Originally created in 1997 and 1998 for the underground anthology Zero Zero, The Search for Smilin’ Ed is the latest of Kim Deitch’s graphic novels to showcase his obsessive burrowing into the nooks and crannies of vintage American popular culture.
Where Boulevard of Broken Dreams focused on the earliest days of the animation industry, Alias the Cat delved into the history of comic strips, and “Molly O’Dare” (collected in Shadowland) concerned vintage movie serials, The Search for Smilin’ Ed explores the wacky world of children’s TV shows.
Launched on his latest investigation by a remark from his brother about a shared childhood favorite (“Y’know, I heard that when Smilin’ Ed died... his body was NEVER found!”), Deitch begins to uncover some truly amazing things about the kiddie-show host and his malevolent sidekick, Froggy the Gremlin. Meanwhile, Deitch’s muse and nemesis Waldo the Cat abandons Deitch to hang out with some demon buddies, and soon both Waldo and Deitch are closing in on the mysteries of Smilin’ Ed and Froggy.
Ranging across the entire 20th century, replete with flashbacks, stories within stories, and guest appearances from other Deitch regulars, The Search for Smilin’ Ed is a narrative whirligig that shows Deitch at his wildest and woolliest. For those whose heads have started to spin at the complexity of Deitch's mythology, we've included a full-color two-way fold-out guide to "The Kim Deitch Universe," and Deitch scholar Bill Kartalopoulos offers a lengthy essay on the ins and outs of this ever-evolving, ever-expanding world where fantasy, reality, and satire combine, clash, and are sometimes downright indistinguishable.
Bonus! Deitch has also created a brand new story starring Waldo in his 21st century post-Alias the Cat state of domestic bliss, stumbling across an army of (French-) talking beavers. Of course, there’s a story behind that...
“Kim Deitch has created a private world as fully realized in its own way as Faulkner’s. He’s an American original, a spinner of yarns whose beautifully structured pages and intricate plots conjure up a haunting and haunted American past.” – Art Spiegelman
The Homewood Art Workshops wraps up its 35th anniversary celebration with a slide talk by legendary cartoonist Kim Deitch on Monday, April 26. Deitch's talk, "The Search for Smilin' Ed and Other Tales," will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the F. Ross Jones Building, Mattin Center, on the Homewood campus at 3400 N. Charles St. in Baltimore.
Deitch's latest book, The Search for Smilin' Ed, will be published by Fantagraphics in June. He will sign advance copies of Smilin' Ed at the Johns Hopkins Barnes & Noble, 3330 St. Paul Street, on Sunday, April 25, from 4 to 6 p.m.
Thanks to all the artists, attendees, and MoCCA staff & volunteers for helping make the 2010 MoCCA Art Festival our most successful ever! We sold out of numerous titles, some within hours (and to the chagrin of our artists who ran out of books to sign — sorry!), and had mobs of fans turn out for our signings.
We're no longer distributing Mineshaft, but we're happy to report that the essential underground comix zine is still going strong and the new 25th issue, with a cover by Sophie Crumb and featuring Peter Bagge, R. Crumb, Kim Deitch's review of papa Crumb's Genesis, Pat Moriarity and much more (see above), is at the printer and will be available from the publisher soon! If you order or subscribe now you can get $1 off select back issues — whatta deal!
Your daily roundup of art bits from 'round the web:
• Is this a glimpse inside Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 from Michael Kupperman? (Update: Nope) (Update update: Our own Adam Grano IDs it as a colorized page from Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret — what's goin' on here?)
