David Hadju discusses Joe Sacco's and Palestine and Safe Area Gorzade and Daniel Clowes' Ghost World
July 26, 2003 3:35 AM   Subscribe

Comics for Grown-Ups
David Hadju discusses Joe Sacco's Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde and Daniel Clowes' Ghost World. I wanted to link the Ghost World movie site but it's currently down. Whether this is permanently or not, I know not. I'll be sad if it's gone--it was so darn cool and so elegantly done.
posted by y2karl (43 comments total)
I came to Ghost World via the film, which is perhaps my favourite of all time. It completely destroyed all the prejudices I had about comics and graphic novels (strictly for kids and sci-fi geeks); beautifully drawn, subtle and poignant. I'm also rather fond of Clowes' David Boring. Thanks for the link, y2karl.
posted by zygoticmynci at 8:52 AM on July 26, 2003

Another "adolescent of body or mind" here. To see Joe Sacco mentioned on Metafilter makes me happy! He's almost the only one that's good these days. For every book he just keeps getting stronger. If you don't already know, there's a small sneak preview of his next album, "The Fixer", over at Drawn & Quarterly.

And I really liked Clowes' "Art School Confidential". One of the first things I did after being accepted into an art school was to pin a photocopy of it on the wall. It was quickly ripped down. And now they want to make a movie out of it? Good as it is, I can't really imagine how there's enough material in this comic to make a full-length movie out of. But who knows, if they manage to get the sarcastic tone right, it might be a little gem...
posted by Termite at 8:59 AM on July 26, 2003

Now I've read the article and... well, I've seen better stuff in the NYRB. Todays comics are just like 70s symphonic rock? That's a pretty strained analogy. And as a comics reader, phrases like "the comic book, whose very name is a pejorative synonym for the outrageously fantastical" makes me raise an eyebrow.

Calling Sacco "the superhero in his comics, the person with powers beyond those of everyone else, who hides behind a mild-mannered façade" isn't the best way of describing his work. And he calls Clowes' slick drawing style "self-consciously awkward". If Clowes is "self-consciously awkward", then what would he call Aline Kominsky-Crumb?

One last gripe: "By the comic-book conventions of today, making language so high a priority is an archaism as startling as using title cards for dialogue in a movie." Oh yeah? This makes me wonder how many comics Mr. Hajdu actually has read.
posted by Termite at 9:37 AM on July 26, 2003

It's great to see Joe Sacco getting this attention (for all the failures of the piece -- I agree on the whole with Termite that this could have been better, although basically I would have wanted it simply to be longer, more inclusive of other artists, and on the whole more thoughtful -- I still thought Hajdu's remarks on, say, Sacco's style are on the money). He let me interview him once for a journalism class I was taking -- I never got the interview placed anywhere, and I wasn't a particularly good interviewer. But he was an amazingly cool guy about it, and I thought that Safe Area Gorazde and Palestine were brilliant extensions of the form into journalism.

Clowes too: I loved the most recent Eightball (the brilliant "Welcome to Ice Haven" story, with multiple narrators). David Boring didn't quite work for me; it seemed a step backward from the pitch-perfect dialogue of the Ghost World episodes. And while I liked the movie well enough, I think that the dynamics of a certain kind of adolescent friendship are amazingly well captured in the comic, in a way that just doesn't translate to the screen. I hope, in short, that the reputation of an artist like Clowes won't depend wholly on movie adaptations. Look at how poorly Alan Moore's work has been translated to film.
posted by BT at 10:16 AM on July 26, 2003

And let's not forget American Splendor, the granddaddy of all "Comics for Grown-Ups." Harvey Pekar's been doing it since 1976, and I can't wait to see the new movie about him and his work.
posted by languagehat at 10:26 AM on July 26, 2003

Gosh, languagehat--I went to Google for Bob And Harv's Comics--the collection of all the R. Crumb illustrated Harvey Pekar stories and found out that [Gomer Pyle]Golllee![/Gomer], Harvey Pekar has a blog--not to mention his own domain name.

