Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gods' Man, Madman's Drum, & Wild Pilgrimage by Lynd Ward

So researching about proto-graphic novels led me to Lynd Ward, who I’d never heard of despite this collection having blurbs about him from Will Eisner & Robert Crumb & an extensive introduction from Art Spiegelman.  That said, the artwork feels familiar, that I have been exposed to it somewhere along the way, maybe in a history of printmaking course.
Ward’s work is silent woodcuts.  Collections of a hundred images (one per page) with no narrative text to help you know what’s going on.  All of them feel claustrophobic, conspiratory, & vaguely Kafka-esque.  Strangely, his first from 1929, Gods’ Man, seems his best; I think in part because the storyline (an artist selling his soul) is well known enough to follow without words.  Madman’s Drum I don’t understand what’s going on really; I can tell it’s an attempt to tell a more complicated story with more characters, but so much so that it could work as images only (I certainly feel it doesn’t here).  Wild Pilgrimage has a Metropolis dystopian escape vibe & it has an interesting experiment with dream sequences being printed in a different color than the reality portions, however you only know that if you read commentary as there isn’t a clue to that within the book itself.  In the end I’d say all of Lynd Ward’s art is phenomenal, but Gods’ Man really is both an important step in sequential art & a well-told story worth checking out.

It Rhymes with Lust by Arnold Drake, Leslie Waller, & Matt Baker

I found out about this book around 2002.  A graphic novel from 1939 pre-dating modern graphic novels by 30 years.  Of course how could I track such an item down?  Much less at a price I’d be willing to pay.  As luck would have it, Dark Horse reprinted this in 2007 & that’s the version I ended up with.  It’s 120 pages at a time when comic stories were typically under ten pages, which is fairly fascinating to have a story ten times the standard length.  The afterward explains the book was in response to GIs getting hooked on comics in WWII & trying to do something slightly more sophisticated targeted to that audience.
It Rhymes with Lust is a crime story of political corruption like you might find in a number of movies & books from the era.  It has photo-realistic art & the panel layout is simple & easy to follow.  My main complaint would be some of the word balloons would have made more sense as though balloons.  It’s not mind-blowing today, but it probably is worth checking out for it’s historical importance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst

So recently I’ve been trying to look at some of the proto-graphic novels.  The graphic novel as it is today more or less starts in the late 1970s with A Contract With God by Will Eisner & Sabre by Don McGregor & Paul Gulacy, but there were a number of books 50 or so years earlier that broke the mold of illustrated books not for children.  One of which is Une semaine de bonté from 1934.  I was vaguely familiar with Max Ernst previously & some of the images in this book I’d seen before.  But the idea that this is a narrative in anyway & a precursor to graphic novels I would say is false.  It’s a book of 182 collages built around different themes with all the source material being woodcuts.  It’s hard for me to look at collages & not think of them as adolescent &, I think especially these days with so many folks cutting & pasting things together using Photoshop, I’ve let go of thinking of it as art & collage only becomes interesting to me when I can see the physical piece with bits of cut paper & texture to it rather than a flat image.  There’s nothing wrong with this book, it’s worth looking at.  The surreal imagery of floors cut away & replaced with water & people’s heads cut out & replaced by lions & chickens is fun, but it doesn’t really do anything for me.
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