David Lynch, Cartoon Detectives, and Crackpot Twin Peaks Theories
Non-warning warning: the following article about a certain Showtime series is spoiler-free, purely because it’s far too convoluted to reveal any actual, meaningful information about what’s been going on in that show.
Of course the Twin Peaks cast will be at San Diego Comic-Con in two weeks, as was just officially announced. And that’s because the series has always been about two things. One, it’s been about how everyone and their doppelgänger can authoritatively spout off about whatever theory they feel like speculating about. And two, it’s been about comics.
Take, for example, that latest, nuclear explosion of an episode. Just after it aired, Comics Beat made note of its narrative connection to a Grant Morrison graphic novel. Then there were those trippy Stanley-Kubrick-meets-Stan-Brakhage motion graphics that generated so much conversation, created by Lynch’s go-to special effects studio, BUF, who–get ready–also regularly work on numerous DC and Marvel flicks as well as plenty of other comics-to-film properties. And as further evidence, by doing some detective work on a brief segment from the previous week’s show, I’ve discovered that David Lynch was trolling the artist of a certain comic strip with Lynch-ian tendencies.
But first, some backstory. Comics have always factored into Lynch’s professional life. As all Eraserhead-heads know, Lynch was already preoccupied with cartooning a decade before making that film in 1978. In fact, it was The Alphabet—his 1968 abstract, animated Sesame-Street-in-hell fever dream—that initially launched his film career. More recently, he was posting a series of Flash Animation shorts titled Dumbland onto his site. With its scrawled linework and its continually enraged lead character, Dumbland echoes Lynch’s earlier The Angriest Dog in the World. That comic strip ran weekly from 1983 to 1992 in The LA Reader, the hip alternative newspaper that also published Matt Groening’s Life in Hell cartoons, which led to Groening’s creation of The Simpsons.
Throughout Angriest Dog‘s run, Lynch stuck to an unchanging five-panel template: an introductory text, then three identical panels of a picketed-fenced backyard with a black mongrel growling and straining against his taut leash, and finally the same scene, only in blackest night. All that varied from week to week within this obsessive, oppressive structure were his word balloons, absurd blatherings emanating from an unseen family inside the house. As summarized by Lynch, “…the humor in the strip is based on the sickness of people’s pitiful state of unhappiness and misery.”
This naturally—okay, unnaturally—returns us to Twin Peaks: The Return, and its comics associations. In episode seven, there was a scene in which a trio of police detectives, all named Fusco, attempt to interrogate and deceive “Good Coop,” only to have Dougie’s seething spouse Janey-E boldly call their bluff and swiftly shut down their inquiry. So just who the fusk are these Fuscos?
gif via Vanity Fair
Sure, you could say these guys are merely a tribute to NYPD homicide detective Lionel Fusco from Person of Interest, another brilliant, somewhat sci-fi, television crime drama that deals with dislocations in time, shifting identities, frighteningly clandestine operations, and various other shared themes. Obvious, right? Yes, but way too obvious when we consider we’re deep inside Lynch-land.
Consider: there isn’t just one Fusco, there are three. As in that episode’s three of four missing pages from Laura Palmer’s diary. And in Bad Cooper’s incriminating evidence against the warden that involve three—yes, of four—missing legs from some dog… who we can presume is pretty angry. Therefore, Lynch’s guys could only be referencing The Fusco Brothers, J.C. Duffy’s surreal, demented comic strip that began syndication in 1989. And since these Fuscos number four, we shouldn’t be surprised to see another Detective Fusco at some later point in the series, perhaps even hanging out at the Black Lodge.
Also consider: J.C. Duffy is a native of Philadelphia, where he went to art school, and where Lynch attended art school while producing those first animations of his back in the 1960s. And Duffy’s strip – actually, a single-panel gag stretched horizontally—carries on the twisted tradition of fellow cartoonists Gary Larsen and B. Kliban, and, occasionally—with its dysfunctional, often dreadful, characters and its perverse sense of humor—Lynch. Also, The Fusco Brothers seems stuck in the 1950s, Lynch’s favorite era—see last week’s Twin Peaks–with its atomic bomb, Platters doo-wop, and homages to midcentury horror and sci-fi movies and comic books, just for starters—with its endless stream of jokes about psychiatrists, panhandlers, pick-up lines, happy hours, flies in soup, and so on. Oh, and there’s also Axel, the brothers’ pet, who claims he’s a wolverine but more closely resembles a ratty, smart-ass, white-furred version of a certain angriest backyard dog.
As to whether Lynch’s Twin Peaks detectives are, in fact, brothers, further consider: in that same episode we’re shown brothers Jerry and Ben Horne and brothers Frank and Harry Truman, so these Fuscos make three… in more ways than one. And, considering that the comics’ brothers all consider themselves ladies’ men, by having their televised counterparts’ deftly emasculated by Janey-E, Lynch landed a sharp, sly blow against Duffy for his decades of unacknowledged attitude appropriation.
One might also assert that Lynch was merely tipping his figurative chapeau to a fellow cartoonist with similarly deranged sensibilities. That would easily make more sense, particularly considering the strip originated at least a year before the original Twin Peaks even aired. But as all his fans know, David Lynch doesn’t really engage in easily making more sense.
To conclude, I offer the following cartoons as further–and equally flimsy–examples of J.C. Duffy’s Lynch larceny, Peaks-ian and otherwise. Chew on them for a little while, along with the gum you like that’s coming back in style.
A damn fine cup of pencils.
Diane, pre-platinum blonde makeover.
One day his log will have something to say about this.
To quote “Blue Velvet”’s Frank Booth, “Pabst! Blue! Ribbon!”
“I just came here from Deep River, Ontario, and now I’m in this dream place.” ~ Betty Elms, “Mulholland Dr.”
And finally, Ben lip-syncing “In Dreams” during “Blue Velvet,” Rebekah Del Rio’s a capella stage performance of “Crying” in “Mulholland Dr.”, and Fusco brother Lance’s unmistakable resemblance to Roy Orbison: Coincidence? Ha!
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