It’s hard out there for a postapocalyptic dad. Taylor Dow

A potato-shaped dad with a goatee on his face and a crowbar in his hand scours a postapocalyptic city for his daughter. "Pookie!" he howls. "Butterbean?" he whimpers. The man continues to string together a litany of nicknames, which get increasingly creepy and more possessive: "my little peanut," "most beloved teacup cherub," "priceless turnip," but no answer. Tree limbs extend from busted tenement windows and tall grasses grow waist-high. Nature has reclaimed the city, and there doesn't seem to be anyone else around.

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Despite the general stillness, the man is convinced his daughter is alive somewhere and needs his protection, which wouldn't be such a weird idea if it weren't for the fact that no immediate threats present themselves. In the context of this chill apocalypse, the urgency of the dad's worry seems baseless, an ingrained relic of a social system no longer in operation.

Eventually, the dad falls into a pit of dead dad skeletons. When he emerges, his potato-shaped daughter finds him, and then a bunch of other potato-shaped women appear out of nowhere and dismantle his body. They remove his goatee, his boots, his crowbar—the symbolic elements of his masculinity—and then disperse.

I just ruined for you the plot of Taylor Dow's latest comic book, Apocalypse Dad, a small, dense, nuanced, and formally inventive comic published by Cold Cube Press. But you don't really read for the plot, do you? And anyway, there's a lot more to be excited about in Dow's work.


Taylor Dow will be at the Cold Cube Press table at Short Run's Zine & Print Fair, which is part of the Graphic Masters exhibition opening night on Thursday, June 9, at Seattle Art Museum.

The dad in Apocalypse Dad is an anti-Orpheus. Instead of being the musician/poet of Greek myth whose songs/poems were so good they could command animals and animate stone, the dad is a barking doofus whose words do nothing. Instead of finding his Eurydice in hell, the dad's Eurydice finds him when he stops looking. Instead of being torn apart by shrieking harpies and having his head tossed into a river where it will eventually wash up on the isle of Lesbos still singing, silent women calmly dismantle the dad and effectively decommission him, the only violent-seeming thing in their world. In reframing the harpies this way, Dow embraces loss as an inevitability to be endured with quiet determination and not a tragedy to be gilded with lines of verse.

Even if you're not into geeking out about good examples of literary deconstruction (we can't all be insufferable), Dow's work is fantastic.

Dow publishes a few different strips over at the Seattle Weekly, mostly illustrations of stories from Olympia's touring bands and personal-essay-type comics about life in Seattle. Regardless of ambition or purpose, the comics are varied in line and structure—rather than cramming stories into predetermined grids, Dow imagines new frames to suit the contours of the story.

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The cartooning in Apocalypse Dad is flat-out beautiful. Illustrations of single objects—an unbroken window, a weed bowing under the weight of blood—separate the book into sections. These unexpected visual refrains sometimes set the tone for the next section while calling back to an image from the last. Sometimes they act as foreboding omens, or simply add depth to characters. My favorite example of the interplay between story and still image happens in the middle of the book. The dad yells "Pooooooookie!" into the air, and the facing page is a drawing of an empty cardboard box with frayed flaps that reflect the dad's outstretched arms. Makes you feel sad for the dad.

When I finished Apocalypse Dad, I creeped the hell out of Dow's Tumblr and read everything on it. Another short comic book, Abruption, which you can read for free online, floored me. This one is about the dread of getting too close to people. This comic, which won Best of the Fest at the Olympia Comics Festival in 2014, emphasizes Dow's incredible knack for pacing, for cinematic storytelling, and for developing meaningful relationships between form, content, and the traditions of thought that inform each.