Reviewing Important Comics [Part 5 of 5]
The Regular Man (Self-Published by Dina Kelberman): The Regular Man houses a series of single installments originally available to subscribers (I believe), now in a very handsome collected edition, “collected entirely” as the creator says. This book focuses more intently and expands Kelberman’s catalogue of found imagery, re-appropriating and re-contextualizing to derive new meaning. Yeah, it’s that tried and true hallmark of contemporary art I always talk about. This is certainly the most fascinating of her output visually, and by far my favorite work from the artist. Thematically, there’s the search for a realistic appraisal of how life actually works, where we can find slivers of hope and excitement and meaning amid the detritus of the familiar routine, and the sheer ugliness we’re likely to encounter in our increasingly turbulent world. At this point, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the production quality. Whether it’s the color saturation, the thickness of the pages, or even the binding of the book, it just feels weighty and substantial in your hands. Since I already said her work "gives good eye," well it's time to admit it "gives good hand" as well. It’s one of reasons I’ll never really warm to digital comics. I need the tactile sensation of the tangible object. That’s inherently what makes comics comics to me, especially at this indie small press level. The physical experience is endemic to their very nature. From the handwritten introductory pages citing copyright law and fair usage guidelines, there’s a palpable burst of imagery that takes the multimedia descriptor to a new high. We see Photoshopped images balanced with old-school done-it-at-Kinko's White-Out effects, what I think are random ballpoint pen tricks, all kinds of color manipulation, panels, no panels, etc. There’s brown background pages that look like coffee-stained parchment, stronger use of photography, old books, old furniture ads, old dog-eared notebooks, and a cover section that is a priceless gift. I really enjoyed her mock-ups for all the various covers she’s used by superimposing her own name and title onto several found books, passports, and assorted literary chaff. There’s even a diagrammatic landscape of some odd workbench that feels downright Chris Ware-ian. Kelberman proves that she understands the magic of the lost art of superimposition. Kelberman’s theme of contemplating the nature of reality, isolation, self-obsession, and even the internet is crisp and reaches a clarity of purpose here that I didn’t see before. It’s simultaneously the most fun and most emblematic of her body of work. She throws it all out there in full-throated fashion. It’s too bad this book didn’t come out in 2012 because it would surely be a contender for my annual best of the year list. Grade A.