Sunday, December 30, 2007

Chicagoland Comics

If the blog has seemed kind of quiet lately, well, it's been that time of the year for Isaac and me both. Semester's end is always busy, but right after classes were done I also spent some time traveling with my family (one comics-related detail of that trip should appear on the blog in a week or two; here's a hint: "¡PLOP!"). And right after the trip came the annual Modern Language Association convention—or rather, I came to it, 'cause here I am in my hotel lobby in chilly but beautiful Chicago, IL, with one more day of the conference to go!

It's a pleasure to wander the streets downtown (cold as they are) just to marvel at the skyscrapers; it's doubly fun to do so shortly after having taught Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, which makes such rich and interesting use of Chicago's architectural history. At one point I caught myself wondering if I could spot the corner where Jimmy sees Superman jump off a building to his death; I suspect (but do not know) that Ware modeled that streetcorner on a genuine spot in the city.

Isaac had the further pleasure of giving a short paper on Chris Ware in a panel at the convention on Thursday. I should probably let him talk about that one (especially since I was sadly unable to attend).

The only comics I've seen in Chicago this visit are two minicomics that came up at the home of my friend (and contributor to Satisfactory Comics #5) Jenny Blair and her sister Lisa. Over Shabbes dinner, the sisters Blair showed me a delightful comic by the sometimes cantankerous comics critic Noah Berlatsky. Called Superheroes I Have Known, it's a charming piece of faux-naïvery featuring what look like a child's drawings of superheroes who are quirky in a very childlike quirky way, with each drawing accompanied by a handwritten description of what "I" knows about the superhero in question. It could easily have been an arch, self-satisfied production, but damn if it isn't actually charming—not least because some of those quirky heroes are Grade A funny. I for one wish there were more to read of Shellock Holmes, the crab detective, and his cetacean sidekick ("Elementary, my dear whale!"). The best part? It's priced to sell: 50 cents at Quimby's in Chicago, possibly still available from the author via the comic-title link above.

The other comic I read is not for sale, but you can read it for free right here (or in its original context on Lisa Blair's blog for November 8, 2004). It's an autobiographical page drawn by Jenny about Lisa's purchase of a suitable plant to serve as a Christmas tree. Like me, Jenny converted to Judaism (with a visual cue in her self-caricature: look for the small Hebrew "chai" necklace in panel six), and this page shows her peaceable ecumenical enjoyment of a family Christmas tree. I admit I enjoy seeing the strangeness of having an outdoor-style tree indoors, all the more when it's decorated unlike any natural tree in the woods. So in that ecumenical spirit, I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas are still enjoying your twelve days thereof!

More updates more regularly, and soon, I hope!

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