Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Avant Garde List

Penguin Graphic Classic Covers
Cover art by Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Chester Brown, Seth & Charles Burns

(from 'Mind Games Of The Avant Garde' in Following Cerebus #8, May 2006)
...when [Chester Brown] and I were en route to The Beguiling after having had lunch with Rob Walton and James Turner, we were discussing a recent plum assignment that Chet had landed with Penguin Books: doing a comic-strip / cartoon illustration cover for a literary classic -- in his case D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. I had asked -- more than a little disingenuously -- who else had been asked to do one of those covers? "Let me see," he said, "Art Spiegelman did one, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns, Seth, Chris Ware..."

"The usual suspects," I said.

Chet smiled and allowed -- I suspect more than a little disingenuously -- that it did seem to be the same group of cartoonists that kept turning up in these high-prestige real-world environments. Indulging in a little good-natured teasing from the sidelines, I asked, What had happened to the Brothers Hernandez? How did they get dropped from The List? Chet didn't know. Hard to tell if he was being serious or answering in the same facetious manner -- as is always the case until one of us cracks up. They hadn't been in that special issue of McSweeny's had they? Mmm. Chet was pretty sure they had been. As I say, good-natured teasing. Of course then we got to the Beguiling and Chet pulled out a copy of McSweeny's, and there they were: Jaime and Gilbert. Okay, I thought, time for some more good-natured teasing. What about Adrian Tomine? Why wasn't he on The List? Adrian -- or Mr Tomine if he prefers -- was on my mind because I had just picked up the latest issue of Optic Nerve.

"Oh, Adrian is definitely on The List," said Chet.

Yeah? How so? I asked -- preparing to be needlessly quarrelsome -- which is always a big part of discussions when I visit Chet: whether the subject is comic books, Scripture, prostitution, or gloves vs. mittens.

"Adrian passed on doing Lady Chatterley's Lover -- that's why it was offered to me."

I cracked up. Okay, Chet won that round hands down.

...what bothers me about The List is the sense of More Validity Than Thou that seems to accompany membership on it for several of its members. It seems to me that the latest round got launched with the New York Times Magazine - can you cite the date? - cover that you had done and the picture of you with Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Seth, Dan Clowes and... am I missing anyone?... and the accompanying article last summer. Nice Big Feathers in everyone's cap all the way around, to be sure, for whatever actual value the "real world" coverage has. But I really thought we had all gotten past that back in the 1980s when the Major Piece on Frank Miller in Rolling Stone really didn't do anything much for Frank that Frank... and DC... hadn't done for himself and when Alan Moore became Top of the Pops pop culture phenom in England that left him, at the end of the day, you know, Alan Moore. Not that there's anything wrong with that stature. I should be so lucky...

New York Times Magazine (July 2004)
Clockwise from Top Left: Seth, Chester Brown, Adrian Tomine, Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco


Tony Dunlop said...

Isn't that Joe Matt in the lower left? I'm no expert but my guesses, left to right, are:

Joe Matt; Seth; Art Speigelman (not a guess); Chet; Adrian Tomine.

Anyone with better "The List" knowledge than me, how'd I do?

And does it chap Gary Groth's hide that Drawn & Quarterly publishes more "Listers" than Fantagraphics?

Sandeep Atwal said...

Seth always looks so pretentious.

CerebusTV said...

Interesting take on the "Je Suis Charlie" phenom from Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury as he received the Polk Lifetime Achievement Award on Long Island last week:

Trudeau (distant cousin to the Canadian politician family) claims to no longer be a "free speech absolutist" - much like the stance now adopted by Dave Sim.

"What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism."

But read it for yourselves.

CerebusTV said...

That's Art Spiegelman, born Itzhak Avraham ben Zeev!

CerebusTV said...

Joe Sacco had second thoughts, too: