RIP Gilbert Gottfried, 1955-2022
The Comics Journal’s lengthy write up of “The Best Comics of 2021” is up. Here’s my entry:
When I was a kid one of the greatest small joys of my short existence was reading the comics page in the morning newspaper, an experience that seems and quite literally is of another century. I loved Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County,and The Far Side, but my favorite was Peanuts. While it’s not exactly the same as poring over the morning paper’s comics, I love to see Peanuts on this Day in my Twitter feed. So much has been written on Charles Schulz‘s genius, so I won’t wax more – I’ll just add that Charlie Brown’s strange defeated ever-reemerging optimism still brings me a weird dark hope.
I also continue to really dig Drew Lerman‘s Snake Creek series. Roy and Dav are perfect heroes for the 21st century, a new Vladimir and Estragon wandering through Weirdest Florida. Lerman publishes Snake Creek on Instagram. He collected the first few years of the strip in a volume that is now out of print. I hope he’ll reprint it and put out the latest strips in a paperback at some point soon.
Another artist I followed initially on a social media app (Tumblr) is Yvan Guillo, aka Samplerman. Samplerman’s collages initiate his audience into a new world of pop art surrealism where the Ben-Day dots of twentieth-century pulp transmute into a comic book you read in a dream when you were a kid. I picked up his 2021 book Anatomie Narrative (Ion Edition) and got lost in it again and again. The word narrative in the title asks the audience to understand story in a new way (or to take the title ironically, which I do not). The story here is pure aesthetics.
Another book I loved this year was Paul Kirchner‘s Dope Rider: A Fistful of Delirium (Éditions Tanibis), which collects the Dope Rider revival published in High Times from 2015 to 2020 (Dope Rider‘s initial run was in the ’70s). Great art, great jokes, great goofy fun.
I also spent way too much of the little free time I have going through old issues of The East Village Other. The scans I pulled from JSTOR are difficult to read, but the graphics are really what interests me. Initially I was looking for comix by folks like Bernie Wrightson, Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, and Kim Deitch – but I also love all the old ads for weird albums, concerts, films, and books. A digital scan of an old, weird paper with its own weird comix isn’t exactly the same as having the paper in your hand. But it’s better than nothing.
Deadline Island, 2019 by Samplerman (Yvan Guillo)
I am a huge fan of Paul Kirchner’s bold and witty comix. I fell in love with his cult strip The Bus some years back, and was thrilled when he revised the series with The Bus 2. Both volumes were published in handsome editions by the fine folks at Tanibis. The French publisher also released a retrospective collection of Kirchner’s work to date, the essential compendium Awaiting the Collapse. Tanibis also published the collected Hieronymus & Bosch, strip, another entry in the cartoonists explosive output in the twentyteens.
Now, Tanibis has published A Fistful of Delirium, the recent adventures of the resurrected hero Dope Rider. Kirchner’s Dope Rider is a mystical skeleton weedslinger, a philosophical wanderer prone to surreal transformation. Our cowboy rides again here via the full-page full-color strips Kirchner ran in High Times from 2015-2020. Here’s Tanibis’s blurb:
Dope Rider is back in town! After a 30-year hiatus, Paul Kirchner brought back to life the iconic bony stoner whose first adventures were a staple of the psychedelic counter-culture magazine High Times in the 1970s.
The stories collected in this book appeared in High Times between January 2015 and May 2020. Despite the years, Dope Rider has stayed essentially the same, still smoking his ever-present joint, getting high and chasing metaphysical dragons through whimsical realities in meticulously illustrated and colorful one-page adventures. Fans of the original Dope Rider comics will still find the bold graphical innovations, dubious puns and wild dreamscapes inspired by classical painting and western movies that were some of Dope Rider’s trademark.
This time though, Kirchner draws from a much larger panel of influences, including modern pop – and pot – culture (lines and characters from Star Wars as well as references to Denver as the US weed capital can be found here and there) and a wider range of artistic references, from Alice in Wonderland to 2001, A Space Odyssey to Ed Roth’s Kustom Kulture. Native American culture and mythology, only hinted at in the classic adventures, is also much more present in the form of Chief, one of Dope Rider’s new sidekicks. Kirchner’s playful, tongue-in-cheek humor binds together all these influences into stories that mock both the mundane and the nonsensical alike.
You can get a signed edition from Kirchner’s website. Full review down the line.
A page from The Gardens of Aedena by Moebius.