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Hooked on Comix Vol. 2 review ....

Two-in-One Review: Hooked on Comix Vol. 2
Anyone who doesn't believe that comics are an artform need only look at the crossover between the creators and afficianados of the form into other media, and how prevalent that is. There are any number of comic-book creators who are also independent filmmakers or musicians, and David Moore has combined a love of comics with a skill of directing documentaries to create a riveting documentary called Hooked on Comix.
This half-hour video is the second volume of Hooked on Comics. The first, released in the mid 1990s, featured such creators as Daniel Clowes, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez and Julie Doucet. This time around, Moore takes us into the homes and minds of a sextet of indy comics creators.

Hooked on Comix Vol. 2   Directed by David P. Moore
Featuring Ivan Brunetti, Charise Mericle, Chris Ware, Archer Prewitt, Jessical Abel & Terry LaBan

I've gotta be honest, I approached the viewing of this at first like I would a book report back in my school days, feeling like it was more of an obligation than something I could do for fun. Not because I didn't think I'd enjoy the video, but because watching anything with a critical eye is less fun than just sitting down to watch it. Within a few minutes, however, I was captivated, as Moore has a quirky and light style that conveys the feel of independent comics through film, and the entire video is infused with the unusual and artistic personalities behind these comics, some of which I knew and some of which I didn't.
I don't think I was quite as enthralled as you were, but I was intrigued by the personalities of the six cartoonists. In addition to their chosen medium of expression, they all have something else in common: they have perspectives of the world around them that one might describe as being outside of the norm. But at the same time, Moore spotlights the variety of motivations and emotions that drive them to create.
My wife and I watch a lot of shows on the Food Network, History Channel and Discovery Channel, and Moore's work is right in that vein. With some basic but clever graphics and absolutely terrific music, the video really moves along, and the half-hour went by before I knew it. The structure of Hooked on Comix is basically divided by artist, rather than by topic or timeline or anything like that, and so it's very clear that what Moore is doing is giving six different viewpoints on one subject, rather than showing a "day in the life" of the artists or conducting a series of interviews that are woven together to make a single point. The structure is fairly open, and while you get a sense of the invisible interviewer in the way some of the creators talk, obviously responding to questions about their routine, what they feel is comics role, why they chose comics, etc., in general it feels like we were invited to take a look at the lives and homes of these artists.
The music and editing keep the documentary hopping along, but the quality of the filmmaking itself didn't do much for me. This is low-budget stuff, and at first, that's what drew my attetion. The staged day-in-life scenes with Brunetti are particularly awkward. Fortunately, the personalities of the six subjects soon eclipse the rough edges of the filmmaking itself.
One thing that struck me right off the bat about the creators showcased in this documentary was how unusual and interesting their workspaces (and living spaces) are. Whether it's Ivan Brunetti's sort of basic urban living style, with classic art and a bright blue classic type shower curtain, Charise Mericle's unusual puppet-theater type gadgets and other items of kitsch or Chris Ware's space which echoes the hyper-detailed backgrounds he puts into his comics, each of these creators has a work and living space that reflects who they are. I was also impressed that Moore manages to convey the different comic styles of the creators using video, showing one panel at a time to give the sense of reading some of the comics and giving an overview of the comics with a sort of montage feel, so that even those not familiar with these creators before would have a sense of their work upon viewing the video.
I was particularly interested in Brunetti and how his dark personality and clear self-esteem issues have so colored his comics work. There's a brutal honesty in his personal storytelling... so brutal as to be disturbing. He says the nasty things all of us think of from time to time, but that we all keep to ourselves in order to fit in. After only a few minutes, I actually pitied Brunetti, but envied his ongoing drive to give his emotions form.
This is not a video strictly for the established fanbase of these creators, but instead a video for those who have any interest in the artistic process behind comics. And I must admit that seeing this video gave me a desire to seek out the work of these creators and in at least one case, to revisit the work of one creator who I didn't like at first but whose detail and artistic strengths really stood out in this context, making me re-evaluate my original take.
If there's one outstanding problem with Hooked on Comix, it's that the director and his subjects hook the viewer only to release them far too quickly. The half-hour flies by, and there's so much more to said about the comics field, the stigma of the medium and what makes someone look to comics to express themselves.
I did wish at times that Moore had gone a bit longer with Hooked on Comix; I would have happily watched another hour of these creators discussing issues, and I also would have killed for a short segment where they were all brought together in the same place to discuss the topic, as I think that would have been fascinating. Fortunately for me, there is a Hooked on Comix Volume One, and even better, a DVD is planned which will contain both volumes next year. I expect that DVD will find its way into my collection soon after its release.


Hooked for Life!

Hooked for Life!

