Archive for November, 2006

The New School


by

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Read Comments (8)

UPDATE: This post has been somewhat edited from its original form.

You know it’s a great year for comics when an anthology as strong as Ivan Brunetti‘s Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories isn’t an obvious front-runner. Considering its quality, the stature of its editor, and the publisher, this book hasn’t gotten as much hype as I might have expected, at least so far. Maybe it’s just Seth cover fatigue. (I hope the same syndrome doesn’t kill off the Dick Tracy series before it gets to the volumes set in outer space.)

Of course, it might just be that most people who really follow comics are already familiar with most of the contents—or at least think they are—and are accordingly less likely to get enthused about a collection of comics they already know. (Of course, as I mentioned a while back, I’ve been surprised by some comics fans’ selective sense of comics history before, so there might be more unfamiliar material here than is apparent.)

Whatever the reason, this is a truly remarkable book, and I surprised myself by plowing through the first half in one sitting, even though I’ve read probably 90% of the material previously.

Brunetti has said that he conceived of the book as something like a Norton anthology for comics, collecting the work of the very best and most (artistically) successful North American cartoonists of the last thirty years, and for the most part, his selections are impeccable. It’s difficult (though not impossible — no Gilbert Shelton? No Jack Jackson? Etc.) to think of important cartoonists from the last three decades who aren’t represented.

Of course, not all of the cartoonists here work best in short form, so some of the selections don’t show the artists at their strongest or most representative. And considering the general thrust of the anthology, some of the selections are odd, and lead the reader to wonder. Why include five pages of pre-WWII comic strips and ignore nearly every newspaper strip from later years (other than Barnaby and Peanuts)? Why leave out so many artists from the underground days? Why include outsider artist Henry Darger, and once you have, why not include a half-dozen others? For that matter, why pick so many young cartoonists who may not actually belong in a book of this type yet?

At least part of the answer to these questions is that the book as originally planned was much longer. Yale decided it needed cutting, and Brunetti had to remove a big chunk of the book. (On a panel at this year’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, he said that he found it a lot easier to cut out the work of dead cartoonists than live ones, which explains the chronological lopsidedness.) The other, more important, part of the answer lies in the personal nature of the book, something Brunetti is clear about in his introduction, where he writes that his “criteria were simple: these are comics that I savor and often revisit.”

That he took the criteria seriously is evident throughout the book—all of these comics repay rereading—and many of the more obscure or idiosyncratic choices help give the book a much more individual-feeling tone than you would usually find in an historical anthology. Brunetti writes that he sought to highlight “vital, highly personal work”. His own cartooning has always been highly personal, so it’s no surprise that he would value the trait in others. It is nice to find that he approaches his editing from a similar perspective.

In fact, half of the fun in this book is following the thought process implied by his selections, and their placement. The anthology opens with a page of Sam Henderson, followed by a Mark Newgarden section, which is not unlike a Norton anthology of twentieth-century theater beginning with a Marx brothers sketch, followed up with an excerpt from Waiting for Godot. With an opening salvo like that, you know the editor’s on the side of the angels.

Basically, the book may or may not be worth your money if you already own a lot of this work (if you do, you have a great library), but it’s still probably the finest anthology of so-called alternative comics yet published. It certainly beats the hell out of the lousy book that the Smithsonian put out a couple years ago. For someone who wasn’t already immersed in the field and its history, and wanted to learn more, this is just about as perfect an introduction as I can imagine. And even if you consider yourself a full-on aficionado, there are still bound to be at least a few revelations here, whether in discovering a comic you’ve never read before, or in re-experiencing a comic in a new context, one planned by an expert and a clear lover of the form.

[DISCLOSURE: My wife, Lauren R. Weinstein, was one of the contributors to this anthology.]

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy Thanksgiving!


by

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Comments Off


Again, “not comics”. But hey — it’s in the spirit of the holiday to cut corners a little. Let old Bill Lee explain.

