Posts Tagged ‘Pay Attention’

Pay Attention: Poem Strip


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Read Comments (5)

The 2009 translation and republication of Dino Buzzati’s Poem Strip (originally published as Poema a Fumetti in 1969) hasn’t received the attention it merits, I think. The book is interesting on a number of grounds: as I’ve noted earlier, it belongs to the tradition of the proto-graphic novel; Buzzati himself was an important writer and artist, and the book makes a fine appetizer for his larger artistic career; the themes and artistic techniques explored in the book are also intriguingly connected with other cultural developments of the 1960s.


Labels: , , ,

Pay Attention: National Lampoon


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Read Comments (31)

In a recent (or recent-enough) interview, the invariably insightful Lynda Barry noted that, “There was a group right before Matt and I started who were in the Village Voice — Jules Feiffer, Mark Alan Stamaty, and Stan Mack, who did Real Life Funnies. And I finally met him and he doesn’t look anything like he draws himself, which I thought was hilarious. There’s all these people who were in the early National Lampoon — but now it’s as if they do not exist…. When people say, ‘You’re one of the first women cartoonists,’ I say, ‘Nooo, there was Shary Flenniken and M.K. Brown and Trina Robbins.’”


Labels: , , ,

Pay Attention: Late-Period Ditko


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Read Comments (21)

A Ditko Act

Over the last few years, there’s been a tremendous upsurge of interest in Steve Ditko’s legacy, thanks in no small part to the various books written and/or edited by Blake Bell and Craig Yoe. This is all to the good: Ditko is, to my mind at least, one of the four or five most imaginative and path breaking visual artists ever to work in the commercial comic book field (the others, for what it’s worth, are Kirby, Kurtzman, and Toth). What tends to get forgotten, though, is the fact that Ditko, unlike the other masters, is still alive and in fact very busy.

Steve Ditko is 83 years old. In the last year he’s produced at least 150 pages of new comics (published by Robin Synder in the series A Ditko Act). By any reasonable measure, this venerable cartoonist much more prolific than many artists 60 years his junior. It’s unfortunate that late-period Ditko tends to be ignored by all but the most hard-core fans. Of course, Ditko himself is partially to blame, since these latest stories follow in the trajectory of his Mr. A work in being both forbiddingly didactic and shorn of any reader-friendly cordiality.  As befits a man of his ideological purity, Ditko demands to be taken on his own terms. And increasingly, Ditko’s visual vocabulary has an abstract and hermetic quality that makes it look like an alien script, one without a Rosetta Stone to help us decipher it. Ditko’s dialogue is also unique: more and more it has a telegraphic quality whereby information is conveyed in short phrasal bursts that don’t resemble anything close to human speech.

The most interesting thing about late-period Ditko how relentlessly stylized it is, achieving a level of cartooning abstraction almost worthy of Sterrett or Rege. To be sure, Ditko has long had a covert passion for abstraction — think of the weird backgrounds in his Doctor Strange stories. But late-period Ditko takes this tendency to a radical extreme. Artists late in life, Irving Howe once suggested, have a tendency to give up all that they no longer need, to offer up art that is unshorn and pure and blunt. I’m not sure if that is generally true but Ditko would make a good case study.

I’m not the writer to do justice to late-period Ditko  — it requires someone more steeped in his career and the history of mainstream comics than I am. But I will say that I hope some smart critic – Matt Seneca comes to mind, or my formidable blog-mate Jog – will look at this stuff and try to explain it. It’s  too interesting to remain the terra incognito of comics. I have a hunch at in the future there will be a general rediscovery of late-period Ditko, just as there has been an upward reappraisal of late-period Kirby.

Steve Ditko's The Madman (From A Ditko Act)

Labels: ,

Pay Attention: David Collier’s Chimo


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Read Comments (4)

Excerpt from David Collier's Chimo

If the past is prologue David Collier’s new book Chimo, which will be widely available in early 2011, will probably receive far less attention than it deserves. For me, the four great Canadian cartoonists are Chester Brown, Seth, Julie Doucet and David Collier. Of the four, Collier has received the least praise and press. So it’s worth inquiring what makes Collier’s work so special and also ask why his appeal, so far at least, has been limited.

Thanks to the Beguiling, I got an early look at Chimo and it has all the peculiar qualities that distinguish Collier’s output. The book is a free-ranging memoir that deals with Collier’s life-long relationship with the army. He joined up in the 1980s when he was in his 20s. He initially did only a few years and then became a full-time cartoonist. Launching his eponymous comic book series Collier’s was published by Fantagraphics in 1991.  But more recently Collier rejoined the army, in part to participate in the Canadian War Artists Program but also to work as a regular soldier.

Collier has already done a few stories about his soldiering career but Chimo offers the most extensive account yet, and is his longest sustained narrative, clocking in at over a hundred pages (with samples of Collier’s earlier military cartooning filling out the book). (more…)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Pay Attention: A New Feature


Friday, December 24, 2010

Read Comments (14)

The Search for Smilin Ed! by Kim Deitch, a book worthy of attention

As Evan Dorkin and others have mentioned, we’ve had a flood of good (and sometimes jaw-droppingly great) books that haven’t received anywhere near the recognition that they deserve. In response to this sad situation, I’m going to start a feature called PAY ATTENTION, devoted to recent, new and forthcoming books that deserve to be singled out.

The question of why books get ignored is worth puzzling out. Some personal reflections might be in order: when I worked on the first Walt and Skeezix book, I wasn’t sure how it would be received and was pleasantly shocked at the number of reviews it got, often in very prominent places (Playboy, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.) It wasn’t just the number of reviews and their high-visibility that was gratifying. A surprisingly large number of the reviews were very thoughtful and responsive to King’s work.

So why did the first Walt and Skeezix do so well in the public notice sweepstakes? A lion’s share of the credit has to go to the fact that Peggy Burns has claims to be the most talented publicist in comics. Chris Ware’s eye-popping design on the book played no small part in making it a volume that couldn’t be ignored, as did the stellar production work of the D&Q staff. But part of the story is also one of timing. We were early in the reprints game. The complete Peanuts series and the Krazy & Ignatz series had already started, which gave a context for people to understand the book. But there wasn’t a lot of other competition around. Frank King had the novelty factor going for him since no one had seen those daily strips in decades.


Labels: , , , , ,