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The Kim Deitch Files
posted February 18, 2011

imageCreator: Kim Deitch
Publishing Information: La Mano 21, envelope filled with loose pages, 30 plates + supplementary material, 2010, various prices
Ordering Numbers: available here

This one strikes me as a hard sell. Kim Deitch wore the crown of Greatest Talent Inversely Proportional To Overall Sales for so many years that it's sometimes hard to imagine him as any other kind of artist, and that there are still copies available of this handsome portfolio effort probably speaks to just how short some of the journeys made in comics can be in real-world terms. Another contributing factor may be that every photo I've seen highlights the utilitarian packaging over the beautiful art that's inside (my scanning ability does not do justice to the actual plates), and yet another may be a widespread disinterest among comics readers in the once-hot portfolio category. Their loss. The Kim Deitch Files contains 30 pieces of Deitch's art, bigger-than-typing-paper reproductions of pencil sketches that are, we learn in a long letter from Deitch that's included with every order, a key part of the cartoonist's overall creative process. That letter proves wonderful to read, to the point and positive in a matter of fact way about making art as a marathon of problem-solving.

For sketchbook pages, these are remarkably finished-looking pieces. I'd hang about 25 of them on any wall in the house without blinking, and am seriously considering doing so with three or four of the more impressive ones. The images selected provide a wide-ranging look at what Deitch does well: the crowded tableaux he may do three times in an extended story are very well represented, while the times where Deitch mixes abstractly drawn creatures with more realistic-looking humans muster a decent contingent -- we even get a Waldo sex scene. Dietch's works hammer home the beauty in the way we construct reality around our longings and inadequacies instead of from those places we're more certain will provide comfort. Deitch wouldn't be half the cartoonist he is if he couldn't communicate some portion of that conflict and other clashes related to it in a single, indelible moment. The best pieces of art here tickle at the edges of multiple unseen worlds; the characters look on with bright-eyed wonder cut with horror, fragile dismay threatening to crack each smile sideways. It's a treat to have this second entry point into a magnificent cartoonist's oeuvre. It may not be for everyone, but I have to think there are a few hundred souls out there with the capacity to delight in this one.