Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Autobiographix edited by Diana Schutz

I think I read this before. The book itself is a bit coy about its previous history - editor Diana Schutz is only credited as "original collection editor" on the copyright page, as if that was an equivalent function to "general counsel" and "senior director of licensed publications," and it also tried very hard to hide the fact that this 2021 edition is a (probably exact?) reprint of a 2003 original that was entirely original - so that may be confusing me. But it was all familiar. I'm pretty sure I did buy and read it back in 2003, and then lost my copy, along with so much else, in my 2011 flood.

Autobiographix, again, is a collection of short comics, new at the time of publication, written and drawn by a bunch of people and edited by Schutz. I'm pretty sure she sought them all out and solicited work; she was likely the kind of editor who is very active in the molding and creation of the book. That's the kind of editor, he said pointedly, who should be credited on the cover and in the metadata.

There are fourteen stories here, telling things that we assume are true (though one story has "An Astounding Lie" in its title) and that happened to sixteen people (there are some other artistic collaborators, but the teams Metaphrog and Fabio Moon/Gabriel Ba are the only ones who lived through the events together).

The stories are varied in manner and style and substance, from a dreamy idyll in a jazz club by Schutz, illustrated by Arnold Pander, to a straightforward travel report by Stan Sakai to that "astounding lie" about a doomed bus trip by Metaphrog to a recipe by Matt Wagner to a moody, mostly-wordless piece laid out in vignettes by Will Eisner.

Some are ruminative and philosophical - Jason Lutes near the front of the book, Eddie Campbell at the midpoint, Paul Hornschemeier to close it out. A few aim mostly to be amusing, like Sergio Aragones's story of meeting Richard Nixon in the late '70s and Bill Morrison's tales of his childhood Bat-mania. There's one story by a creator I think was new to comics - Richard Doutt, writing a story about a tree in a cemetery, illustrated by Farel Dalrymple.

It's all solid, depending on your taste and interests. It's all autobiographical, in various different ways. Schutz has curated the stories and arranged them carefully, in a structure that's elegant and sneaky more than once. And it's a good introduction to a number of creators you may not have heard of - some of them in characteristic styles , and some not so much.

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