Edward Gorey's new book reviewed by Mark Dery

"The Angel, The Automobilist, and Eighteen Others" is a new collection of early drawings by eccentric illustrator and storyteller Edward Gorey (1925-2000). Over at The Comics Journal, Mark Dery, author of the Gorey biography Born to Be Posthumous, reviews the slim new volume while considering where Gorey's odd oeuvre sits (or doesn't) in the comic book tradition. Dery writes:

[Gorey's] library, at the time of his death, included anthologies of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Gary Larson’s Far Side, the droll caricatures of Ronald Searle, European comics like Astérix and Tintin (Hergé’s ligne claire aesthetic surely chimed, in Gorey’s mind, with the crisp line of his own hand-drawn “engravings”), 12 volumes of Hyperion’s Library of Classic American Comic Strips, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo, and Wilhelm Busch’s classic Max and Moritz (1865), a black-comedy parody of moralizing children’s literature like Heinrich Hoffmann’s macabre Struwwelpeter (1845). Predictably, his small but carefully curated (as we’re taught to say) collection of original art included cartoons by Glen Baxter and the loopy New Yorker stalwart George Booth. Less predictably, his bookshelves were stuffed, too, with collections of superhero comics, especially Marvel titles: Batman from the 30s to the 70s, Superman Battles the Mightiest Men in the Universe, Bring on the Bad Guys: Origins of Marvel Villains, Marvel’s Greatest Superhero Battles, The Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, and on and on.

Gorey’s fondness for comics and cartoons isn’t proof positive they influenced his work, but Steven Heller, a historian of design and illustration, has no doubt he has a foot in the comic-art tradition. Gorey was “a master of a genre of graphic storytelling,” Heller believes, a genre he defines as “a synthesis of the comic book and the graphic novel”—in short, “a picture book for adults.” Scott McCloud goes even further. Arguing against what he sees as the pervasive unwillingness to call a comic a comic for fear it will stamp the work in question as kids’ stuff, he claims Gorey as one of the medium’s “neglected masters.” “The moment that comics become too adventurous, or too innovative, they cease to be ‘comics’” in the public mind, asserts McCloud. “I heard an interview with Edward Gorey, and the word ‘comics’ never even came up—even though the man has done virtually nothing that isn’t comics! It’s insane.”

"Mr. Earbrass Returns" by Mark Dery (Comics Journal)