by Sam Juliano
Near the conclusion of A. H. Taylor’s The Color Machine the Mayor of Colormazoo addresses a crowd of testy petitioners with judicial clarity that hearkens back to Shakespeare. When this wise and all-knowing arbiter of righteousness asks his chagrined audience to “lend me your ears” one may recall Mark Antony’s funeral speech in Julius Caesar, but the final resolve is more in tune with the closing monologue of Romeo and Juliet, when Prince Escalus lays the rightful blame on the city’s warring families -the Montagues and the Capulets- whose adversarial episodes have resulted in foolhardy skirmishes and a tragic end. Taylor understandably steers clear of any notion of violence, but his telling implication is abundantly obvious. The book’s titular oracle is something you might expect to see in a Roald Dahl novel, especially in view of the biting irony of having to fix something that should be permanently destroyed, but Taylor relies on an idea that proposes that if people can’t see the errors of their ways, the proverbial rug will be pulled from under their feet.
Taylor’s black ink pencil drawings are accompanied by full page bleeding color puddles that are meant to convey that the long tradition of seeing things through the prism of color has now been suspended. The full page color washes are meant to look drab and saturated, and they project a distinctly bleak picture. A motley group of fuming residents are practically riotous in the opening spread. A woman with a snail-like hairdo carrying an umbrella, frame lurches forward, while another belies his inner countenance under a wolf costume and others carry on as if their taxes had tripled. A church in the background is meant to accentuate an underlining hypocrisy in this sorry hamlet of ignorance and prejudice, a place where one’s color means much more than their character, their integrity or their religion. One man bullies a child, and others make angry gestures from windows. The enraged crowd appear as if they will accept nothing less than full kaleidoscopic reinstatement. Their ugly demeanor has been downgraded for the youngest students of course, but one can’t help being reminded because of the context of the scene in To Kill A Mockingbird when the townspeople hellbent on mischief decide they will take the law into their own hands when they storm the jail where Tom Robinson is being held. Taylor’s delightful rhyming prose sets the parameters of this impasses as one between “the town and Mayor”: (more…)