If you happen to have the 2009 or 2018 issues of The Best American Comics lying around like some of us do, flip to any excerpts in there by Ted Stearn. Hopefully the appeal is instant. But for those who are limited to search results and the attached images above and below, let's dive a little deeper. Reading "Fuzz and Pluck" is a bit like being stuck in a semi-lucid dream where you suspect something is a bit off but the world carries on as it was, indifferent to your suspicions. Flip to just about any page and you'll find speech bubbles caressing character's heads, panels cascading into each other and a cantankerous plucked chicken (Pluck) bullying his best friend (Fuzz) into doing mostly horrible favors for him. More often than not, these errands result in grievous, though by the next chapter, reversible cartoonish bodily harm to Fuzz.
While Fuzz and Pluck is Stearn's best-known and most highly acclaimed work, the "The Forgotten Dream of a Melancholy Chef" from Zero Zero is also worth taking a long look at. All of Stearn's work is lovingly rendered in pen and ink and utilizes an impressive academic application of hatching, crosshatching, and masterful linework. The whimsical design of the characters provide a really funny, offbeat contrast to the absurd and sometimes disturbing storylines.
Unfortunately, Stearn passed away earlier this year. He left behind a great body of work that was much loved by Matt Groening, Chris Ware, Gary Panter, and hopefully you, too.
If you have room in between your Daniel Clowes and Jim Woodring comics, consider adding Ted Stearn's Fuzz and Pluck to the shelf. The Moolah Tree is available from Fantagraphics here.
In 1975, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia after expelling a US puppet regime, surviving a brutal US bombing campaign despite the massive asymmetry between the Cambodian forces and the US military. Tian Veasna was born three days after the Khmer Rouge took power, and spent his formative years in forced labor camps as his family were beaten, starved, tortured and murdered. Today, Veasna is a comics creator living in France, and in Year of the Rabbit, Veasna creates a coherent story out of his family's narratives, giving us a ground-level view of the horrors of the Pol Pot regime, whose campaign of genocide led to the deaths of more than a million people.
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