Mindless Pleasures


Thursday, February 10, 2011

As of one week ago today, I finally finished Gravity’s Rainbow. Now that I’ve read the whole thing, I can more responsibly ponder the Frank Miller question. While I’m still not a fan of the actual cover he produced, I also still think his selection makes a lot of sense: there’s a ton of comic-book imagery in the novel, and many of Miller’s themes (militarism, noirish overcomplicated plots, skeezy sex, fascism) are present. The more focused and disciplined Ronin-era Miller would probably have done a better job, but that was clearly not in the cards. In any case, let’s move on from Miller — it is more fun to speculate about other cartoonists who might have worked even better.

Assuming you wanted to stick with a modern-era superhero artist, Howard Chaykin is one obvious (and arguably more apt) choice. The late Jack Cole, who is referenced often in the story itself, would have been pretty much perfect, though obviously he was unavailable for cover duty. While we’re dreaming, Jack Kirby initially seems like a good fit, but there’s a certain nobility in even Kirby’s saddest comics that would be far out of place in the corrupt, fallen world of GR. That thought leads, of course, to perhaps Kirby’s greatest descendant, Gary Panter, who is ultimately the one and only obvious choice for the assignment.

But there’s no reason to restrict this game to just one book. All of the entries in the “Graphic Penguin Classics” series present ideal speculative fodder for the armchair designer-hirer. I’m a fan of most of the pairings (some, such as Tony Millionaire on Moby-Dick, are pretty close to the Platonic ideal for this kind of thing). When I congratulated one prominent cartoonist on a cover in the series which I thought similarly well-assigned, I was surprised when he replied by saying that he in fact “despised” the book in question. I still believe the resulting cover was one of the best in the series so far, so clearly the book and artist don’t always have to be simpatico for these things to work.

With that in mind, let’s waste some time now matching up books and potential cover artists. Feel free to disagree, add your own, or ignore this misuse of internet entirely.

William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury
Is Al Capp too obvious? How about Norman Pettingill?

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
R. Crumb is almost too easy, but also feels so right.

In that same on-the-nose spirit:
Norman Mailer’s The Prisoner of Sex
Dave Sim

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
For some reason, Kim Deitch seems like a good fit here. Or maybe even better for Deitch would be Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Penguin has already done Dumas, unfortunately, but I once heard Deitch express interest in drawing a cover for The Count of Monte Cristo, which would be pretty amazing, too.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness
Moebius. Or Philip K. Dick’s Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Actually, what I would really love to see would be a series of pulp sf novels, all chosen and designed by Moebius.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Al Columbia

Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Frank Santoro

Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned
Mack White would be work well with this here, but maybe even better: Kevin Huizenga.

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Debbie Dreschler. (Judging by its publication history, most publishers think the “sexy” route is the way to go with this novel, but I think that’s not only uninteresting, but also the result of a pretty grievous misreading.)

Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children
Lynda Barry

Then there are two cartoonists who I know would be perfect for some book, but I can’t figure it out yet. Maybe one of you can help me out. Mike Diana. Gerald Jablonski.

I may add to this list later, but feel free to go to it in the comments section yourself, if you’re so inclined.

UPDATE: To make things more interesting, here are a few more books that might be fun to “cast”:

The Canterbury Tales
A Fan’s Notes
The Second Sex
The Maltese Falcon
The Song of Solomon (both the Toni Morrison version, and the Biblical)
The Book of Job
Leaves of Grass
War and Peace
The Iliad
The Tale of Genji
Le Morte Darthur
Madame Bovary
Blood Meridian
The Cantos of Ezra Pound
The Sot Weed Factor

Cosmicomics (Johnny Hart?)

Okay, that’s enough. This is getting ridiculous.



Naked Lunch
The SCUM Manifesto
Animal Liberation
Robinson Crusoe
The Brothers Karamazov
The Gay Science
A Brief History of Time


Phoebe Gloeckner
Mark Beyer
Mort Drucker
Saul Steinberg
Tim Kreider
Julie Doucet
Clare Briggs
Geo. Herriman

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48 Responses to “Mindless Pleasures”
  1. Kiel West says:

    Maybe Mike Dianna should do something modern like Irvine Welsh’s “Filth”.

  2. Chris says:

    I did some matchmaking along these lines for an old Five For Friday…

    The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst –> David Mazzucchelli
    The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter –> Junko Mizuno
    Cigarettes, by Harry Mathews –> Chris Ware
    The Show That Smells, by Derek McCormack –> Maurice Vellekoop
    The Master & Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov –> Hope Larson (because how could you design a cover without that giant cat?)

  3. DerikB says:

    Genji (great book by the way, even though it took my a month of reading nothing else to finish) – Sugiura Hinako http://lambiek.net/artists/s/sugiura_hinako.htm (who, I think is unpublished in English, I’m reading one of her French translations right now)

    Maltese Falcon – Alex Raymond (if we can count the deceased)

    The Cantos of Ezra Pound – Warren Craghead (It’d be awesome)

  4. Ian Harker says:

    The Oresteia – CF

    10 Days that Shook the World – Ron Rege jr.

    Dianetics – Ben Jones

    • T. Hodler says:

      Johnny Ryan : Lake Wobegon Days

      • Dan Clowes would be awesome on Lake Wobegon Days, mostly because I’ve convinced myself that Random Wilder IS Garrison Keillor…

        • T. Hodler says:

          Okay, that’s the best Clowes theory since Frank’s baseball/Wilson idea. Don’t e-mail Clowes asking if it’s true, because if it is, my head will explode.

