Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Artists: Emei Olivia Burell, Tina Burholt, Patricia Amalie Eckerle, Christoffer Hammer, Andrada-Aurora Hansen, Rebekka Davidsen Hestbæk, Hope Hjort, Angelica Inigo Jørgensen, Bob Lundgreen Kristiansen, Silja Lin, Sim Mau, Ingvild Marie Methi, Thorbjørn Petersen, Aske Schmidt Rose, Erlend Hjortland Sandøy, Mads Ellegård Skovbakke, Cecilie “Q” Maintz Thorsen, Fred Tornager, and Thomas Vium
Get Naked is not a capes book, and indeed, is the furthest thing from a capes comic…which may be a little surprising, coming from a guy who was writing X-Men at one point. But such is where Image Comics goes: it publishes relatively few cape titles these days, and those that are really are the personal pet projects of the creators who want to work in that genre. Otherwise, Image really is a playground of creative personal self-expression, and more power to the authors who want to create what they want.
Get Naked really does push the limits of creative self-expression in the comic book medium, particularly in the fact that Steven Seagle teams with nineteen different international artists who completely differ from each other, chapter by chapter. Some draw in a traditional “western” style, but some express things with anthropomorphized animals, some in charcoal, and even one in words substituting for objects. Get Naked is definitely a step away for the casual comics reader into a larger world of art and artistry, not restricted by six-panel pages or one country’s traditions. As an artistic project, the book really is about stepping outside of comfort zones.
Which, thematically, is what the book is about as well. You wanted to know about the nudity, didn’t you? Well, yes. The book gets very naked. But Seagle’s autobiographical reflective essays are the furthest thing from pornography. Instead, he explores the humor and inanity of his own approach to the human body, both that of himself and others. Seagle recounts multiple instances in his own life where his body and soul have been caught up in their own awkwardness, and to what extent American upbringing has influenced that. Over many years, Seagle and his acquaintances have found themselves naked in public pools in Switzerland, exposed at brothel-themed bars in Japan, laughed at by militant massueses in Germany, alone and naked in an airport restroom stall, and face-to-face with a nude celebrity in Hollywood.
The conern with each of these stories is less about nudity and more about discomfort. Nudity–particularly, public nudity–leaves one exposed, but as Seagle explains, it’s also a method of freedom as he steps into a larger world outside of himself. Different countries have different approaches to nudity, and his own experiences reveals more about himself than it does about others, and how little he understood about the world.
Many of the segments don’t even directly concern nudity. One chapter involves Seagle being detained by the police while traveling on a flight from Spain, which a hilarious explanation for why this happens. Another concerns his travels to Scandanavia, where he destroys his own sleep cycle by exposing himself to sunlight in the summer midnight hours. Learning about nudity really becomes a larger metaphor for learning about how to live outside our comfort zones, and maybe laugh a little in the process.
Is Get Naked the sleeper comic hit of the year? Probably not. It’s definitely a very avant garde book which screams “Fantagraphics” yet somehow ended up at Image. It’s weird, and different, and is probably going to cause a few eyebrows to arch as the shopper is looking for the latest Batman issue. But a select few readers might pick this title up and have a familiar experience at laughing at their own unnecessary embarassment. It takes a lot of balls to bare one’s life in a memoir like this, but Steven Seagle manages to get there, even as he keeps things a little cheeky.
Rating: Three and a half cheeks out of five.