Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Fans of great comic art, run, don't walk, to your favorite bookstore and pick up a copy of McSweeney's #13, the eccentric magazine/literary journal published by Dave Eggers. This beautiful creation may just well be the comics anthology of the year.

I got my copy last week from amazon (which has it at 30% off, hint hint) and we have been oohing and aahing over it ever since. Like most McSweeney's publications, it's visually a gorgeous book. It's well worth the $25 list price — a massive hardcover with a gorgeous fold-out dust jacket featuring a comic strip by Ware (plus two minicomics stuffed inside as a bonus), it's soaked in comics love. But it's the content that makes it a keeper. Eggers and editor Chris Ware of "Acme Novelty Library" fame have assembled a huge, nearly 300-page goodie bag of alternative cartoonist greatest hits, buffered with interesting essays and ruminations on the comic form. This is a "who's who" of modern comics artists who aren't all biff-bang superheroics (which I like just fine too, but hey, a man can't eat nothing but candy bars) — beside Ware, you've got the Hernandez Brothers, Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine, Lynda Barry, Joe Sacco, Kaz, Ivan Brunetti, and many others that are "new to me." The material will give you hours of reading pleasure -- I've still only read maybe half the book. Also excellent are essays by authors like John Updike, who contributes one of my favorite essays by him, a look back at his childhood desire to be cartoonist, and a piece by Chris Ware on a 19th-century German who was one of the "first cartoonists" — and I'm still not sure if the carefully researched piece is a put-on or not. This issue is comics for adults, without being snarky or elitist about it.

Like I said, I'm still digging through this treasure trove of material, but it's just amazing. Anybody who thinks comics aren't as capable and diverse as any other art form needs to read this and rearrange their views.

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