Philly Inq Spotlights THE FIXER & SCRAPBOOK!

“Other works by graphic storytellers” / The Philadelphia Inquirer / Dan DeLuca / September 26, 2004

It takes a long time to make what Maus author Art Spiegelman calls "a comic book that needs a bookmark." Getting through a graphic novel by Joe Sacco, Daniel Clowes or Marjane Satrapi may take only an evening or two, but the painstakingly detailed word-and-picture stories often take years to produce.

While the comics-as-literature movement continues to grow, it's not every publishing season that sees a flurry of titles worth crowing about. This happens to be one of them. Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers is the most prominent, but there are other noteworthy works:

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return (Pantheon, $17.95). The second volume of the Iranian artist's memoir of growing up in an Islamic fundamentalist society finds the teenage Satrapi trying to readjust to her homeland after a Westernizing experience at a secular school in Vienna. The woodcut-like drawings are wonders of simplicity that suit the witty, moving story.

McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, #13 (McSweeney's, $24). This volume of Dave Eggers' literary journal was guest-edited by the prodigiously gifted Chris Ware, author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, and is given over entirely to alt-comics and essays about them. Patterned after Spiegelman's pioneering magazine Raw, the beautifully designed book includes excerpts from all the major players, including Robert Crumb, Lynda Barry, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Ben Katchor, and Philadelphia's Charles Burns. The place to start.

Joe Sacco, The Fixer (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95). The author of Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde specializes in training a journalist's eye on the day-to-day lives of people caught up in ethnic violence in far-flung locales, bringing empathy and a sense of the absurd. In The Fixer, he focuses on Neven, a Sarajevan who works as a journalist's translator and "fixer."

David Rees, Get Your War On II (Riverhead, $12). Profane, partisan and painfully funny, Rees' post-9/11 comic strip uses expressionless office workers uttering ironic anti-Bushisms to drive home its polemical points. To wit: "The Coalition of the Willing is about to rock! Thanks, Uzbekistan! Thanks, Macedonia! You guys are the best!"

Mark Beyer, Amy and Jordan (Pantheon, $21). A collection of strips published in alternative weeklies from 1986 to 1996, the black-humored Amy and Jordan portrays the misadventures of a couple living a Murphy's Law urban existence, encountering existential despair, ennui, and homeless people from another planet.

Adrian Tomine, Scrapbook: Uncollected Work, 1990-2004. (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95). In Scrapbook Tomine, a superb draftsman and chronicler of the inconsolable heartaches of the indie-rock crowd, gathers up assorted strips from music magazines, New Yorker illustrations, and posters.

Daniel Clowes, Eightball #23. (Fantagraphics, $7). The latest installment of the continuing comic by the author of Ghost World.   

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