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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Masereel, Herriman, Maggots

Well, clearly I didn't make good on my promise to keep the blog humming over the summer -- I ended up jealously guarding my writing time for the graphic novel I was working on. I did have a small handful of pieces published elsewhere during the summer, so I might as well get the ball back rolling again with links to those -- a couple short appreciations of some "art heroes" of mine, and a look at a graphic novel I admire very much.

The two appreciations were for, for their daily "HiLo Heroes" feature, which gives a tip of the hat to a wide variety of people (artists, physicists, actors, and on and on) on their birthdays. On July 31st, it was Frans Masereel's birthday, of whom I wrote:

Belgian artist FRANS MASEREEL (1889-1972) raged against the stupidity of war as an illustrator for a series of pacifist magazines and books. He was a propagandist, the clarity of his high-contrast style suited equally well to the crude printing-press and the ideological punchline, but his agitprop kept strong strains of slapstick and poetry.

Read the entire piece here.

Then, on August 22nd, it was George Herriman's birthday:

GEORGE HERRIMAN’s (1880-1944) comic strip “Krazy Kat” spun its three-point wheel for thirty years on the axis of a perfectly balanced love triangle (or masochism triangle — same difference). Much has been written about that triangle’s principals: Ignatz Mouse, a napoleonic id; Offisa Pup, upholding the prosaic squareness of Authority; and Krazy Kat, embodying grace as blank abuse (laid out by the missile of an Ignatz-hurled brick, Krazy might’ve said, like Swayzee, “Pain don’t hurt”).

Read the whole thing here. The piece also includes a link to a full-page comic appreciation I did for "Krazy Kat" back in the day, on the back page of the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review.

And lastly, I had a short piece in the brick-sized The Comics Journal #301. It was a look at Brian Chippendale's graphic novel Maggots -- which took a very distinctive approach to showing the passage of time. There's a nice overview of The Comics Journal #301 here at Win Wiacek's blog; and here's a paragraph from my article, contrasting the way time functions in classical painting, and the way it functions when we have access, through film or video, to the brief split-seconds:

This traditional pictorial surface doesn’t so much freeze time, as to put time in abeyance. This is not a snapshot record of an event, but a memory of an event, reconstituted after the fact, all its pertinent details congealed in an authoritative simultaneity. The duration of time there is not measured by moments, but by experiences. This is in contrast to the way an animator must reconstitute time – or the way one becomes conscious of time when scrubbing through a video clip, looking to isolate from the stream a representative still. The weirdness of time there is most evident in facial expressions – the way human visages are distorted into strange grimaces when motions become moments. A visual stimulus does not always rise to the occasion of an image; an image or a gesture is something that sustains itself beyond the imprint of the moment – something that lives as an echo in the mind after it’s vanished from the gelled chamber of the eye.

The article isn't available online, so you'll have to actually shell out for a copy (or, you know, just swing by my office and ask nicely to borrow mine).

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