The Third Panel: Deeply Horrible – The Art Of Joan Cornellà


Welcome to The Third Panel. Every other week, Alex dispels the myth that comics are only about superheroes by sharing comics books, graphic novels, and webcomics that are off the beaten path.

Author’s Note: A lot of Joan Cornellà’s comics have a pretty high amount of gore, so if you’re sensitive to that stuff you might not want to follow the links I provide. Also basically none of these are going to be work safe. Don’t read this at work.

Editor’s Note: If you do read this at work, tell your boss that HEAVEmedia corrupted you.

A few days ago, my copy of Don Hertzfeldt’s new graphic novel, The End Of The World arrived and I spent most of the day poring over it. As I should have expected from the man behind “Rejected”, it proved difficult to digest, which is industry speak for me saying I didn’t have particularly strong opinions on it. But ANTIBOOKCLUB was also kind enough to send me a copy of Analog Science Fiction & Fact’s July 1972 issue along with it, which was worth the preorder in my opinion. But I’m rambling: basically I told you this story to set you up for the artist I actually want to talk about today—Joan Cornellà.

Cornellà is a Barcelonan illustrator who draws some of the most horrifying depictions of a bizarre and uncaring universe that I’ve ever seen. His characters are either being ruthlessly savaged by their fellow man, or simply going about their lives with the same dopey grin, only stopping to laugh at their own misfortune when their bodies physically fall apart. Whatever horrible things happen, all his characters can do is go “Aw shucks!” and make the best of it, or embark on some gruesome Saturday morning cartoon-esque scheme to fix their problems.

I thought about calling Cornellà’s art a parody of 1950s Postwar American culture to try and put on airs and impress everyone I went to school with, but 1.) I don’t know anything about the overarching cultural themes of 1950s postwar American culture and 2.) I don’t really think that’s accurate. Rather, Cornellà’s comics depict the hokeyness of that time period we’ve all seen parodied into oblivion, and takes it to its illogical conclusion. The world of these comics is one where a deluge of sewage escapes from a man’s hat after a woman mistakenly believes him to be standing in a trashcan, and where a man stops a hostage situation by shooting the hostage in the head.

The thing about Cornellà’s art is that even when you can say, “Okay, yeah, that basically went where I expected it to go,” his characters’ unending and forced mirth just lends it such a grimness that you can’t help but feel increasingly uncomfortable the longer you stare at it. Of course, there are also the comics that just end in bizarre (and delightful!) slapstick, so I feel slightly more confident recommending Cornellà and his artwork by being able to say that it’s not just about staring into the gaping maw of infinity and the myriad vapid ways we cope with the utter smallness of our own lives.

If the comics you see here have at all piqued your interest, definitely check out his Tumblr here. And if you live in Spain, heck! You could probably go to an artist talk with him. Cornellà doesn’t have any collections published stateside yet, but given the ubiquity with which his work’s been appearing on the internet, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a Fantagraphics or Drawn and Quarterly-collected edition, so long as he keeps churning out these nightmarish depictions of Lynchian horror served with a smile.