Comic art is a vital, highly personal art form in which change-rapid and unpredictable-is the norm. In this exciting new anthology, comic artist Ivan Brunetti focuses on very recent works by contemporary artists engaged in this world of change. These outstanding cartoonists, selected by Brunetti for their graphic sophistication and literary style, are both expanding and transforming the vocabulary of their genre.
The book presents contemporary art comics produced by 75 artists, along with some classic comic strips and other related fine art and historical materials. Brunetti arranges the book to reflect the creative process itself, connecting stories and art to each other in surprising ways: nonlinear, elliptical, sometimes whimsical, even poetic. He emphasizes continuity from piece to piece, weaving themes and motifs throughout the volume.
As gorgeously produced as Brunetti’s previous anthology of graphic fiction, this book does full justice to the creative work of Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Gary Panter, and the other prominent or emerging comic artists who are currently at work at the cutting edge of their medium.
"Brunetti''s second collection of his favorite cartoonists' work is even better than the first . . . Nearly every piece is a killer . . . [The book is] an investigation of unsettling, mind-opening places where only comics can travel."-Publishers Weekly (starred review) (Publishers Weekly )
"One of the most stunning-and smartly assembled-anthologies I''ve ever seen."-Eric Reynolds, FLOG! The Fantagraphics Blog (Eric Reynolds FLOG! The Fantagraphics Blog )
Ivan Brunetti teaches at Columbia College Chicago and the University of Chicago. He has published four issues in his comic book series Schizo; two collections of cartoons, Haw! and Hee!; and numerous comics and illustrations for magazines ranging from the New Yorker to Mother Jones and the Comics Journal.
Don't be fooled by the prosaic title or the whiff of pedagogy in the introduction; this is the world of comics-or at least the North American, English-speaking part of that world-at its liveliest. The second anthology edited by Brunetti (volume one was published in 2006) showcases some of the form's history and development, highlights some of the best and better-known contemporary artists and introduces some cutting-edge innovators working at the vanguard of form and collage. The thematic organization by the editor (a Chicago-based professor and cartoonist) is compellingly idiosyncratic, juxtaposing Chris Ware's one-pager of a superhero named "God" with R. Sikoryak's series of covers for the fictional Action Camus series-a takeoff on Action Comics with a superhero who is part Superman, part Albert Camus's The Stranger. The work included addresses plenty of psycho-philosophical issues-death, identity, dreams, memory, death and the possibility of an afterlife-while also including a tribute to MAD magazine's creator Harvey Kurtzman, with his work followed by extended graphic celebrations by such leading acolytes as Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman. The latter stresses how far Kurtzman's influence extended beyond fellow artists to the culture at large: "I think Harvey's MAD was more important than pot and LSD in shaping the generation that protested the Vietnam War." The obsessions probed throughout the anthology are as personal as the artistry, with Crumb offering a series of strips on record collecting (the first in collaboration with Harvey Pekar) and the exotic lure of what were once known as "race records"; Joe Matt on porn addiction; and Lynda Barry on dancing (and "keepers of thegroove"). In David Heatley's closing " Portrait of My Mom" and "Portrait of My Dad," it's plain that what he's really offering is a portrait of himself. Explains Brunetti, "I have tried to represent a variety of approaches while retaining a sense of wholeness and interconnectedness among the stories. If the first volume viewed comics as a developing human being, then this volume treats them as an extended family."The anthology suggests that, thankfully, this extended family isn't close to exhausting its creative potential.
Brunetti's second collection of his favorite cartoonists' work is even better than the first-more far-ranging, more personal and eccentric. Clearly a tour of one person's singular tastes, it's arranged in a stream-of-consciousness "oh, and you have to see this one" sort of way: work by 80-odd cartoonists, mostly from the past few decades, but also incorporating some early-1900s comic strips, a 1940s-vintage Fletcher Hanks story and several circa 1950 Harvey Kurtzman pieces as well as a smattering of previously unpublished gems. It's possible to quibble with some of Brunetti's aesthetic biases (or with his clustering most of the book's women cartoonists together in a block), but not with his selections. Nearly every piece is a killer, from big names like Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes as well as lesser-knowns like Laura Park and Matthew Thurber, and there's an enormous range of expressive styles and narrative approaches on display. The effect is something like Jerome Rothenberg's poetry anthologies: an investigation of unsettling, mind-opening places where only comics can travel. It's a pleasure to read straight through, and all but the most experienced art-comics enthusiasts are likely to discover a few new favorites.