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Modern Arf: The Unholy Marriage of Art + Comics Paperback – July 30, 2005
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Modern Arf is a new anthology series "exploring the unholy marriage of art and comics" but pretty definitely emphasizing comics. That's just fine since there still aren't that many books focused on comics, and few of those are as delightful as this one. Among the treats on view in its oversized pages are cartoons depicting artists and their models, a zany 1920s magazine story by cartoonist Milt Gross (1895-1953), a historical examination of the precursors of Mad mascot Alfred E. Newman, obscure work by Mutts cartoonist Patrick McDonnell, and comic strips by Salvador Dali along with cartoonists' attempts at Daliesque surrealism. Comics aficionados may get the biggest kick out of an atypical story by legendary superhero artist Jack Kirby, in which a schlub is transported into a cubist alternate world; but there's something here to tickle nearly everyone's fancy. The title remains puzzling, though, unless it refers to the dogged efforts of compiler Yoe, who contributes the commentary and his own wacky scrawlings, to unearth forgotten treasure. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Achieves a peculiar beauty, an almost hallucinogenic synthesis. -- Comic Book Resources
Eye-popping revelations! -- The Boston Globe
There's something here to tickle nearly everyone's fancy. -- Booklist
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Arf is 120 pages of surprising cartoons and comics. A few moments looking through Arf persuaded me to buy it. Arf has 120 pages of strong material. It's an admirable job of research and selection by C. Yoe. If Arf was your blind date, you'd be impressed and eagerly call back for second and thirds. Give Arf a chance.
I wanted to see Arf not purchase it. However, while reading Arf strange things happened. I was laughing heartily or finding something I'd never seen before on every page.
With Arf, the laughs started in the opening section titled, Artists and Models. It's thirty pages of plucky double intendeds from respectable names in art and comics: Cruikshank (1836), Dirks, Picasso, Bill Holman, Crumb, Wood, and more.
Some cartoons employ words to explore character or situation, like this clueless artist to lovely girlfriend, 'Ah, darling! Your plastic form, your cohesive organization, your third dimensional volume! However, the Artists and Models section demonstrates the power of wordless cartoon illustration to show more then words can tell. Cartoon's communicative strength is cunningly demonstrated by the Cooperative Model of Chaponnier's mid-1800's illustration and Picasso's revealing 1954 cartoon of the artist as an ape painting a classically posed nude.
A charming drawing by Patrick McDonnell closes the section and leads, finally, to the Table of Contents.
Arf features ten chapters. Two are complete comic stories. A surreal Jack Kirby romance and a Lady Luck story. Craig's color chapters on rarely reprinted individuals include: Rubino, Hy Mayer, Dali, Hatlo, Milt Gross and Patrick (Mutts) McDonnell. For these alone Arf deserves space on your book shelf.
Thirty-six antique color postcards uncover the original 'What Me Worry' Alfred E. Newman advertising kid. Hey, just like in Star Wars, there's a sister and she's as cute as he is.
Craig Yoe's own arf is a wild section of neoprepost revivalist retro color comics with plenty to offer. David, an unpaid, unbiased modern artist had this to say, 'Craig's work is the best part of the book.'
On page 30 Will Eisner's endorsement of Arf is mentioned. I enthusiastically second that emotion.
Standing in Dr. Comics, barking heartily every time I turned the page, showed me how good Arf is. The next day I returned with twenty bucks and traded them for a copy of Arf.
This was doe well spent.
Craig Yoe managed to find not one, but several artists whose work was new to me. The stand-outs for me were Antonio Rubino's mind-blowing comics from nearly a hundred years ago and Hy Mayer's amazing worm's eye views - you have to see them to believe them. And even though I'm a huge Jack Kirby fan, I wasn't familiar with this bizarre cubist story. Yoe turned me on to quite a lot that I'd never seen. Furthermore, it's all great stuff!
I used to read Jimmy Hatlo's "They'll Do It Every Time" in the Sunday funnies but I don't recall ever seeing these strips about Hell. Yikes! Who knew Hatlo did his own take on Dante's Inferno?
The book also includes a variety of cartoons on the theme of artists and models that puts the "modern art" into Modern Arf. Plus there's plenty of Craig's own work which is weird and delightful.
Modern Arf is highly recommended to comics fans, art lovers, and pop-culture connoisseurs in general.