Monday, January 21, 2008

Comic book round up

I've been eating up a few great graphic novels and comic strip collections lately. First up, I re-read Art Spiegelman's "Maus". Truly one of the finest graphic novels ever written. If you haven't read it: read it.

Oddly enough, I'd only read the second part to the story, and that was back in college around '91. I picked up the first book years ago and it kinda got lost on the book shelf. So while going through the tedious process of scanning the Angora Napkin comic, I took them off the shelf and read them both, I'm glad I did.

Charles Shultz created one of the best comic strips ever, it's sublime and brilliant. I learned to read with those soft cover Peanuts collections from the 70's which arranged the panels in a vertical layout.

This was another book that's been sitting on the shelf for too long unread (what, am I busy or sumthin?). I was given a nice box set of Vol 1 & 2 for Christmas a few years ago and I just finished the first one. I love seeing the evolution of Shultz characters, both in terms of the art and the refining of their personalities. Fantastic book and beautifully designed by Seth.

Eddie Campbell's a bit of an odd duck but I love is autobiographical work. I found this book, "The Fate of the Artist" to be a really great and charming study of the artistic quirks that make up the creative mind. Here Eddie has gone "missing" and his whereabouts are being tracked through interviews with his family and short comic bits where the character of Eddie Campbell is played by an actor. Clever and funny, and more accessible then some of his earlier books.

And finally this morning I started reading E.C. Segar's, "Popeye Vol. 2".

Before I get into this, let me caution you: Skip the forward by Donald Phelps. I was getting so irritated with this introduction I started scanning it, reading bits to see if they made any sense at all and found very little redeeming value in any of it. I don't like thinking "Hey, maybe I'm too dumb to get what he's trying to say". My instink (as Popeye might say) told me that much like my issue with my dismissal of Thomas Moore's "Utopia"; this guy just can't write to communicate. So I did a little search on Mr. Phelps and had my suspicion confirmed by animation kricket (again, as Popeye might say) Michael Barrier, who wrote:

Phelps has, indeed, done the work, but he is, alas, an undisciplined writer whose perceptions are buried in dense verbal undergrowth. If one word will not quite serve, he piles on others, in a pleonastic orgy—hoping, I suppose, that the right word will eventually turn up, or perhaps that the sheer bulk of a dozen not-quite-right words will fill the void left by the absence of the right one.

I'm not a big fan of Barrier, especially after the cheap shot he took at my pal Nick's film but he did hit the mark on his summation of Phelp's essay style of thesaurus writing.

So, skip the intro and get to the meat. I was laughing out loud on the first page. These Popeye books have been one of the best comic finds I've had in a long time. If you only know Popeye via cartoons or the Robin Williams movie, you have to read the original to truly appreciate what an amazing character he is.