• List:Only the Cinema's Ed Howard concludes counting down The Best Comics of the Decade: the top 20 includes "The Lute String" (available in Mome Vols. 9 & 10) by Jim Woodring at #16 ("It's moving, funny, and as with all of Woodring's work it demands a close reading"), Alias the Cat (originally The Stuff of Dreams) by Kim Deitch at #14 ("It's funny, goofy, exciting and far-ranging in its imaginative nonsense accumulations, and throughout it all Deitch's fond sense of nostalgia for a world that never quite was lends emotional heft to the story's elaborate twists and turns"), Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button and Mome stories (collected in The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.) at #13 ("Dash Shaw is an utterly brilliant young cartoonist who has, in a few short years, advanced from the academic experiments of his earlier work... into a formalist genius whose skills encompass both a natural gift for color and a feel for subtle, indirect characterization"), Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco at #7 ("Joe Sacco is a unique figure in modern comics: there is no one else who combines sheer cartooning chops with a newspaper reporter's sensibility and instincts in quite the same way. ... Safe Area Gorazde [is] an especially powerful document of the effects of war"), the comics of Kevin Huizenga at #4 ("Kevin Huizenga is the best young artist in comics. It's as simple as that. With his recent Fantagraphics series Ganges (part of the Ignatz line of high-quality pamphlets) Huizenga has matured into one of comics' finest formalists"), Jimbo in Purgatory by Gary Panter at #2 ("The denseness of Panter's references and cross-references makes the experience of reading this book a truly overwhelming experience; every line, every image, spirals into multiple other references and ideas, pulling in the whole wide expanse of world culture as a stomping ground for Jimbo's wanderings through the Purgatory of modern existence towards enlightenment"), and the Love and Rockets Vol. II work of Jaime Hernandez (as collected in Ghost of Hoppers and The Education of Hopey Glass) in the #1 slot ("There is no greater all-around artist in modern comics than Jaime Hernandez, and his recent work builds on his past successes so that his oeuvre as a whole is shaping up to be one of literature's best sustained stories about aging and the shifting of relationships over the course of a life").
• Review: "The best argument that the underground tradition is still alive is Hotwire Comics, edited by Glen Head (one of the most underrated cartoonists around, incidentally). Hotwire Comics is a visual assault, abrasive, confrontational, willing to poke and prod the audience: a real live wire that can shock. Everything a good underground comic book should be." – Jeet Heer, Comics Comics
• Review: "Strange Suspense is a handsome book generally, with a fun front cover and a nice, sturdy, feel. As far as my eye can tell the work is reproduced well; admittedly, I have one of the worst eyes in comics for that sort of thing. It's nice to have a bunch of comics from this time period, particularly the grittier pre-Code or Fear of Code-Like Crackdown work. There are some truly repulsive pieces of throwaway pulp in this book's pages, and Ditko was more than up to the task of illustrating them." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Mother, Come Home is a subtle, dark story about death and madness and fantasy, tied together by symbols and the voice of an older Thomas looking back on his childhood. It's not bleak, though; Thomas survives his traumatic childhood, and perhaps Hornschmeier's lesson is that we all can, if we try — if we step outside our rituals and fantasies and reach out to each other, we can make it through." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. (via ¡Journalista!)
During our recent inventory count at our storied and labyrinthine warehouse, we discovered additional copies of several items thought to be sold out and unavailable for weeks, months — or years! Grab these gems while you can before they run out again — quantities are limited!
