As I prepare "BEASTS! Book Two" for Fantagraphics to release this fall (mostly at night and mostly while the baby sleeps) I am doing research that ends up with very little appearance in the books but keeps me motivated to wrangle 90 artists creating original art on a deadline. Art that has more to do with symbolic passion than literal interest.
"Unproven" creatures like the Unicorn and Leviathan make frequent appearances in ancient texts, but what amazes me is how frequently they turn up in zoological and generally scientific texts-- usually in proving terms. It's easy to dismiss these creatures nowadays because of the popularity of Science and the Experiential over the Mystical and Spiritual but reading the ernestness of these old texts is disorienting and, in spite of Logic, incredibly inspiring.
As George Caspard Kirchmayer writes in "On the Basilisk " (one of many apparently popular treatises he wrote from about 1680): "To deny the existence of the basilisk is to carp at the evidence of men's eyes and their experiences in many different places. Accordingly, we allow the basilisk a place in nature, as the most deadly and venomous creature and plague in the animal creation. We would have it understood we are not here maintaining that ridiculous and more than monstrous story of the manner of its birth, nor the deadly effect of its look, nor those other points which are more like old wives' stories than anything else. It is for the existence of this most venomous reptile that we are now contending."
I love that Kirchmayer is asking us (in elegant and intelligent terms) to forgive us the hype, the basilisk is a good guy who deserves to live. Let's not kill him off simply becuause we can't prove he exists.
And while Kirchmayer is disputing Pliny and similarly popular thinkers he'll also zealously defend the Unicorn at length: “Over the whole world it is a common saying that the unicorn perished and became extinct at the flood, and that not a single individual of the Monoceros species survived. We shall correct this injustice, and shall, with God's help, find a means of putting a stop to this universal blasphemy.”
We'd like to bring to your attention the first-ever east coast store signings by America's Sweetheart, JOHNNY RYAN. Johnny will be appearing in New York and Boston this June to promote the release of ANGRY YOUTH COMIX #14. In Boston, Johnny will be joined by fellow Fantagraphics author (and, coincidentally, America's other sweetheart) LEAH HAYES, who will be signing copies of her acclaimed new graphic novel, FUNERAL OF THE HEART.
WHO: JOHNNY RYAN WHAT: ANGRY YOUTH COMIX #14 release party! WHERE: Desert Island 540 Metropolitan, Williamsburg, Brooklyn WHEN: Friday, June 13, 6PM - 9PM
WHO: JOHNNY RYAN and LEAH HAYES WHAT: ANGRY YOUTH COMIX #14 and FUNERAL OF THE HEART book signings WHERE: The Million Year Picnic 99 Mount Auburn St., Harvard Square, Cambridge WHEN: Sunday, June 15, 2PM - 4PM
Matthias Lehmann (HWY. 115) is having a Spring Sale of original art. Even if you're too broke to buy any, go check it out because it's awful purty — Matthias is one of the few remaining practitioners of the ancient and crazy-making art of scratchboard, and he ups the ante by handcoloring it on top of that. And if you do want to buy some, don't worry, Matthias speaks and writes excellent English.
One Euro is about a buck and a half these days. Buy them before it's two dollars!
Swiss horror master Thomas Ott returns with the first full-length graphic novel of his career. When clearing up the cell of a prisoner who has been sentenced to death and subsequently executed, a prison guard finds a small piece of paper with a combination of numbers on it.
On the spur of the moment, he puts it into his pocket.
As the guard lives a solitary, monotonous life, the numbers on the paper awake his curiosity. To find out their hidden meaning could add a new meaning to his life as well, so the guard stumbles into situations in which the number or part of it seem to achieve a certain importance and offer him hints and possible solutions. And the numbers signal a radical change in his luck. He gets to know a woman, falls in love with her, and one night, in a casino, he wins a huge amount of money when gambling on these numbers.
But the next morning, the woman and money have disappeared.
The man goes in search of the woman and the money. But from that day on, his luck changes and the numbers bring him only bad luck, sending him inexorably into an abyss that he might not recover from. Thomas Ott's O. Henry-esque plot twists will delight fans of classic horror like The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt, or modern masters like filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan; his hallucinatory, hyper-detailed scratchboard illustrations will haunt you long after you've put the book down.
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