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TALKING LINES reviewed by Booklist

Updated May 12, 2010


Talking Lines. By R. 0. Blechman

by Ray Olson

Car too ni st- an ima tor Blechman says that his skills "are as much literary as visual." Just so. His jiggly, tentative-seeming line makes for as distinctive and personal a style as any in the graphic narrative field, but few other artist-writers match his natural, understated dialogue. His characters always look small, demotic, and, especially, vulnerable, even when they're kings, popes, and bigger animals. In these stories spanning from 1957-58 single-pages from Harvey Kurtzman's Humbug to a 2OO6 contribution to The Nation, vulnerability fuels developments and endings. In the previously unpublished "Magicat," a feline alchemist can't get his cockroach friend out of the gold they've conjured because he as much a victim as the bug - doesn't know how. The longest entry, "Geòrgie: The Story of a Man, His Dog, and a Pin," also previously unpublished, concludes more happily, though the hero has darn near endured the sorrows of Job en route. The previously published majority of the contents are mostly political satires, left wing by American standards and very droll. Everything here radiates intelligence and sophistication.
 

Featured artist

R.O. Blechman

           Featured product

Talking Lines




  Wonderful review of TALKING LINES in the Boston Globe

Updated January 5, 2010


Humanity, glorious and vile

by Carlo Wolff

R.O. Blechman maximizes the minimal, his economy of line speaking volumes. “Talking Lines’’ collects work from the late ’50s to now, showcasing Blechman’s singular blend of the abstract and the whimsical. His stories - some brief as haiku, others the equivalent of a novella, like “Georgie,’’ his heartrending depiction of a family life as nuclear as it can get - focus on vulnerability and capriciousness. Blechman’s figures operate on a blank slate; there’s no background on these pages, only the lines and the shaky, childlike thought balloons of the protagonists. Despite this austerity, Blechman’s world, black-and-white with spot color, pops with wonder and wit. “Tolstoy’s Pen’’ is the last word on consumer fetishism, “Metamorphosis’’ a clever twist on Kafka, “Magicat’’ a fantasy update of George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat.’’ Like contemporary Saul Steinberg, Blechman knows better than to fill the page; his figures, human or otherwise, need their space - and occupy it fully. This isn’t a graphic novel - it’s comics in all their permutations - but it sure is graphic.
click here to read more


Featured artist

R.O. Blechman

           Featured product

Talking Lines




Seth's Canadian Tour Continues! R.O. Blechman Joins him in Toronto This Saturday!!

Updated October 28, 2009


10/31Authors at Harbourfront CentreToronto, ON
11/03Librairie D+Q BookstoreMontreal, QC

 

Featured artists

Seth
R.O. Blechman

          



  The National Post interviews R.O. BLECHMAN!

Updated October 28, 2009


R.O. Blechman: Not your average wiggly things

by Mark Medley

When the cartoonist R.O. Blechman was 22 years old, he published one of the first-ever graphic novels, The Juggler of Our Lady. The book had found its way to the publishing house Henry Holt by way of an art director who was familiar with Blechman's work. But a couple of weeks ago, Blechman made a surprising discovery.

"[My] mother called the art director to say that ‘We always thought he would enter the family shoe business.' " His father owned a shoe factory. " ‘Do you think he has any chance to of pursuing a successful career doing that stuff?' "

"I had never known that my mother had actually been so upset that I might be an artist," says Blechman, 79, on the phone from his home in Ancram, N.Y. "Still, I can understand my mother's concern. She said, ‘Oh my God, this kid is going into a career that he's not really all that equipped for. The book was some kind of fluke.' "

It turns out his mother's worrying was for naught; over the past 50 years, Blechman has established himself as one of the most innovative and influential cartoonists and animators of the 20th century. Montreal-based publisher Drawn & Quarterly has recently issued Talking Lines, a career retrospective of sorts.

Blechman's art looks like it was drawn during an earthquake or while riding on the back of a galloping horse; especially early in his career, his comics consisted of crudely drawn panels, albeit with killer punchlines. Early in his career, he says, he often had the idea for a comic, but lacked "the equipment" to pull it off.

"I said to myself at some point in my career, ‘God, this stuff looks terrible - I better start drawing better,' " he says. "Now they're quite accomplished, because I've been at this stuff for so long.

"I never considered my illustration art - that's not for me to say."

Others will. Illustrator Seth, who will join Blechman for an onstage interview at the International Festival of Authors later this week, first came across Blechman's work in the 1980s, and "was immediately attracted to the simplicity and the beauty of the work.

