Cartoonist's Day
    by John Cech

While you're spreading the newspaper this Sunday to finally catch up a little on your painting around the house, and you catch a glimpse of the comics underneath that gallon of pistachio green paint, remember that it's Cartoonist's Day, in honor of all those women and men who bring you laughs, adventures, and pithy social commentaries, in the most democratic, inexpensive, and ordinary of ways.

And if you get the painting done early and have a chance to visit your local bookstore in the afternoon, you might take a look at some comics that are adding some extraordinary new dimensions to these well-worn forms. One of these glorious new comic books is Little Lit -- Strange Stories for Strange Kids edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. It's their follow up to a smiliar, over-sized volume that they published last year, again with over a dozen intriguing pieces by some of the most interesting graphic storytellers at work today. Francois Roca gives us a picture of a city-scape, done in a fuzzy, art deco, 1930s style, in which we're supposed to find 22 odd things, like the huge suspension bridge that vanishes into a tiny doorway in the sky. Jules Feiffer tells the meta-story about a crtically astute boy who's "trapped in a comic book." But instead of being frightened by the muscle-bound super-heroes locked in combat all around him, he's bored to tears by their antics. In "Pretty Ugly," Ian Falconer and David Sedaris turn on its head the old adage about not making faces, lest you get stuck in one. Art Spiegelman (the award-winning creator of Maus and the guiding force behind these two volumes) offers us "The Several Selves of Selby Sheldrake," about a little boy who looks like a younger version of the Waldo of the Where's Waldo Books, who manages to discover, quite by accident, that he can replicate himself, and much to his consternation clones a room-full of appalling alter-egos. And in "Cereal Baby Keller," Maurice Sendak weighs in with another one of his incomprable hungry baby fantasies about an infant who can (and does) literally eat everything. This is a quirky, funny, and wholly unusual collection of comics -- for those older, more discriminating middle-school and teenage tastes, and for those adults who haven't ever outgrown the narrative spell of comics. Believe me, you won't want to set your paint can down on this.

Copyright 2002 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:19:41 EDT

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