Matt Howarth was and remains one of the most splendidly individualistic and iconoclastic creators of comic book stories in the field. While he has in recent years turned his efforts to the worlds of digital self-publishing, Howarth was a bit of a recurring force during the black and white boom years of the 1980s, pumping out issues of THOSE ANNOYING POST BROTHERS, SAVAGE HENRY, KEIF LLAMA XENO-TECH and others, all in black and white, all completely written and illustrated in Howarth’s own distinctive style. His mutual interests in hard science fiction and rock and roll music permeate much of his work.
A showpiece for Howarth’s work was the magazine PARTICLE DREAMS, published by Fantagraphics in the mid-1980s. Rather than being devoted to any single character or concept, PARTICLE DREAMS gave Howarth a canvas on which he could play and experiment in an anthology format each and every issue. While most of the issues did feature a short Keif Llama adventure, the range and style of the work he produced through it is broad. And while not all of it is completely successful, all of it is interesting.
Perhaps the most memorable strip he produced in the series ran in its final issue, #6. Called “Folding Logic” the idea was that the reader would cut out and assemble the produced strips into a moebius loop, over which the story could be read in an unending circular fashion ad infinitum. The story concerned an astronaut entering a distressed space station inside which time remained static, and along the way encountering two other temporal duplicates of himself. In moebius strip form, it was possible to follow the astronaut through two circles of the strip, during which time he progressively becomes the second and third iteration of himself encountered earlier.
On the one hand, the whole thing amounts to a narrative card trick. But on the other hand, it’s a REALLY GOOD card trick! I’ve never forgotten it, and when we went to produce the moebius loop issue of SILVER SURFER that won an Eisner Award that year, I made sure that writer Dan Slott had seen a copy of this strip as well.
The backside of the moebius loop featured “Patience”, a Keif Llama short in which the xeno-tech stands on an unending line of aliens. It’s not as innovative as “Folding Logic” but it’s still fun and quirky. Once Keif got her own series from Fantagraphics after PARTICLE DREAMS ran its course, it became a real favorite of mine.