          • Jeet Heer says:

            Actually, I’ve always thought Random Wilder owed something to “The Stage Manager” who narrates Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town” — hence the name Wilder. But I could be wrong….

          • T. Hodler says:

            That makes total sense, Jeet. But it doesn’t mean Jog isn’t right, too—isn’t Garrison Keillor kind of the living embodiment of the Stage Manager?

  5. James says:

    Alex Toth gets the undoable: James Joyce’s Dubliners, full treatment in comics form, or maybe Proust

    • T. Hodler says:

      Ha. Why do I feel like Toth would have ethical problems with those authors? He seems more like a Walter Scott man to me.

  6. James says:

    He was, unfortunately. Would have had to force him by addicting him to some esoteric chocolates or something and chained him to the board.
    BTW Naked Lunch is mine

  7. Lou Copeland says:

    Here’s the link to Tom’s Five For Friday:


    My entries were:

    1. Death in Venice (and Other Stories), Thomas Mann — Eddie Campbell
    2. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie — Ralph Steadman
    3. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut — Killoffer (See Donjon Monsters: Les Profondeurs)
    4. Foundation, Isaac Asimov — James Turner
    5. The Berlin Stories, Christopher Isherwood — Emmanuel Guibert

  8. michael L says:

    John Porcellino : Invisible Cities
    Kevin Huizenga : Molloy
    Brian Chippendale : Romance of the Three Kingdoms
    Tori Miki (or Jason?) doing the short stories of Daniil Kharms @_@;

  9. Matt Seneca says:

    Frank Quitely could do a sick Gravity’s Rainbow. Or Hamlet.
    Shaky Kane: King Solomon’s Mines
    Bald Eagles: Finnegans Wake
    Brecht Evens: The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Bernie Krigstein: Karamazov
    Mazzucchelli: Ezra Pound’s Cantos

    …that was fun.

  10. Jesse McManus says:

    tale of genji – edward gorey

    blood meridian – bryanocki C

    sot weed factor – rick altergott

    jakob von gunten – mark beyer

    forty stories barthelme – i.m.a. pelican

    my life in the bush of ghosts – jim drain

  11. patrick ford says:

    Bernie Krigstein made a great effort to sell a comics version of Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” but could find no interested publisher.
    There an interesting interview with Krigstein in Squa-Tront #6 where he talks about the project:
    BK: “I’ve been trying to push the idea of a full length book. I wanted to do “The Red Badge of Courage.” I went so far as the break down a few pages (also published in Squa_Tront #6), and submitted them to Ballantine. I also approached Simon and Schuster with the idea.
    Maybe 100’s of pages, or whatever the number of pages it would run to.
    I would make it pictorial in proportion to the number of words. I’d expand this passage here (Krigstein is looking at his breakdowns), where he’s running and expand it . And this one passage here, where the regiment is swinging from it’s position, could be practically a story in itself.
    I’d have broader, monumental, sweeping panoramas of the armies. I’d want to convey the enormity of it, and contrast the microscopic things going on inside the enormity.
    I’d like to have the freedom to take 1000 pages for that amount of text. I’d like to have no limit on the amount of space for pictures.
    But I’m fantasizing, what I’m saying is pure fantasy.”

    There is a excellent essay by Hammett biographer William Nolan in the International Polygonics collection of Hammett’s X-9 strips. As Nolan points out the first couple continuities were really very strong, at that point Hammett lost interest after the syndicate began tampering with Hammett’s scripts.
    Nolan quotes Bill Blackbeard, “King Features didn’t seem to appreciate the subtlety and realism of Hammett’s work. As a result the strip deteriorated markedly, as it was diluted, and rewritten by other hands.”
    Raymond’s art is no different from what he was doing on Flash Gordon at that time. Certainly a step up from the work he’d just completed on Tim Tyler where he ghosted for over a year. Many people prefer the mature Raymond from many years later, as seen in Rip Kirby.

  12. Ian Harker says:

    My Disillusionment in Russia – Julie Doucet

    Fear & Trembling – Sammy Harkham

    Zen in the Art of Archery – Box Brown

    Candide – Matthew Thurber

    Darwin’s Dangerous Idea – Chris Ware

    Crime & Punishment – Fletcher Hanks

    The Ramayana – Jesse Moynihan

    The Book of Genesis – Yuichi Yokoyama

  13. Joe Williams says:

    David B would work for any of these:
    The Iliad
    Le Morte Darthur

  14. vollsticks says:

    Saturday Night Sunday Morning–John Bagnall

    …that’s all I got, folks….