"It's almost like Japanese brush art, or something. It comes down to a very subtle command of a few elements to make it work, and I think that's why Blechman's work is very interesting, and probably, in some ways, more rarefied than a lot of cartooning you see, because it really is a delicate balancing act. There's only like a tightrope and an umbrella involved - it's very easy for it to fall flat. That's why I find his work very appealing. He's never pulling out the big guns: You don't have three pages of story and then you turn the page and have a giant cityscape or something to blow you away. It's always like a tiny little rearrangement of a couple of pebbles in a sandbox ... The nature of his work is so ephemeral that people have to look to a little closer, or they have that response, ‘Oh, a few little wiggly things.' It's not the kind of work like somebody like Chris Ware, that's got a built-in wow factor."

Blechman, who was born and raised in New York, left his lifelong home for the country a few years ago. But rather than slow down, he's speeding up: This month sees the release of a second book, Dear James: Letters to a Young Illustrator, and next year he'll publish a book of paintings.

"Oh no, I could never retire. Impossible. My mind keeps spinning. To be frank with you, I find it hard to sleep at night because I keep thinking of ideas, and very often I just jot them down and the next morning I try to spin them out to see if they're worthwhile. No artist ever retires. No musician, writer, poet, novelist - you don't. As long as you have a mind, you can't stop thinking of things to do. Chronology is irrelevant: You can be a young fogey, you can be an old kid."




click here to read more


Featured artist

R.O. Blechman

           Featured product

Talking Lines




TALKING LINES reviewed by Booklist

Updated October 20, 2009


Cartoonist-animator Blechman says that his skills "are as much literary as visual." Just so. His jiggly, tentative-seeming line makes for as distinctive and personal a style as any in the graphic narrative field, but few other artist-writers match his natural, understated dialogue. His characters always look small, demotic, and, especially, vulnerable, even when they're kings, popes, and bigger animals. In these stories spanning from 1957-58 single-pages from Harvey Kurtzman's Humbug to a 2OO6 contribution to The Nation, vulnerability fuels developments and endings. In the previously unpublished "Magicat," a feline alchemist can't get his cockroach friend out of the gold they've conjured because he as much a victim as the bug - doesn't know how. The longest entry, "Geòrgie: The Story of a Man, His Dog, and a Pin," also previously unpublished, concludes more happily, though the hero has darn near endured the sorrows of Job en route. The previously published majority of the contents are mostly political satires, left wing by American standards and very droll. Everything here radiates intelligence and sophistication.

by Ray Olson
 

Featured artist

R.O. Blechman

           Featured product

Talking Lines




  Steven Heller deems TALKING LINES "exceptional"!

Updated October 20, 2009


Nervous Wit

by Steven Heller

When I was a kid, R. O. Blechman's talking stomach--the spokestummy for Alka-Seltzer (below)--was airing on every national TV network. It was that hilariously unprecedented animated character that made me want to be a cartoonist and animator. Decades have passed and I've never animated anything, but I still admire Blechman's masterful squiggly nervous line. I have every one of his books and am always happy watching his classic animations.

Now, there is a new Blechman book to savor. Talking Lines (see cover above) is his first comprehensive short story collection. These published and unpublished squiggly tales cover such topics as nuclear weapons, war, wiretapping, Christopher Columbus, Leo Tolstoy, William Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf (the last of which he did for me at the New York Times Book Review). Other stories appeared in Humbug (edited by Harvey Kurtzman), The Nation, and Nozone (edited by his son, Nicholas Blechman). All his books are a joy, but the bottom line: This one is exceptional.
click here to read more


Featured artist

R.O. Blechman

           Featured product

Talking Lines




TALKING LINES and MASTERPIECE COMICS reviewed by The Onion

Updated September 15, 2009


By Zack Handlen, Noel Murray, Leonard Pierce, and Tasha Robinson September 4, 2009

R. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics (D&Q) essentially repeats one joke across its 64 pages, but at least it’s a good joke. Over the past 20 years, Sikoryak has popped up in comics anthologies like Raw and Drawn & Quarterly with superbly crafted, sublimely conceptual strips that combine classic cartoons and superheroes with classic literature. Little Lulu and Tubby star in an adaptation of The Scarlet Letter; Bazooka Joe braves Dante’s Inferno, and so on. Sikoryak’s mimicry of artists like Jim Davis and Winsor McKay is uncanny, and when he combines concepts smartly, he finds ways to comment on both halves of his source material. In “Good Ol’ Gregor Brown,” for example, Sikoryak slaps Franz Kafka on top of Charles Schulz, and when a cockroach-bodied Charlie Brown sighs into the darkness that “I’ve become a burden on the family… nothing satisfies my desires,” the content and tone of the strip isn’t that far removed from an actual Peanuts comic. Like the best mash-ups, Sikoryak’s mini-masterpieces reveal new interpretations of the work the artist is sampling… A-