By the way, multiple belated hat tips to Robot 6, whose roundups of end-of-year links have been invaluable to the last few installments of Online Commentary & Diversions. On with the links:
• List:Publishers Weekly announced the results of their 2009 Comics Week Critic's Poll; among the top vote-getters are You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("I love this autobiographical family story as much for the way Tyler weaves between her own life and her father's, as for its painterly, illustrative panoramas of suburban neighborhoods and army scenes." – Sasha Watson) and Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman ("Milk and other liquids may come out your nose as you read one of the funniest comics ever put to paper. Kupperman's droll absurdism is matched by a stiff, woodcut-like art style that underplays the sometimes outre concepts. A comedy diamond." – Heidi MacDonald). Humbug by Harvey Kurtzman et al, Low Moon by Jason, Luba by Gilbert Hernandez, Supermen!: The First Wave Of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941, West Coast Blues Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi, and You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Claude Forest all received single votes in the poll
• List: At comiXology, Tucker Stone counts down his top 25 Best Comics of 2009, with Grotesque #3 by Sergio Ponchione at #23 ("...every once in a while, I get a reminder how vast the world of comics really is. Grotesque — European, unusual, brilliant — was one of those, an experimental passport to another universe"), Ganges #3 by Kevin Huizenga at #7 ("...Ganges captured the thing that all of us spend a lifetime doing — thinking — and turned it into something deserving of examination") and, in the top spot, Prison Pit: Book 1 by Johnny Ryan ("Aggro, obscene, hilarious, compulsive: Prison Pit. It wasn't just the greatest comic of the year, it was one of those comics that operated like the end result of a math equation, a definitive answer to the question of what comics are, and what they should be...")
• List: Johnny Bacardi's Personal Best of the Decade includes Eightball #22 by Daniel Clowes
• Review: "Each [panel] almost vibrates with the frenetic, desperate energy of the characters as they try to pull off their cons. That energy explodes in the final pages, as the story comes to a dramatic but ambiguous conclusion. In the end, the work offers an homage to B-movies while standing out as a graphic novel. The Troublemakers will please long-term Hernandez fans. It also should serve as a good introduction to newcomers looking to jump into the Love and Rockets universe." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "...Giraffes [in My Hair], a collection of anecdotes from Bruce Paley's teens and twenties on America's countercultural fringe, is a breezy read. ... Swain's art rarely calls attention to or gets in the way of itself, and in that it meshes seamlessly with Paley's deadpan 'here's what happened' narrative style, his reluctance to overstate or oversell the import of the anecdote reminiscent of Harvey Pekar's." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "...[The Comics Journal] has reached issue 300 and is celebrating with a fascinating collection of creator-chats as industry tyros and giants come together to interview, share, bitch and generally shoot the breeze about graphic narrative: a tactic that makes this the most compelling read of the year for anyone truly interested in what we all do and why." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Fantagraphics Books continues its series devoted to chronologically packaging [Peanuts] and has not missed a step along the way. ... I’m pleased to inform that the latest edition, the twelfth in the series, is as lovingly curated as the first... [I]t is nice to know that one of the form’s greatest achievements is being held up as the accomplishment it really is." – Dw. Dunphy, Popdose
• Review: "[In Sam's Strip] Walker and Dumas clearly take pleasure in working in callbacks to classic comic strips... [and] many of the metatextual gags are funny and fun. ... Dumas’s drawings of classic comic-strip characters are excellent... The result is a frustrating, compelling curiosity: the soul of an underground comic trapped in the mortal coil of a Hi and Lois." – Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal
• Events:Star Clipper is sponsoring a screening of Ghost World at Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis tonight — oh jeez, in like half an hour! — and copies of the graphic novel and other Clowes books will be on sale
No sooner did I post the Newsarama interview with Kim Deitch than I came across this profile by Graphic NYC's Christopher Irving: "When I’m starting to think of a good idea, I visualize myself walking into a comic book store, and I ask myself the question ‘What are you not seeing here that would absolutely knock your socks off, in terms of a book? You don’t expect that question is going to be answered right away, but by asking that question, it starts the wheels turning. After a while your subconscious mind starts to feed out little clues towards what that might be. That’s when I start to get rolling." (Photo by Seth Kushner.)
Newsarama's Michael Lorah talks to Kim Deitch about his newest book, The Search for Smilin' Ed, coming this Spring: "I am definitely expanding (and redrawing a little here and there). I am adding 15 new pages at the end and there will be plenty of other new art visuals as well. The most ambitious new thing will be a double fold out of The Kim Deitch Universe. This will be a gigantic panoramic picture featuring one hundred of my characters past and present." There's a 3-page preview, too!
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