Graphic biographies of 16 of the most influential cartoonists by some of the great cartoonists they influenced.
It’s difficult to argue with the concept: Commission some of the finest contemporary graphic artists to pay homage to their heroes, the ones who inspired them to pursue their vocation. Editor Beauchamp (Krampus: The Devil of Christmas, 2010, etc.) has done a fine job in selecting subjects and matching them with acolytes (as well as collaborating as writer on a few of the bios). The pinnacle is Drew Friedman’s deeply personal appreciation of R. Crumb, in which he not only celebrates Crumb’s style, but demonstrates his influence. Other stylistic highlights include Mark Alan Stamaty’s visceral rendering of the legacy of Jack Kirby (“Captain America”), Owen Smith’s sepia-tone commemoration of Lynd Kendall Ward (“Father of the Graphic Novel”) and Sergio Ruzzier’s depiction of Charles M. “Sparky” Schulz as Charlie Brown. There are also revelations: Dr. Suess took his mother’s maiden name as his pen name, and the correct pronunciation—or the way her family pronounced it—was “ ‘Soice’ as in ‘Voice,’ but it quickly became ‘Soose’ as in ‘Goose.’ ” Harvey Kurtzman’s role as creator of Mad is just part of what he achieved before and after, when his editorial assistants included Gloria Steinem, R. Crumb and Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam. A major void is the lack of female cartoonists as subjects (and only two as contributors), and even within the stable of white male cartoonists, there are top artists who are glaringly absent. While it’s hard to argue about the cultural significance of either Walt Disney or Hugh Hefner, both of whom have contributed greatly to the profession, at least the latter would have never made the cut on his drawings alone. Common themes include broken marriages and artists not given their due, especially financially.
There’s always a hit-or-miss quality to such projects, and some question over the selections, but what’s great here is really terrific.