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Conversational Euro-Comics: Bart Beaty On Ott’s R.I.P. Best Of 1985-2004
posted May 20, 2010
By Bart Beaty
R.I.P. Best of 1985-2004
is a nicely timed reminder that Thomas Ott
has been one of the world's most interesting cartoonists for a quarter century now. Published by Edition Moderne
in conjunction with L'Association
collects 19 short works that originally appeared in anthologies like Lapin
, as well as in Ott's early books like Greetings from Hellville
, Dead End
and Tales of Error
As juvenilia goes, this stuff is ridiculously good. Even in the early pieces, like "The Clown," that are simple clichés the compositions are strong enough to justify some interest. Ott's exquisite use of scratchboard is one of the things that sets his comics apart and initially draws readers to them. The inversion caused by the white lines on the dominant black fields is wonderfully well suited to the dark tone of his contemporary take on the EC horror comics tradition. Ott's work seems both old-fashioned and completely fresh at the same time.
Ott outgrew the simple EC mold early in his career, stretching his talents to craft longer and more engaging stories. Among the best works in R.I.P.
are "The Millionairs," in which dirty money passes from hand to hand in a reign of death, and "10" in which a Klansman gets his due. For my money, the standout piece is "Recuerdos de Mexico," originally published in the anthology L'Association en Mexique
. This piece crafts a surprisingly tender story from a series of seemingly stand-alone images, many of which are among the most memorable that he has ever created.
In 2005 Ott began working in longer form wordless comics, producing Cinema Panopticum
and The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8
, which is his best single book to date. Length has deepened Ott's stories without sacrificing the compositional and stylistic interest that is so attractive in his work. As a reminder of where he's come from, the impeccably produced R.I.P.
is a very valuable collection, and deserves to be on the bookshelf of any serious horror comics fan.
A final note: Fantagraphics, Ott's longtime American publisher, will publish a version of this book in February 2011.
* R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004, Thomas Ott, Edition Moderne/L'Association, 191 pages, 3037310529, 9783037310526, April 2010
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