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Sir Alfred No. 3
posted July 21, 2016
Fantagraphics, slipcased and signed softcover, 40 pages, full-color, 2016
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There were fewer celebrities when I was a very small child, even with an influx of larger-than-life figures from the 1930s that entered back into the public consciousness in the late 1960s. Alfred Hitchcock worked back then, but his was a broader, brand-specific presence. He made scary movies, and when you saw his TV shows or listened along to one of his record albums you were definitely present to be entertained by a master of that world. Such was his dominance of the master scare artist identity that his quirks worked its way backwards and helped define the archetype. If you had asked eight-year-old me, I could have been convinced he was a character in the Charles Addams books I read without permission.
I don't think I've enjoyed a comic in some time as much as I took pleasure in Tim Hensley's beautiful, accretive biography of Alfred Hitchcock, Sir Alfred No. 3
, built from casual anecdotes and ridiculous stories from the director's colorful public profile along with whatever racy filmmaking storie fit the same general tone. Hensley's style isn't as perfectly suited to the kind of biographical comic he's aping here as it was to the teenager books being examined in Wally Gropius
, but his flat, colorful art is beautiful, and the whole project evinces a kind strange sumptuous based on presentation and style that stands in constant, funny contrast to the sheer squirrelly nature of every single character moment as revealed. Hensley is a smart writer and terrifyingly facile artist, despite a semi-rigid style. As is the case with Gropius he finds grotesque corners of expression in Hitchock's life story that one would dream would look that ugly or raw in the style Hensley employs.
This is a comic I'll remember for a while, and it's one of the few I set out to find and purchase of my own volition this year. Hensley may be a great cartoonist by a much more exacting measure than gets applied to that term. Like Deitch, like Drew Friedman in comics form, the images haunt with a peculiar power that shouldn't be possible given this much abstraction and this many obtuse approaches to narrative and story. Like Hitchock himself when it comes to many of his films, Hensley's presence dominates the pages in and out and around the material construction of this comic book. I wish we had a dozen cartoonists like Tim Hensley.