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Art Out Of Time
posted March 7, 2006
 

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Creators: Dan Nadel (Editor); Various
Publishing Information: Harry N. Abrams, 320 pages, 2006
Ordering Numbers: 0810958384 (ISBN)

I've liked the book since its conception, and I've tried to give it as much coverage here as I could afford it, but there is one group of people for whom Art Out Of Time is a definite "stay away." Dan Nadel's gorgeous, oversized volume is in the final tally a compilation of old comic books and comic strips; those who go to comics for that specific literary thrill, that shock of the new, really have no business looking for that here. As better writers than I am are likely to point out, the discovery here is a very different one and a lot of the work here will be familiar to those who used to read RAW, or spend a lot of time looking at comics oddities on-line, or who follow closely magazines like The Comics Journal, Comic Art, or Nadel own The Ganzfeld.

What makes Dan Nadel an interesting writer about comics and Art Out Of Time worth buying has little to do with his ability to locate old and sometimes singularly odd work throughout mainstream comic book and comic strip history. More fundamentally, why we should pay attention to Nadel is that he has an interesting approach to and set of values concerning comics. This book, the same as his others, reflects those things he enjoys and admires about the art form. That's why underground comix Rory Hayes is in there -- because he clearly fits Nadel's viewpoint on comics of a certain type. It's impossible for Nadel to try and explain himself and fail to make the case; his explanation is the only standard that truly matters. We can take it or leave it, but we don't get to contribute to it.

There is plenty of comics work to be discovered in the volume -- I was largely unfamiliar with Jefferson Machamer, and a comic book reprinting strips from Cecil Jensen may be my favorite of the work re-published. Any strip that opens with a boss reading a book whose title concerns 1001 ways to get rid of a specific employee, that's going to be all right by me. Dan Nadel's Art Out Of Time brings with it the appealing message that there is art and expression worth noting up and down comics history, no matter how poorly or even how well some of the features might fit into comics orthodoxy. This isn't a stunt book; it's a declaration of values, a dare that's thrillingly won.