Madfunk Art After Xmas: The Hairy Who

Screamin Jay.jpg

I admit, there’s a couple Roy Lichtenstein works I like a great deal. They’re sculptures. I always disliked his comic-book art from the first time I saw it because, undeniably, it argued that his source material was commercial junk and that his treatments transformed trash into Fine Art. Flooosh. All the vitality and wit in the works sprung from the originals, not Lichtenstein’s re-dos. And it constituted a narrow, square view of what comics could do. No weirdos. No underground.

The first time I encountered work by a Hairy Who artist was when I picked up a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins LP late in my Missoula era that featured the above as a cover illustration. In the language of the day, I thought it was way outta sight. But I believed it was just ace art done by the record company. Hah. (By Karl Wirsum, as it turns out.)

So we’ll skip a couple-three hairy Hairy Who encounters over the years and get to my Art Book present to myself this holiday: The catalog of this exhibit I would love to see in Chicago.

Now, these days Art Books have a real problem. Too small and too-cheap reproductions are the norm. This book is an exception. While I would like it to be inches bigger on all sides, the reproductions are beautifully precise and color-lively and include media like ceramic dolls and photos of the artists at those dazzled-’60s art shows that I had no idea about.

This gets down to it: the raging passions of comics and design and funk and rock&roll had a deranging delight that could be represented in the gallery. Sometimes with downright ominous tones.

If you like what you see, like they say: go, go, gogo.

R.I.P.: Stan Lee

A person I have had diverse and contradictory feelings about since I was seven years old. (And didn’t even know who he was — though somebody had be putting out these wacky monster comics.)

But my philosophy is that once someone passes from this world, they are free to live on in your imagination however you like. So other folks can be all “Ah, wow!” about those movie drop-ins. I will always dwell on my mid-60s fantasy of the folks who turned comics as exciting as rock and roll — seemed even to be a printed extension of the music. Overseeing it all — a way-cool head honcho, not the be-all and end-all he was much later.

For that guy, “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!” now and forever.

The Conan of the Future

This afternoon devoured Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987. May have more to say but I must get in that Riad and his buddies obsession with the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie was an utter surprise hoot (Sattouf does a marvelous job of capturing the kids’ imitation of the Schwarzenegger scowl).

The Edgar Rice Burroughs reissued paperbacks had been thrilling me since Junior High School and the same Frazetta cover art drew me to Robert E. Howard’s Conan books when they first appeared. And it was a serious graduation — Howard was more modern, more violent, more weird, more fevered than ERB.

I outgrew Howard and his hero (who I started calling “Onan the Barbarian”) before the reissue series finished up. I needed fiction characters with interiors. I knew little about Howard’s life except that he was from Texas and most of his Conan material had appeared in the sacred Weird Tales. Everything came flooding back when I saw the captivating and wonderfully realized 1996 film The Whole Wide World (Vincent D’Onofrio performance of a lifetime). I immediately tracked down the Novalyne Price book One Who Walked Alone (more apt title, but I see why they didn’t use it). Both the film and the memoir are hugely recommended for their presentation of the value fantasy had for certain isolated souls trapped in the vast Western horizons. The Price book makes a more explicit case for Howard’s fatal fixation on his mother.

Oy! “Trolls de Troy”

Just when you think Oggy and the Cockroaches is the biggest French-cartoon import you’ll ever run across, the Brookline Booksmith Used Book Basement comes through again and yields up the first volume of Trolls de Troy, which I understand is enormously popular in France and some other non-English-speaking countries. I loved the crazy action and the vibrant artwork so much, I didn’t mind my merest spattering of French. Closer viewing at home revealed the comic featured fabulous monsters and, wow, horror-movie violence (just for starters, the Trolls kill and eat humans with impunity and regularity), not to mention a human “child” of a lead character who wants to become a Troll but who really seems to be there so we can have a Hot Babe around (who happens to be a cannibal).

I can’t follow the plot — the only English versions of Trolls de Troy is the animated cartoons, very simplified and toned waaay down — so I may only need an example of this series. But yowsah, if yer a serious comic-book person, you got to have a look at this one.