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Phoebe Gloeckner

Hey guys what’s up. I only have a few minutes again this time, so for now I want to talk a bit about Phoebe Gloeckner. Anyone who was a big fan of the second boom of underground comics in the 80s (the emergence of everyone from Matt Groening, Tom Tomorrow, Allison Bechtel, Ted Rall etc. to the stars of Fantagraphics like Dan Clowes and Chris Ware) should have had some experience of this intense woman cartoonist. In fact I’d wager to say that almost EVERYONE has run into her work elsewhere in her other line of work, medical illustration. So next time you’re in the doctors office noticing the posters with the graphic illustrations of venereal disease or the pamphlets with the cross sections of cancer cells or whatever, you might be looking at the artwork of one of my favorite comic book artists. But unfortunately her work is EXTRAORDINARILY hard to find, even for hardcore comic geeks like myself. She has a graphic novel: A Child’s Life and Other Stories, good luck on finding that, it’s published by Frog Ltd. The best chances to get to experience her work are 1)Dangerous Drawings, by Juno Books, which includes an interview with ther by Andrea Juno and a retrospective collection of samples 2)The Atrocity Exhibition, by JG Ballard, where you can see some disturbing anatomical collage and paintings; or 3)Most issues of “Young Lust” a small print mag put out by Bill Griffith (“Zippy the Pinhead”) and Art Spiegelman back in the 80s have stories by her; you can find this mag in most any hip head shop. I have also found a Pro-Choice collection graphic novel with a short story of hers as well. So now you’ve found her. Now comes the hardest part: reading her. She is tough to get through. Most guys I know of aren’t smart or tough enough to make it through her gritty, semi-autobiographical stories. It’s hard for any guy to make it through her graphic descriptions of her own molestation by her mom’s boyfriend and being raped and taken advantage of by a ongoing string of horrible “friends” all through her adolescence. Robert Crumb, in his introduction to her graphic novel makes the observation that he himself could not honestly claim to be any better than any of the sleazy males in her work, which is the conclusion most guys eventually come to, and is one of the toughest things for a male to admit to himself; that we all have this truly horrible side and that women are more aware of it than we give them credit for. And she does it without falling back on stereotypes or generalizations, the sleazebags speak for themselves and only themselves; the generalizations come when you unavoidably see yourself in their shoes, when certain things they say remind you of things you might have said, etc. Whew. Okay, I’ve warned you. But please make an effort to get a glimpse of her work. Otherwise you’ll be missing one of the most honest cartoonists out there, unable to omit even the most embarrassing detail from her work. And you will definitely marvel at her technical expertise and awareness of anatomy. If I’ve made you a little squeemish, at least check out “Dangerous Drawings”, which covers some of the most brilliant cartoonists from the late 80s-early 90s, plus Andre Juno is a genius. Well, I’m out of time. Talk to ya later.

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