FANTAGRAPHICS ACQUIRES LOST ‘GRAPHIC NOVEL' BY WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS & ARTIST MALCOLM McNEILL
SEATTLE, WA, SEPT. 9, 2010 --- Fantagraphics Books is proud to announce the acquisition of the only graphic novel written by — and possibly the last unseen work of his to be published — the innovative Beat writer and Naked Lunch author, William S. Burroughs. This lost masterpiece, Ah Pook Is Here, created in collaboration with artist Malcolm McNeill in the 1970s, will be published in the summer of 2011 as a spectacularly packaged two-volume, hinged set, along with Observed While Falling, McNeill's memoir documenting his collaboration with one of America's most iconic authors.
Ah Pook Is Here first appeared in 1970 under the title The Unspeakable Mr. Hart as a monthly comic strip written by Burroughs and drawn by the British cartoonist and painter Malcolm McNeil in the English magazine Cyclops. When the publication folded, Burroughs and McNeill decided to develop the project into a full-length, Word/Image novel (the term "graphic novel" had not yet been coined). Burroughs was 56 at the time, McNeill 23.
The book was conceived as a single painting in which text and images were combined in whatever form seemed appropriate to the narrative. It was conceived as 120 continuous pages that would "fold out." Such a book was, at the time, unprecedented, and no publisher was willing to take a chance and publish a "graphic novel." Burroughs and McNeill finally abandoned the project after collaborating on it for 7 years.
"It is singularly appropriate that after championing literate comics and the graphic novel form for over 30 years, Fantagraphics Books should bring a literary collaboration between one of America's most distinctive writers and his exemplary hand-chosen artist to light," says Fantagraphics Publisher and acquiring editor Gary Groth.
Ah Pook Is Here is a consideration of time with respect to the differing perceptions of the ancient Maya and that of the current Western mindset. It was Burroughs' contention that both of these views result in systems of control in which the elite perpetuate its agendas at the expense of the people. They make time for themselves and through increasing measures of Control attempt to prolong the process indefinitely.
John Stanley Hart is the "Ugly American" or "Instrument of Control" - a billionaire newspaper tycoon obsessed with discovering the means for achieving immortality. Based on the formulae contained in rediscovered Mayan books he attempts to create a Media Control Machine using the images of Fear and Death. By increasing Control, however, he devalues time and invokes an implacable enemy: Ah Pook, the Mayan Death God. Young mutant heroes using the same Mayan formulae travel through time bringing biologic plagues from the remote past to destroy Hart and his Judeo/Christian temporal reality.
Ah Pook Is Here was an experiment, not just in terms of the form in which the idea was expressed but the possible effects the form might produce. Burroughs was preoccupied throughout his career with the fundamental nature of words and images, particularly with regard to their ability to transcend time. In the case of Ah Pook Is Here, the rapport between artist and writer produced results that confirmed that contention. Ah Pook is the kind of extrapolative, futuristic feat of imagination that a reader would expect from the author of Nova Express and The Ticket That Exploded — a mind-boggling tour de force, dramatizing outré theories with a science fiction patina.
The second book in the set is Observed While Falling, written by Malcolm McNeill, an account of the personal and creative interaction that defined the collaboration between the writer and the artist, the events surrounding it, and the reasons for its ultimate demise. McNeill describes his growing friendship with Burroughs and how their personal relationship affected their creative partnership. The book is written with insight and humor, and liberally sprinkled with the kind of the hilarious anecdotes one would expect working with a writer as original and eccentric as William S. Burroughs. It confirms the prescience of Ah Pook Is Here with respect to the contemporary graphic novel; Burroughs' exploration of the artistic potential of combining words and images was a revelation to the artist. The book offers new insights into Burroughs' working methods as well as how the two explored the possibilities of words and images working together to form the ambitious literary hybrid that they didn't know, at the time, was a harbinger of the 21st century's "graphic novel."
"Fantagraphics is honored to bring this major work into print and to publish what is quite possibly the last great work from one of America's most original prose stylists," added Groth. "Burroughs once said that 'The purpose of writing is to make it happen.' We are proud to make Ah Pook Is Here finally happen."
