about me

recent thought / activity




    See the full list at LibraryThing




    100 book challenge part five: comics, art books, graphic design

    Thirty books left to go in the 100 Book Challenge!

    Last time I left off on the cusp of "comics," so let's proceed into that realm. I'm fortunate that a lot of the comics I want to bring are actually in comics form, in long-boxes under my bed, and are thus exempt from the purge. But in terms of "trade paperbacks," let's see.

    • Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
      [Totally essential; besides being a gripping thriller, this is also a decade-by-decade history of the archetype of the "costumed hero" in the twentieth century, with an appreciation of the form of the "horror comic" thrown in to boot. It's also one of the best examinations of what it means to be an aging superhero; in this regard it is joined by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which I'd bring if I hadn't lost my copy somewhere.]

    • From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
      [If I can bring another Moore, I'd pick this paranormal retelling of the Jack the Ripper story.]

    • Read Yourself Raw, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly
      [A giant, oversized version volume collecting selections of the first three issues of "the comics magazine for damned intellectuals." My introduction to Spiegelman, Charles Burns, Mark Beyer, Gary Panter, and Windsor McCay. Speaking of whom....]

    • Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, by Windsor McCay
      [Surreal, fantastic dream comics, circa 1904 (predating Surrealism by a comfortable margin).]

    • Rabid Eye: The Dream Art of Rick Veitch, by Rick Veitch
      [More dream comics, these circa 1996. But no less fantastic.]

    • Cheating: I have most of the run of G. B. Trudeau's Doonesbury in a series of volumes: The Portable Doonesbury, The People's Doonesbury, The Doonesbury Chronicles, etc. Any of the individual volumes might not be that valuable, but together they make a form of the Great American Novel.

    • Another cheat: volumes 4, 5, and 6 of the book-sized comics anthology Kramer's Ergot
      [Probably the most important comics anthology since those 80s RAW volumes. I'm not sure I could part with a volume.]

    • And another cheat: volumes 1-4 of Joss Whedon / John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men
      [I've been reading a lot of comics this year, and I'm prepared to say that, although this isn't high art, it's probably the best stuff that mainstream comics is putting out these days.]

    • American Splendor Presents: Bob and Harv's Comics, by Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar
      [Crumb and Pekar are both essential comics creators, and getting both of them, at the top of their respective games, makes this volume a must-keep.]

    • Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware
      [Ware's world-view is bleak enough to nearly constitute a form of comedy, but there's no doubt that he's an absolute master of comics form and vocabulary.]

    • Monkey Vs. Robot, by James Kochalka
      [A little bit of brilliant minimalist stuff... his American Elf collection is also great, but I have that in individual-issue form.]

    • The Frank Book, by Jim Woodring
      [Jim Woodring drew my LiveJournal user icon, a character named Frank who roams about in a creepy, psychologically-rich cartoon universe. This stuff is a good example of the kind of things that can really only be done in comics (they've been turned into animated films, but their eerie, airless logic works best on the page).]

    The Frank Book is a big coffee-table style book, so let's transition and throw a few more of those into here:

    • Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective
      [Published by the Guggenheim, this 632-page tome contains somewhere around 500 color reproductions of Rauschenberg's work, and another couple hundred in black-and-white. This is also probably the most expensive book I have ever bought for myself (and it would be even more expensive to replace, apparently.) Worth it, though: Rauschenberg, to me, is one of the key artists of the 20th century, bringing together (in a single figure) strands of Abstract Expressionist, Pop, and Fluxus.]

    • Paul Klee
      [Another Guggenheim edition. Klee is another of my favorite visual artists, and although this volume isn't as comprehensive as the Rauschenberg one, it's well worth hanging on to.]

    • I'll bundle two graphic design books here as a final cheat: Sonic: Visuals for Music and 1 + 2 Color Designs, Vol. 2. Neither one is a masterpiece, which is part of how I can justify bundling them, but I do flip through them fairly frequently when needing ideas for graphic design projects, and books of this sort are expensive, and thus a pain to replace.]

    Fifteen books left to go, and what's left in the collection? Mostly just miscellany. Stay tuned!

    Labels: , ,


    Sunday, July 06, 2008
    6:24 PM


    As I've said, I'd be hard-pressed to pick so few comics, especially since the vast majority of my comics are actually in book form. Of the ones you pick, I'd also have to go with From Hell (if I was picking a second Moore it'd be Miracleman, a far better superhero deconstruction than Watchmen, but of course totally unavailable these days -- so my third choice would be the formally inventive Promethea). The Frank Book is also indispensable, and good call on Kramer's Ergot and Rarebit Fiend. The big Rarebit book collecting the whole thing is the most expensive (and biggest!) book I ever bought, and well worth every penny.

    The rest of my list would probably be Locas (Jaime Hernandez), Cages (Dave McKean), Cerebus (Dave Sim/Gerhard, and a big cheat), The Filth (Grant Morrison), the big Krazy Kat hardcover (George Herriman), The Cage (Martin Vaughn-James), Curses (Kevin Huizenga), and Life of the Party (Mary Fleener). Hurts to narrow it down.

    I also am hard-pressed to think how I'd pick just one Gary Panter book. He's my favorite comic artist and his work is spread across multiple equally fantastic books, including an amazing recent 2-volume collection of paintings and sketchbook drawings. If forced to choose one, I'd go for either that or Jimbo in Purgatory.
    The Filth isn't my favorite Morrison—I prefer his Doom Patrol and Animal Man runs—but I have both of those in single-issue form.

    Cerebus I really feel torn on. I loved it through the 80s and early 90s—I even had letters in "Aardvark Comment" and got letters back from Sim... but its veering-off into hardcore misogyny was totally mind-boggling. Although they remain formally groundbreaking and demostrate an astounding command of the idiom, the last hundred issues of Cerebus constitute, for me, perhaps the greatest disappointment in modern comics (second place: the fact that Alan Moore / Bill Sienkiewicz's Big Numbers project never made it past the second issue).

    I feel stupid for not including at least one of the Edward Gorey anthologies, and I can't quite decide which volume(s) of B. Kliban's cartoons to take.
    It's hard to pick just one Morrison series. I feel equally strongly about The Invisibles and Doom Patrol. Animal Man has great moments and issues, but it's too uneven as a whole. The Wile E. Coyote issue is one of my favorite comics though.

    Cerebus, towards the end of its run, turns into a sustained effort in separating form from content for me. I continued to be enthralled by the things Sim was doing with comics in those last 100 issues (well, except for the endless tiny-text Bible commentary) but increasingly appalled by the messages he was delivering through these comics. Still, the early stuff is so good and the later stuff so wonderfully drawn and designed that even with its substantial problems, I have no problem calling the series as a whole one of the defining works of the comics artform, as well as one of my personal favorites.

    One I forgot, which is unfortunately not available in book form, is Peter Milligan's Shade the Changing Man. It's a crime that this series isn't more widely known or available -- probably the best early Vertigo title.
    I read Shade when it was coming out, but don't think I still have those issues.

    I've never read The Invisibles all the way through. It came out during the period when I wasn't following comics, and I haven't managed to get it together to read anything but the first volume since.
    Post a Comment



    2011 archive >>

    2010 >>

    2009 >>

    2008 >>

    2007 >>

    2006 >>

    2005 >>

    2004 >>

    2003 >>

    2002 >>

    rss (xml)