It might be a little odd to have an Art Spiegelman book that doesn’t have a whole lot of comix, and mostly essays, but it works. Comix, Essays, Graphics and Scraps: From Maus to Now to Maus to Now is a catalog published by RAW Books to go along with a travelling exhibition from the late 1990s of Spiegelman’s work. There’re a few examples of his comix, but most of those are from Breakdowns or Maus; the really interesting thing is the collection of sketches showing how he worked — doing drafts of each individual Maus panel and showing his process for that project. Continue reading
Fletcher Hanks had a very short run in comics; he worked only from 1939 to 1941. In fact, this, the first volume of his comics, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!, combined with the companion volume, You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!, contains everything ever published by Hanks. Though his run may have been brief, he worked with Will Eisner’s studio. Will Eisner, though, didn’t remember much about him — just that he did everything alone, but turned everything in on time. Granted, with the amount of work they were doing in that time to get complete comics packages out to various publishers and distributors, speed and timeliness was the most important thing, rather than quality. Formula was king, just because it allowed creators to churn out stories quickly — though, unlike Hanks, most creators specialized in one or two parts of the process and passed the stories on — getting multiple viewpoints in the creation. Hanks’ stories are all the product of his own mind and hand.
Cover of The Cowboy Wally Show
Kyle Baker is probably most known for Why I Hate Saturn which… I haven’t read yet. But The Cowboy Wally Show was his debut graphic novel, and my second (or perhaps third) experience with his work; the first was the Residents‘ Freak Show companion comic to their album — the second may have been in one of the Amazing Adventures of the Escapist collections, which he contributed to (things you find doing research, huh?); I’ve only got one of those so far, and I don’t remember if he’s in that one or not. Anyway, though — I now know I’m going to have to go back and look, and Cowboy Wally is excellent.
Harvey Kurtzman is a genius — that’s really all there is to it. Well, rather, there’s slightly more to it — “was”, considering he died not quite 15 years ago. And, well, sure just merely calling him a genius does sell him a little short, I suppose — it doesn’t bring up his fluid art style, his war comics which were the first to not glamorize war as all the others did, and he created Mad, which is pretty much a feat in itself. The Comics Journal had done a series of interviews with him, and this book compiles them (along with a couple of other earlier interviews, comics and essays). We can find out Kurtzman’s points of view on French comics (pro), being false in your work (con) and on the continuing decision to do Little Annie Fanny in paint rather than ink (mixed). Kurtzman also tells us about the genesis of the name “Mad”, the origin and naming of Alfred E. Neuman, and his views of business versus art.
Unfortunately, he tells us these things over and over again. Granted, that’s a product of the construction of the book — several interviews brought together — though I wonder if it’d have been almost better to compile the interviews into a long faux-conversation, to get to the new material without having to rehash the same questions over and over (which were, of course, new in the interviews’ original context, being in a stand-alone magazine rather than a book all on one subject). It is an admittedly minor nit, and that’s why we’re given the ability to opt to scan some things rather than read every single word as if it were gold… though the sum of these words is almost as good as that particular yellow, soft substance. (Not chicken fat.)