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Kramers Ergot 6
posted October 11, 2006


Creators: Sammy Harkham, Chris Forgues, Dan Zettwoch, Paper Rad, Gary Panter, Martin Cendreda, Matthew Thurber, Marc Bell, Vanessa Davis, Suiho Tagawa, Marc Bell, Souther Salazar, Jeff Ladouceur, Fabio Viscogliosi, Shary Boyle, Ron Rege, Jr., Elvis Studio, and John Porcellino. Probably more.
Publishing Information: Buenaventura Press, Softcover, July 2006
Ordering Numbers: 097668487X

The one problem with being the book that everybody talks about in hushed, you-gotta-see-this tones is that one day you're no longer that book, or more likely another book has become that book, and you're left to operate on your own devices with little in the way of self-congratulatory goodwill from comics tastemakers to boost (or mitigate against) the bottom line. If things go poorly, fashion turns to snark and you find your work riddled with knife wounds you never saw coming, and the material isn't strong enough to save you. If things go well, you've developed enough in the way of a legitimate, content-driven identity that comics culture's more capricious whims no longer matter. And if things go extremely well, you're the sixth volume of Kramers Ergot.

We've been seeing comics like those in Kramers for ten years and more; the mere presence of junk-culture appropriation, dense textural picture-making and winningly obtuse narrative strategies can no longer be seen as a novelty. Fortunately, what Editor Sammy Harkham gives us is in Kramers' sixth edition is a dense, loaded anthology comic that allows for multiple readings because the selections are accomplished, strong, and boast solid narratives. This isn't a cutting edge; it's a re-imagined mainstream. Chief among its stars are a selection of exquisite Daltokyo strips from Gary Panter, an extended suite of sequences from Helge Reumann and Xaxier Robel, a bunch of boldly expressive illustrations from Shary Boyle and the child-like landsapes in a recovered story by 1930s comics star Suiho Tagawa. Tagawa's colors are so lovely and so well-realized, they have a chance to stick in your memory forever. He made comics like children imagine the world.

Bonuses: strong work from Harkham working in a tight grid and provide a sly critique of life as an artist in "Lubavitch, Ukraine 1876"'; a story from Dan Zettwoch told in straight-forward, affecting fashion; as strong a comics piece from Souther Salazar as he's done in years, and a wonderfully odd section of Mark Smeets' work, complete with introduciton by Chris Ware. By continuing to find comics that please his own vision for the form, and constantly challenging and refnining those views in terms of greater and greater work, Harkham has produced perhaps the strongest and least eager-to-please anthology comics of the last half-decade. Harkham isn't making a case for comics as art, or taking a snapshot of a younger generation, or providing a correction to the market, or even providing a platform to artists who might not work in comics otherwise. All he's saying is, "Look at this. Look at this." And it's hard not to share in the power of his passion for the these works and these artists. It may not be as cool to pick up a copy of Kramers Ergot as it might have been in 2003, but it's twice as important.