Although many excellent comics anthologies currently crave your eyeballs, Sammy Harkham’s Kramers Ergot (Buenaventura Press) and Dan Nadel’s The Ganzfeld (Picture Box) occupy a highly weird and ambitious shelf unto themselves. Coincidentally, each title has a new landmark issue available for your reading enjoyment. The Ganzfeld 7 marks the end of the line for co-editor and publisher Nadel, who wants to explore “other formats and ideas.” Harkham, meanwhile, has worried publicly that the large-format Kramers Ergot 7 could bankrupt his company if it doesn’t sell.
KE 7 costs $125 and should be a dazzling experience. I employ the subjunctive because the book is such a bank breaker that Buenaventura could/would only send me a PDF disk by way of a review copy. The 100-page lineup ranges from underground-comix elder Kim Deitch to indie-comics pioneer Jaime Hernandez to modern master Chris Ware to hot David Heatley—with plenty of amazing new talent as well. Earlier Ergot issues mixed cartoonists and painters, as does The Ganzfeld, but KE7 focuses on comics in general and narrative comics in particular. That said, Harkham’s notion of narrative is looser than clams.
With so many exceptional artists onboard (e.g., Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Carol Tyler, Ivan Brunetti, Kevin Huizenga, Ron Regé Jr., Jerry Moriarty, Rick Altergott, Ban Katchor, Frank Santoro, etc., etc.,), all that really needs to be said is that this appears to be an indispensable collection worth busting your own budget for.
Inside, Seth’s biographical cartoon tribute to Canadian illustrator Thoreau MacDonald (1901-89) is modest, elegant, and, in the end, fairly astounding when placed read beside MacDonald’s own surprisingly Seth-like journal pages. In Matthew Thurber’s “Produce the Corpse,” a solar-powered Brian Eno is commissioned by the birds of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery to produce an album by a way dead songwriter. Eno’s payment? “The only known 3-dimensional screen saver.” Will Sweeney brilliantly combines high psychedelia with science-fiction paperback visions and monster-movie cheese in “The Chatsworth Miasma.” And Matt Groening gives a knowing Hollywood makeover to “The Road to Success,” a popular inspirational illustration.
Released in a relatively limited edition of 1000, The Ganzfeld 7 costs $40 and packs a lot of extras into its baggy pants. Artist-musician Peter Blegvad pays tribute to his illustrator father, Fort Thunder artist Mat Brinkman and Joe Grillo deliver 24 pages of outrageously collaged faux cassette covers, Eddie Martinez speaks with the graphically sympathetic abstract painter Joanne Greenbaum, and Wes Willis explores the stringy world of the artist Pshaw, whose tripadelic inner covers kick off the book.
Even better, Picture Box bags their hefty 288-page book with a fab Laura Weinstein poster; a kooky zine ripped from Deitch Projects gallery director Kathy Grayson’s blog; a DVD containing Paper Rad’s hilarious “Problem Solvers,” an animated kids show; and Norman Hathaway’s splendid 24-page pamphlet trumpeting the underappreciated talent of Los Angeles artist-designer Bob Zoell. While KE7 takes its cue from the broadsheets of yore (shelve it with the Sunday Press’s newspaper-sized Little Nemo editions), the Ganzfeld explodes in your hands like a clever toy.
Off the Page: Underground comix legend Kim Deitch discusses his career, shows work in progress, and submits to a Q&A in conjunction with his ongoing retrospective on November 13 at 7 p.m. at MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art), 594 Broadway, Suite 401. You might even snag a cool Sunshine Girl pin.