Friday, June 16, 2006

Art Out of Time: Part Five

The fifth and final chapter of Dan Nadel's Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 is "Form and Style," where the six cartoonists worked with their medium to push the designs of their pages and charaters to make those elements as much a part of the comic as anything else contained within.

Charles Forbell was constantly experimenting with the layout of his Naughty Pete strip, even though the strip always contained the same formula: the father of Pete tells the child not to do something or other, whereupon little Pete will do just that. Things will, of course, go wrong, and the last sentence of every page is of Pete saying "I guess Pop was right." Very basic, but each page is beautifully designed.

I didn't really get the appeal of T.E. Powers Joys and Glooms. It was very bizarre, with these little imps appearing in the panels to portray whether certain characters felt joy or gloom (or another random emotion like worries or delight). The strip would usually go along the lines of something like the Glooms would chase off the Joys at the moment that someone got bad news. Again, basic.

Now The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo was awesome. Gustave Verbeek created these two characters that, when turned upside down, would be the other character. So, the six panels that were displayed with each strip could be turned upside-down to enjoy another six panels that concluded the story. It's really a very clever, wonderful visual trick. A waterfall will turn to rain when turned upside-down, or a grassy hill with a tree heavy with berries, will become a fire with smoke. Some visuals work better than others. I sometimes saw an upside-down bear before I saw the monk it was supposed to be in that panel, and it was hard for me to focus on the character of Lady Lovekins, often opting for an Old Man Maffaroo floating up into the air, but they all work, just some better than others. It's very magical to experience and I just wish that they could have been printed a little larger like some of the other strips in the anthology to make the prose a little more legible.

Another comic I didn't much care for was Terr'ble Thompson by Gene Deitch. It was about a boy who imagined some pretty extravagant scenarios, where he was, of course, the ultimate hero. It was all very silly with some stylized dialogue and strange characters.

Jingle Jangle Tales by George Carlson was a very pretty comic, and probably the whackiest one in the entire anthology. George Carlson had quite an imagination, with some unusual characters, designs and situations that were maybe a little hard to follow, but fun in the end.

Last but not least was Norman E. Jennett's Monkey Shines of Marseleen. This strip follows the unhappy clown Marseleen and his various adventures with the circus, usually involving a a mischielf-making boy who tries his best to make life for Marseleen difficult. Marseleen always triumphs at the end of the strip though, making the best of the situations he finds himself in. This strip was really very pretty to behold and the situations, always creative.

The first four parts of my look at Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969:

Part One: "Exercises in Exploration"

Part Two: "Slapstick"

Part Three: "Acts of Drawing"

Part Four: "Words in Pictures"

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