From Chris Ware to Dash Shaw to Grant Morrison, many of today’s most innovative creators play innovative games with the way time and space are portrayed in comics. But for my money, it’s tough to top the tour-de-force performance that is “Here,” by cartoonist/illustrator/designer/musician Richard McGuire. Originally published in Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly’s seminal RAW anthology in 1989, the strip starts with a shot of the corner of a living room in an unassuming suburban house…and then proceeds to show what happened in that corner — or the space it either used to or will one day occupy — in a dizzying number of time periods, from 500,957,406,073 BC to 2033 AD. McGuire slices, dices, and subdivides his panels to create little windows into different years, so that a single panel can show the same person posing for photographs in 1964, 1974, and 1984; or a man lounging in 1987, another man talking in 2027, a firefighter extinguishing a blaze in 2029, and a Native American lying dead on the ground in 1850. Besides being technically stunning and formally daring, it’s a provocative and I’d say moving take on the passage of time.
“Here” has since been reprinted in Todd Hignite’s Comic Art magazine and Ivan Brunetti’s An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories from Yale University Press, but it’s still relatively hard to come by given its landmark status. Fortunately, the entire strip has been posted on the Rutgers University website, and with McGuire’s permission I’m happily linking to it and encouraging you all to read it if you haven’t already. My description may make it sound confusing or dry, but trust me, when you get into the rhythm of the thing, it’s a knockout. And McGuire knows from rhythm, of course: He’s the bassist for the legendary post-punk band Liquid Liquid, and thus putting him in the enviable position of having crafted both one of the greatest comics and greatest basslines of all time.
UPDATE: Bill Kartalopoulos reminds us that much of McGuire’s work is currently on display in the Cartoon Polymaths art show at New York City’s Parsons the New School for Design. And just in case the strip disappears from the Rutgers site, you can also read it at Entrecomics, as well as watch an impressive short film adaptation of it by Timothy Masick and William Traynor:
To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every word in Françoise Mouly’s interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben is fascinating, including “and” and “the.” It’s a marvelously insightful look at nearly every aspect of the legendary RAW, New Yorker, and Toon Books editor’s multifaceted career: The status of Toon Books, the challenges of producing educational books for children that are also fun to look at and read, her personal history with comics, the importance and legacy of her and husband Art Spiegelman’s seminal alternative-comics magazine RAW‘s production values, the shift among underground/alternative cartoonists’ careers from character-focused (a la Zippy, Jimbo, and Adele Blanc-sec) to creator-focused, her duties and work style as The New Yorker‘s art editor, working with visual artists from across the comics and illustration spectrum, her dream of an increased presence of actual comics in the magazine, R. Crumb’s apparent New Yorker beef, Toon Books’ upcoming slate…pure gold from one of comics’ most influential figures.
Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
Today we’ll be traipsing through the body of work of one of the most significant (if not exactly prolific) American cartoonists of this modern age, Art Spiegelman.
C. Tyler‘s graphic memoir (the first book of three), You’ll Never Know (Book 1): A Good and Decent Man, has been getting a great deal of praise as of late. Our own, Chris Mautner, noted (in his review of Tyler’s book) that it “certainly deserves any accolades it receives”. The memoir (as described by Fantagraphics): “tells the story of the 50-something author’s relationship with her World War II veteran father, and how his war experience shaped her childhood and affected her relationships in adulthood. ‘You’ll Never Know’ refers not only to the title of her parents’ courtship song from that era, but also to the many challenges the author encountered in uncovering the difficult and painful truths about her Dad’s service — challenges exacerbated by her own tumultuous family life.” Even though she’s quite busy, she was generous enough to recently entertain a few of my questions via email.
C. Tyler: Before we get started, I have to say this first: Bill Murray, I love you and I’m ready to go on that date, so please call.
Now what were those questions?
Tim O’Shea: Are you annoyed, pleased or indifferent when reviewers of the book liken it on some level to Maus?
Tyler: Maus is such an important work. To be likened on some level to Maus: unbelievable. However, my answer comes more from a personal place.
When I first read the New York Times Review by Douglas Wolk, I was ready to bust out cryin’ with joy. You see, Art Spiegelman was one of the first official cartoonists I met. I was part of the fan team that helped with the first Raw promotions, hanging up fliers all over Manhattan. This was 1982 maybe? It felt so cool to be part of his inner circle and close to the early excitement he was feeling about Maus. I remember we were in a cab once on the way back from a Raw party and I was thinking how my Dad was over there, too, as part of the armed effort that eventually liberated his Dad. And his Mother. But I never believed that I could ever produce a work that would be mentioned in the same sentence.