August 16, 2007
CR Review: Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened
Harvey Pekar, Josh Fialkov, Michael Gaydos, Phillip Hester, Matt Kindt, Stuart Moore, Antony Johnston, Noel Tuazon, Micah Farrito, Rick Spears, Rob G, Tom Beland, Robert Tinnell, Brendon Fraim, Brian Fraim, Neil Kleid, Jake Allen, Ande Parkes, Joseph Bergin III, A. David Lewis, Danielle Corsetto, Matt Dembicki, Jason Copland, James W. Powell, Drew Gilbert, Jason Rodriguez, RJ Rodriguez, Seamus Heffernan, Jay Busbee, Tony Fleecs, Chris Stevens, Gia-Bao Tran
Villard Books, hard cover, 160 pages, 2007, $21.95
034549850X (ISBN), ISBN-13: 978-0345498502 (ISBN13)
I don't doubt that the editor of and creators involved with Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened
had the best of intentions in making their hard cover anthology from Villard, but the end result is a mostly terrible book. Its second-greatest failing is that it feels like a stunt more than it does anything having to do with art; you never lose a sense of the concept and get lost in the art. Books like these are always going to feel packaged on some level, but here every page feels like a commercial assignment in service of an idea for a book. I can't speak for any of the pedigrees of the work involved, but it never feels like any of these stories would exist if not for being commissioned in service of this project; that's true of a lot of stories, commissions frequenty do drive work, but not to this degree of desultory.
Things would be different if most of the stories were good or inspired, but they're not. This is not overall an A-list bunch of creators, not a group that would be assembled for anything without a high concept, and it doesn't feel like anyone here is raising their game. Nearly all of the choices are to do a short narrative-driven story of a rote nature, with pedestrian script work and art that sometimes doesn't come close to being accomplished enough to pull off the specific setting require. There are a few artists that distinguish themselves, like Michael Gaydos and Phillip Hester, but most of what you get just kind of blends together into some gray-toned, blurry memory. Even normally fun cartoonists like Tom Beland and Danielle Corsetto read like they were forced to make things duller, like they're relating a story during tea time at Grandma's house.
Perhaps the worst story in the volume comes from headliners Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner. Despite assurances from our editor that their story is excellent, what they provide is a listless, criminally lazy and almost nonsensical short story that's about on the level with a art school student anthology effort. It's ostensibly the story of their life together in postcards, although I don't believe that most of the super-cursory and obvious insets are actually postcards, as we're told, unless the Letterman show sends out postcards on a strange, postcards-only letterhead. Also, apparently Pekar and Brabner's collaboration with Matt Kindt is a top 20 event of their life together, as that gets equal play with their having met and the American Splendor
movie. I liked Kindt's art, but just about anyone who's read an author blurb on Pekar and Brabner could have written the story I'm guessing they were paid more money than anyone else to provide. An average writer could script this story in less time than it takes to read the thing. It almost made me rally behind the cartoonists who while not communicating "I'm at the top of my game" were at least giving the appearing of showing up for work.
Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened
might work for you a) if you've never seen a comic before, or b) you're such a devoted comics fans that just about any cartoonist working in what seems like a half-assed fashion perks up your ear in terms of the stylistic quirks on display. If you're one of those people, nothing I say is going to stop you. If you're anybody else, I pray you'll reconsider any feelings you had about picking up this book. All of these people can do better work, and every single one with whom I'm familiar has. Why pick up second-tier work at a horrible price point when there's so much other stuff out there worth buying? I'd ask why publish such a book, but it's too late for that question to do any good.
posted 9:00 pm PST
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