, Mark was severely beaten by five men and, after spending nine days in a coma, awoke to find that he had practically no memory of his former life and had to relearn the most basic skills, like how to walk. He began creating Marwencol as a kind of self-therapy (Medicare cut him off after 40 days) and after a few years he began taking pictures of his work. Many of the characters in the Marwencol universe are based on people Mark knows, and originally he took the photos to show them what he was doing.
Then ESOPUS magazine ran a feature story on Mark, which led to a solo gallery show in New York City and brought him to the attention of Jeff Malmberg, who made the feature documentary film Marwencol about Mark and his work. I recommend the documentary, which is slated to open theatrically this fall, but I also recommend this comic because it gives you a look at Mark’s art without the mediation of another person. The photos are beautiful, the scenes are remarkably detailed and the story is told entirely without irony. In fact, it’s almost as if the author was missing the filter most of us have that keeps us from revealing too much about ourselves, just one more reason that reading this comic is a unique experience.
Welcome to Marwencol can be ordered from www.marwencol.com, which also includes more information about Mark and pictures of his work. The $25 price tag may sound high but proceeds go to support Mark, his family and his work. You can read the ESOPUS article about Mark here: http://esopusmag.com/files/ARCHIVE_FLASH/5/MARWENCOL/. | Sarah Boslaugh


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