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BLAB! Vol. 14Review - BLAB! Vol. 14
by Monte Beauchamp (Editor)
Fantagraphics Comics, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Aug 2nd 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 32)

Fantagraphics' Blab collections contain some of the most striking pieces of art created in recent years.  It is rooted in comic book art, but it has very little to do with superhero stories.  Rather, these 27 or so contributions are in an amazing array of styles.  The book is 120 pages plus the cover, so each artist has about 4 pages each, but some take just one, while others are much longer: Matti Hagelberg's "Hard-Boiled Nekkonen" is 25 pages and Monte Beauchamp's "Striking Art" is simply a selection of early matchbook cover art in 12 pages. 

The front and back cover, as well as four pages called "Pharmaceuticools," are by Camille Rose Garcia.  These pictures look like they are done over flowered wallpaper, not completely covered over.  A little boy pats a half-tortoise, half-snail creature with "Ritalin" written on its shell.  A girl hangs upside down from a trapeze, holding a maraca with "Prozac" written on it. Her hair drips down like paint. Like many of the other images in the book, it's both bizarre and slightly surreal, and it's also disturbing.  Both the children have dark eyes and look drugged.  There is more text in the inside  pictures by Garcia: in one, a similar girl, now dressed in black, hangs in the air, and a caption reads, "Well don't despair, don't feel blue, get hip to Pharmaceuticools!  They'll turn your world from drab to bright, & free you of your mental blight…"

On just one page is an amazingly intricate drawing by Reumann and Robel called "Blabworld"; there is too much to describe and even a long list would not convey much sense of the visual experience.  Like so much art by the mentally ill, the page is covered with drawing and there's also some vertical symmetry. 

In contrast, a far more formalized and minimalist story by Greg Clarke is "The Forlorn Fungus."  With four cells per page, and large white borders, there is an elegance to the tale of Hervé, a 28 oz white truffle who travels from Italy to America going from owner to owner.  It's a funny and sardonic piece.

Other pieces are far more angry and political.  "Weapons of Mass Destruction" with dark and quite ugly art by Sue Coe and poems and other writing text by Judy Brody.   The themes concern human violence to other humans and animals, and chronicle abuses of around the world .  Enfer-De by Blanquet is a two-page spread with a far more fantastic themes, showing a hellish scene with large animals fighting.  It's disgusting and funny. 

One of the most memorable pieces is another two pager, with the story of "The Piccolo Midgets" by Laura Levine.  Four midget brothers migrate from Germany to New York in 1901 and make their living as a variety act.  But in 1924, one of the brothers became depressed and killed himself, and soon after one of the other midgets died.  Levine combines painting with newspaper clipping on wood.  It has a home-made feel and portrays the tragic and weird tale sympathetically. 

As a whole, this is a remarkable collection of art.  If there's a theme that unifies it, it is the myths of American life shown from a critical and curious perspective.  They deal with race, war, gender, rock and roll, and science fiction.  Other artists included are Tom Huck, Bob Staake, Spain, Juan Soto and Marcelo Rodriguez, Willem Rosenthal, David Sandlin, The Clayton Brothers, Marc Rosenthal, Hoey and Freund, Doug Allen, Baseman, Jonathan Rosen, Larry Day, Noah Woods, David Goldin, Mark Landman, Minus and Despretz, Peter Kuper, Fred Stonehouse, and Tim Biskup.  It's work that deserves to be widely seen.

 

Link:    Fantagraphics Comics

 

© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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