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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

 

There Is A Heppy Land--Furfur A-waay From Bloggink

I've spent the last couple of weeks blissfully away from this place getting my mind blown by comics all over again. Much of my time has been spent digging into critical texts and resources (most recently Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art, David Carrier's The Aesthetics of Comics and the uneven but fascinating The Education of a Comics Artist anthology, worth it just for things like the Barron Storey interview and McCloud theory on cartoonist types (classicist - formalist - animist - iconoclast), which may well be artificial, a joykill and even wrong, but is quite entertaining nonetheless. As a result of all this, I'm paying much more attention to form and technique than I usually do. And reading better comics.

Every few years my enthusiam for comics wanes--usually after slogging through a glut of superhero books, looking for the kind of kick I got at 14 from Moore's Swamp Thing, or at 17 from Ostrander's Suicide Squad. (Grant Morrison is still reliable in that regard, but he's only one guy.) Luckily, my love for the form has been renewed by a succession of artists well outside the superhero mainstream. Around 2002 I began a huge crush on James Kochalka comics. A year or so ago, in the midst of rotting my brain with DC's endless Crisis crossovers, I was given a jolt by Kevin Huizenga, who seems fluent in the language of comics like nobody else--even Chris Ware, whose meticulous design and relentless darkness occasionally overwhelms me. Huizenga is every bit as deliberate, every bit as inventive, but with a bigger emotional palate.

I have two new objects of cartoon affection, one brand-new, the other 80 years old. The Best Amazon Box Ever arrived on my doorstep last week with Allison Bechdel's recent memoir Fun Home, and the first two volumes of Fantagraphics' Krazy Kat Sunday strip reprints from the 1920s. I'm still unpacking all of them in my head, after which I hope to have much to say. Bechdel's book has instantly vaulted onto my all-time favorites list, along with From Hell, Stuck Rubber Baby and other Important Graphic Novels. What jumps out at me initally is her powerful observational kung fu, that evokes such photographic-memory memoirs as Nabokov's Speak, Memory (helped by obsessively detailed notebooks kept since she was 10) and explicitly, the writings of Marcel Proust. Also, her sense of control, both over her story and her cartooning, is astounding. The last few pages of the book--especially the final page--are like a master class in synthesis of text and art, not to mention hitting you like a ton of bricks (or a bread truck).

Speaking of getting hit with a brick: Krazy & Ignatz. I finally see what Carrier, The Comics Journal and so may others are on about in calling this the greatest artistic achievment in comics history. I know I love it to death; I'm not sure how to talk about it yet. I can say that 1) it provides a clear context for another one of my favorite comics, Kochalka's Peanut Butter and Jeremy, and 2) after even one evening with Herriman, it's very hard to pick up the latest Green Arrow.

Comments:
I appreciate the update, and enjoyed reading the stuff, but having nothing meaningful to say, as I am a superhero comics geek from way back and will stay that way no matter how many times Scott McCloud insists on comparing superhero comic books to SESAME STREET.

I have read and very much enjoyed FROM HELL, though.
 
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