Monday, May 16, 2011

Let Me Tell You About David Mazzucchelli

Before there was a hayfamzone, there was "Comic Art Entrepreneurs" ( and yes, as you probably figured, I'm the one that also concocted that name).

A couple of comic book buddies (Hi Rick T! Hi Mark S!) and I banded together to form an economic partnership revolving around comics. We would pay $15 to rent table space at The Old Comic Book Club of Chicago's monthly conventions held each third Sunday in the second floor ballroom at the Wabash Avenue YMCA (now shuttered). Sometimes we even sold enough to cover that $15 fee, but usually not. One month I bought the original artwork to a Flash splash page by Carmine Infantino for $10 and then, deciding I didn't like it so much, turned around and sold it the same day for $11 (Hi George H!).

Maybe you've seen one of the many movies in which Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland say "Let's put on a play in the barn!" Well, one day one of us three Entrepreneurs (yes, it was me) said "Let's publish a fanzine!"

There was no particular focus on what would comprise this fanzine other than it would showcase drawings both by comics professionals and by comics fans. I commissioned a crisp and sharp Captain Marvel pinup from the wonderful Kurt Schaffenberger, and you can view that beautiful drawing if you click right here.

I also put a classified ad in Alan Light's Buyer's Guide inviting comics fans to submit their drawings for publication in this unnamed fanzine. We received a handful of submissions. One of them was from David Mazzucchelli (and I think it featured the Silver Surfer).

Unfortunately, Comic Art Entrepreneurs dissolved and no fanzine was ever published.

Fast forward about one decade. David Mazzucchelli becomes a professional comics artist and makes quite a name for himself with his excellent work on both Daredevil and Batman (click here and here for refreshers).

Fast forward once again, this time to the year 2009. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is published. It's a hardcover book touted as a "graphic novel" (and we've certainly heard that phrase bandied about often enough). I kept it on my Amazon Wish List for two years but there had been no particular spark to get me to pull the trigger and actually buy it. One day out of the blue I asked my guy at Atlas Comics in Norridge Illinois (Hi John S!) what current comics he felt were remarkable. John couldn't vouch for any monthlies but he gave his highest recommendation to Asterios Polyp and that was exactly the spark I needed. I found a great deal on ebay and read it immediately. I hereby add my chant to the chorus of high praise. Here and here you can read other reviews of the book.

In comic book circles there is a lack of consensus as to whether Don McGregor's Sabre or Will Eisner's Tenement Stories was the first Graphic Novel. Both of those are excellent comic books in long form and upscale packages, but I am here today to proclaim that Asterios Polyp is the FIRST GRAPHIC NOVEL THAT HAS EVER BEEN PUBLISHED. It is so much more than a comic book! Its non-linear story masterfully weaves together strong characters and strategically placed foreshadowing and a spiraling of thematic elements and stop me now before this run-on sentence slows down the entire internet! Particularly amazing to me is the way the color palette is used to advance the story. And I was also very impressed with a lettering innovation Mr. M used to great effect in the closing pages of the book.

Twenty-some years ago when I saw Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing at the Lake Theater, I consciously thought to myself "I don't want this movie to end." Likewise when I was reading Asterios Polyp I was hoping the experience could go on and on. You can live this experience yourself if you click here.

My hayfamzone hat is off to David Mazzucchelli. I had no inkling what a mastepiece would be forthcoming from him when I opened that envelope containing his drawing 36 years ago.


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