McSweeney's Quarterly Concern No. 13 - Ed. Chris Ware

McSweeney's Quarterly Concern is (according to their website) "a journal created by nervous people in relative obscurity, and published four times a year." I've seen it in bookstores before but this is the first one I've actually read: the topic for this one was comics, and Chris Ware (of Quimby the Mouse and Jimmy Corrigan fame) was the guest editor.

Most of the book is comics, mostly recent stuff done by various cartoonists that you'd read about in places like the New York Times. There are also essays about comics, about Rodoplhe Toffler (the inventor of comics), Philip Guston (a bizarre ex-Abstract painter in the 70s), George Herriman's last unfinished Krazy Kat strips, Charles Schulz's preliminary sketches, and then a few wonderful stories about growing up with comics. John Updike's reminisces about drawing cartoons in his "narrow room on the fifth floor of Lowell House" brought back memories of my own, and the pro-comics propaganda published by King Features Syndicates in the 1920s are brilliantly ridiculous.

As for the comics themselves, it's a diverse bunch, both in style and subject matter. There were only a few that I didn't really care for at all: "Amy and Jordan" struck me as both poorly drawn and mostly pointless, and the fact that artist makes fun of himself in the last few strips didn't redeem it, in my opinion. Some, excerpts from longer pieces, left me hungry for more. One particularly intriguing piece was "ctrl" by Richard McGuire (unfortunately Googling returns too many Richard McGuires who aren't this one) with very clean iconic illustrations, and sound effects in place of dialogue ("dunk-dunk" says the finger tapping on the fishtank). Of course, trying to describe comics is an exercise in futility; you ought to just check it out for yourself.

Unfortunately, since I borrowed this from the library, I was not able to unfold the Chris Ware-designed dustjacket, which appears to contain a hefty amount of tiny cartoons itself.

Fed to jonathan's brain | July 31, 2004