Written by Larry Reid
Those of you lucky enough to be in Seattle this weekend be sure to drop by Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery on Saturday, September 3. You'll be among the first in the nation to screen "Hooked on Comix 3." Los Angeles filmmakers Audrey Mandelbaum and David P. Moore have been documenting the masters of alternative comix at the peak of their prowess since 1993. Meet these exceptional filmmakers and see the latest installment of this truly wonderful documentary series, which features Dame Darcy and Tony Millionaire, two of Fantagraphics' most talented and eccentric cartoonists. The film will run continuously between noon and 3:00 PM. As an added incentive to attend — (like you need one) — we'll be offering 20% off on all books by the two stars on the film, all day long.

Hooked on Comix mentioned in Seattle Weekly!

Poodles and Haters

Fantagraphics marks three storied decades of Seattle cartooning.

By Brian Miller Wednesday, Sep 1 2010

"In Chicago, at a signing I get like 10 people. In Seattle, it's like 2,000." So says cartoonist Dan Clowes in the 1994 documentary Hooked on Comix, Vol. 1. The film will be screening on continuous loop in the Olympic Room this weekend, part of an exhibit organized by Fantagraphics Books called "Counterculture Comix: A 30-Year Survey of Seattle Alternative Cartoonists."

"Counterculture Comix" will be on view from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday–Monday in the Olympic Room.
As much as for coffee or indie rock, Seattle has long been a national center for creative, and cynical, cartooning. Even before the grunge boom helped artists like Peter Bagge, Jim Woodring, and Pat Moriarty gain national exposure, there was a late-'60s flowering of the form—the Northwest children of Robert Crumb, if you will.

Larry Reid, who joined Fantagraphics in 1992 and today runs its bookstore/gallery in Georgetown, cites the example of the late Walt Crowley, who, before becoming a prominent journalist and historian, was a cartoonist at The Helix, which published from 1967–70. Why did Crowley eventually trade his pen for a typewriter? "He was a great artist," says Reid, "but he wasn't fast enough."
By contrast, a prolific powerhouse trio emerged from The Evergreen State College in the late '70s: Charles Burns (whose acclaimed graphic novel Black Hole was inspired by his teen years at Roosevelt High School), Matt Groening (future creator of The Simpsons), and Lynda Barry (perhaps best known for her 1988 novel The Good Times Are Killing Me, later made into a musical play).

The Bumbershoot show covers a period beginning in 1980, when, Reid recalls, "a cartoonist could live on air. I graduated from college and opened an art gallery in Pioneer Square. Kids can't do that now." (Well, maybe not in Pioneer Square, but kids are opening them elsewhere.) At that time, Burns and Groening had left the Northwest, but were contributing from afar. Groening's soon-to-be-famous strip Life in Hell ran in The Rocket. Burns' work in the Art Spiegelman magazine RAW led to Fantagraphics publishing his Big Baby and other titles.

But it was Barry who became the city's alt-comics star. She began a regular strip, Ernie Pook's Comeek, in Seattle Weekly in 1986. And her first books, collecting that strip and others, were published by Real Comet Press, run by Comet Tavern owner Cathy Hillenbrand. Her Poodle With a Mohawk poster became a snarling local icon during the Reagan/Angry Housewives era.

Barry left Seattle in 1989 but continues her art; her latest graphic novel, What It Is, recently won an Eisner Award. After looking back through his archives—and Fantagraphics' and some private collections—Reid declares, "The biggest surprise is how well Lynda Barry's stuff stands up...not cute or trivial or girly." (Poodle and many other of her works will be on display this weekend.)

Then came grunge. Peter Bagge recalls with a chuckle in Hooked on Comix that "I've been able to ride on the city's coattails." He's being too modest, of course: His bitter, wayward rocker-wannabe character Buddy in Hate is almost as much a grunge icon as Kurt Cobain. (The exhibit's wall text quotes a 1992 Seattle Weekly story by Bruce Barcott that said: "Twenty years from now, when people want to know what it was like to be young in 1990s Seattle, the only record we'll have is Peter Bagge's Hate.")

Bagge was among many local cartoonists employed by Sub Pop and other labels to do posters and album covers for suddenly national bands. The exposure helped everyone, Fantagraphics included. "The counterculture reached a critical mass," recalls Reid, who lauds "how integrated those disciples were—comix, music, and graphics" during that boom. "Cartoonists not just satirized or documented, but really informed the grunge movement."

Nearly 20 years later, the productive collision of Seattle's graphic-arts and music scenes can still be seen on any light post or telephone pole on Capitol Hill. From the younger generation, work by Megan Kelso (Artichoke Tales) and Ellen Forney (I Love Led Zeppelin) will also be on view, along with some 300 drawings, artworks, and posters.

And lest you dread squinting at tiny wall panels, Reid promises "posters and paintings—not just little stuff."

Several artists will be on hand, including David Lasky, whose Bureau of Drawers collective will provide cartooning demonstrations and instruction (as will Friends of the Nib). Vol. 2 of the Hooked on Comix documentary series, made in 2002, will also be screened; and director David P. Moore will attend to show his in-progress Hooked on Comix Vol. 3.

Unlike at Flatstock, however, nothing will be for sale.