Thursday, March 30, 2017

Stranger Than Life

Published in 2014,  Stranger Than Life: Cartoons and Comics 1970-2013 is the first retrospective of work by cartoonist and artist M.K. Brown.  The Foreword by cartoonist Bill Griffith (creator of Zippy the Pinhead) is a checklist of everything he wants in a cartoonist; Brown fits the bill because her work is "funny, but in a knowing, subtle way", has "easy-to-read lettering, full of personality", "deals with absurd, oddball things", uses juxtaposition, "makes the personal universal and the universal personal", "shakes up our perceptions of normality"--and much more.  The Afterword by cartoonist Roz Chast is equally glowing.  She calls Brown "one of the most gifted and observant comic writers and artists around".  The cartoons and comics in Stranger Than Life first appeared in magazines including National Lampoon, Mother Jones, Playboy, The New Yorker, and other publications. The Introduction to this book, written by Brown herself, says that cartooning contains "the lunacy component", which maintains the that humor, truth, or strangeness captured in cartoons will (hopefully) be understood by others.

I couldn't agree more with Griffith, Chast, and Brown, on all counts.  This book is brilliant!  These cartoons are great fun to look at and read, and showcase Brown's tremendous skills as a cartoonist and artist.  (I've seen Brown's work before in magazines such as The New Yorker, but didn't realize she has such a large body of work.)  The peculiarities, oddities, and absurdities of life shine through in cartoons with unusual titles such as Snakes in the Bathroom, Free Glue Sample, Easy Home Auto Repair, It Happened at the Bank, Earl D. Porker, Social Worker, Lost Sweater Dream, Claire's Lunch, and numerous others.  Stranger Than Life is a very funny, eclectic collection of cartoons and comics.  It also serves as a reminder to look for and recognize the humor present in our own lives.

Show, don't tell.  Right?  Or is it show and tell?  Either works in this case.  Here are some photos of various pages and samples of the cartoons in the Stranger Than Life.  Click on the photos to make them larger.

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Some of the pictures are in black and white and gray, while others are in full-color.  

  

This cartoon tickled my fancy. 

With all due respect to my dentist, this comic strip is hilarious.

It's the people in these comics and cartoons who are so captivating.  They steal the show.  Brown's focus is on people; it's on their faces.  (Faces are fascinating; back in my doodling days, I mostly drew funny, cartoon faces.)  The facial expressions of the characters in this book, which include self-portraits of Brown, are simply fantastic!  The artist captures an impressive, wide range of human expressions, loaded with personality and nuance. Brown's faces are silly, sardonic, perplexed, puzzling, strange, and just about everything else, just like the faces we encounter every day.  Take a look! 

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 Close-up of the cover

Phil 


 

M.K. Brown is featured in some of the cartoons. She is unmistakable.

The back inside cover is a collage.

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Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour, and for providing me with a copy of this remarkable book.  I know I'll enjoy looking at these cartoons and comics again and again.  The humor is very appealing to me.  For additional reviews, please visit the other stops on Poetic Book Tour's tour for Stranger Than Life.

Thanks for reading! Do you also enjoy cartoon and comics? Your comments are always appreciated. 

18 comments:

  1. Great post.

    These cartoons look impressive.

    I with that I knew more about this art form. With that I see what you mean about how faces are emphasized in Brown's work. Even when they do not make up the bulk of the picture, they catch my eye in a particular way.

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  2. Brown looks extremely talented. That book looks wonderful!

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  3. What a great book! I think I'd enjoy it too!

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  4. I really enjoyed this review. The photos of the cartoons made me laugh, especially the dentist strip. I have one of Roz Chast's graphic novels and love it.

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    1. Eriko, thanks for stopping by! I'll bet I'd enjoy the Roz Chast graphic novel as well. :)

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  5. I enjoyed your review. M.K. Brown is extremely talented. I bet this book is a treasure!

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  6. I am so glad that you enjoyed this book. I think her humor is spot on. I love this collection.

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    1. It's a great collection, Serena. Thanks again! I enjoyed the book so much.

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  7. Great review, Suko. I love how you can make your pictures larger. You have a great blog. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Readaholic Zone.

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  8. We all need a few chuckles in our life each day. Glad you enjoyed the book. Nice review.

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  9. Thank you for sharing the work of Ms. Brown. It was just fun to read the comics and wonder what they mean!

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  10. I love cartoon that bring out the humor in every day life!

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  11. This looks like a wonderful book!

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  12. Not something I have seen in a long time, you used to always see wee snippets like this in the newspaper. Lovely seeing it in a book and you can never go wrong with a bit of humour

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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  13. This looks so entertaining. And like you mention, the facial expressions demand attention. Great post!

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  14. What a unique book - it looks like a lot of fun. I love all of the pictures you included as well. I need some more humor in my life, I'll definitely be checking this out!

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