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Touch the Sky

Today on the site: Part two of Paul Tumey’s epic exploration of the life and work of George Carlson.

George Carlson’s sensibility comes not from comic books, nor from newspaper comics – but instead from a rich mix of early 20th century commercial art, book/magazine illustration, game design, and advertising. Much of Carlson’s work is primarily concerned with appealing to and nurturing the minds of children with an emphasis on stimulating the imagination.

Generally, when we read golden age comic book stories, we have – I think – a predisposition toward a certain context that one could say mainly revolves around the myth of the hero’s journey, issues of morality and justice, and the shadow side of sexuality – a context that is very much alive and well in current American culture.

This 1917 war-time poster by George Carlson shows a mastery of early twentieth century graphic design styles

The “quirky” Carlson’s “genyoowine” sensibility emerges from a completely different context, one that is grounded both in early twentieth century graphic design and in classic children’s literature from Lewis Carroll to Edward Lear to Mark Twain (all of whom Carlson illustrated). What seems quirky in the world of comics is utterly mainstream in the larger world of classic children’s literature. It makes perfect sense, then, that Art Spiegelman said that Carlson’s work was one of the raisons d’etre for the creation of the TOON Treasury, a book that is intended to frame kid’s comics as part of the continuum of “classic” children’s literature.

The only other early comics work I know of that shares Carlson’s grounding in children’s classics is the late 1930’s comics published by David McKay, who published such literary giants as Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, and Beatrix Potter. Founded in 1882, David McKay’s Philadelphia-based publishing house was rooted in a different context than most comic book publishers based in New York.

Elsewhere:

Forbidden Planet reviews Love & Rockets: The Covers.

Gil Roth interviews Peter Bagge. Brian Heater interviews Kim Deitch.

A nice photoset from last weekend’s APE.

Two reports on NYCC. One from The Beat and one from Wired. And further reporting on harassment incidents at NYCC from The Beat and commentary from Tom Spurgeon.

Chris Mautner reviews three recent books.

And here’s a video of the Jeff Smith Q&A from this year’s SPX.

 


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