Here and There Are Everywhere: a Placeless Sense of Space in Dash Shaw’s New School and 3 New StoriesIt gradually emerges in the reading of Dash Shaw’s latest epic, New School, that the title refers not to the "New School", the physical location that figures in the story, but rather to a new school of comics, and that the establishment of this new school of comics is what this book is about as much as the story it tells; or perhaps it is more accurate to state that it is in the creation of New School that this new school of comics is constituted.
The central setting of New School is the mysterious island of “X” – which is X-shaped as well as named, conflating signifier and signified and firmly placing the idea of intersection at the heart of the work’s mimesis and diegesis. Shaw pounds this point even further by making X the home of the theme park and central metaphor of New School, “Clockworld.” Here in Clockworld, the nexus of the narrative and the locus of the brothers’ quests, signifier and signified are collapsed as history is packaged as entertainment and park-goers wander from replicas of the pyramids at Giza to the Roman coliseum, go on rides with names like “Muhammed to Mecca" and “Livingston to Africa”, watch a motorized reenactment of the Kennedy assassination, and otherwise engage in consuming entertainments centering on historical figures ranging from Gandhi to Napoleon. The presentation of history as a consumer good to serve as a signifier for the post-modern condition is not a new idea, of course, but by contextualizing these artificial histories within a confabulated land, Shaw forefronts the fictions that inhere to all histories, even personal ones, and asks us to understand that life is what we make it: all is constructed.
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3 New Stories offers an emphatic corollary to New School, reinforcing its assertions in the form of caustic cautionary tales warning of the human costs inherent in the maintaining of current power relations built on outmoded distinctions derived from place; employing the same dialectical approach to accent the stark ironies in the three full color works contained in this 32 page, standard-pamphlet comic book.