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The Collected Conceits, Delusions, and Hijinks of New Yorkers from 1974 to 1995

by Stan Mack

Pub Date: March 26th, 2024
ISBN: 9781683969167
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

A collection of Real Life Funnies, a comic that ran in the Village Voice for two decades.

Purportedly composed entirely of verbatim conversations, Mack’s strips overflow with spoken snippets from the lives of New York City’s diverse denizens. While some comics capture elaborate, chatty stories, many are free of narrative cohesion and read like sound collages of a crowded city. Drawn in confident, busy linework and shaded with choppy cross-hatching, the comics appear dashed off but hum with an impressive, quiet control, as rackety dialogue hinges on neat drawings of the city’s stately architecture. While his cartooning is unassumingly adept, Mack’s greatest strengths are his journalistic, empathetic approach to memorializing the metropolitan zeitgeist. In the foreword, Jake Tapper astutely calls Mack’s work “sociology, even zoology in its way,” highlighting the cartoonist’s steadfast drive to cross thresholds and learn from lifestyles unlike his own. “I wanted to go places where I didn’t belong,” Mack recalls, “attend events outside my comfort zone.” He covered the gamut from art openings to séances and featured people both luxuriating in penthouses and living on the streets. He drew election rallies and counterculture protests, the rise of the yuppie, Reagan’s term, and the AIDS epidemic. While its subjects ranged from all corners of the city, Real Life Funnies had a sex-positive slant that found Mack visiting sex shops, sex therapists, and places like the West Village’s Erotic Baker and the “First Annual New York Transgender Conference and Dinner Dance.” It’s a dense body of work and best taken slowly: Some of Mack’s most clamorous strips land on the threshold of cacophony and are nearly exhausting in their attempts to cram so much city into such a small space. The book includes an afterword by Jeannette Walls.

Noisy and nostalgic big-city comics reportage.