David Bonetti, Part Three

One of David’s superb characteristics is that he made sure if you hung out with him you would learn art information that was exciting and important to you. During that same St. Louis visit, he ensured we went to what he called the most essential exhibit in the city for me. Turned out to be a small gallery featuring a bunch of early drawings by Jim Nutt (one of the most perfect artist names, ever) including most of the items on this page.

I was captivated and transported. I knew nothing of Nutt (love the phrases that happen spontaneously) barely more about The Hairy Who than they had a super-cool name. Now we’ve got three books about Nutt and the Hairys and a lot more savvy about a major part of early Pop Surrealism. Thanks to David.

Manga Characters I Know But Don’t Know

I picked up this catalog called 100 Manga Artists because I realized I knew only about 30. For a research break, I try to absorb three new ones every day. One peculiar phenomenon is that I realized I knew several characters by the enormously successful Fujio Akatsuka— such as Bakabon’s Papa, crazy semi-Mod Iyami, and even the outrageous speaking cat Nyarome without ever reading a translated comic.

Comment on Alison Bechdel’s “Are You My Mother?” (Contains Spoilers)

… which I just finished. It is indeed a lesser work than Fun Home but that was inevitable because the earlier book was an unrepeatable one-shot (not as extreme as “Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary,” but still…). Fun Home includes built-in bombshells and an undeniable finish, plus many years of reflecting on Bechdel’s relationship to her father and his life. Her mother is still very present and ongoing and while there is a tragic death of a person you have come to adore and admire, it is not her mother. I do want to add that I think complaints that the book veers too much into an examination of the thoughts and theories of British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott are hooey — at least as much space is devoted to Virginia Woolf and neither figure buries or derails the narrative.

The other point of gratitude I must make is that Bechdel has convinced me that my mother had as much to do with making me a writer as my father’s respect for art and love of books. (Like Bechdel, I referred to her as “Mother” all the time.) When Mother would indulge me in spinning out fantasy tales whenever we were alone together, she helped me strengthen and enlarge my imagination, my sense of story and narrative and my adventures inside language. It was a tormented day when I realized I wanted to craft dreams I could no longer share with her. But Are You My Mother? helped me understand more of what she gave me.

The Frail of Comics Is a Fail

Because I bought a rare comic that is physically almost like a regular-issue comic book (Kramers Ergot, Volume One Issue Two, if you must know), I was stunned by the realization that I had not acquired a normal-format comic book in, well, several years anyway.

The fragility of comic books is a key part of their history, of course. Before the collectors’ market really took off in the ’70s, the artists and publishers and sellers all assumed that nobody would want the pop-junk after a month and the unsold issues were destroyed. That’s why, as a general rule, the older something is, the rarer it is. (Sheer number of outlets contributed to more issues of later comics being available.)

I liked using my comic-book collection — reading them, that is. I never picked up anything because it was marketed as a collectible. And I treated comics like regular books — you don’t get them wet or dirty and you keep them away from direct sun, but otherwise just keep them in order.

This business of the cardboard backing and the plastic bag sealed with tape drives me banay-nays. Makes the comic into an investment, not a source of pleasure. So the solution for me is serious paperback or hardback anthologies, which I’m glad to see are around for more titles than ever.

I do have one investment-collection. Years ago, when I took my hundreds of ’60s Marvel comics out of storage I discovered (with a flinch) that they meant nothing to me — I had absorbed them and somehow the shoddy movies had spoiled them for me  in some fundamental way.  But I’m actually glad I have failed to set up a way to sell them all at once (which is the only way I would do it) … because the price estimates keep going up and up and up …

On “Binky Brown”

Reading about this groundbreaking undergrounder in Hillary Chute’s Why Comics? reminds me of the time I first came across it (I believe it was the second printing) in a Missoula “head shop.” The cover alone was “WHAAAAAAT?” This will fill you in on its history and significance.

I couldn’t believe this comic — every page was a revelation (as well as disturbing) that touched on society, the sexes, religion, growing up, and of course psychological disorder of the OCD type. It’s a bit like Elvis — it’s impossible to convey the jolt of surprise as one encountered “Binky Brown” when it was new.

I was on the inexperienced and naive side myself. I was certain Justin Green was going to become a prolific comix genius. For a long time I thought of him with a twinge of disappointment. Older and at least a couple (white) hairs wiser, I now see what an unrepeatable performance “Binky Brown” was. But hey — lots of artists have long and large careers without producing even one masterpiece. I bought the fancy 2009 reprint and thought Green’s work deserved every bit of the celebration.

Unfunny Animals

Just saw as much of the rebooted “Duck Tales” as I could tolerate (about half an episode). Pure franchise exploitation. At least Carl Barks isn’t around to see this.

[Edit] I think the strong difference of opinion between me and most reviews I’ve scanned depend on when you bought your ducks. See, I thought the original series was a cheap-down of the comics, so …