Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kramers Ergot 7

Edited by Sammy Harkham
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Contributions to anthologies are always hit or miss for me, and the latest Kramers Ergot is no exception in that regard. There are a few comics in this mammoth 16" x 21" hardcover that I definitely did not like. But with this anthology, even the bad comics at least looked beautiful in the oversized format, and luckily, the entries I didn't care for were few and far between. All in all, this is one of the best anthologies I've ever read, and it introduced me to several artists I hadn't been exposed to previously, and had pristine examples of great stories from bigger name artists such as Chris Ware. I did have a few problems with the book overall though, the biggest being that I had no idea who some of the artists I was looking at were, and the table of contents was so ridiculously elaborate that it made the endeavor to uncover an artist's name quite the chore. Luckily, the artists were listed on the spine in order of appearance, so I could refer to the contributor that way, but I think for the new reader, this would be a turn-off, and it kind of was for me too. That being said, this is a $125 art book and most people picking up something like this aren't blindly purchasing it, but there must be a few artists within that consumers aren't familiar with that they found tedious trying to identify. Anyways, an introduction to each artist or a more organized table of contents would have made things much easier for me. But that complaint aside, I loved reading this book. With such huge dimensions, it was a little strange reading it, a little awkward at first, but once I got used to it, it was a lot of fun turning those huge pages with often mind-blowing images. Some of the highlights:
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Shary Boyle's "Grow Old" was a great way to open Kramers Ergot. Her lush watercolors look fantastic on these pages, and it was a great example for what the artists thereafter had to work with. I loved how she arranged the art of her story and she had just beautiful drawings.
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"Cradle of Frankenstein" was another favorite of mine. Ted May's paranoid story was a lot of fun to follow and really off-the-wall.
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The next contribution was from Tom Gauld about Noah's sons. I really enjoyed Gauld's design for the arc (and construction thereof) and the dialogue between the two brothers leading up to the rainstorm.
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Geoff McFetridge's simply drawn "A Ladder of Lines" with white panels against a bright yellow background were great. Creative, interesting and fun, and not the sort of thing I usually read.
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Daniel Clowes's "Sawdust" was a one-page story about a man at mid-life who's down on his luck, and is easily one of the best contributions in the entire book.
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I liked C.F.'s colorful pages quite a bit. The designs of the characters and the weird shit going down made for one of the most uniquely cool stories of the bunch.
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Ah, Chris Ware. Of course, the story he provided was lovely. Lots of panels in a great little story showcasing the life of a woman reminiscing about the childhood home she finds herself living in once again.
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John Brodowski's one-page black-and-white silent comic was wonderful. I'd never heard of him before (and had to search that damn table of contents for a full name), but his page was haunting and just beautiful.
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"The Toppers" by Jaime Hernandez was another highlight, the artist choosing to do a story with lots of panels in one page about time travel and jealousy.
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One of the best contributions overall was "The Game" by Anders Nilsen, another artist who I've read nothing of. A weird story with wonderful pastel colors.
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Johnny Ryan's parody "My Sexy History" was one of the funniest comics I've read in years. I laughed out loud several times, something I don't do too often.
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Seth's "Thoreau MacDonald" was another highlight of the book. A quiet, dense story.
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Blanquet's little horror story was really disturbing and kind of ugly, but I couldn't help but enjoy the oddity.
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My favorite comic in the entire anthology was Adrian Tomine's "My Porno Doppelganger," about a girl whose life is kind of messed up because she has an uncanny resemblance to pornstar Amber Sweet.
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I also really enjoyed contributions by David Heatley, Matt Furie, Josh Simmons, Frank Santoro, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Helge Reumann, John Pham, Joe Daly and Gabrielle Bell. Some of the stories that I didn't like, such as Kim Deitch's, I can't really explain why I didn't like them except to say that I didn't get them or I got no enjoyment out of them. But like I said earlier, even in those cases, they at least looked nice on those big pages. So, overall, one of the most ambitious publishing projects of the year...a smashing success.

2 comments:

Daniel said...

I must be the only guy in the world that doesn't like, nay, despises Johnny Ryan's humor. They're all the same "joke", but with different characters.

Matt said...

sorry to be a hater, but i thought that most of the big name contributions (clowes, hernandez, tomine) were really boring. i guess it bears mentioning that i'm not a fan of these authors work in general.

and daniel, you're not alone. johnny ryan's routine is pretty one note, and i don't care for his work by and large. i think people just admire him for going for it and totally owning his low-brow-ness in a realm of comics trying to be arty and high-brow.

i do agree that the may, nilsen, and especially gauld pieces were really impressive.

i blabbed about this in my own blog...