Hey, the official American Splendor movie site is cool. Looks like the Flash is done by the same guy that did the Ghost World movie site as well as Doug Allen's website.
posted by y2karl at 11:26 AM on July 26, 2003

I too will be sad if the Ghost World site is down. An impeccable movie.
posted by divrsional at 12:01 PM on July 26, 2003

languagehat - aren't Tijuana Bibles the grandaddy of all comics for grown ups? ;-)
posted by jonson at 12:37 PM on July 26, 2003

y2karl: Mein Gott! It never occurred to me that Pekar had a blog, but it makes perfect sense. "I’m retired from my file clerk gig of thirty-seven years..." I had no idea he'd retired! Now I must go immerse myself. Many thanks.

jonson: More like the dirty uncle, the one your parents didn't want you hanging around.
posted by languagehat at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2003

I too will be sad if the Ghost World site is down. An impeccable movie. I loved "Ghost World" and its web site too. But let's get real guys. That film is a pretty pathetic fantasy. I don't know anything about Y2Karl and other of y'all, but I'm guessing that we're all kind of record collect-y geeks not unlike that guy in the film, and that in some dim part of our brain there is the hope that somewhere on earth there is a smart, aware younger woman we could play our old blues records for, and she would GET IT and fall for us -- even for one night. But this will NEVER happen. There is no woman on earth -- NOT EVEN OUR CURRENT WIVES AND GIRLFRIENDS, who thinks that our interest in old music is anything buy sad and loserish, and wishes that we were interested in something else. Something where we could meet top executives and make important business connections. What's astonishing is that "Ghost World" captures this sad, impossible middle-aged and near-middle-aged fantasy of a few, music-addled, saggy assed bozos with such perfect accuracy. Who says that all films are geared for the mass audience?
posted by Faze at 1:57 PM on July 26, 2003

I'm not entirely sure what the point of Ghost World was myself, but I think I can safely say that it wasn't that geeky record collectors can get hot teenage chicks.
posted by kindall at 2:12 PM on July 26, 2003

Faze: Where there are geek guys, there are geek girls. Fewer of them, perhaps, but they exist. No matter how esoteric your interest, there will be people who share it. And in all likelihood, some of those people will be women. If you haven't met any such, perhaps you aren't looking hard enough.

Though it's good to see intelligent work get press, I found it annoying that the author felt he had to distance himself from the genre as a whole so disdainfully. As in, "sure, it's all crap, except these few that accord with my literati tastes." Excellent work has been done by people like Moore and Gaiman, and it gets dismissed as "genre" because it doesn't fit some people's idea of what "Art" should be.
posted by e^2 at 2:32 PM on July 26, 2003

Forget about women and music, women REALLY don't get comics. If your wife or girlfriend sees you sitting around reading a comic, she is getting a hollow, frightened feeling inside, and thinking what a stupendous zero she has mistakenly hooked up with. You can tell her all you want how serious and adult your comic is, and how its been written up in the New York Times, and she will not care. And this goes double for if you DRAW or WRITE comics. Do you think Aline Kaminsky or Harvy Pekar's wife have the slightest idea of what their husbands do? In Kaminsky's case, she had some kind of vague, animal-like instinctual recognition that it might be important (after all, it makes SOME money), and that it's made her husband famous (which is what SHE wants to be), but outside of that, she doesn't have a clue. She comes very close to being the Linda McCartney of comic-dom. (By the way, has anyone ever read R. Crumb's introduction to "Bob and Harv Comics?" Crumb's condescension and utter contempt for Pekar drips from every sentence. Those two guys are on very different planes.)
posted by Faze at 2:49 PM on July 26, 2003

If your wife or girlfriend sees you sitting around reading a comic, she is getting a hollow, frightened feeling inside, and thinking what a stupendous zero she has mistakenly hooked up with.

On the contrary. If I see my husband with a comic, I say "Any good? Can I read it when you're done?"
posted by ilsa at 2:57 PM on July 26, 2003

ilsa, Will you marry me?
posted by Faze at 2:58 PM on July 26, 2003

I second ilsa. My boyfriend is one of my prime sources for finding new comics to read. I haven't quite gotten him to share my taste in science fiction yet, though. And I would love to try my hand at comics. If only I could draw... or find a pen-slave to chain in my basement and set to drawing for me.

A friend of mine once responded to "Why can't you date normal girls" with: "I can't talk to girls. I can talk to otaku." Not to mention that geek gals tend to prefer boys who share our hobbies and outlook.
posted by e^2 at 3:15 PM on July 26, 2003

But this will NEVER happen.

Um, sorry, Faze, but it can happen, at least this has been my experience... Which is part of why I liked the movie so much.

And you're wrong on the music, too--my girlfriends have been into jazz, blues, bluegrass, whatever... as much as me. And, come to think of it--you're wrong on women and comics, as well.

You're just, I'm sorry to say, wrong, wrong, wrong on all the assertions you've made made herein...
posted by y2karl at 3:18 PM on July 26, 2003

I am sure that Jessica Abel, Ariel Schrag, Donna Barr, Dame Darcy, Lisa Medley, Sarah Dyer, Roberta Gregory, Elizabeth Watasin, and the late Dori Seda will be fascinated to learn that their lack of a Y chromosome means that they don't get comics. And that's just the friends of Lulu I could think of off the top of my head whose work I've purchased at one point or another.
posted by snarkout at 3:39 PM on July 26, 2003

"You're just, I'm sorry to say, wrong, wrong, wrong on all the assertions you've made made herein..."

