FLOODLAND brings together a series of personal and natural disasters featured in illustrations and comics by Jonathan McBurnie. Beginning with the protagonist’s (referred to as ‘the King of Shitty’ or ‘King of Nails’) chronic illness, it relates a long period of bizarre artistic practices, awkward art school relationships, the brutal reality of the nine to five grind, and the transition between emerging artist and submerging artist, and culminates in the massive flood in King of Nails’ hometown.
Fast, throwaway, trashy, noisy, excessive, yet completely seductive, FLOODLAND celebrates Jonathan’s graphical achievements of the past decade. His unique point of view permeates the book created in the confines of his basement studio, where art is a medium through which he better interacts with the world around him.
FLOODLAND’s peripheral characters, whose lives orbit the same places and occasionally overlap through mundane circumstances, include Batsquiat, an artist-cum-superhero whose successes are vastly out of proportion with his talents; Picasso Minotaur, a brawny beefcake sculptor with fire in his belly and hate in his heart; Kirby Kelly, a hapless and constantly-flummoxed experiment gone wrong, after the grafting the brain of Ned Kelly into the body of a Jack Kirby superhero; and Cowboy Elvis, a song and dance man and the very worst version of himself.
FLOODLAND draws parallels between the constructed worlds of art, comics, pro wrestling, bodybuilding, and pornography. The book draws from these idioms’ massive index of jargon and industry-specific terms, the willing sacrifice of one’s own self as fuel for the artistic and/or erotic act, and the presentation of constructed versions of the self. After his experience with Leukemia almost twenty years ago, Jonathan developed an interest in ideas of brokenness; while the disease is long in remission, other issues caused, ironically, by the disease’s treatment, have since had a large and increasing impact on his life and, by extension on his artistic practice. Symbolic ‘types’ have become figures of an enduring fascination. In particular, the sheer physical mass of the wrestler is in itself relatable, and with the additional metaphysical layer of pain, narrative, and elaborate world-building, this type becomes in Jonathan’s work an incredible cipher for the self: massive, flawed, damaged, yet aspirational.