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KE7: Please Do Not Destroy This Book
on June 23, 2014
I was one of the unfortunate people who got pretty excited when I heard that Kramer's Ergot would publish the 7th volume of their artcomics anthology in a freakishly huge 16" x 21" format (identical to the dimensions of the first Little Nemo book from Sunday Press), but then procrastinated, and screwed up my chance to buy it cheap. I got more involved in 19th C. Symbolism, then the N. Renaissance, then a plethora of contemporary artists and styles. By the time I got back around to wanting a copy, the price had shot up to well over $1000.00. Since Buenaventura Press is no more and editor Sammy Harkham has moved on, releasing an 8th volume of Kramer's through Picturebox, the limited print run of 1500 or 2000 copies is all there's ever going to be. I finally found a copy for a decent price from Powell's Books, in the States, about $275.00 plus shipping... which makes the original price of $125.00 seem pretty reasonable. I recall seeing a review on Attack of the Show, I think, and the comics reviewer, Blaire, was flipping through the big, beautiful pages, when she casually suggested buying a copy to dismantle it and using the pages as posters. Man, I really hope no one took that terrible advice. Books that size, at least in 2008, couldn't be bound by machine, so they were hand-stitched -- each copy a hand-made art object. There's a lot of cool posters and prints out there. Tearing apart a rare, hand-bound milestone in comics history is not the best plan for decorating walls. But never mind that. What makes this book so fascinating and amazing is the way each artist utilizes the 16" x 21" page or 32" x 21" spread. Some of the most famous artists, like Dan Clowes and Jamie Hernandez, use the space for more panels or more details to create typically brilliant, but conservative stories. Others, like Shary Boyle and Chris Ware, take experimental approaches with stunning results. Ware's story circles the wonderfully rendered lifesize depiction of a baby in the center of his 2-page spread. Will Sweeney turns in an intricate science fiction story that is perhaps his best work, with art you'll keep staring at until your retinas bleed. Anders Nilsen, Tom Gauld, and Matt Furie all turn in art that capitalizes on the old broadsheet format; Nilsen with a fully-painted enigma featuring angels armed with sub-machine guns; Gauld provides a breath-taking view of Noah's ark as his son's discuss their aging fathers' increasingly strange behavior, all executed in his perfectly composed, carefully cross-hatched linework; and Furie gives free reign to the Bestarium in his skull, a menagerie of furred, scaled and feathered monsters halfway between stuffed-toys and demonic entities named in the Necronomicon. Unlike the Little Nemo reprints, which use a thick, acid-free paper but are unfinished to math the look and color of the newspaper page without the cheap, pulpy inconsistencies of newsprint, KE7 utilizes a heavy archival stock with a glossiness that does indeed make each page like a quality poster. It reminds me of the original 2'8" wide x 3'6" portfolio editions of Audubon's Birds of America, the almost 450 prints collected in 6 beautiful leatherbound portfolios containing 72 prints each, all of them with hand-painted colors by Audubon himself. Each set of 6 was pretty expensive, but each 1 of those sets was released as it was completed via a subscription service made up of well-to-do customers. Tracking down those complete and partial sets was the subject of a book detailing the detective work. A surprising number of sets were still intact; surprising, because unfortunately, from the late 1800's up until the 1970's, collectors could make a considerably larger profit dismantling the portfolios and selling each print one by one; luckily, most of the private owners of complete sets were rich enough to never consider selling (as much as it pains me to thank rich people for not vandalizing their own possessions). I'm pretty sure there'll be copies of KE7 circulating for some time. If you see a copy in decent shape for under $200.00, and you can afford it, buy it. It has a hundred pages of the most talented artists creating material for a specific format that's not likely to be collected by the individual artists. For fans of sequential art, it really is a monument to creativity that only comes along once a decade or so... the last one was probably 'L'Association's' Comix 2000, and of the two, KE7 is better.