Ryan Claytor Strikes Again

Concatenations: Autobiography in Comics – A Master of Fine Arts Thesis (Elephant Eater): “If words can be literature and images can be art, then why is the combination of the two somehow less than the sum of their parts?” With this statement, Claytor boldly and logically defends the medium from would-be detractors. For me, this eternal defense succinctly solidifies the inclusion of the medium in the elusive world of Fine Art. Concatenations is the republication of Claytor’s Master’s Thesis discussing his thoughts and ideas on autobiographical comics and the larger industry they reside in. In a fashion reminiscent of Scott McCloud, Clayor takes us on an instructive but entertaining journey highlighting the differences between a genre and a medium. He moves on to discuss the idea of reclaiming ownership of “comics” as a term; as it’s swung from relatively simplistic and accurate terminology to the extreme as a perceived pejorative term, with attempts to supplant it by Eisner’s “Graphic Novel” or the Japanese equivalent - Tatsumi’s “gekiga,” Claytor suggests taking it back and infusing it with our own insider value and meaning. I really liked this idea; it’s brilliant and culturally insightful, but it also feels a little subversive, as if we can take this back without anyone even knowing it, an inside joke to those who would use it with a negative connotation. Claytor touches upon several of the elements he feels are necessary to develop an effective autobiographical comic, the principle element being an openness to revel in the imperfect human qualities that largely define our existence and interactions with each other. This appreciation of the imperfect is complimented visually with Claytor’s own hand lettering. One of my favorite sequences involves a comparison to Magritte’s famous work “This is Not a Pipe” to his own “This is Not a Span of Time” as an example of how the gap to Fine Art is, and rightfully should be, narrowing. There are so many parallels presented that it’s hard not to consider it an unspoken given that comics would by their very nature be in the realm of Fine Art. At first glance, it would be easy to think of this as an academic exercise and not a comic per se. True, it is a book about comics, with some comics in it; dense with weighty and academic conceptualization, but it flows with the enjoyable affable ease of someone in love with their job. Ryan Claytor has grown beyond being another interesting self-publisher to the status of important voice, worthy of recognition alongside Eisner and McCloud as one of the shining examples of modern discourse on the medium. Claytor has made autobiographical comics relevant for the 21st century with the perfect balance of soul and intellect. Grade A+.

Note: This is an advance review; Concatenations will debut toward the end of July, but is now available for preorder at the http://www.elephanteater.com/ web-site. Be sure to check out Ryan Claytor and all of his work at San Diego Comic-Con International from July 24th to 27th, table K7 in the Small Press Pavilion. And hey, I’ll see you there!


At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Justin - nice writing.

Your Limo Driver,

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

NO! Could it be "Dog Booteyham???" Hook me up with some digits or an email addy!

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yeah, the mothership has landed. dmooneyh@yahoo.com

hit me up Cutter.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Ha-ha! I have no idea what the previous correspondence means, but it made me laugh a lot. :)

Thanks for the incredible review, Justin. I just received the proof of my book and they look great. Rest assured, I've got a copy reserved for ya.

See you at Con!

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics


Post a Comment

<< Home