Paul Buhle is here today with a review of Corrine Maier and Anne Simon’s graphic biography, Einstein.
Since the distant days when Chomsky for Dummies sought to explain difficult ideas to popular audiences through an acute combination of art and text, comics have come to be a natural medium for scientific explanation. Indeed, Logicomix, the somewhat fictionalized biographical treatment of Bertrand Russell and his philosophical theories of math, proved a surprise bestseller a half dozen years ago. No others in the scientist-biographical category have been so successful, but as science, math, and the universe continue to get the comic treatment of various kinds, further experimentation is obviously ongoing.
This reviewer, an old-time historian of the Left, asks himself why Einstein is superior to Marx, the comics version of one famed Central European Jewish socialist over another. Most of Marx ended up treating his social life as radical exile, impoverished father and husband (very occasional adulterer), leader of the First International, and so on. The “Marxist” theories toward which he devoted his ardent energies got pretty short shrift. In fairness, such ponderous subjects as the Left Hegelianism of the young revolutionary romantic would prove daunting to any comics treatment.
—News. Two artists who work in the comics form, Gene Luen Yang and Lauren Redniss, were awarded MacArthur “genius” grants yesterday.
—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner looks back at the work of Richard Thompson.
Once you start digging in, however, you realize this is no average four-panel sitcom. For one thing, there are those names. Blisshaven. Otterloop. Danders. Thompson had a deep gift/fondness for strange words and phrases and incorporated them in into the strip whenever possible (hence the pangolins and trebuchets), giving the strip a healthy sense of the absurd. Cul de Sac teemed with weird objects and concepts — a toy nobody knew how to play with, a compact car so tiny it tips over easily — that pushed the strip right up to the edge of the fantastic without ever truly crossing the line. And while it could be a very verbose strip at times, Cul de Sac never felt like it was drowning in dialogue.
At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jackson Ayres writes about the way AIDS was depicted (through the metaphor of “the Legacy virus”) in X-Men comics.
On one hand, the comics featuring Legacy tended to evince sentimental liberal humanist attitudes toward AIDS, at times even reinforcing homophobic reaction. Understood in the light of popular fantasy, on the other hand, the moments when X-Men was at its most outlandish, eschewing even the pretense of mimesis, provided opportunities for more daring, even radical, interrogations of the AIDS crisis.
Jonathan Guyer writes about the Egyptian cartoonist Andeel.
Broadly speaking, Andeel’s oeuvre falls into two categories: snap political commentary and social criticism. The former body of work—including caricatures of the president, mockery of the military—has garnered international acclaim. But in fact it’s in cartoons about the quotidian—relationships, technology, hipsters, vegetarianism—where Andeel often shines brightest.