Comments (0) | More: atom klein, collage, comics, gouache, watercolor
Comments (0) | More: atom klein, comics, gouache, watercolor
| More: gouache, painting, watercolor
| More: comics, painting, watercolor
It only took 25 years, but I finally picked up a book I’d been wanting.
The ad on the back of The Comics Journal #124, August 1988. Cover feature, a big Jules Feiffer interview. Inside, all kinds of door-opening stuff, like first glimpses of Jack Cole, Howard Chaykin, the Bros Hernandez, R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, etc etc etc. But this ad really caught my attention.
What lay behind all these miniature book covers? I could pretty much guess with the Manara books. TORPEDO 1936 and SAM PEZZO PI were self-expanatory, and as a longtime SF reader I was already suspending disbelief for whatever might be happening in the Bilal books.
But what the hell was up with FIRES?
FIRES. OK, there’s a sailor there, and a stylized battleship of some kind. And a flame. His face is very weirdly drawn – never seen stylization like that before. And what kind of expression is that? Are his eyes glowing? What’s that weird twisty emblem on his hat? Mysteries abounded.
The entire issue was full of the Other: books, cartoons, and artists I’d never heard of before, but which obviously existed (of course – people in other countries draw cartoons! And people can draw whatever they want!) and which were in cultural conversation with each other, whether I had been paying attention or not.
But this Mattotti image was like the Other Other. It didn’t appear to be about T&A or gangsters or slice-of-life or more T&A or monsters. The image of that head, with the weird bent nose and almost-forgot-to-draw-the mouth, stayed with me.
(Later, in an issue of ASIMOV’S, I would see another Catalan Communications ad, this one in b&w and with a excruciatingly brief blurb for FIRES: “Mystical possession ends in Expressionist inferno.” Well, that clears it up, thanks.)
So, I finally got around to tracking down a used copy. The book itself turns out to be surprisingly large format, and with pretty good color reproduction. The translation seems a little shaky, or maybe the original was just very elliptical, but it only adds to the dreamlike feel.
So what is it about? I’m still not sure. At this point I’m mostly admiring the pictures — nobody draws like Mattotti — and not trying to make much sense of the scenario. But even after all these years, and (web-enabled) access to books and artists and images I never could’ve imagined as a teenager, it still feels like an Other Other.
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Ink, watercolor, gouache. Currently working on new version of this page.