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#0009 06 JULY 2004
Eightball #23 -- Every once in a while, an important new release comes along that reminds me of the real reason I read comics. Next week's Eightball #23 will no doubt be one of those releases; I say this with confidence because each of the previous 22 issues has done that as well, and creator Dan Clowes has only grown and improved as a cartoonist, as an artist, in the years he's been doing this comic.
Here's what Fantagraphics has to say about this issue:
EIGHTBALL #23 HITS STORES AS CLOWES & ZWIGOFF RE-TEAM FOR ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL!
The most popular alternative comic in the world is back, and it's bigger and better than ever! Presenting Eightball #23 by DANIEL G. CLOWES. This is the first new issue of Eightball in over two years, and it's another self-contained, full-color, oversized masterpiece like the award-winning previous issue! Featuring the first appearance of... THE DEATH-RAY! The best-selling author of Ghost World tells the story, set mostly in the 1970s, of a teenager granted mysterious powers and the irrevocable changes in his life that accompany them.
Eightball #23 hits stands July 14, just as Clowes and Ghost World film director Terry Zwigoff will begin working on their second feature film collaboration. Mr. Mudd, the production company behind 2001’s Ghost World, reteams director Terry Zwigoff and cartoonist/screenwriter Dan Clowes for the eagerly anticipated Art School Confidential. Set to lense in Los Angeles on July 12, the film also marks the continuing partnership between Mr. Mudd and United Artists, who released Ghost World to critical acclaim. Terry Zwigoff and Dan Clowes were nominated for an Academy Award in 2002 for their screen adaptation of Ghost World based on Clowes’ graphic novel of the same name, published by Fantagraphics Books. Terry Zwigoff most recently helmed the box office hit Bad Santa starring Billy Bob Thornton.
Mudd partners Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich and Russ Smith are producing from the Clowes penned script. Malkovich rounds out the art school cast of characters including Anjelica Huston, and Jim Broadbent. The film boasts ingenues Max Minghella and Sophia Myles.
Based on a comic story in Dan Clowes’ Eightball #7 (and reprinted in the collection Twentieth Century Eightball, “Art School Confidential” tracks an art student (Minghella) who dreams of becoming a famous artist. Arriving as a freshman at a prestigious east coast art school, he quickly discovers that his affected style and arrogance don’t get him very far. When he sees that a clueless jock is attracting the glory rightfully due him, he hatches an all-or-nothing plan to hit it big in the art world.
The above image is a print inspired by Eightball #23 and available from Buenaventura Press. The image was originally intended to be the cover Eightball #23, but Clowes used a different image instead. Two different versions are available, ranging in price from $125.00 to $225.00.
Now, Eightball #22, the previous issue, permanently redefined my perception of comics. I consider it absolutely the greatest single issue of any comic book series ever published, and I hope by now you've read it. "Ice Haven" is something of a graphic novella that occupies the entirety of the issue, a mystery set in an odd little town populated by dozens of freaks and weirdos, each portrayed with astonishing skill as unique human beings plagued variously by longing, lonliness, bitterness and despair.
"Ice Haven" is one single story, but Clowes delivers it in a wide variety of styles over the course of 22 short stories, some echoing his David Boring and Ghost World styles, but others aping Peanuts and a number of other genres and styles. It's a brilliant tour not only through Clowes's creative power, but through the history of comics as an artform. It literally has to be seen to be believed.
And while "Ice Haven" has a central mystery (what has become of a kidnapped young boy?), there are numerous other mysteries and enigmas posed by Clowes, often seen obliquely through hints and intimations. Much of "Ice Haven" is created by how you approach it, and of all the comics I've ever read, Eightball #22 rewards re-reading more than any other one I can think of. There's always new angles to find, new layers to peel back. It's like an infinite comic, infinite in its potential, infinite in its ability to enlighten and entertain. The issue inspired unusually literate analysis and criticism, as seen here, here, here and here.
That Clowes chose to deliver this story as a saddle-stitched comic book, "just another issue of Eightball," was a stroke of genius. At once it confirmed the worth of the medium and vastly expanded its potential. It is virtually impossible to read Eightball #22 without suddenly seeing just how much remains to be done within the seemingly decrepit format of "comics."
With the success of both the graphic novel and the film adaptation of Ghost World, I hope that Clowes has expanded his reader base and that Eightball #23 will be his biggest success yet. More than that, though, I hope that if you enjoy comics and are interested in where the artform is going, that you'll grab up #23 and tell your friends to give it a look as well. If your local comics shop doesn't stock this issue, it's time to find a new comics shop, because that one isn't getting the job done, period. I haven't been this excited about a new comic in a good long time, and I can't wait to get my hands on this issue.
Sean Collins reviews Eightball #23 here.