(via Beware of the Blog)

Labels: , ,

He Yis What He Yis


by

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Read Comment (1)


This first volume of E.C. Segar‘s complete Popeye comics is going to be very tough to beat for comic book of the year—and this has been an amazing year for great comic books.

I don’t know if Popeye is the best comic strip of all time—or even what that would mean, exactly—but it is without question my favorite. It’s been said before, but if you only know Popeye from the enjoyable but repetitive Fleischer cartoons, you really don’t know the character at all. (The late, lamented Robert Altman‘s flawed film version got closer to the original Segar flavor, with a large cast of eccentric characters and understated humor, but it ultimately misses the mark as well.)

The original strips are funny and fantastic (in both senses of the word). They’re the rare adventure strips that are driven as much by character as by plot. With its bizarre creatures (the Goons, the Jeeps), indelible characterizations (Wimpy, Olive Oyl), and impeccable timing (each day’s strip building beautifully on the one before), Thimble Theatre worked as only a serialized comic strip could. It’s like early Wash Tubbs mixed with Mutt and Jeff, but with monsters and witches and hamburgers—and three times as funny! I can’t imagine higher praise than that.

Read the book. And save room on your shelves for the next five volumes. They keep getting better. Which means “comic book of the year” is pretty much foreordained for a while, at least until 2011.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Doucet, Chippendale, Paper Rad in NYC


by

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Comments Off

Saturday, 11/18, 1 pm, Julie Doucet, Brian Chippendale and Paper Rad will be signing their new books, Elle-Humour, Ninja and Cartoon Workshop/Pig Tales at the New York Art Book Fair, at the Chelsea Art Museum, 22nd st. and 10th ave.

Labels: , , ,

This Post is Stolen


by

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Read Comment (1)

But I’ve got to get back in the habit of blogging somehow.

Anyway, as Tom Spurgeon says, this is “not comics”, but I know there’s got to be some Richard Williams fans out there.

“The Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut”: Filmmaker Garrett Gilchrist’s unofficial restoration of Richard Williams’ animated feature, available on YouTube as 17 separate video links. Also click here for an accounting of the film’s troubled production history and here for an interview with Gilchrist.

Via: The House Next Door

Labels: , ,

On and On


by

Tuesday, November 7, 2006


Read Comment (1)

I’ve just returned from Tokyo, where I had a whirlwind adventure in Manga and art. I’ll have some very special related announcements soon. In the meantime, as Tim has noted, Comics Comics 2 is out and about. Look for it in a store near you, and in the Diamond catalog for February shipping along with issue 1. Also, I’m proud to announce the release of Cold Heat 2, which will be available through Diamond in January, and monthly thereafter.

Anyhow, Cold Heat remains a 12-issue series by Ben Jones and Frank Santoro about Castle, an 18-year old Ninja. It features truly groundbreaking concepts in story and art, and also every issue contains a one-page piece of fiction by Tim. Below is an excellent description by Bill Boichel, CC 1 contributor and the owner of our favorite comic book store. Copacetic Comics. Cold Heat is available from PictureBox Inc.

Cold Heat #2
By Ben Jones and Frank Santoro
Picking up where the first issue left off, Cold Heat #2 revs it up a few notches and takes us on a whirlwind ride through the dis-united states of the disturbed American psyche. Series artist, Frank Santoro once again refuses to play it safe. This time around he pulls out all the stops and takes the chances that most other artists wouldn’t take even if they could. Leaping into the artistic no man’s land between the well established borders of pre-existent genres, Santoro combines the propulsive narratives of mainstream American heroic adventure
comics, the exaggerated expressiveness of Japanese manga, and the naivete of self-published autobiographical comics with his own experimental ideas to create a totally unique comics cocktail that will knock you for a loop. Cold Heat takes the outside in and then brings the inside out—demonstrating how our internalization of international affairs creates monsters in our minds that are every bit as dangerous as anything we’ll meet on the street—and by so doing helps us see our place in and find our way through the mess of our world.

Labels: , , , , , ,