More than a decade ago, I came across a little hand-drawn journal in a second-hand bookstore in Cambridge. Written by Dan Price, it was called the Moonlight Chronicles, and I was completely charmed by the beautiful drawings and the quirky descriptions of his life and travels. Ten years later, at another Cambridge store, I happened on another inspirational drawn travelogue. This one was called Carnet de Voyage, and the art, by Craig Thompson, is far more virtuosic than Price’s oddball line drawings. But the charm is the same: an eccentric aesthete takes you for a walkabout looking through their talented eyes. In this case, Thompson is traveling around France and Morocco. The artwork is really gorgeous.
I went on to buy Thompson’s larger opus Blankets, which is another amazing piece of work, and after that I tracked down his blog, Doot Doot Garden. The blog is fun because you get to see him unfold some of his creative process, from the tools he uses to unpublished sketches and work in progress. And, as with all cartoonists, you will eventually find a long thoughtful interview in The Comics Journal.
For some reason, I find comics artists as a rule to be far more articulate and engaging in describing their artistic process than a typical musician, writer, or purely visual artist. I’m not sure if that’s because of the nature of the work (being both graphical and narrative) or that I simply enjoy the medium. In any event, I highly recommend Blankets, Carnet de Voyage, and old copies of the Moonlight Chronicles, if you’re lucky enough to find some.
Via Lynn‘s twittering last night, I came across Spamusement, a site with cartoons drawn to correspond to actual spam email subject lines. This reminds me of the old Surrealist parlor games like Exquisite Corpse. By God, we should be doing more to amuse ourselves with the discovered poetry of spam. It’s the moral equivalent of cooking with kudzu or rendering roadkill into biodiesel. We’ll never eliminate our dependency on foreign oil unless we tap our vast spam reserves.
I was especially happy to see that one of the cartoons (not appreciated for what you know) addresses the plight of those suffering from Python Tourette syndrome. Here’s another good one. If you had to draw the cartoon for “get rid of premature ejactulation and last longer”, I bet you wouldn’t do better than this. Bad drawing, but darn good writing.
I was talking about Alan’s favorite graphic novels last week, so it only seems fitting this week to point you to a few good web comics while we’re on this topic. MakeUseOf.com has a list of 5 Great WebComics You Should Read. Garfield minus Garfield is right up there with the Nietzsche Family Circus in terms of madcap nihilism.
English teacher (and Star Chamber Correspondent) Alan Kennedy writes to tell us about a new book recommendation site his brother-in-law is building called Flashlight Worthy. With lots of hand-picked book lists and reviews, it’s a sort of annex and way station to Amazon.
For our purposes here, one of the fun things about it is Alan’s list called The Best Graphic Novels. I didn’t know Alan was a fan of graphic novels, but I see he’s picked some of my all-time favorites too. American Born Chinese was a recent lucky find for me, and was part of my omnivorous search for a better understanding of the crashing surf between Chinese and American cultures.
I was thinking of adding a list on books about numbers: pi, e, i, phi, zero, infinity, and one. But I’ve only read two of those so far, and at any rate, Flashlight Worth is still in beta, so it doesn’t support automated book list creation yet. But it looks like a fun place. Check it out.
Got a 1938 Action Comics #1 sitting in a box in the attic? It might be worth half a million dollars. I learned that last Saturday.
My son recently turned nine, and at his birthday party I happened to be talking to another parent, talking the party talk, as one does. Talkety-talk-talk. What sort of work do you do? I inquired blithely. I am the pre-eminent restorer of high-value comics on the planet she replied serenely. NOTE: She didn’t actually say this. She was very casual and modest about it. But in fact she is the pre-eminent restorer of high-value comics on the planet. Her name is Susan Cicconi, and her site is called The Restoration Lab.com. If you have a weatherbeaten comic book that needs sprucing up, she is the person you need to talk to. Trained in Paris as a restorer specializing in high art, she eventually made the shift into pop culture, and business has been good.
I love having interesting neighbors.
More and more money has been pouring into comics collecting. Susan was the one who told me about the current price being fetched by Action Comics #1 (she has restored several of them over the years). Interestingly, she said that a recent trend may start to impact her business: you get more money for a valuable old comic that has never been restored. It reminds me of those appraisers on Antiques Roadshow: “If you hadn’t just scrubbed the filth off of this ugly-ass chair, it would be worth $1.4 million. But now all I can offer you is $3.50 and a couple of scratch tickets.”
Now that I think about it, there would be a big market for a new show called Antique Comics Roadshow.