Comics Rack: picks for September 2013 - Crumb, Bagge, & more

It’s getting chilly outside -- curl up with a good comic. We’ve got a good cross section for you below, from a hefty collection belonging to one of the all-time masters, to a pamphlet-sized volume discussing the peculiarities of scents in ants.

The Weirdo Years
By R. Crumb

Essential reading, obvious, from a oft-overlooked era. As the press material helpfully points out, Weirdo was, in many ways, the antithesis of Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman's comics-as-art anthology, Raw. Not that Crumb strays entirely from such things. Crumb's 80s / 90s Weirdo took an openly schizophrenic approach to storytelling, with the legendary cartoonist tacking whatever happened to strike his fancy that day, from a Philip K. Dick memoir outlining strange messianic visions brought on by painkillers, to adaptations of a late 19th century guide to “psychopathia sexualis” and the work of Jimi Hendrix. This beautifully-assembled collection showcases Crumb’s thinly-veiled id in its purest, unrestrained form. And it is, just as you’d imagine, some dark, dark shit, not for the weak of stomach.

Knockabout has done a fine job tossing in full-color reproductions of the series’ covers, along with a number of Crumb photo comics that seem, more than anything, a chance for the artist to galavant with his usual selection of generously-proportioned females. You’ll be poring over this one for weeks to come.

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story
By Peter Bagge
Drawn and Quarterly

“So, why did I write this book?” the authors poses rhetorically in his afterword. “Because Sanger lived the lives of ten people, for one thing. It’s a lot of life to jam into 72 pages, so it’s no wonder than Woman Rebel reads life a Cliff’s Note version of the Planned Parenthood founder's life. Peter Bagge’s clearly attempting to include as much of that remarkable life as possible into a relatively short volume, including plenty of great stories throughout, like the time Sanger spoke to a meeting of KKK woman (who, admittedly, didn’t really see eye-to-eye politically with Sanger), only to have one member of the audience ask, straight-faced, what exactly a vagina is.

Bagge also admits that he wrote the book, in part, to set the record straight about the activist, after decades of smear campaigns waged by her political components. Interestingly, the footnotes are nearly as entertaining as the comic itself (though, admittedly, without the artist’s instantly recognizable elastic style). And besides, wishing that the book was a bit longer can only be taken as a compliment, right?

Runner Runner #2

I’m not sure how I missed the first issue, but I’m glad contributor Al Burian pulled one out of his bag when we met in Berlin the other week. This new series is precisely the right size to fill a Papercutter-sized hole in our lives — and best of all, unlike that sadly discontinued series, Runner Runner is free. Heck, the series even contains some of the same names as that book -- not surprising, really, given that Greg Means serves at the editor of booth. Burian, for his part, collaborated with the always-fantastic Nate Powell for a meditation about art-making, store openings and Van Halen reunions.

Jason Viola, meanwhile, does a wonderful update of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Alexis Frederick-Frost’s “Fish Out of Water” is quite funny, as is Sarah Mirk / Corinne Mucha’s, wonderfully titled “Terrible Sex Advice from the 1940s.” And Carrie McNinch probably wouldn’t mind too terribly if I compared her work to John Porcellino’s, right?

The Little Otsu Living Things Series Volume 2
By Jo Dery
Little Otsu

This one’s actually a bit old, but it was up at the front counter of Brooklyn comics shop Desert Island the last time I was in, so I’m going to cheat a little. Besides, it’s never too late to learn about animal pheromones, right? Explore the weird smell of nature, from ants to your own hairy armpits.