Ray Fenwick has pioneered his own medium of storytelling, one best described as "typographical comics." Hall of Best Knowledge is presented as a handsome, personal journal written by an unnamed voice, referred to only as "The Author." Little is known about him; he makes occasional, derogatory references to a twin brother and younger sibling, but reveals little else. He clearly fashions himself a genius, writing with a faux-aristocratic air, and it is presumably his belief in his own genius that leads him to want to share his knowledge with the world. Each page features information such as "It hardly needs mentioning that riding a pony is no intellectual triumph.... If riding a pony is so fantastic, why have I never read of any renowned pony-riding genius? It is because such a person does not exist, making it a foolish waste of time unworthy of attention." These pearls of wisdom are lettered in an elegant, almost obsessive fashion, entirely hand-crafted and bedecked with Ionic columns and fleurs-de-lis.
It becomes obvious to the reader early on that all is not as it seems; only at the end does the picture become completely clear. The ensuing journey is a riotous tour through the narrator's ego and id, and the humor builds accordingly as he is revealed to be not nearly as smart—or sophisticated—as he thinks.
Hall of Best Knowledge is part graphic novel, part art object, part satire, part puzzle. The slow unfolding of the author and his story builds humor with each page, creating a peculiar examination of the idea of genius and the problems that arise in the search and transmission of knowledge.
HOBK is an elegantly designed and packaged book, presented as a found journal, with a belly band and other production/design touches to further solidify and give form to the concept of the book.
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JOHN WATERS TALKS CHARLIE BROWN AS THE '60S WIND DOWN.
As we rush toward the end of Peanuts' second full decade, Snoopy finds himself almost completely engrossed in his persona as the World War I Flying Ace — to the point where he goes to camp with Charlie Brown and maintains his persona throughout the entire two-week period (much to Peppermint Patty's bafflement).
Still, Snoopy looms large, so this volume (a particularly Snoopy-heavy one) sees him arm-wrestling Lucy as the "Masked Marvel" and then taking off for Petaluma for the national arm-wrestling championship; impersonating a vulture and a "Cheshire Beagle"; enjoying golf and hockey; attempting a jaunt to France for an ice-skating championship; running for office on the "Paw" ticket; being traded to Peppermint Patty's baseball team, then un-traded and installed as team manager by a guilt-ridden Charlie Brown; as well as dealing with the return of his original owner, Lila. If you're surprised by that last one, imagine how Charlie Brown feels...
Lila makes only a brief appearance (as does José Peterson, a short-lived — and short — star member of Charlie Brown's baseball team), but this volume sees the appearance of what would be Schulz's most controversial major character: Franklin. (Yes, in 1968 the introduction of a Black character caused a stir.)
Peppermint Patty, working toward her ascendancy as one of the major Peanuts players in the 1970s and 1980s, also has several major turns, including a storyline in which she’s the tent monitor for three little girls (who call her "Sir" — a joke Schulz would pick up later with Peppermint Patty's friend Marcie).
Stories involving other characters include a sequence in which Linus's flippant comment to his Gramma that he'll kick his blanket habit when she kicks her smoking habit backfires; Lucy bullies Linus, pesters Schroeder, and organizes a "crab-in"; plus Charlie Brown copes with Valentine's Day depression, the Little Red-Haired Girl, the increasingly malevolent kite-eating tree, and baseball losses. In other words: Vintage Peanuts!
"The real war," said Walt Whitman, "will never get in the books." During World War II, the closest most Americans ever came to the "real war" was through the cartoons of Bill Mauldin, the most beloved enlisted man in the U.S. Army.
Here, for the first time, Fantagraphics Books brings together Mauldin's complete works from 1940 through the end of the war. This collection of over 600 cartoons, most never before reprinted, is more than the record of a great artist: it is an essential chronicle of America's citizen-soldiers from peace through war to victory.
Bill Mauldin knew war because he was in it. He had created his characters, Willie and Joe, at age 18, before Pearl Harbor, while training with the 45th Infantry Division and cartooning part-time for the camp newspaper. His brilliant send-ups of officers were pure infantry, and the men loved it.
After wading ashore with his division on the first of its four beach invasions in July 1943, Mauldin and his men changed — and Mauldin's cartoons changed accordingly. Months of miserable weather, bad food, and tedium interrupted by the terror of intense bombing and artillery fire took its toll. By the year's end, virtually every man in Mauldin's original rifle company was killed, wounded, or captured.
The wrinkles in Willie and Joe's uniforms deepened, the bristle on their faces grew, and the eyes — "too old for those young bodies," as Mauldin put it — betrayed a weariness that would remain the entire war. With their heavy brush lines, detailed battlescapes, and pidgin of army slang and slum dialect, Mauldin's cartoons and captions recreated on paper the fully realized world of the American combat soldier. Their dark, often insubordinate humor sparked controversy among army brass and incensed General George S. Patton, Jr.
This is the first of several volumes publishing the best of Bill Mauldin's single panel strips from 1940 to 1991 (when he stopped drawing). His Willie & Joe cartoons are presented in a deluxe, beautifully designed two-volume slipcased edition of over 600 pages. The series is edited by Todd DePastino, whose Mauldin scholarship is on full display in a biography of the artist released in February 2008 from W.W. Norton. Willie & Joe contains an introduction and running commentary by DePastino, providing context for the drawings, pertinent biographical details of Mauldin's life, and occasional background on specific cartoons (such as the ones that made Patton howl).
An exhibit of Ho Che Anderson's original artwork from King, running through the end of this week at Sala de Exposiciones CAM de Alicante in Alicante, Spain, re-opens in Valencia, Spain on April 7 at Aula CAM de Valencia La Llotgeta. More information here (en Español).
Seattle residents can look forward to some public art by Ellen Forney. Sez Ellen:
I'll be doing the public art for the Sound Transit tunnel from the west entrance by SCCC under Broadway, to the station. Yay! I'm not sure what art I'm going to do yet (Big Fuckin' Hands or naked ladies might not pass through the committee processes) but I'll come up with something with my signature feel-good flair. (Here is a "sample of my public work," courtesy of Photoshop.)
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