This is my favorite summary of every mefi disagreemtn ever had; bless you y2Karl!
posted by jonson at 3:39 PM on July 26, 2003

Hmmmm, I'll grant you that girlfriends can pretend to be into comics and good music, etc., for as long as you interest them. They are remarkable little actresses. But check out their record or CD collection six months after you've broken up with them. All those great things you turned them on to are GONE, and the hidden trash has resurfaced. For instance, name one woman who likes the Kinks...
posted by Faze at 3:47 PM on July 26, 2003

For instance, name one woman who likes the Kinks...

I can name two off the top of my head... and neither have boyfriends...

Not to mention Sleater-Kinney.
posted by drezdn at 3:57 PM on July 26, 2003

Me! Me! I *heart* the Kinks. Really, your cynicism does you discredit. Y'know, the girl might just have been interested in those things before you met her. Just possible. Conceivable.
posted by e^2 at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2003

I bet Corin Tucker likes comics and the Kinks. Too bad she's married, Faze! It looks like a life of lonely bachelorhood and "Autumn Afternoon"-listening is in store.
posted by snarkout at 4:14 PM on July 26, 2003

(By which I mean "Autumn Almanac", of course. And I'm off to the penalty box with some back issues of Eightball!)
posted by snarkout at 4:23 PM on July 26, 2003

Wow, Faze, you really must've had some bad experiences with women to make such sweeping generalizations about the entire gender's taste in music and reading materials. Believe me, there are many of us who "get" comics. I've been an avid comic book collector for 13 years, and I know a lot of women who read, collect, write, draw, edit, or are otherwise involved with comics. Also, I just went to the San Diego Comic-Con last weekend, and I not only saw a large number of female collectors, I saw tons of female comics creators there, too, just as I have every year for the 11 years I've been attending. As Y2Karl said, you're just wrong, wrong, wrong.

And by the way, I love the Kinks.
posted by bedhead at 5:06 PM on July 26, 2003

Faze, you're probably wrong--well, I know you're wrong since I can think of some rock-solid counterexamples--but I have to say that I admire your cynicism and bitterness, and don't let y2karl or anyone else try to take it away from you!
posted by Hildago at 5:10 PM on July 26, 2003

Ummm Faze, you spanner, 'Come Dancing' Kinks or 'All Day and All of the Night' Kinks?
But back to the kink on-topic: Julie Doucet (especially her D&Q Dirty Plotte) is brilliant. Course we all know of clever Chris Ware, whose Jimmy Corrigan won Guardian's 2001 Book of the Year.
I'm a fan of Jhonen Vasquez's Squee. He seems to tap into your dark and surreal childhood nightmares and turn them into fantastic and hilarious drawings and stories.
posted by spandex at 6:20 PM on July 26, 2003

Do you think Aline Kaminsky or Harvy Pekar's wife have the slightest idea of what their husbands do?

Um, that's Kominsky, for one--the well known cartoonist and former editor of Weirdo Comics. As for Joyce Brabner, co-author of Our Cancer Year, here's from Yahoo News's report on American Splendor in Cannes:

The comics also led him to his wife. A partner in a Delaware comic store, Brabner struck up a correspondence with Pekar, and the day they finally met, they decided to get married. They celebrated their 20th anniversary at Cannes this weekend.

People who have seen the movie "complain that when I decide to marry Harvey the day we met, that that just seemed too Hollywood. But that actually happened," Brabner said. "Hollywood has taken things like that and ruined them, flogged them to death, but those things do happen once or twice in your lifetime."

And don't forget Seattle's own Shary Flenniken! Not to mention Lynda Barry...

Misanthropist, misogynist and misinformed -- Mmm... Faze-y...
posted by y2karl at 6:21 PM on July 26, 2003

posted by spandex at 6:28 PM on July 26, 2003

I dated more than a few guys and had friends with the same mindset as Faze-- but their failure lied in trying to 'convert' their girlfriends by shoving their favorite band/comic/movie genre/whatever down their throats. Any couple will have lots to show each other, but if you have the need to force your girlfriend to fit your geek ideal, something is wrong. And, if she thinks you interests are "loserish" something else is wrong. Looking for love in all the wrong places, anyone?

