I started off the beginning of the year with some new comics. It had been a while since I had wandered the comics aisle, and I’m trying to get back to expanding the scope of my reading. New Year’s resolutions and all. A few notes on what I’ve taken in so far…
The Best American Comics 2007 (edited by Chris Ware) is a beautiful book. It is a clinic in book design and is almost worth buying on purely aesthetic grounds. I told anyone that would listen in December, “Say, if anyone’s asking what to get me for Christmas, this Best American Comics sure would be nice.” So I bought if for myself after the holidays with a gift card.
For a “best of” collection, this assemblage seemed fairly lame on the whole. There were a number of comics by people who had no clear ability to draw. There were several comics whose central premise seemed to be that they should be incomprehensible and look like they were drawn while on hallucinogens. There were more than a few that just seemed to go nowhere. Apparently super heroes and their ilk need not apply for the serious world of this collection.
That said, there were some bright spots. My favorite by far was a piece near the very end of the collection by Dan Zettwoch. It’s an historical portrait of the ’37 flood of Louisville, Kentucky that felt very timely. I could have read it all day.
Another standout were the strips by Jeffrey Brown. His are day-in-the-life scenes of a music loving every slacker trying to find his way in the world. With excellent musical references. The drawings look a little awkward and slightly off, which is entirely in keeping with the tone of the strip.
Comic legends are also present, like R. Crumb and Art Speigelman. There was also a lengthy excerpt from Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, which I was glad to see, because I hadn’t gotten around to reading her well reviewed book.
So maybe the collection wasn’t as meh as I originally made it sound. It is also important to note that I am comics dabbler, so my opinion on the collection should be weighed in that context. It just didn’t knock my socks off.
I had much better luck with a single slim graphic novel. I first read about Jason’s (Single name only. Like Madonna.) I Killed Adolph Hitler in the New York Times’ holiday book guide. Later, I came across links to excerpts here and here. (I promise that I was not consciously trying to see how much Nazi imagery I could have on the page in one day.)
This story is wacky – in the best possible way. A hit man, pictured above, is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity. A scientist has created a time machine and wants to hire the hit man to go back in time and kill Adolph Hitler. He promptly botches the assignment, and Hitler climbs into the machine for the return trip. Hi-jinks ensue. It’s a delightfully twisted story.
The biggest problem that I had with IKAH was finding it. My favorite comic outlet had just sold out of it the day before I went in looking for it, on several occasions. No one else carried it, and sales people tended to look at me funny when I asked about it. Hitler? Jason? Comic book? Finally, the good people at Criminal suggested that I just go ahead and special order it. Which I did.
Another of Jason’s books, The Left Bank Gang, features Hemingway, Pound, Fitzgerald and other literary giants deciding to pull a bank heist while living as ex-pats in Paris. Why I don’t own that one already is beyond me.
In one last piece of comics news, The New Yorker is inviting artists to re-imagine their iconic monocle guy Eustice Tilley. Check out the entries on Flickr.
Since I admittedly have no real idea what I’m doing, comics-wise, I’ll gladly accept any recommendations for the more well informer.