Rudy’s Chimeric Cartography & Fun

[Originally written for my Comic Cartography image blog.]

It’s been months since I got a copy of the Rudy collection, and I still think of it a couple times a week. Rudy is malleable and weird without a hint irony. Due to its earnest naivete, it’s pliable world is closest to George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, which is not a comparison I make lightly.

In the deserts of Coconino County, though, the shifting environment switches between mundane (but absolutely aesthetically pleasing) set designs: a cactus becomes a potted plant, and a mesa becomes a slice of moon scooped hollow. It has a feeling of vaudeville set-switching; between panels, someone’s dragging out new props and rolling out new backgrounds.

In the land that Mark Connery has constructed for Rudy and friends, though, the settings shiver and melt on-panel, and the characters are liable to do the same. Compared to Herriman’s careful stagecraft, Connery’s equally unpredictable world seems to be more of a biological process, messier and less meticulous than Coconino.

In a world that’s constantly changing, what use are maps? At their most practical, maps are constructed for future use. “Here is a route that has worked in the past, and you can use it in the future.” In Rudy, the routes and lands that have been mapped could shift or disappear at any moment. This means that, looking forward, maps are useless as practical devices. Instead, they serve as memoirs: an attempt to record the state of the environment in the face of constant alteration.

Rudy’s world is ours in fast-forward (and weirder). We can look back at maps made hundreds of years ago, compare them to our present surroundings, and even extrapolate the goals and worldview of the original cartographers, turning them into a narrative. In Rudy, maps are worthless to future viewers, so they exist only as narratives.

[Look at all these Rudy maps!]

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