Incidentally, I'm a comics AND record collecting geek--and I'm a woman married to a scifi fanboy. Heh.
posted by marzenie99 at 6:46 PM on July 26, 2003

The first link above reminded me that Nick Hornby wrote a piece about some graphic novels/comics in the NYT last year. Worth a read.
posted by gluechunk at 9:24 PM on July 26, 2003

er, I guess that should read "...wrote a piece in the NYT about some graphic novels/comics...."
posted by gluechunk at 9:32 PM on July 26, 2003

Lay off him, he's just joking around. No reason to call names.
posted by Hildago at 10:52 PM on July 26, 2003

Quoth Faze: Do you think Aline Kaminsky or Harvy Pekar's wife have the slightest idea of what their husbands do? In Kaminsky's case, she had some kind of vague, animal-like instinctual recognition that it might be important (after all, it makes SOME money), and that it's made her husband famous (which is what SHE wants to be), but outside of that, she doesn't have a clue.

Whoa. I'd really like to hear what Aline would say about that.

And someone mentions Julie Doucet! I'm glad to see I'm not the only weirdo who likes her stuff.
There aren't many alternative comics artists who give you the impression that comics are a matter of life and death for them, that they really have to draw comics. She did, in her early stuff. Tomine, who everyone seems to like, is playing safe.
posted by Termite at 2:10 AM on July 27, 2003

Some of my favorite comix for grown-ups (that have not yet been mentioned):
Jim Woodring, whose new Frank book is out, or about to be out.
Peter Blegvad, The Book of Leviathan is in all Borders bookstores.
Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is an incredible epic, much better than most manga I see over here in the US. (Director of Princess Mononke and Spirited Away)
Junko Mizuno, is a lot of fun.
Renee French is incredible.

It's silly, though, even to limit yourself to 'comics for adults.' Many comics for children (especially from years gone by) are also great.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:04 AM on July 27, 2003

everyone mentioned is very good, but waht, no love for Pete Bagge?

Actually, I know several girls who are as geeky as any guys when it comes to comics and music. A few of them I met here. Plus, Faze, my better half wasn't that familiar with the kinks when we met, but she loved "waterloo Sunset." When we first started dating, we passed by a poster for Crumb(the movie) and she said "who's he?" I'm like "a comic artist." and she groaned a bit, but after seeing the movie she demanded to see all my Crumb comics and considers the man an genius.
posted by jonmc at 8:28 AM on July 27, 2003

Maus anyone?

Though really, Transmetropolitan, The Invisibles and Sandman are my kind of thing. Occasionally Kabuki though it's pretty gratuitous. Hellblazer (the movie does not exist!) and Preacher are fun too.
posted by Foosnark at 9:46 AM on July 27, 2003

Faze: Seeing Ghost World as just geeky guy gets chick is missing what goes on in a big way. But I'll admit it, I married for my parter's collection of BeanWorld and Tex Arcana. Overall its a nice synthesis of tastes, she brings in much of the classic goth and punk music while I tend to drift all over the map and history.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:22 PM on July 27, 2003

Maus, Palestine, and Safe Area all changed the way I saw the world the way traditional storytelling/journalism couldn't. Great works of art, as well as informative and interesting pieces of history.
posted by chaz at 6:33 PM on July 27, 2003

Seeing Ghost World as just geeky guy gets chick is missing what goes on in a big way.

True--there's also the Nunchuck Guy....
posted by y2karl at 9:57 PM on July 27, 2003

I don't know, I like to think of myself as a geek even though I haven't a damned clue about comics, graphic novels or old blues records.

That being said, I had a really heartwarming moment many months ago. I pulled up next to an ex-girlfriend who was in her own world, singing along to the radio. I turned my radio down and realized that she was listening to a mix that I made for her 7 years ago. I waved, smiled, and drove on my way.

That evening I got an email from her, saying that I always had the best taste in music.

It was nice to know that even though we're gone, we're not always forgotten, and sometimes we leave a little bit of ourselves in our wake.
posted by mosch at 10:11 PM on July 27, 2003

The main movie site is down, but the MGM site is still up.

I saw it after everyone and their dog (and my dad, who knows next to nothing about comics) said that I was Enid and I had to see this movie, but I prefer the comic version -- it's more about how you couldn't hang on to your childhood and things had to change, no matter how much you kept around you.

That and there was a much better lesbian subtext between Enid and Rebecca...god, if they had only started fucking instead of whining, they would've been much happier...

By the way, I was raised up on a steady diet of The Kinks and Pink Floyd, and also think Grant Morrison writing New X-Men is the greatest thing to happen to those damn mutants since Jack Kirby first drew them.
posted by Katemonkey at 5:43 AM on July 28, 2003

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