From the files, Item #1,075,763,294. Over the years, we've tried virtually every approach to "rejection" letters that I can think of: supreme diplomacy, false hope, honest criticism, scorched earth rejection, and everything in between. So I'm not sure which kind prompted this reply from an aspiring cartoonist*, but it makes me laugh every time I see it (it's been hanging on a basement wall for years):
In 2003, when Harvey Pekar's American Splendor film was coming out, the indie-friendly film chain Landmark Cinemas was really high on the film and an acquaintance of mine who worked as a graphic designer for their in-house magazine, FLM, asked me if I would try to edit a short comics section in tribute to Harv. So I did. It didn't come out quite like I'd hoped, but I was honored to do it. I thought of this when Harvey passed away recently and I wrote this, but couldn't find a copy. This weekend, while starting to move everything out of my basement to have some work done, I found it. As far as I know, it isn't on the web anywhere else, and there are some great pieces.
Click HERE for a larger version than what's below, so you can read all of it, but here's the Tim Hensley piece to whet your whistle:
Today is Roberto Clemente Day, honoring Latin America's greatest baseball player of All-Time, and one of the game's great humanitarians. Clemente was a 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
This is a great opportunity for us to re-announce one of our most eagerly-awaited projects of the last few years: Wilfred Santiago's forthcoming graphic novel, 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente. Wilfred has been working on this book for several years now, and it's been delayed more than once because the project kept growing bigger and bigger. We're pleased to announce that Wilfred has completed the 200-page book and the book will be released in April, 2011, in time for the 2011 baseball season. Spring always brings a slew of new and interesting baseball books, and we expect 21 to lead next year's pack.
The biographical 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a human drama of courage, faith and dignity, inspired by the life of baseball star Roberto Clemente. No other baseball player dominated the 1960s like Roberto Clemente and no other Latin American player achieved his numbers. Born in 1924 in Puerto Rico, Clemente excelled in track and field and loved baseball. By the age of 17 he was playing in the PR Winter league. Spotted by the big-league scouts because of his hitting, fielding, and throwing abilities, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954. A fierce competitor, within two seasons he was hitting above .300 consistently. He played like a man possessed, fielding superbly, unleashing his rifle arm, and hitting in clutch situations. Despite his aesthetic brilliance, he faced prejudice throughout his career and was given his due only after his unexpected and tragic death in a 1972 plane crash.
Although baseball was his obsession, Clemente never lost sight of his dreams and his greater responsibilities outside the game. This sense of urgency is what came to define him beyond that of a grand athlete. His eventual success and accompanying celebrity gave him the opportunity to engage his conscience in public life. He died when his plane went down in the Caribbean Sea on a relief mission to earthquake-torn Nicaragua that he personally directed.
21 chronicles Clemente's life from his early days growing up in rural Puerto Rico, the highlights of his career (including the 1960 World Series where he helped the Pirates win its first victory in 33 years, and his 3000th hit in 1972 during the last official at-bat of his life) as well as his private life and public mission off the field.
After his death, Major League Baseball declared September 18 to be "Roberto Clemente Day," and in 1999, Pittsburgh's Sixth Street Bridge was renamed the Roberto Clemente Bridge in honor of the greatest Latino ballplayer in history. Wilfred Santiago captures the grit of Clemente's rise from his impoverished Puerto Rican childhood, to the majesty of his performance on the field, to his fundamental decency as a human being in a drawing style that combines realistic attention to detail and expressive cartooning.
Wilfred Santiago was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He now lives in Chicago.
21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago $22.99 Hardcover • 200 pages • April 2011 ISBN 978-1-56097-892-3
In addition to our author signings, we'll have the following new books in tow: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec by Jacques Tardi • Book of Mr. Natural by R. Crumb • Fire & Water: Bill Everett, The Sub-Mariner and the Birth of Marvel Comics by Blake Bell • Four Color Fear by Greg Sadowski • From Shadow to Light: The Art of Mort Meskin by Steven Brower • Love & Rockets New Stories #3 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez • Lucky In Love by George Chieffet & Stephen DeStefano • Sanctuary by Nate Neal • Too Soon? by Drew Friedman • You'll Never Know Book Two by C. Tyler • Zippy Ding Dong Daddy by Bill Griffith • MOME 20 by various
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