The Bus, Paul Kirchner’s marvelous and surreal comic strip trip

wccAP24 - Imgur

For the past year, I’ve run a strip from Paul Kirchner’s cult classic The Bus each Sunday. The strips come from an album posted at Imgur full of high quality scans. I posted the last scan last week.

The Bus originally ran in Heavy Metal from 1979-1985; Kirchner’s done a few  over 40 new strips over the past few years, as he notes in a recent memoir-piece at The Boston GlobeThe new strips will be collected in The Bus 2 from Editions Tanibis. Editions Tanibis also has collected the original run of The Bus in an edition that’s more complete than the Imgur page.

Screenshot 2015-08-30 at 11.51.44 AM

I’ve enjoyed posting the strips tremendously. I first saw a few strips at an image forum I frequent, and quickly found the Imgur album. Posting one each Sunday was my way of, well, not bingeing on them.

WQlfiuH - Imgur

The Bus is a profound strange wonderful trip. Kirchner’s visions often evoke Escher’s paradoxes, and the best of his strips make us attend closely to what we’d otherwise dismiss. The Bus is subtle and sly, occasionally (very occasionally) dark, but also, I would argue, sensitive—there’s something deeply endearing about the strip’s central human protagonist, an often passive (even hapless) passenger, a kind of late-20th century Everyman.

l3MHMNS - Imgur pRTsINh - Imgur GyUprmZ - Imgur

The Sunday blog posts of The Bus have gotten more “I don’t get it” or “Can someone explain it?” comments than anything in recent memory—a good sign, I think. (There are also plenty of appreciative “That took me a minute” or “Subtle!” comments too).

What The Bus does best—better than amuse or provoke or entertain (which it does very well)—what I think The Bus does best though is play with our notions of a stable reality. Kirchner’s strip allows us to imagine—perhaps along with his passenger protagonist—a world as utterly banal as our own but one that might tip over into surrealism at any moment. Excellent stuff.

But my writing about The Bus is really no good—it’s like trying to explain why a joke is funny or why a song is soulful. Better to read view experience it yourself.
Hwjhvhi - Imgur

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18 thoughts on “The Bus, Paul Kirchner’s marvelous and surreal comic strip trip”

  1. When the bus at first had started to arrive I was like… “The bus—again?? For the 27th time in forever?”. But soon I found that out-of-left-field sensibility and absurdist perspective (on all things) really started to grow on me.
    I’m also thinking of the ancient saying “You’re either on the bus, or you’re off.” (Kesey..?)
    And in a way, I think I’ll sort of miss that, as well. The way I’m no longer getting onto that bus.

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  2. […] Biblioklept wrapped up posting the whole run of Paul Kirchner’s The Bus. This is a little exciting. I’ve only read a strip here and there through the years without a thought as to when I first saw them or who drew them. […]

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  3. I was always happily surprised to see another The Bus. Most of them made sense to me, sometimes in a non-cognitive way. It also reminded me of my life in NYC. I forwarded some of these to an airline hostess friend, because I imagine she must experience the same feelings what with yet another passenger load on the plane. The passengers all look different, but some how are all alike.

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