An extraordinary figure in bizarre makeshift power armour the colours of rust and hazard-warning yellow has appeared, fighting burglars, thieves, drug-dealers, graffiti-taggers. Flashback: he’s Dan, an ex-worker in one of the high-tech heavy defence plants, horrified at the social breakdown, going through the many scrapheaps of the town and cobbling together his suit from industrial junk, trying to save his home.
Dan smashes up a crack house, but while most of those within run, one stays and jeers at him, calls him a bully. Dan knows her: Louise was the union rep at his factory. He’s ashamed: he always liked her. They get talking. ‘You really want to do right by Flinton?’ Louise says eventually. ‘By all the other Flintons? Then quit messing with symptoms. It’s time to take down the real villain.’
On his return to Mexico in the late-’60s, Jodorowsky started writing and drawing a subversive weekly comic strip (”Panic ?Fables”) in the right-wing newspaper The Herald.
“For four or five years every Sunday I drew a comics page, a complete story,” he told me in 2003. “But it was very basic. When I saw [cartoonist and future Jodorowsky collaborator] Moebius making the drawings, I stopped. And I never make any more.”
“Sipping from a glass of white wine and secretly itching for a cigarette (he later admitted), Art Spiegelman glibly entertained a gaggle of British adult comic-book fans. We were all in a small theatre at London’s Institute for Contemporary Arts, where Spiegelman explained his rationale for what is perhaps one of his most shocking drawings from the 1970s: a decapitated man getting fucked in the neck.
“I did the most vile comics I could possibly think of, because I thought that’s what underground comics were all about,” he said with an unapologetic shrug. He then admitted that Robert Crumb, a comic artist renowned for testing the limits of taste in his own drawings, banned him from his house in San Francisco in the 1960s. His wife was just too disturbed by that particular image.
The drawing appears in Spiegelman’s most recent effort, a new edition of “Breakdowns: A Portrait of the Artist as Young %@&*!”, created first in 1978. This book, said Spiegelman, should lend some insight into his evolution from vile cartoonist to Pulitzer Prize-winning artist and illustrator. The Pulitzer came in 1992 for “Maus”, a personal story about the Holocaust in which Jews were depicted as mice and Nazi Germans as cats. Though canonised now as an important unconventional memoir, “Maus” was originally met in 1978 with “a stunning silence”, Spiegelman said. His goal for the project, first drawn with a fountain pen, was to make readers feel like they were reading a diary. “Breakdowns” offers a trek through Spiegelman’s early work and development as a comic artist, revealing what he grappled with before “Maus”. At the lecture, Spiegelman presented slides from the book–rough, silly, strange and sometimes simple images that exemplified his mantra: “comics should be whatever you want them to be.”
What’s the solution to America’s crisis in science education? More comic books. In December comes The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, a remarkably thorough explanation of the science of genetics, from Mendel to Venter, with a strand of social urgency spliced in. “If there was ever a time that we needed a push to make science a priority, it’s now,” says Howard Zimmerman, the book’s editor and, not coincidentally, a former elementary-school science teacher. “Advances in treatments for disease cannot take place in a society that shuns science.” Zimmerman works with the New York literary publishing house Hill and Wang, which discovered Elie Weisel and has been creating a new niche for itself as one of the premiere producers of major graphic “nonfiction novels” like the war on terror primer After 9/11 and the bio-comic Ronald Reagan.
Stuff of Life is the first in a series dedicated to the hard sciences. The author is Mark Schultz, a DC Comics veteran and creator of the postapocalyptic classic Xenozoic Tales. The 160-page work, illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (improbably, no genetic relation), covers the regenerative processes of DNA, human migratory patterns, cloned apples, and stem cells. In a rapidly changing field, it’s as up-to-date and accurate as possible.
I’ve been a big fan of Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” for as long as I can remember. His “outside the box” comics of silly reactions that monsters, animals, insects, aliens, and even vegetables might have in reaction to us human beings pulls me out of my reality tunnel and makes me laugh, and sometimes more importantly, is a reminder not to take everything so seriously. Now a DVD set of “Tales From The Far Side”, an animated series that appeared on TV in 1994, is available.
“Almost everyone has seen a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon in a newspaper or on a T-shirt, mug, calendar, or greeting card. But if you weren’t watching CBS on the night of October 26, 1994, you missed Tales From the Far Side, an award-winning animated short film that you’ve probably never heard of. Yes, that’s right: the Far Side was animated. Twice. And it’s brilliant.
The first short film premiered as a Halloween special in 1994, where couch potatoes and animation buffs like me saw it and were never able to forget it. The program was never broadcast on television again, but it did make the rounds at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, where it took the Grand Prix. Three years later, a sequel (aptly titled Tales From the Far Side II) never even made it to television.
Both short films are comprised of a series of vignettes in the visual style of the print comics, with a haunting musical accompaniment by jazz guitarist Bill Frisell (who has featured some of the scores from the soundtrack on his disc Quartet). The tone ranges from the slapstick to the macabre, humorous to depressing, and even has some live action cow action thrown in there.”