Like Antonio Prohias, cartoonist/animator R.O. Blechman specializes in doing more with less. Prohias’ Spy Vs. Spy works without dialogue; Blechman works with tiny squiggles that represent kings and commoners alike. Talking Lines (D&Q) collects more than 50 years of Blechman stories, ranging from the whimsical to the pointedly political, in a handsomely designed hardcover that resembles the low-print-run cartoon collections of the mid-20th century. (Naturally, it comes with an introduction by Seth.) Blechman’s more recent work for The Nation and The New York Times is a little too blunt, lacking the charm of his earlier stories, but Talking Lines still has plenty of worthy pieces, including the 1968 story “The Emperor’s New Armor” (a charming, effective parable about military spending), and the previously unpublished “Georgie” (a heartbreaking meditation on parental anxiety). When Blechman is on his game, there are few cartoonists better at injecting the full range of human emotion into a cramped, unsteady line… B+

 
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Featured artists

R.O. Blechman
R. Sikoryak

           Featured product

Talking Lines




  TALKING LINES in Publishers Weekly

Updated September 4, 2009


Talking Lines R.O. Blechman. Drawn & Quarterly, $27.95 (272p) ISBN
978-1-897299-85-2

Whether appearing in Harvey Kurtzman’s short-lived comic magazine
Humbug in the late 1950s, or the New York Times Book Review in 2004,
Blechman’s graphic stories are remarkably consistent. His simple yet
sophisticated style is inimitable and instantly recognizable: jittery
lines, barely sketched-out settings and deadpan sensibility.
Blechman’s characters are frequently clueless sorts, hurling
ridiculous actions into the winds of the time and being judged harshly
for it by their creator. His sense of the satiric crops up frequently,
and it is rarely applied with much subtlety. With the exception of
“Contamination,” a longer piece from 1964 about the nuclear arms race,
most of Blechman’s political work falls flat. His stories about famous
literary figures range from the meaningful (Virginia Woolf as utterly
dependent on her husband) to playfully absurd (Shakespeare as
potential advertising copy writer). Though an uneven collection over
all, the scale comes down in Blechman’s favor due to the inclusion of
“Georgie,” which takes up the bulk of the book’s second half. A
previously unpublished piece from 1992 about a man who loses just
about everything in life but for his exceptional dog, it’s somehow
wholly sentimental and yet astonishingly wise in its sprawling
sadness. (Sept.)
click here to read more


Featured artist

R.O. Blechman

           Featured product

Talking Lines




D+Q in Brooklyn! Rocketship on 9/12! BBF on 9/13!

Updated August 25, 2009


Drawn & Quarterly To Exhibit At The Brooklyn Book Fair on September 13th!
20th Anniversary Party at Brooklyn's Rocketship on September 12th!
Special Guests Include Guy Delisle, R. Sikoryak, R.O. Blechman, Adrian Tomine, Gabrielle Bell and Ron Rege Jr!


For the third year in a row, D+Q will be exhibiting at the Brooklyn Book Festival. The festival has kindly invited Guy Delisle (Burma Chronicles, Pyongyang, Shenzhen) to be a special guest on the festival's international stage, which will mark Delisle's first-ever NYC event. D+Q cartoonists in attendance will be R. Sikoryak (Masterpiece Comics), R. O. Blechman (Talking Lines), Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings), Gabrielle Bell (Cecil & Jordan In New York) and Ron Rege Jr. (Skibber Bee Bye, Against Pain). To celebrate such a momentous gathering of D+Q cartoonists as well as toast to the company's 20th Anniversary, please join us for cocktails at the Brooklyn purveyor of fine comics, Rocketship, on Saturday evening.

Saturday, September 12th, 7:00 PM
Rocketship 208 Smith Street Brooklyn, NY
http://rocketshipstore.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 13th, 10:00AM-6:00 PM
Brooklyn Book Festival Borough Hall Brooklyn NY
http://www.visitbrooklyn.org/festival.html

11:00 AM Guy Delisle on the BBF's International Stage
11:00-12:00 PM Gabrielle Bell & Ron Rege Jr signing
12:00-2:00 PM Guy Delisle & Adrian Tomine signing
2:00-4:00 PM R. O. Blechman & R. Sikoryak signing
4:00-6:00 PM Guy Delisle & Gabrielle Bell signing
 

Featured artists

R.O. Blechman
Guy Delisle
R. Sikoryak

           Featured products

Burma Chronicles
Masterpiece Comics
Talking Lines





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