The Comics Journal Returns with Issue #301
My copy of The Comics Journal #300 has traveled with me into a new apartment, to various vacation spots, and from the kitchen to my bedside and coffee table since it published in December 2009. Among its reviews and columns, it features eleven conversations between pairs of artists and comics writers. For almost two years, it’s been a palate cleanser and my go-to vacation read when I am on a long plane ride. All the while, publisher Fantagraphics promised that issue #301 would bring about a change in format whenever it released. So I waited.
In August, The Comics Journal #301 finally escaped incubation. It is different: #300 clocked in at 288 pages and #301 weighs in at 688 (well over double the page count); its trim size is stubbier and easier to hold--these are just the aesthetic differences. Issue #301 has a clear focus: The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb. A 47-page interview with Crumb and publisher/co-founder Gary Groth kicks off the issue’s theme, followed by over 100 pages of reviews of Crumb's adaptation (ranging from “An Epic Visualized” to “Crumb Finally Finds His Limits”), culminating with a roundtable of responses from the reviewers to each other’s assessments. It’s a lot of Crumb-on-Crumb and everyone-on-Crumb writing, so a familiarity with his Genesis is highly recommended (we selected it as a Best of the Year pick in 2009), but the beauty of issue #301 is that this is by no means all there is.
I have not braved all of Dave Sim’s independent, celebrated, and bloated Cerebus masterpiece, but after reading Tim Krieder’s essay on all sixteen volumes I feel like I have. There are color and black and white sketchbooks by Jim Woodring, Tim Hensley, and Stephen Dixon (!). There is an insightful look back at the past decade of trends in comics, a conversation between Al Jaffe and Michael Kupperman, an interview with Joe Sacco, and (a horn of) plenty more. This being The Comics Journal, there are also divisive reviews, and the one on Eddie Campbell’s Alec: The Years Have Pants has already sparked online debate between the artist and reviewer (via TCJ.com).
I’ve only had the brick for two weeks, and I’ve barely made it through one-fourth of it, happily so. For over 30 years, The Comics Journal has been a comics respite from hype and fluff. It keeps the rest of in check and on our toes. I’m a better comics reader because of it (and a reluctantly patient fan).