Today at TCJ, Hillary Brown is taking a look at the oversized color and glory that is Shira Spector's Red Rock Baby Candy. That book is a monster, in a good, audacious, pour-comics-all-over-the-page kinda way. Hillary likes it:
This constant revision, dragging the reader along for the ride, feels like being dipped into someone else's thought process, and it's crucial to Spector's project, in which she does something similar with her life: reexamining it like a knitter scanning for a flaw, then picking up the missing stitches and inserting fixes. It's not very linear but neither are humans. Time is real, but stories are things we make, and memories are stories we use to tell us about ourselves.
Our other slice of attention for the day is a look, via Bob Levin, at the work of John Porcellino. Specifically, the work of Porcellino as presented in three recent reissues of his work via Drawn & Quarterly: King Cat-Classix, Map of My Heart and A Perfect Example.
Given all that Porcellino experienced between the summer of 1986 and his writing about it, it was not inevitable that he would end his tale with “sunlight breaking through... darkness.” If he had written his book at a different point in this decade, the heavens might have unleashed tornadoes, hurricanes or locusts. The uplifting ending was a gift from a Porcellino who differed significantly from the Porcellino who had lived the events depicted in his book, or who had lived through the years before he sat down to portray them. Whether and in what proportion marriage, meditation and illness contributed to this shape-shift is a question for the gods.
The piece above is one that has been gestating in the back of my mind for a while, for reasons that would never be obvious from reading it, so I thought I'd put those thoughts here despite the fact that the audience for them is gone. Porcellino remains, to my mind, one of the more unique and fascinating American cartoonists--in some ways, he might be the artistic embodiment of what a vehicle like the Journal exists to look and grapple with, representing as he does the concept that comics can be used as an engine of art and self-exploration in a fashion that makes immediately clear how lacking all other forms of creative expression would be to serve the artists particular goals. As such, he's an artist the Journal has a history with, both in multiple print issues, a Cartoonist's Diary, and multiple interviews, including this career spanning two parter from Rob Clough a few years ago, all of which cover a lot of the material in D&Q's recently reissues. So while I found myself looking forward to the D&Q reissues on a personal level--my personal copy of King-Cat Classix was stolen multiple years ago--I wasn't really sure whether I could figure something out.
But then I remembered Tom.
If there was one person I had to attribute my respect and admiration for John Porcellino's work in comics, and the importance with which I regard it, that person would probably be my friend Chris Mautner. But if I was going to name somebody who I think has done the best job of making the case for Porcellino's work publicly and in a fashion that sliced through my initial ambivalence toward it (an ambivalence driven mostly by my own self-loathing, and how effectively John's work often depicts that kind of loathing as a form of destructive self-worship), it would be Tom Spurgeon, who consistently spent decades dropping Porcellino's name and spitting out one-liners about his work's value. I came around eventually, and while John's occasional mawkishness in person still makes me cringe in fear that having feelings might be contagious, I've never looked back.
The flipside to the equation of covering John was, of course, who: who do you go to? Rob Clough already did the career spanner--we're spanned out.
And then I remembered Tom, again.
If there was one thing that Tom never got tired of saying--something I sometimes saw him throw out in proximity to the oversensitive types who he must have known would assume he was saying it at them, and probably was, because it was funny--it was that the "best writer about comics working today" is Bob Levin. And from what I can remember, Bob had never written anything about John Porcellino. I confirmed that with Bob, confirmed with Bob that he was willing to take a suggestion from the office regarding a piece for us, and then set him loose.
As I mentioned above--I don't need to write this down. I'm not going to go check my old emails, but I don't think I even told Bob. And no, I don't believe Tom is paying attention--even if I believed in Heaven, which I don't, I have complete faith that one of the prerequisite components of any form of eternal rest is absolutely zero internet content, comics content especially. But if there was a standard to hold, it would be that when you have a chance to put somebody's favorite critic together with somebody's favorite artist, you should at least try, even if that somebody isn't around to enjoy the outcome.
This one was for you Tom.