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 Im Picasso! Its not that scrapbooks are bad, but they typically signal a point in an artists 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 Tomines self-deprecating introduction in Scrapbook, Uncollected Work: 19902004, hes 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 Tomines own Optic Nerve, theyre 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 Beyers collection Amy and Jordan. Ive always been very fond of Beyers 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 Beyers strip from the papers pages for fear it didnt 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 didnt kill is Underworld mostly because Kaz moves around a lot and doesnt have a phone. Kazs 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. Theres a color section in which we learn that Creep Rat has yellow arms and Monsters 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: 19902004 | By ADRIAN TOMINE Drawn & Quarterly | 208 pages | $25 softcover
AMY AND JORDAN | By MARK BEYER | Pantheon | 288 pages | $21 hardcover
MY LITTLE FUNNY, Underworld | By KAZ | Fantagraphics Books 96 pages | $10 softcover