  15. Briany Najar says:

    The Canterbury Tales – Mike McMahon.
    Naked Lunch – Henriette Valium.
    Madame Bovary – Steve Ditko.
    1984 – Dash Shaw.
    Atomised – Ogden Whtney.

    • W.Kasper says:

      Ditko can’t draw women…

      • Briany Najar says:

        He can’t draw men either. Or legs. Or much else, really.
        But he brings great drama and neurotic significance to every situation he portrays.
        And some of his female characters in the late 50s would fit.
        I mean, purely within a Ditko adaptation, which would be entetaining, I think.
        Conversations across the table, calm repressive banalities, but… Ditko-style! Ugh!
        Not quite Robert Mitchum. Well, not like he is in the film of Madame Bovary, anyway.
        It’s hard not to think of Mort Drucker for anything that’s been done as a big movie.

        • W.Kasper says:

          Everyone would talk with clenched fists and stand in a weird, rigid, Randian manner like a cross between Donald Draper and Dan Quayle.

          And bad guys would have to wear trilbys (decades don’t mean nuttin’ to Steve!).

          • Briany Najar says:

            Oh, I see what I’ve done now.
            I did that annoying thing of forgetting that Ditko still makes comics.
            It was only his (suspense) style from about 1956 – 1970 or so that I was thinking of.
            Probably because that’s the stuff I like, but it’s not good to talk about a living artist in the past tense like that. Naughty me.
            Ah well, I don’t think he’d be up for it anyway.

  16. T. Hodler says:

    It’s all too clear & I don’t know how I missed it. Gerald Jablonski is Animal Farm.

  17. i.m.a. pelican says:

    Mat Brinkman- A Voyage to Arcturus
    Brian Chippendale- The Stars My Destination
    Leif Goldberg- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
    Frank Santoro- Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
    Gabrielle Bell- The Martian Chronicles
    Jonathan Bennett- The Mezzanine
    Sammy Harkham – Don Quixote

  18. The SCUM Manifesto — Robert Crumb.

    I really mean that seriously.

  19. Joe Kuth says:

    i.m.a. pelican, I almost put up the same pairing on Voyage to Arcturus! …I didn’t because I know someone who is going to be illustrating that for a personal project.

    Renee French – Watership Down
    Vanessa Davis – I Capture the Castle

    Mike Diana: Dr. Rat by Wm. Kotzwinkle?

  20. JR says:

    The Iliad: thinking of the amazing use of Greek mythology in Fun Home (plus: homosociality), I say Alison Bechdel!

  21. i.m.a. pelican says:

    CF – The Great Gatsby

  22. W.Kasper says:

    Kim Deitch already did Book of Job (awesome!)

    Never mind design – I’d love to see full adaptations (suggestions for the ones I’ve read):

    Naked Lunch – S. Clay Wilson (or Graham Ingels!)
    SCUM manifesto – Mary Fleener (or Kaz)
    Maltese Falcon – Johnny Craig
    Blood Meridian – Jaxon (or Richard Corben)
    Robinson Crusoe – Bryan Talbot
    Cosmicomics – David Mazzucchelli (I think he’d be perfect for a lot of Calvino)
    Catch 22 – Will Elder
    The Canterbury Tales – Robert Crumb

    Some more suggestions:

    Last Exit To Brooklyn – Spain Rodruiguez
    The Postman Always Rings Twice – Gene Colan
    Brighton Rock – David Lloyd
    Gormenghast – Jim Woodring
    The Killer Inside Me – Jacques Tardi
    Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said – Daniel Clowes
    Geek Love – Charles Burns
    Last and First Men – Jack Kirby

    • Brainy Najar says:

      Mazzucchelli: Yes. I was thinking him for If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller, but I thought it might be because I saw his City of Glass and I just associate him with literature of a certain ilk, for some reason.
      Anyway, I also considered Bernard Krigstein for that one, the exterior scenes and views from windows in particular, plus he could change style as appropriate.
      Which led me onto Bill Elder, but maybe he could do the stories-in-the-story bits, with Mazzucchelli or Kriggers on the exoteric bits.

      David Lloyd on Brighton Rock: well, he was living there, maybe still does.

      Spain: he was my first choice for Madame Bovary, but I think I want to see him do The Illuminatus trilogy more.

  23. Brian Nicholson says:

    Jacob Ciocci – Cosmicomics
    Matthew Thurber – The Western Lands
    Pedro Bell – Song Of Solomon

  24. W.Kasper says:

    Oh and one more:

    Das Kapital – Chris Ware (imagine the diagrams!)

  25. Briany Najar says:

    The Ginger Man – Gilbert Shelton.
    The Big Sleep – Dave Gibbons.
    The Third Policeman – Leo Baxendale.

  26. Matt says:

    Masters of Atlantis – Will Elder

  27. Robert Boyd says:

    Tim Lane for A Fan’s Notes

    Mattotti for A Soldier of the Great War (or is that too much national typecasting?)

    Gary Panter for 60 Stories and 40 Stories by Donald Barthelme (actually, I just say this because I once heard Panter say he really liked Barthelme)

    Michael Dougan for Liar’s Poker

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