cartoon

Marvelous Abundance of Ordinary Human Life

Excerpt from Alan Moore's forward to Harvey Pekar's Cleveland:

Harvey Pekar's Cleveland[Harvey Pekar] takes care not to show a writer's hand in his immense body of work, placing the emphasis on his exquisite eye and ear. This is where his genius resides: not in elaborate contrivance of baroque adventures, but in simply witnessing the marvellous abundance of astonishing phenomena surrounding him in his plain, ordinary human life. 

Whether the musicality of a co-worker's chance remark or lyric quality to some mundane transaction, Harvey notices it and then writes it down so everyone can share his fugitive perceptions. Generally impoverished, his world is nevertheless rich in observation to the point where fiction is unnessecary; to the point where making something up is practically an insult to the stunning bounty of prosaic existence. 

Every panel celebrates the worth of being who we are, and when we are, and where we are; the value of our individual lives and times, and of the shabby, legendary places where we live. 

Page 56

 

To Map Out the World

Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly discussing The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW’s Bookworm (February 4, 2010).

Francoise Mouly: Kids aren’t necessarily — the way we imagine they might be — looking for escape and fantasy. Actually, the seven year old, the eight year old, is eager for a way to map out information — to map out the world. And that’s part of the reason why comics appeal to them. Because they are a very instinctive way to structure information…As Art has often referred to it, it’s a story made manifest spatially. You have a very instinctive way to understand narratives and to understand character’s emotion…It gives you cues. It is in and of itself a medium that kids can use to understand all other kinds of visual information – much more than watching television or playing video games…They can go back to the same story and read it over and over again. And also because it’s done by one person — it’s drawn by hand — it inspires them to want to make comics.

Art Spiegelman: What makes this a real treasury rather than just a bunch of product put together in four hundred pages of offering [is that] so much of this is written and drawn by the same person…And here when we’re looking at Walt Kelly and Sheldon Mayer and, to a degree, John Stanley and certainly Carl Barks, they were really able to enter and make a whole world themselves. Really act it out, draw it, and write it. So you’re really throbbing inside one person’s brain. And to have that many brains presenting fully realized worlds, you feel it when you’re looking through these stories. They have a kind of urgency in their own way…These characters are a lot more complex than Spider Man. Little Lulu is so much more richer than Peter Parker.

Nothing Left Out

My copy of The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb just arrived!

From the introduction:

The Book of Genesis

I, R. CRUMB, THE ILLUSTRATOR OF THIS BOOK, HAVE, TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY, FAITHFULLY REPRODUCED EVERY WORD OF THE ORIGINAL TEXT, WHICH I DERIVED FROM SEVERAL SOURCES, INCLUDING THE KING JAMES VERSION, BUT MOSTLY FROM ROBERT ALTER’S RECENT TRANSLATION, THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES (2004). IN A FEW PLACES I VENTURED TO DO A LITTLE INTERPRETATION OF MY OWN, IF I THOUGHT THE WORDS COULD BE MADE CLEARER, BUT I REFRAINED FROM INDULGING TOO OFTEN IN SUCH “CREATIVITY,” AND SOMETIMES LET IT STAND IN ITS CONVOLUTED VAGUENESS RATHER THAN MONKEY AROUND WITH SUCH A VENERABLE TEXT.

EVERY OTHER COMIC BOOK VERSION OF THE BIBLE THAT I’VE SEEN CONTAINS PASSAGES OF COMPLETELY MADE-UP NARRATIVE AND DIALOGUE, IN AN ATTEMPT TO STREAMLINE AND “MODERNIZE” THE OLD SCRIPTURES, AND STILL, THESE VARIOUS COMIC BOOK BIBLES ALL CLAIM TO ADHERE TO THE BELIEF THAT THE BIBLE IS “THE WORD OF GOD,” OR INSPIRED BY “THE WORD OF GOD,” WHEREAS, I, IRONICALLY, DO NOT BELIEVE THE BIBLE IS “THE WORD OF GOD.” I BELIEVE IT IS THE WORDS OF MEN.

IT IS, NONETHELESS, A POWERFUL TEXT WITH LAYERS OF MEANING THAT REACH DEEP INTO OUR COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS, OUR HISTORICAL CONSCIOUSNESS, IF YOU WILL. IT SEEMS INDEED TO BE AN INSPIRED WORK, BUT I BELIEVE THAT ITS POWER DERIVES FROM ITS HAVING BEEN A COLLECTIVE ENDEAVOR THAT EVOLVED, AND CONDENSED OVER MANY GENERATIONS BEFORE REACHING ITS FINAL, FIXED FORM AS WE KNOW IT DURING THE “BABYLONIAN EXILE,” CIRCA 600 B.C.E.

…IF MY VISUAL, LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS OFFENDS OR OUTRAGES SOME READERS, WHICH SEEMS INEVITABLE CONSIDERING THAT THE TEXT IS REVERED BY MANY PEOPLE, ALL I CAN SAY IN MY DEFENSE IS THAT I APPROACHED THIS AS A STRAIGHT ILLUSTRATION JOB, WITH NO INTENTION TO RIDICULE OR MAKE VISUAL JOKES. THAT SAID, I KNOW THAT YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYBODY."

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R. Crumb's Awesome, Affecting Take On Genesis,” by Susan Jane Gilman, NPR (October 16, 2009)