Monday, May 12, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #131: I Love Led Zeppelin by Ellen Forney

We already know that Ellen Forney has range -- her cartooning has encompassed the raunchy illustrations for personal ads collected in Lust, her thoughtful, honest memoir of bipolar disorder Marbles, and the my-weird-childhood syndicated strip Monkey Food -- so getting an odds & sods collection from her isn't going to tell us anything new, right? (And, while we're at it, are rhetorical questions at the beginning of essays ever answered in the affirmative?)

I Love Led Zeppelin is actually an earlier book than all of the above except Monkey Food, and collects miscellaneous work from the early '90s through the mid-aughts, in several large and capacious categories. First up is a selection of "How Tos," in each of which some expert has explained to Forney how to do something -- be a fag hag or call girl, fold a flag, tip a server, roller skate backwards, talk about drugs with your child or continue to smoke pot recreationally without going to jail, re-attached an amputated finger -- and Forney then turns that lesson into, usually, a single-page strip. These are all apparently from her gig at The Stranger (the Seattle-area weekly paper -- the term of art is "alternative paper," though those papers control the weekly niche, so there's nothing they an alternative to), and together provide an interesting view of what that audience presumably is interested in: mostly sex and drugs.

After that comes a section of other short works from the same era (early aughts) on more varied topics, all written by Forney. (The first section, since they're all very closely based on other peoples' writing, are more like comics journalism or illustration.) Then there's a clump of stories from the early '90s (reason unexplained), and last some other collaborations, which sometimes get confusing. (There's a piece about "My First Time" which, it turns out, is written by Dan Savage and about his first sexual encounters -- but, when you get to it in the book, the only credit or explanation is "a Savage * Forney * Sturm Production," which is not as clear as it might be.)

It is inevitably all very miscellaneous, and actually mostly consists of other voices -- not Forney -- speaking through Forney's pen and page layouts. I get the feeling that Forney had a regular Stranger gig -- maybe a page a week, or maybe slightly less often than that -- and that she filled that space with a variety of things over a few years: some How Tos, some of those other collaborative pieces, other bits of local journalism, and the less-definable bits as well. (But it would have been nice to have original publication dates and places for all of the work here, and some more explanations/notes for the comics as well.)

Forney's comics are nearly all full of words -- her own or someone else's -- and much of that is useful and educational (if in an "alternative" way). And her art mixes a lot of realistic faces and bodies with more stylized work for specific moments. This definitely isn't a comics collection for anyone too straight -- in any of the meanings of the word -- but it's a blast for those who can appreciate it.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

1 comment:

Dirk said...

I bought this for my non-comic reading girlfriend years ago and she loved it. Still doesn't read comics though.

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