Monday, July 7, 2008

100 book challenge part five: comics, art books, graphic design

Thirty books left to go in the 100 Book Challenge!

Last time I left off on the cusp of "comics," so let's proceed into that realm. I'm fortunate that a lot of the comics I want to bring are actually in comics form, in long-boxes under my bed, and are thus exempt from the purge. But in terms of "trade paperbacks," let's see.

  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
    [Totally essential; besides being a gripping thriller, this is also a decade-by-decade history of the archetype of the "costumed hero" in the twentieth century, with an appreciation of the form of the "horror comic" thrown in to boot. It's also one of the best examinations of what it means to be an aging superhero; in this regard it is joined by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which I'd bring if I hadn't lost my copy somewhere.]

  • From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
    [If I can bring another Moore, I'd pick this paranormal retelling of the Jack the Ripper story.]

  • Read Yourself Raw, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly
    [A giant, oversized version volume collecting selections of the first three issues of "the comics magazine for damned intellectuals." My introduction to Spiegelman, Charles Burns, Mark Beyer, Gary Panter, and Windsor McCay. Speaking of whom....]

  • Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, by Windsor McCay
    [Surreal, fantastic dream comics, circa 1904 (predating Surrealism by a comfortable margin).]

  • Rabid Eye: The Dream Art of Rick Veitch, by Rick Veitch
    [More dream comics, these circa 1996. But no less fantastic.]

  • Cheating: I have most of the run of G. B. Trudeau's Doonesbury in a series of volumes: The Portable Doonesbury, The People's Doonesbury, The Doonesbury Chronicles, etc. Any of the individual volumes might not be that valuable, but together they make a form of the Great American Novel.

  • Another cheat: volumes 4, 5, and 6 of the book-sized comics anthology Kramer's Ergot
    [Probably the most important comics anthology since those 80s RAW volumes. I'm not sure I could part with any of these.]

  • And another cheat: volumes 1-4 of Joss Whedon / John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men
    [I've been reading a lot of comics this year, and I'm prepared to say that, although this isn't high art, it's probably the best stuff that mainstream comics is putting out these days.]

  • American Splendor Presents: Bob and Harv's Comics, by Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar
    [Crumb and Pekar are both essential comics creators, and getting both of them, at the top of their respective games, makes this volume a must-keep.]

  • Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware
    [Ware's world-view is bleak enough to nearly constitute a form of comedy, but there's no doubt that he's an absolute master of comics form and vocabulary.]

  • Monkey Vs. Robot, by James Kochalka
    [A little bit of brilliant minimalist stuff... his American Elf collection is also great, but I have that in individual-issue form.]

  • The Frank Book, by Jim Woodring
    [Jim Woodring drew my LiveJournal user icon, a character named Frank who roams about in a creepy, psychologically-rich cartoon universe. This stuff is a good example of the kind of things that can really only be done in comics (they've been turned into animated films, but their eerie, airless logic works best on the page).]

The Frank Book is a big coffee-table style book, so let's transition and throw a few more of those into here:

  • Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective
    [Published by the Guggenheim, this 632-page tome contains somewhere around 500 color reproductions of Rauschenberg's work, and another couple hundred in black-and-white. This is also probably the most expensive book I have ever bought for myself (and it would be even more expensive to replace, apparently.) Worth it, though: Rauschenberg, to me, is one of the key artists of the 20th century, bringing together (in a single figure) strands of Abstract Expressionist, Pop, and Fluxus.]

  • Paul Klee
    [Another Guggenheim edition. Klee is another of my favorite visual artists, and although this volume isn't as comprehensive as the Rauschenberg one, it's well worth hanging on to.]

  • I'll bundle two graphic design books here as a final cheat: Sonic: Visuals for Music and 1 + 2 Color Designs, Vol. 2. Neither one is a masterpiece, which is part of how I can justify bundling them, but I do flip through them fairly frequently when needing ideas for graphic design projects, and books of this sort are expensive, and thus a pain to replace.]

Fifteen books left to go, and what's left in the collection? Mostly just miscellany. Stay tuned!

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