Thursday, May 15, 2014

Meanwhile, at Robot 6...

I reviewed Alice in Comicland, the latest Craig Yoe book, at Robot 6 today. It's just what it sounds (and what it looks) like: A collection of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass-related comics of various kinds, mostly from the same time period, with a emphasis on Alice riffs from comics masters over other concerns. It's a great-looking book, and the prose pieces at the beginning are well worth reading for the insights they offer on the relationship of Lewis Carroll's Alice books and comics.

I felt like I learned quite a bit from these introductions. Like, for example, I learned that original Alice illustrator John Tenniel had a serious mustache:

While many of the artists were quite familiar, there were a few I had no prior exposure to (that I can remember). One of these was artist Chad Grothkoph, who drew the book's only full adaptation, of Through The Looking-Glass. Here's the cover to the cominc in which his adaptation originally appeared:

Additionally, there were references to, and covers from, many Alice comics that didn't make it into the collection. I was sorta bummed that the one in the upper right corner of this book didn't make it in, just because I was curious about it:
I do so like seeing different artists drawing the same character over and over in vastly different styles. Just on that one page, you can see three completely different Alices, each looking rather far removed from the two that exist most prominently in my head, Tenniel's black-and-white Alice and the one from the Disney cartoon.

If you've been reading comics very long, you will no doubt rather quickly think of dozens of Alice comics not included or mentioned. One of these, for example, is Caleb's Adventures In Wonderlean by Russell Waterman and James Jarvis (the cover of which you can find at the top of this post). I bought it during PictureBox's going out of business type sale a few months back, specifically because of my affection for Carroll's Alices, and the fact that it replaced the little girl named "Alice" with a dude named "Caleb."

It's an odd book. It's only 12 pages long, but it has very nice paper stock and is expertly stapled. You guys, I had no idea how hard it was to staple a comic book together until I made my last mini-comic. Stapling is soooo hard! Each page has a nine-panel grid of comics on it, and I really like the rough, gritty, heavy line with which Jarvis draws everything. The story is pretty simple. This yellow-skinned, blue-haired guy name dCaleb is handing out in the park one day, and he sees a squirrel run by, saying it's "late...very late." So he follows it down a rabbit squirrel hole, and has a brief series of encounters that are like abbreviated, not-quite-right versions of various Alice episodes.

For example, he meets a hare smoking a hookah atop a mushroom, rather than a caterpillar; sees a pair of lemurs ("cat-things," he calls them) perched in a tree, and they completely disappear, leaving only their grins; he attends a tea party witha talking dog in a yellow top hat, a blue bear in a bonnet and a sleeping toad.

I know nothing of the background of the comic, although based on the Caleb's slang, I'm assuming it was produced in England, or somewhere similar that is foreign bust still English speaking. Nice lines, nice colors, nice name for a protagonist, but sorta random, sorta pointless story.

Anyway, go check out my review at Robot 6 if you like, and check out Alice In Comicland as well (from your local library, if you haven't got $30 to spend on a coffee table art book type of comics collection book).

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