Kim Deitch - Appreciation and Review

The Stuff of Dreams #2
Kim Deitch is one of my favorite cartoonists in the whole fucking world.  He was an active creative force on the 'underground' scene, back in that halcyon comix era, though he was never in "Zap".  His stories are finely tuned fantasies, steeped heavily in earlier pop cultures, especially early animation.  His longer plots often seem to wander about from one odd circumstance to another, but there's perfect cartoon sense behind it.  Let's say a father arrives home, suspicious of his teen daughter.  And with good reason: she's going out dressed as a clown, literally.  Floppy shoes, face paint, etc.  Naturally, the father decides to dress like a clown himself, which leads him to a secret revolutionary group of angry young clowns, which spills over into an orgy, with his girl in attendance, which results in a police chase, which concludes with everyone achieving immortality as icons of the revolution.  Right on!  And that's not counting the recurring characters.  You get the feeling that all of those Miles Microft (Psychic Detective) adventures might just fit together to form some insane biography, or maybe a timeline of American pop distraction, full of swamp potions and silent adventure films and robots on wheels.  His shorter stories are loaded with fun gags, eye-catches, ribald laffs.  His art is instantly recognizable, a bright animation world filled with delusional misfits, strong women, mental institutions, and Waldo the cat, a nasty little bastard with a wild, biblical origin.  He's also a spiteful will to creativity, the debauched and untamed soul of cartoons, moving and otherwise, presiding over "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (written with Deitch's brother Simon), a hardcover collection of the most important moments in the life of Ted Mishkin, animator, and the industry that surrounds him.
"The Stuff of Dreams", with two of its three issues available, shifts the focus to none other than Kim Deitch.  It's a series of tall tales, essentially, with Deitch attempting to indulge his passion for collecting through Ebay and flea markets, only to become embroiled in some sort of historical mystery.  It's a natural extension of Deitch's earlier focuses; his storytelling has always been enchanted by earlier pop artifacts, now Deitch is physically pursuing bits of prior amusement.  The first issue of the series won the 2003 Eisner for Best Single Issue or One-Shot.  The second issue is even better.
The key strength of the series is Deitch's simultaneously absurd and authentic use of history.  The plot of #2 involves Deitch coming into possession of a strange cat costume, which he discovers was used as the hero's disguise in an obscure silent serial, "Alias the Cat".  The plot of the serial was also adapted into a daily adventure newspaper strip that ran at the same time, a slight departure from the prose adaptations that accompanied many serials of the day (a large portion of which no longer survive).  Deitch reads the comic, and begins to draw strange parallels between the serial and local news.  An absurd yet bafflingly credible plot evolves, including Vietnam protests, Henry Ford, golden sewage, 'furries' (and oh yes, there is a sex scene), and much more. 
The plot isn't always air-tight; I'm not totally sure how the film serial, the comic strip, and certain other events could be synched up quite so well.  And some may complain about the uniformity of Deitch's art style: the newspaper strips look pretty much like the real world action (although I loved the shading effects for the 'color' strips).  I don't mind it.  The series is, after all, about becoming immersed in history, about loving the past, about loving people who love the past, about its influence on the present, about fiction becoming real, about believing that comics can become flesh.  That is the stuff of dreams, and the enthusiasm infects.
Both issues are readily available.  Each stands alone, for the most part.  It's a great way to try Deitch's brand of comics.  If you like it, you'll want "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", plus the earlier short story collections "Beyond the Pale" and "All Waldo Comics".  There's the extended weekly strip collections "Hollywoodland" and "A Shroud for Waldo".  And there's more, uncollected stuff in Fantagraphics' defunct anthology title "Zero Zero", stuff in "Little Lit", and so much more.
Deitch's work continues to evolve.  It may never stop.  Anytime is the best time to check him out.