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08.13.08

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Comic Notions

By Richard von Busack


YOU CAN just hear old man Crumb saying, "It's only lines on paper!" But it isn't anymore. This catalogue for a multimedia show at the Vancouver Art Gallery includes photography and other imagery from electronic media. This catalogue is unlike the common survey, which attempts to draw a line of ascending sophistication from, say, the cave at Altamira to Picasso. Instead, Krazy! encompasses what editor Bruce Grenville calls "shared purpose and interdependence" among a range of artists: antique animators, hippies, game creators, animeists, manga inkers and beyond. Co-curators Will Wright (Sim City), animator Tim (Antz) Johnson and critic Toshiya Veno are among the team trying to cast a net over 100 years of culture.

Perhaps Christian Marclay's torn-paper collages of '60s sound effects from Marvel and DC comics, Onomatopoeia, best sum up what Grenville is looking for. Here, visually, is the crash ("KA-BOOM!") of pop-cultural artifacts mixed with fine art. Certainly, three Roy Lichtenstein canvases fit into this scheme of barrier breaking. Other artists—either the avant-garde daily cartoonist George "Krazy Kat" Herriman or the talents working in underground cartoons or graphic novels—have kept that separation between high and low art bent beyond repair. It's about damn time to see Justin Green's pioneering autobiographical comic Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (1972) in a museum. But to mention Green supporting himself as a sign painter (as co-curators "Seth" and Art Spiegelman do in their introductory essay) downplays Green's fine-art academic cred. In fact, Green taught for a time at an art institute before becoming an outsider.

However you contextualize these talents, the parade of animators and cartoonists is impressive.It's rather heart-stopping to see that one of Lotte Reiniger's shadow puppets survived the torrent of history. Her fragile paper creatures are rightly presented side by side with iconic "stills" (if that's the right word) from video games Grand Theft Auto and The Legend of Zelda and the anime film Paprika. A harmony between these many talents gradually evolves, even though at first look the show seems like a random selection of graphic riches.


KRAZY! THE DELIRIOUS WORLD OF ANIME + COMICS + VIDEO GAMES + ART, edited by Bruce Grenville; University of California Press/Vancouver Art Gallery; 276 pages; $34.95 paperback


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