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The Boulevard of Broken Dreams Hardcover – September 24, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of the godfathers of American underground comics, Deitch grew up among animators, and this graphic novel is his twisted allegorical history of the rise and fall of American animation. Spanning from 1927 (when theatrical cartoons began to hit their stride) to 1993, it's crammed with intrigue, mysteries and Deitch's trademark exploding page layout. The story concerns a close-knit group of employees of a minor animation studio, Fontaine Talking Fables, but it's driven by a malevolent talking cat named Waldo who's just real enough to drive some of the cartoonists who created him into alcoholism and madness. (Waldo's been appearing in one form or another in Deitch's work for 35 years.) It helps to know a bit about animation history to catch some of the jokes (animator Winsor Newton and his creation Milton the Mastodon, for instance, are clearly inspired by Winsor McCay and Gertie the Dinosaur). But even without this knowledge, the culture of the studios comes across clearly and the story's complicated chronology is remarkably engaging, albeit weirdly paced. Deitch has an odd, idiosyncratic visual style: his real-world characters are crudely two-dimensional, but they're drawn into distinctly un-cartoony tableaux of squalor and shadow. His funny animal characters, meanwhile, have all the squishable malleability of their silver-screen counterparts with an additional tinge of dark Surrealism.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Using sequential art to create a story about sequential art, Deitch gives readers fact-pickled fiction. Ted Mishkin's years in the animation industry are riddled with his personal mental health problems-which extend to hallucinating an evil cat, Waldo-as well as changes in popular interest in sequential art and the Disney empire's efforts to dominate the creative pool. Ted, his hero Winsor Newton, his studio boss Fred Fontaine, his true love Lillian, and a supporting cast of family and fans reveal how corporate concerns and mass culture took the edge off an art that once had a political and aesthetically experimental keenness. This is a complex story, replete with tawdry affairs, binge drinking, and sanitarium stays, but it is not crude or exploitative of either its characters or its readers. The black-and-white art is giddy with movement and detail, with Waldo waxing beguiling and malignant by appropriate turns in Ted's life of broken dreams. Lillian, who loses one lover in flagrante delicto, ages physically but becomes more beloved by all as the story draws to its Waldo-sealed conclusion. She is a particularly engaging character in a world in which men too often use women as extensions of themselves. A host of American studies issues are addressed here, including the history of the entertainment industry, alcoholism's status in 20th-century America, the lonely life of the creative genius as a cultural motif, and more.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (September 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375421912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375421914
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #854,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph W. Annabi on November 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
One of the very best comic stories I've ever read. The art is amazing. The layouts from page to page are staggering in their creativity. The story itself is meshed so much with historical elements from early animation that you don't know where the fiction begins. The story is quite compelling, and very dark. Reads like non-fiction, if it were possible. This book will stay with you long after you put it down. Highest recommendation for anyone, comic fan or not.
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Format: Hardcover
Set primarily in the early 20th century, this is the story of a burgeoning cartoon studio that becomes famous producing animated shorts featuring Waldo the Cat. Except he's real but can only be seen by the head animator! The story follows disturbing events that led to the downfall of the studio and the wreckage remaining years later.

Anyone who has read Kim Deitch before will recognise many of the same themes prevalent in this book as explored in previous books: the early days of cinema/animation, early 20th century curios, unreliable narrators usually drunk/on drugs, and the hinting that Waldo is a demon in cat form. This is all well and good but after reading most of Deitch's books ("Shadowland", "Alias the Cat!", "The Search for Smilin' Ed", "A Shroud for Waldo") it's getting a bit repetitive and boring.

Don't get me wrong, I still like his work, I mean his artwork is always brilliant and inventive, his layouts imaginative and drawing style instantly recognisable - but coupled with a mediocre story where there's no real main character and the theme seems to be anti-corporate art, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" isn't a very involving read and rambles at times. The characters have an on-again-off-again romance but compared to, say, the inventiveness of "Smilin' Ed" or "Shadowland", "Boulevard" is a drab and uninteresting book set in drawing studios or run down apartments. Waldo pops in now and then but doesn't play a big part in the story.

Deitch is a wonderful comic book artist and writer and I had hoped "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" would be a masterwork but it's a disappointing and fairly minor piece. I recommend others to seek out "The Search for Smilin' Ed" or "Shadowland" for better examples of Kim Deitch's brilliance.
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Format: Hardcover
Boulevard of Broken Dreams is a fascinating comic about the steady decline of an animator named Ted and the industry into which he breathed new life. An animation company of the '30s era creates "Waldo the Cat" shorts, but with the rise of Disney, the company tosses originality in favor of the cutesy watered-down style that has become so popular. New bosses, scandal, and tragedy rides the degradation of the cartoons all the way into the '90s. And all the while, Ted is tormented by hallucinations of the cartoon cat he created. This is the twisted story that Deitch has woven.

And it's a good one, to be sure. From Ted's mind springs a popping, psychedelic world brimming with confusion and madness. While Ted is engulfed by his delusions, the people around him, his shifty brother Al, his uncertain romantic interest Lillian, and the aging great Winsor Newton all face the harsh realities of a business that loses its heart. The story makes references to classic animators, so cartoon history buffs can enjoy a few in-jokes. Tension and mystery abound, and it's a wonderful story for those who understand alienation or like a bit of bizarro reading.
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Format: Hardcover
You can tell how good a book is by times , you replace it , I have replaced this Wonderful book three times, it vanishes from my book shelf, my desk and coffee table. this is book , if you enjoy the story of early animated cartoons then you will this , a good read !
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Format: Hardcover
Sometime when I was in university and looking for a break from the dense and exhausting curriculum of the English major I wandered into the on-campus comic store and bought the thickest book available. That was "Bone: One Volume Edition" by Jeff Smith and since then I've been like a junkie. I'd discovered this intricate, wonderful, seemingly bottomless world of art, that I was, until now, totally ignorant of. And beginning with D.C.'s Vertigo imprint, I was slowly initiated into the society of Comic Geek. We're supposed to call them "Graphic Novels" now so that they can be reviewed by the likes of "Time Magazine" and allow the critics to give a guilt free review of kid's stuff in the latest issue. Well whatever, however society chooses to embrace this art I'm just glad the age of "by a minority for a minority" has passed.

Which brings us to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Kim Deitch. I had never heard of this book before I bought it, nor had I heard of Kim Deitch or Waldo the Cat. I had heard good things, though, about this book and as I flipped though it I thought it looked a bit like R. Crumb and imagined it as some sort of surreal pseudo-psychedelic nightmare detailing repressed sexuality and high-school embarrassments. That was what I thought. What I found was a wonderfully intricate and ambitious story that jumped through time and chronicled the various lives of the people affected by the insanity of Waldo, the epitome of creative idealism.

What's great about this book, and why it would appeal to anyone interested in modern art or animation is that at its core it's about the integration of the artist into The Machine.
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