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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Two to Get in San Diego -- I won't be at the San Diego Comicon this year (my unbroken streak continues!), but two graphic novels spring immediately to mind as worth recommending to you if you're going and you see them up for sale.

* I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets (Fantagraphics Books) -- This big collection of truly freaky superhero comics by Fletcher Hanks is edited by Paul Karasik, and includes an illustrated comic-style afterword about how the project came to be. Hank's talents combine the rubbery stylings of Basil Wolverton interpreting the twisted scripting of Michael Fleischer, with a singleness of purpose to each and every script that at first seems like laziness or a lack of imagination, but by the end of the book will have you realizing in its own way, this one-track mind of Hanks's may have been his greatest gift to comics. He apparently wasn't a very nice guy, if you believe Karasik's afterword (and there's no reason not to), but in his own way his comics seem like a distillation of everything that is possible in superhero comics, and everything that is utterly retarded. This is one of the essential books of the year, without question.

* Spent (Drawn and Quarterly) -- The four issues collected here seemed somehow more monumental when I was buying them in single issues over the years they took to come out, but Joe Matt's latest collection is still, in some ways, his most personal and interesting. The intimate details of his repugnant private life when he was living in Canada are all on display, and no doubt many who knew what he was up to may be glad he's living back in the States now. Matt, Seth and Chester Brown (the latter two are characters in the book) all make up a sort of mini-movement in artcomix, and I find just about everything all three do to be revealing and progressive comics that move the artform forward no matter what their individual tics and foibles. I can't say you'll like the guy once you close the covers of this very well-designed hardcover, but if you're like me you'll find it impossible to stop reading and even admire Matt's ability to depict his own worst nature with what appears to be brutal, if elegant, honesty.

* San Diego Bonus -- Here's Christopher Butcher's Five Favourite San Diego Memories; tell him I said "hi" if you see him there, would you?

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