Artist scrapbooks bring to mind a Jon Lovitz sketch about an obnoxious Picasso scribbling on paper napkins and forcing them on people as valuable works of art because “I’m Picasso!” It’s not that scrapbooks are bad, but they typically signal a point in an artist’s career where his or her name becomes a greater commodity than the work, the time at which publishers begin salivating or at least stop sweating. Judging from Adrian Tomine’s self-deprecating introduction in Scrapbook, Uncollected Work: 1990–2004, he’s keenly aware of such pretense.
Tomine divides his book into comics, sketches and illustrations (which he refers to as “whore work”). Though the three sections are roughly equal in length, the comics chapter is clearly the star. Created for publications other than Tomine’s own Optic Nerve, they’re quiet, mortal, often first-person stories, a worthwhile glimpse into the early spring of a very promising career.
Just as personal, but from another part of the solar system, is Mark Beyer’s collection Amy and Jordan. I’ve always been very fond of Beyer’s darkly humorous stories, awkwardly rendered, complete with obsessive-compulsive stippling and crosshatching. But about seven years ago, as art director of the Weekly, I made the dubious call to kill Beyer’s strip from the paper’s pages for fear it didn’t have enough of an L.A. audience. The surreal, urban malaise felt more apropos to New York City. Thankfully, the people at Pantheon have published what will probably be the most extraordinary collection of the year.
One strip that we didn’t kill is “Underworld” — mostly because Kaz moves around a lot and doesn’t have a phone. Kaz’s latest collection of disturbingly hilarious strips, My Little Funny, proves again that a gifted artiste needs only four panels to make a reader simultaneously both laugh and choke. There’s a color section in which we learn that Creep Rat has yellow arms and Monster’s nipples are blue. My Little Funny is further evidence that Kaz is the Charles Schulz of our generation. God help us all.
SCRAPBOOK, Uncollected Work: 1990–2004 | By ADRIAN TOMINE Drawn & Quarterly | 208 pages | $25 softcover
AMY AND JORDAN| By MARK BEYER | Pantheon | 288 pages | $21 hardcover