I Love Led Zeppelin (Fantagraphics)

illzheaderEllen Forney's new collection of strips from magazines, newspapers, comics, and anthologies brings what we've come to expect from the artist: ribald honesty, withering observations, a gift for the language, cute drawings, and always, her sharp sense of humor.



112 pgs. B&W, some color; $19.95 softcover

(W: Ellen Forney & friends; A: Ellen Forney)



In a one-page comic called "Seattle's Erotic Landmarks," Ellen Forney makes mention of — and draws — a "butthole"-shaped sculpture that's titled "Moonflower." She writes of its serendipitous name, "Would that we all referred to our sphincters in such a poetic and doting manner."


It's what we've come to expect from Forney: ribald honesty, withering observations, a gift for the language, cute drawings, and always, her sharp sense of humor (featuring the occasional butthole).


The cover to I Love Led Zeppelin by Ellen Forney. Click the thumbnail for a larger image.I Love Led Zeppelin is a hodgepodge of strips previously published in magazines, newspapers, comics, and anthologies. The "How-To" section, illustrated interviews with an assortment of experts-in-their-fields, includes a stomach-turning guide to the five types of finger amputations. "How to Become a Successful Call Girl" includes such tips as "Floss" and "Have a lawyer." "How to Smoke Pot and Stay Out of Jail" advises what not to say when the cops come a-calling. (Fans of Forney may recall her gloriously sweet and funny I Was Seven in '75 autobiographical strips, in which she depicts herself separating schwag from stems and seeds for her thoroughly liberated hippie parents.)


From there on out, the laughs just start snowballing. In "The Final Soundtrack," she imagines the indignity of dying in a car accident, fading out while the radio happens to be playing some crap by Bobby Brown or Don Henley. The horror!


In "What the Drugs Taught Me," a collaboration with writer David Schmader, the author describes the moment when his mother told him how she tried cocaine for the first time — with Deep Purple on their tour bus. He does a spit-take, showering the dashboard of his car with root beer. Forney writes "really happened!!" next to the drawing — it's the sort of subtle touch that charms. Later in the same strip, Schmader's description of 38 theater majors all taking Ecstasy together is, as you can imagine, deliciously funny.


Then there's the true tale of how controversial academic Camille Paglia asked Forney out on a date. Forney wants to know more about her suitor, so she reads some Paglia, including a passage in which women's genitals are described as "a symbol of death," and likened to "a smelly, primal swamp." Forney draws herself with a deadpan expression that complements the text perfectly; you have to laugh out loud.


A quiet one-pager called "Izzy" is Forney at her best. It's a schematic diagram of a nerdy friend from high school, pointing out all the girl's idiosyncrasies, including "[hair] spikes for special occasions (e.g. sneaking into OMD or Depeche Mode concerts)" and "one of thirty-two rotating Gary Numan pins." This entry has the same sort of warm nostalgia and fun details that made I Was Seven such great candy.


The cover of this new collection is a self-portrait of the author leaning against her beloved '68 Mercury Cougar. She's wearing the Led Zep "Swan Song"-emblem T-shirt, a short skirt and fishnet stockings. The back cover is a close-up drawing of a run in the stockings — it's a clever design touch.


But what's really clever is Forney's writing. She hardy needs art to go with it, it sometimes seems. But in the end, it's the symbiosis of that sharp wit and her crisp, joyful drawings that make a great comic sui generis — of a medium that can't be effectively compared to writing or art alone. | Byron Kerman


Click the thumbnails below for a 3-page sample of I Love Led Zeppelin, and be sure to check out Forney's website at http://www.ellenforney.com/index.html!


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