Tomorrow has finally come.

*Don't ask me how a simple fucking graduation turned into such a lengthy affair, but that's what happened - two solid days of events and meeting with people and all that. It was nice to see everyone, of course, but it sort of wound up wearing me out. And I get to do it again in another two weeks!

I always sort of hope some kind of wild scandal will occur with these college graduations, but nothing quite does. This year, an environmental science major went up to accept the diploma without any shoes on! That was the most exciting thing that happened. You've let me down again, wild college students of these United States of America.

*Aw hell, how's about a short review, huh?

Arf Forum

This is probably coming out on Wednesday, if my dream visions are correct. It's from Fantagraphics, and it's $19.95 for 120 pages in color and b&w, depending on what's needed.

This is the third volume in Craig Yoe's ongoing 'Arf' series of books, aimed at exploring the "The Unholy Marriage of Art + Comics," as the cover proclaims. There's also a regularly updated website that serves as a sort of ongoing augmentation of the print project. You can find a lengthy preview of this book posted on there, but if you've ever read any of the prior two volumes, you'll know to expect a profusely illustrated stew of odd artifacts, strange correlations, historical curiosities, vintage humor, vintage cheesecake, and a general feeling that whatever is waiting upon the next turn of the page cannot entirely be expected, even if you've read the table of contents.

Take this volume's 24-page cover feature, Comic Reading is Fun and Mental, which is little more than a parade of curious items connected to the act of reading comics, with minimal historical information provided. There's images of celebrities like Elvis and Rock Hudson and Boris Karloff reading (or sometimes merely standing in close proximity to) comic books, followed by a series of full-page reproductions of mid-20th century magazine covers relating to the reading of comics, followed by a four-page Stan Lee/Joe Maneely short in which a bold comics editor (not unlike Stan Lee!) defends escapism itself against a sweating, growling opponent of everything good and true in the world, followed by dizzying 1922 Krazy Kat Sunday in which Krazy simultaneously reads and participates in the very comics page he/she happens to exist in. That last bit also reminds me how George Herriman was one of the truly fine writers in comics:

"But if I are here, and you is here, how come I are in the paper, and you also - ansa me that."

"Because, fool, how could it be aught were it not thus - you answer that."

All that, plus a saucy five-page picture feature from 1941, in which a leggy comics fan, prone to reading Shield-Wizard Comics in her underwear, visits the offices of MLJ (later Archie) Comics to fawn over several scenes of scantly-clad women posing live in dangerous predicaments, only to saunter off beaming with Steel Sterling and the Shield, thanks to the magic of comics.

"Come on, boys! We're going places!"


The rest of the book proceeds in a similar manner, although it does pause occasionally to present some slightly more in-depth text - an essay by Ken Quattro on his search for information on semi-legendary pre-Code horror cover artist William Ekgren, who produced a grand total of three pieces for publisher St. John in the early '50s before vanishing forever (all are lovingly reproduced, of course), gives the impression of presenting just enough information that the reader can feel as if the peculiar subject has been approached with just the detail needed to provide an entertaining overview.

But more often, the book is content to simply present pages and pages of art, usually with only a short introduction and quick nuggets of information in captions. And while Yoe's selections from, say, Max Ernst's sequential collage booklets from 1930s France, or caveman cartoons from the late 19th/early 20th century, or illustrator Ted Scheel's surreal cartoons for the lowdown Humorama line of spicy gag books, tend to make one wish that somebody would later present this material with a bit more depth, it would be misreading Yoe's aesthetic drive to pursue that line of criticism. The Arf books are fierce little visual concoctions, determined to wow the reader into awareness of the extensive intertwining of arts that were once known as High and Low, its impact emotional, sensational. Intellectual consideration of the finer points will have to come later, but it's to the book's credit that the reader is more than willing to put it off.