8.01.2006

Graphic Novel Of The Month

But I Like It (Fantagraphics): Joe Sacco's latest work takes its name from The Rolling Stones' lyric "it's only Rock n' Roll, but I like it!" Interesting, self-deprecating title, which insinuates that something doesn't have to be high art, you can just enjoy it for the sake of itself. This book is a lot different from his other tremendous works Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine, Notes From A Defeatist, The Fixer, and War's End (to name just a few). I liked this project just as much, but for different reasons. Ostensibly, we see Sacco chronicalling buddy Gerry Mohr's band The Miracle Workers as they rise to semi-prominance in the Portland music scene and go on a ridiculous European tour. That in itself is an interesting commentary on the 90's music scene, the wannabes, the real deals, and the multitude of influences, both genuine and fabricated. And don't forget the 4-song CD that's included in an insert in the back inside cover! What makes this book really special though is that it's the first time I've seen where there is some analyzation of Sacco's work by himself and guest contributors who author text pieces about his work. This is the type of critical analysis that Sacco so needs to rise to the level of appreciation he deserves in the comic book medium. It also includes 15 pages of rare sketchbook material which is really striking. Sacco's sketch work is much more realistic (in a life drawing way) than the fluidity and exaggerated proportions of his finished work. As some of the guest contributors point out, Sacco is unique because of the fine balance his work carries, it's actually difficult to categorize. If it was pure travelogue, it would look something more like Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage. If it was pure journalistic documentary, it might be something akin to Ted Rall's work. But it's neither. It's right in the wonderful middle, Sacco seeks to chronicle these intriguing veins of life (he admits he's a journalist at heart), but so often becomes directly involved with his subjects that he ends up portraying himself in an equally interesting autobiographical way. For example, it's not just about the European music scene, it's also about how Sacco was a thriving poster artist during that period. It's not just about the fledgling career of The Miracle Workers, it's about him being a roadie and a struggling artist at the same time. It's not just about a Rolling Stones show, it's about what it meant to him personally. It's much more than "just" comic books, "But I Like It." Grade A.

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