Friday, August 17, 2007

I find those "Best American" anthologies that Houghton Mifflin puts out kind of interesting. They first caught my attention with the "nonrequired" series, all edited by Dave Eggers, sporting celebrity introductions and cartoonist-drawn covers. This was in high school, eventually I came across the more specialized ones- "Best American Travel Writing" or whatever. Last year there was a "Best American Comics" for the first time ever, guest-edited by Harvey Pekar- who's awful. Tom Scharpling and Paul F. Tompkins making fun of that guy on The Best Show on WFMU made me laugh so hard my face hurt- they talk about how boring the stories he tells are, and then Paul F. Tompkins realizes- "I just remembered he doesn't even draw them! He gets other people to draw them- If comics are this perfect blend of story and art, he has neither!" But what was weird to me was a book labeled 2006 on it had a lot of stuff in it from the Chris Ware-edited issue of McSweeney's, which came out in 2004.

Today I saw a thing from the upcoming editors of the 2008 and 2009 books saying that the stuff was due for the 2008 book shortly- each volume comes out in the fall, (for Holiday purchase) with the label of the year of its release, but contains things from the past two years- one year's worth, split down the middle, essentially. So the 2007 books coming out will contain stuff that people who were more on the ball read in 2005 and 2006.

The 2007 Best American Comics book is edited by Chris Ware, which means it's easy to view it as a sequel to the McSweeney's. But I looked at the contributor list today, and it's really weird, in a great way. I'd heard that Kevin Huizenga and CF were both going to be in it. I saw that it's also going to have Gary Panter and Paper Rad in it. I have no idea what the Panter will be- maybe one of the minicomics, he sells on his website? but it's the Paper Rad thing that made me laugh hysterically. Because this is a book with crossover appeal, theoretically appealing to people who like the idea of "graphic novels" as literature. Paper Rad comics are pretty much the opposite of Chris Ware in tone, drawing, and point of view. When thinking about Paper Rad comics to be printed in the timespan the Ware book is going to cover, I remembered their piece "Kramers Ergot: Fuck You" starring characters from Seinfeld drawing comics about Bill Callahan of Smog whipping out his giant dick a la Boogie Nights before playing a show. I also thought about the piece Ben Jones did for the 2005 Small Press Expo anthology where Bart Simpson draws a comic that makes fun of Chris Ware that causes people to melt when they read it, and Bart then strips nude and slops the goo caused by the melting onto himself. I actually think the latter is the most likely to be anthologized because it contextualizes itself fairly understandably and Matt Groening won't sue. That comic's awesome. The idea of it being bought by old people, or even the middle-aged, is nonetheless mindblowing. The CF comic running is a reprint of a minicomic that was in itself an excerpt of a longer book being published this fall called Powr Mastrs that I'm really looking forward to. The cover, by David Heatley, depicts a pile of comics, with an original Heatley comic strip on the top of the pile but underneath it sit a bunch of covers that are all vaguely recognizable to me but the only one I can state with certainty is a copy of The Ganzfeld 4.

Both the Ware book and the Pekar one preceding it contain comics. I assume the Pekar one had a monologue sketchbook comic, one of which appeared in an Eggers Nonrequired Reading. Maybe the Ware book will have an excerpt from Big Questions? Although the idea of him running a monologue-sketchbook comic- man, that would be a big "fuck you" to most readers, in a way that would be pretty amusing to me. Not like my point is "Chris Ware is so punk." I just find it interesting, that while the idea that a popular figure's interests should be presented to the public is a sensible one, most figures whose works are of quality are into a lot of deeper, almost-esoteric work. Certainly if you're at the top of your game, you're not going to be interested in people who are doing watered-down versions of what you're doing, and if you understand your medium, there's a lot there. I also think it's interesting that David Lynch is really into classic Hollywood cinema, citing Sunset Boulevard as an all-time favorite. And, you know, Sunset Boulevard's great.

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