By Ted Rall. Illus. by the author.
2016. 208p. Seven Stories, paper, $16.95
Rall is an outlier among cartoonists, an
unabashed, outspoken leftist who draws
with a blunt, unpolished style. That makes
him more than suited to portray the life and
convictions of his political analogue, Bernie
Sanders, the outspoken maverick senator who
has embarked on a surprisingly viable run for
the presidency. The first third of the book
recounts the Democratic Party’s conservative lurch following the McGovern debacle
of 1972 and its subsequent drift rightward.
The recent rise of the Occupy movement
and other signs of life on the left set the stage
for Sanders’ remarkable ascent. Rall then recounts Sanders’ life, from his activist youth
to his elections as Vermont mayor, then U.S.
representative, then U.S. senator. Much space
in the text-heavy biographical section is devoted to verbatim quotes voicing Sanders’
views (taken in part from an interview with
Rall). The straightforward format consists of
heavy blocks of didactic text accompanied
by Rall’s distinctively quirky drawings. The
book’s shelf-life is likely to expire once Sanders’ quixotic campaign does, but until then,
expect demand from Bernie’s loyal backers.
Cruising through the Louvre.
By David Prudhomme. Illus. by the
Feb. 2016. 80p. NBM/ComicsLit, $22.99
In this entry in NBM’s Louvre collection,
the author himself wanders the endless museum, separated from his companion, Jeanne.
The story is minimal: How will David and
Jeanne find each other when it appears they are
up against the castle-museum’s fortress against
cell phone reception, and especially once David’s phone dies? Prudhomme’s illustrations,
however, are ecstatic. Crisp black-and-white
text bubbles of David’s phone conversations bleat out over the author’s soft, precise
colored-pencil reproductions of the grand
galleries of the museum and its large, recognizable tableaux. Alternately photographic
and cartoony, panels show paintings, sculpture, and the spoils of antiquity alongside seas
of visitors—many of them lovers embracing
or pals clowning. Absurdity reigns when David is miniaturized or Jeanne is reduced to a
floating head, bobbing through the Louvre,
still just out of each other’s range. An irreverent, giddy contemplation of the ways we
seek inspiration, the places we go to find it,
and what it means to interact with art in the
twenty-first century. Two final spreads share
Louvre facts and trivia. —Annie Bostrom
Flashed: Sudden Stories in Comics and
Ed. by Josh Neufeld and Sari Wilson.
Feb. 2016. 184p. illus. Pressgang, $24.95
Cartoonist Neufeld and writer Wilson
bring together an assemblage of cartoonists
and authors for a unique collaboration. Flash
fiction (limited to 1,000 words for prose,
four pages for comics) is produced based
on a “seed story” and broken into groups of
three under such intriguing thematic headings as “Shell Shocked,” “Leviathan,” and
“Mutable Architecture.” The story interpretations can share a character, an incident, a
trajectory, or just a particularly rich line or
word, though the most potent juxtapositions
riff on a particular feeling, as in the three
“Frozen” stories, which delve with differing
interpretations of isolation and loneliness,
or offer resonating tonal surprises, as with
the “Venus & Mars” stories, which take on
relationship woes. Though as a whole the
comics tend to be more boldly experimental
than the prose, the book itself is a fascinating
example of how a transition from words to
visual art and vice versa can deepen, subvert,
or transform an idea in a revelatory way, and
Flashed burns brightest when fired by this alchemy of discovery. —Jesse Karp
Gahan Wilson’s Out There.
By Gahan Wilson. Illus. by the
2016. 304p. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (9781606998458).
Whereas Wilson contributed to Playboy
forever (Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy
Cartoons, 2010), his work graced (or grazed,
like bear claws or sharkskin)
the Magazine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction a mere 17
years. His MF&SF portfolio
includes 197 full-page cartoons, 4 full-color covers,
5 one-page stories, 4 longer
stories, and a dozen book-review columns. Rumors
of some still-fugitive movie reviews are out
there, but let completists worry about those.
All the enumerated items are gathered in this
volume that anyone who cares about fantasy,
sf, and ghoulish humor dare not miss—dare
not because . . . Wait! What’s that in the
corner? Hear that? In the basement, is it?
The attic . . . Creepy hilarity is Wilson’s
métier, and his slightly wobbly line is the
perfect medium for bringing out the terror
and madness in the people and critters he
portrays as he shows them confronting the
ridiculous and dire eruption of the fancies of
popular culture—Mickey Mouse and Super-
man, for instance, as well as werewolves and
vampires—into the real world. The stories,
such as the 4-page “M- 1,” are pretty mar-
velous, too, and even the book reviews are
full of wit and—though it may seem contra-
dictory but is a key component of Wilson’s
essence—warmth. —Ray Olson
Only What’s Necessary: Charles M.
Schulz and the Art of the Peanuts.
By Chip Kidd. Illus. by Charles M. Schulz.
2015. 304p. Abrams ComicArts, $40 (9781419716393).
When fans and critics alike extol the
much-loved comic strip Peanuts, they often
tend to focus on its lovable characters or
its gentle philosophizing, slighting the deceptively simple cartooning of its creator,
Charles Schulz. Rectifying this, renowned
art director Kidd has assembled a handsome
volume accentuating the graphic element,
which Schulz always felt was central to the
strip. Given unprecedented access to Schulz’s
archives, he includes strips from throughout
Peanuts’ 50-year run, shot from the original artwork, as well as preliminary sketches
and unpublished and uncompleted comics.
Rarities include episodes of Li’l Folks, the
precursor to Peanuts, and seldom-seen non-
Peanuts cartoons featuring teenagers and
even adults. Ephemera ranges from board
games and beverage napkins to early advertisements in which the tykes hawk Ford autos
and Butternut Bread. Kidd’s search of the
archives even turned up Schulz’s correspondence with a reader that led to his creation
of an African American character in 1968.
There’s no shortage of coffee-table tributes to
Schulz and his career, but this is the one that
hardcore Peanuts aficionados will find most
rewarding. —Gordon Flagg
The Private Eye.
By Brian K. Vaughan. Illus. by
2015. 300p. Image Comics, $49.99 (9781632155726).
In the future, everyone will have an alias.
In a world where all online secrets have been
revealed, people now adopt aliases and masks
to hide their private
lives; it’s the perfect
place for a private
PI. When his client
is murdered hours
after assigning him, PI and his assistants violently unravel a conspiracy bigger than any
of them, aiming to change the course of society. Vaughan (Saga, 2012), known for his
unique world building and suspenseful story
arcs, has possibly outdone himself with this
one. Combining the archetypes of a gripping
noir mystery with commentary on contemporary obsession with social media, he tells a
story as poignant as it is compelling. In one
sense, calling this unique volume a graphic
novel does not do it justice, as the oblong,
widescreen format of the book makes it
more cinematic than merely graphic, expertly mimicking the very film genres that
inspired it. Martin’s character design elevates