Comic Art #8 (Buenaventura Press)

caheaderThe beautifully illustrated, glossy academic periodical on comics gets even better.

 

 

176 pgs. FC; $19.95

(W / A various; Edited by Todd Hignite)

 

Comic Art #8 is a departure from previous issues of the beautifully illustrated, glossy academic periodical on comics. It's now a beautifully illustrated, glossy academic periodical on comics that's nearly 200 pages thick, comes bundled with a lagniappe (a separate book, in this case Forty Cartoon Books of Interest by Seth), and costs a few shekels more than previous, at twenty bucks.

 

This is all part and parcel of editor Todd Hignite's decision to work with a new publisher, Buenaventura Press. If Comic Art was something you wanted to subscribe to before, now it's that much harder to resist.

 

The cover to Comic Art #8. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Of the many features that titillated me in this relaunched issue, the career chronology of Drew "Warts and All" Friedman was the most memorable. Friedman is instantly recognizable as the stylist who does pointillist caricatures of public figures, elevator operators, Jewish comedians, and comic-store owners, drawn to emphasize liver spots, pimples and wrinkles on the surface, and anger, sloth, stupidity, and perversity roiling just beneath. As a student at NYC's School of Visual Arts in the late 70's, Friedman managed to piss off a passel of instructors, including MAD co-founder Harvey Kurtzman (Friedman supposedly made Three Stooges-inspired noises during his lectures) and legendary comics innovator Will Eisner (who apparently appraised Friedman's stipple technique by offering "They sell Zip-A-Tone by the barrel, you know"). Tales like these, along with a generous spread from Friedman's oeuvre, bring a twisted smile to the reader's face.

 

A long interview with New Yorker cover artist and RAW contributor Richard McGuire showcases his yen for inventing new visual languages that express his ideas with a genuine elegance. A positively buoyant photo essay on the art used to merchandise gag items — such as joy buzzers, fake vomit, and dribble glasses — is a delight. An autobiographical comic by Zak Sally about an encounter with a man who once tormented EC Comics legend Wally Wood stays with you like a crime-scene photo — it's morbid and hard to shake. A brief look at illustrator of The Shadow Edd Cartier offers reproductions of his darkly atmospheric work.

 

The "bonus" that comes with the issue, Forty Cartoon Books of Interest by Seth, dovetails perfectly with the mission of Comic Art. The tiny 4"-by-5" paperback includes images of the cover and contents of a fascinating group of obscure graphic books, such as Saul Steinberg's 1954 The Passport, Ronald Searle's To the Kwai and Back: War Drawings 1939-1945, and Whitney Darrow's gently scandalous The Office Party.

 

If you head to http://www.comicartmagazine.com/, you'll find that every single back issue of the mag has sold out. This may engender feelings bereft and crappy. It certainly did for me. How am I going to get a hold of the goodies I missed? Comic Art #8 is on its way to selling out, too, I'm sure.

 

Reluctant to drop twenty bucks on a magazine? I understand, amigo. But Comic Art is now officially an objet d'art. It's a slick, classy, well-designed-and-written, square-bound look at the artists behind comics, illustrations, ‘zines, and book covers, domestic and foreign, then and now. It's not a meal you want to skip. | Byron Kerman

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