If you were intrigued by Joe McCulloch's review of Inio Asano's Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction, you now have the chance to read a little of it for yourself. Or rather, a lot of it, as VIZ was very generous in allowing us to preview a whole sixty pages. It will only be up on the site for a limited time, so don't delay.
Also, Brian Nicholson is back with a review of Anna Haifisch's Von Spatz.
Let me attempt to begin with a joke. So Walt Disney, Saul Steinberg, and Tomi Ungerer walk into an insane asylum. No wait, I'm telling it wrong. Walt Disney walks into his therapist's office. The therapist says, "Why the long beak?" Because in this story, Walt Disney is depicted as a bird. I'm kidding; I wasn't really attempting to tell a joke, but summarizing the basic plot and visual sensibility of Anna Haifisch's Von Spatz, where Steinberg is a cat, and Ungerer's a mouse, but no one preys on one another. They are all in rehab due to the psychic toll being artists has taken on them.
This is not one of those comics where the biography of an artist is depicted in a cartoonist's approximation of their style. Haifisch has chosen as her subjects three people whose commonality is that they are all cartoonists of one sort or another, and she depicts them in her own cartooned style. The characters are simply delineated, essentially stick figures, distinguished from one another by their animal heads, but the backgrounds pop with color. Trained as a printmaker, Haifisch uses black lines and limited colors to convey pictorial depth and depth of feeling equally adroitly. There's respect for these artists, and affection for them as characters, but they exist on her terms: It's fiction, not biography. Not only did this never happen, there are many ways in which it never could have happened. Anachronisms and shifting contexts form the core of the book's sense of humor. A few moments suggest cartoon characters might be staying at the clinic as well as cartoonists. The book is a deadpan delight, as the logic, or illogic, of its world is slowly charted. The whole thing proceeds with a "ha ha what?" tension, not quite cohering into something that makes sense, and obliquely suggesting the nature of the characters' breakdowns. The tone is absurd but conveys a tired malaise, like a Steven Wright one-liner, or Zach Galifianakis at his most despondent.
—Those of you who enjoy online arguments may want to dig into the various online controversies surrounding the new Nancy.