The fine folks at Fantagraphics and W.W. Norton, via ultra-blogger Bully, have sent me a bunch of books for my collection. I expect that one of these days someone will realize how much my reviews suck and cut me off. But until then much appreciated!
The big prize in these books is The Book of Genesis by Robert Crumb. Like the Wolverton Bible, this title is a must have for those interested in the uncensored words of one of the most pervasive religions of the world. Robert Crumb’s gritty art is perfectly suited for the task, conveying people as suffering under harsh conditions and also making them come off as unwashed perverts much of the time.
What becomes even more clear when aided by the art is that one of the underlying themes of the this section of the Bible is slavery. Everyone subservient to both man and deity because that is what the All-Knowing has ordered. The corrupt, criminal and even misguided claim to speak for God or at the least expect the populace to obey them because they maintain that is what God demands usually under threat of a terrible penalty for disobeying. Crumb did not approach this work is his usual familiar style but as straight illustration. Though because of his unique style some of his humor unexpectedly creeps in at places.
This version of The Book of Genesis is one of interpretation, though perhaps a much more honest one than that pushed by the usual suspects. One telling scene that illustrates perfectly the problems with interpretation is when scripture quotes a man is killed because he displeased God the panel depicts him as being murdered by a thief. In reading the “original” text it is conveyed the victim was struck down by some supernatural means and not by the sharp blade of a criminal seeking money. Here is a good review by R. C. Harvey.
The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit. I expected to read this and find it to be a charming steam-punk story. Instead it turned out to be at turns shocking and disturbing but worth the accolades.
Johnny Ryan turns in another interesting work in Prison Pit. Violent and definitely not for kids.
Another treasure is Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box. Cleverly packaged and full of nostalgia for a guy like me. A younger generation probably won’t see the appeal beyond the kitschy art but I get a big kick out of it. I have seen all of these films and owned a number of them. One of the things that were readily available in Korea in the 1980s were cheap video cassettes and being stationed there I watched a lot of B-movies. Good times.
Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s is a collection of uncensored strips from indie artists and cartoonists. These are comic history and it would have been a shame for these to have been lost to time like so much of the more mainstream Golden Age work.
West Coast Blues. A French noir thriller that has been adapted to a number of formats over the last few years. This graphic novel is one such adaptation and it works well.
The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. by Dash Shaw. The work is dense and thoughtful and there are plenty of examples of amazing and creative use of color to support the story without overwhelming it.
Last but not least is a great collection of political cartoons by Lawrence Herblock. Herblock is published by the W.W. Norton Company and is no mere prop to be brought out of the closet, dusted off and strategically positioned on a coffee table by hipsters to impress during a cheese-tasting party. Not only does this massive tome document seven decades of opinion by a master of the craft but accompanying the book is a DVD containing over 18,000 cartoons. You could use this book to teach a college course, no kidding.