Tim Goodyear's Video Tonfa is a VHS Fever Dream

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Tim Goodyear's <i>Video Tonfa</i> is a VHS Fever Dream

Writer/Artist: Tim Goodyear
Publisher: Floating World Comics
Release Date: May 10, 2016

video tonfa cover.jpg It’s difficult to read through Tim Goodyear’s Video Tonfa and not compare it (favorably) to the frenzied title sequence of the 1995 psycho thriller, Se7en. The two feel as though they share the same inspiration, dark fonts mutually coaxed from the raw kineticism that defines the human subconscious.

It’s odd, then, to see Se7en, as well as director David Fincher’s other films, so conspicuously absent from Video Tonfa’s otherwise encyclopedic catalogue of films. An anthology collection of 300 illustrated movie reviews hand-drawn and self-published by Goodyear since 2009, Video Tonfa straddles the line between art book and memoir. It’s a fascinating and consistently hilarious account of the omnivorous maturation of one man’s film diet over the course of nearly seven years.

Video Tonfa, as a visual diary, abandons anything that might resemble pretense, plunging readers waist-deep into the assorted gems and detritus of bargain-bin discoveries and direct-to-video classics. “I don’t enjoy art criticism and I don’t want to be a movie critic,” Goodyear said in a 2013 interview with Gridlords’ Emily Nilsson. “I enjoy talking and thinking about movies, many movie descriptions are no help and often total bullshit advertising, my goal is honesty, though I do try to describe the movie accurately without ruining it.” This much is apparent when reading Goodyear’s earliest anecdotes describing Rodney Dangerfield’s The 4th Tenor as a “feel good chump re-awakening triumph of the heart,” and Robert Englund’s 976-Evil as “So tasty, so good.”

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Video Tonfa Interior Art by Tim Goodyear

It’s dizzying to absorb the sheer enthusiasm of Goodyear’s unabashed love for movies. From The Dead Zone to Daffy Duck, Batman Returns to Belly, Frankenhooker to Friday, Goodyear’s palate is defiantly unconstrained by the limits of genre preference or the stodgy conventions of criticism. Between amusing tangents, savvy quips and whip-sharp commentary, Goodyear occasionally breaks from form to talk directly to his readers in playfully self-deprecating asides, such as in his Buckaroo Banzai review, where he ascribes one character’s hilariously malformed leg to his state of being “full drizzled” at the time of drawing it.

Given its hand-drawn presentation, some of the most entertaining installments in Video Tonfa are packed with either deliberate or inadvertent spelling errors that do nothing to diminish the quality of its writing, but amplify the appeal of the project. Goodyear’s brazen disavowal of self-editing clearly speaks to his love of film. It’s a potent encapsulation of the anarchic attitudes and unrestrained artistry that constitute the “low-brow” comic scene.

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Video Tonfa Interior Art by Tim Goodyear

Goodyear is every bit in love with the physical minutiae and commercial presentation of movies as he is with the medium itself. His illustrations render the mass-produced production logos and finest print details on the back of a VHS case with the same diligence paid to their cover art; intricacies that would typically be treated with either disdain or indifference are drawn with a fastidious attention to detail that, as with everything else throughout the book, strikes the sweet spot between obsessive and inspired.

Video Tonfa is unconventional in every sense of the word and, as such, it’s more likely to push the needle for those looking for a book outside of the beaten path than those searching for the next great mainstream comic bound for a film adaptation. Its greatest success is not in how meticulously it documents one man’s step-by-step exploration of the film landscape, but in how comfortingly it manages invoke the reader’s own response to the multiplicity of cinema, illustrating the intrinsic strength of film as a living medium shared by all.