The Massacre of the Innocents — Mitchell Villa

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The Massacre of the Innocents, 2018 by Mitchell Villa

The Cruise — Mary Adshead

The Cruise 1934 by Mary Adshead 1904-1995

The Cruise, 1934 by Mary Adshead (1904–1995)

Interior: Girl Reading — Mary McEvoy

Interior: Girl Reading 1901 by Mary McEvoy 1870-1941

Interior: Girl Reading, 1901 by Mary McEvoy (1870–1941)

My entry in The Comics Journal’s “Best Comics of 2019” article

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The Comics Journal’s lengthy write up of “The Best Comics of 2019” is up. Here’s my entry:

I’m reading Ishmael Reed’s 2011 novel Juice! right now. The narrator, a version of Reed, is a cartoonist whose comix on the O.J. Simpson case cost him his career and family. It’s not a comic, but it’s comic, and I love it.

Reed and Reed’s narrator repeatedly evoke George Herriman’s Krazy Kat strips, and I’ve returned to their slapstick surreal ebullience. There’s an ecstatic nihilism to Krazy Kat (or do I mean nihilistic ecstasy?), a radical absurdity that seems to both diagnose and describe Our Big Dumb Zeitgeist of 2019 in the most perfectly oblique way. The strip’s (il)logic runs on a strange Dada engine, crashing into both sensibility and decorum. It’s a wonderful anarchist romp. I have no idea if there was some new Krazy Kat compendium that came out in 2019, but Herriman’s strip is the best critique of 2019 I can think of. (Also: Read more Ishmael Reed.)

Speaking of: Drew Lerman’s collection Snake Creek reverberates with the spirit of Krazy Kat mixed and mushed with the apocalypse ghost swamp of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, along with tinges of Garfield Goes Total Nihilist. (Who am I kidding? Garfield was always a total nihilist.) Lerman’s shaky strips approximate our own shaky days and shaky daze, evoking a Florida fit to sink into its own wild psychosphere.

Chris Ware’s novel Rusty Brown is a fucking masterpiece. 

I loved Rat Time by Keiler Roberts. I missed one of my nephew’s baseball games because I started reading it one Saturday morning and then lied about having to do something work-related—like an emergency—because I wanted to finish up Rat Time instead. It made me feel Warm (& Fuzzy), despite how dry Roberts’ humor is. (Desiccant dry, folks.) Roberts’ autofiction is utterly real.

The collective of folks at The Perry Bible Fellowship continue to make good comics.

I also really admired Ben Passmore’s comic Sports Is Hell, a send-up of American massculture that simultaneously stings and enlivens its reader. The novel takes place during the aftermath of a Super Bowl featuring a Kaepernickesque (Kaepernesque?) star player. The Big Game devolves into a Big Riot, with its heroes fighting their way through the madness—think Walter Hill’s film The Warriors by way of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. I hope Ishmael Reed will read it.

Large Studio at Castiglion — Stephen McKenna

Large Studio at Castiglion 1993 by Stephen McKenna born 1939

Large Studio at Castiglion, 1993 by Stephen McKenna (1939–2017)

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth David Lynch

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All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, 2012 by David Lynch (b. 1946)

Father Christmas — J.R.R. Tolkien

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Father Christmas drawing of “Me” and “My House,” 1920 by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892–1973).

From The Morgan Library & Museum’s exhibition “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.”

New Accursed Art Club — Nigel Cooke

New Accursed Art Club 2007 by Nigel Cooke born 1973

New Accursed Art Club, 2007 by Nigel Cooke (b. 1973)

Leader of Legions of Literary Lunatics — Mike Davis

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Leader of Legions of Literary Lunatics by Mike Davis

Last Look Mirror — Eric Fischl

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Last Look Mirror, 2017 by Eric Fischl (b. 1948)

Drawing by Father Christmas of the Aurora Borealis — J.R.R. Tolkien

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Drawing by Father Christmas of the Aurora Borealis, 1926 by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892–1973).

From The Morgan Library & Museum’s exhibition “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.”

Mistletoe — Gertrude Hermes

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Mistletoe, 1930 by Gertrude Hermes (1901–1983)

Woman Reading with Peaches — Henri Matisse

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Woman Reading with Peaches, 1923 by– Henri Matisse (1869–1954)

Untitled (Le Quai des brumes) — Francine van Hove

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Untitled by Francine van Hove (b. 1942)

Skeleton Party — Edward Burra

Skeleton Party circa 1952-4 by Edward Burra 1905-1976

Skeleton Party, 1954 by Edward Burra (1905–1976)

Courtesan — Leslie Hurry

The Courtesan 1941 by Leslie Hurry 1909-1978

Courtesan, 1945 by Leslie Hurry (1909–1978)

A Jan Steen Kitchen — Jonathan Leaman

A Jan Steen Kitchen 1995-6 by Jonathan Leaman born 1954Screenshot 2019-12-16 at 7.44.35 PMScreenshot 2019-12-16 at 7.44.06 PMScreenshot 2019-12-16 at 7.43.49 PMScreenshot 2019-12-16 at 7.43.22 PM

A Jan Steen Kitchen, 1996 by Jonathan Leaman (b. 1954)