Writer: Jason Doring
Artist: Beniamino Delvecchio
Independently published, August 2019
Ben (nickname: “Bram”) is a paparazzo who can turn invisible. Tasked by a nudist yoga instructor and fellow paparazzo named Rich, he breaks into a hotel room occupied by a man named Dennis Katz. Katz apparently has a liberally-minded public persona quite different to what he does after hours: selling, online, footage of the whipping and torture of Central American refugees. When Katz kicks his defenceless dog, Ben, still invisible, goes into a rage and beats both Katz and his associate senseless. The dog pees on Katz’ head, and Ben takes the dog with him.
This is the funny, engaging introduction to The Naked Eye, an independent comic written by Jason Doring and with art by Beniamino Delvecchio. Mr Doring is clearly enjoying himself with this comic. The origin of Ben’s ability is explained in a single narrative box: “Paparazzo Benjamin “Bram” Brammel was accidentally injected with an unknown substance after falling into a dumpster behind a Venice Beach occult shop. Disappearing when the sun sets, Ben ensures that evil cannot hide from… the Naked Eye”. It is not quite the radioactive spider which delivered superpowers to Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man, but it is absurd enough to garner a chuckle. A series of panels containing clips of television media reporting of the Naked Eye’s exploits suggests that Ben is busy, repeatedly taking photographs of evidence of various crimes and providing these to the police.
Mr Doring is, it seems, very good at juxtaposing humour with disturbing content. Ben as it evolves was once a university professor who, it seems, was suspended for getting into a fight on campus with a man who was sleeping with Ben’s partner. The stage of Ben’s apartment suggests that he has not recovered from that emotional trauma.
Ben is quietly outed as the Naked Eye by a former student, Sebastian. Sebastian’s husband Darren is a biochemist in trouble. Darren works for Pepz Industries (run by the Pepz Brothers, who each bear a remarkable resemblance to the notorious Koch Brothers). Pepz Industries is torturing animals for unknown reasons. Darren is bound by a rock solid non-disclosure agreement, and if he becomes a whistleblower, Pepz Industries will deliver legal wrath. Sebastian and Darren are fostering a child and cannot afford to be financially ruined by whistleblower litigation with Pepz.
Ben promises to think about helping. Mr Doring flips back to humour. Ben and a friend named Danielle see a movie, and Danielle asks Ben what he thinks of it. “I thought it was great! It really made me think about how the working class is permanently shackled to the whims of big corporations, and how government-supported income inequality is enabling unchecked worker abuse”. The movie was however entitled “Steve the Steam Train”. Clearly Ben has Pepz Industries on his mind. We confess we laughed out loud at this silly gag.
The comic’s artist, Beniamino Delvecchio, is equally adept at conveying contrast and works extremely well in tandem with Mr Doring. Mr Delvecchio delivers us a scene of a woman putting her baby to bed, and then becoming involved in an orgy, captured courtesy of Rich and his telescopic lens. Rich and Ben, both perched in a tree while Rich photographs the action, discuss the problem of Pepz. There are layers of contrast in the comic. It is something less than nuance, but there is craftsmanship in the plot, dialogue and artistic layout.
This is something other than a deconstruction of Spider-Man. Ben and Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker both take photographs for a living. Unlike Spider-Man and his spandex body stocking, Ben engages in his altruism in the nude – his clothes do not turn invisible. But like Spider-Man, Ben suffers for his good deeds. Ben notes he has almost bled out twice through wounds incurred in his do-goodery, and in this issue Ben is mauled by a bear. Mr Doring, the book’s creator, has crafted a thoroughly likeable, believable character in Ben. Perhaps not all paparazzo are bad after all.
The Naked Eye, was funded on Kickstarter this past spring ($3,113 from 76 backers) and makes its convention debut soon at FanEXPO Boston this month.