Something old, something blue
I'D like to bring to your attention two collections that, while created by acknowledged masters of the "sequential arts" medium, are miles apart in approach and subject matter.
"The Complete Peanuts: 1961-1962" and "Lost Girls" represent the best comics has to offer. If you are one of many enjoying the "Classic Peanuts" strips being reprinted Mondays through Saturdays in our newspaper, you're a ready audience for this latest volume, No. 6 in a continuing series.
As for "Lost Girls," I was first exposed to this dreamy bit of Victorian and Edwardian-inspired eroticism in chapter form 16 years ago in a cutting-edge horror anthology titled, not surprisingly, "Taboo." Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by hisfiancee Melinda Gebbie, "Lost Girls" stands out not only for its expressive explicitness, but for its measured, literate prose and evocative period pastel drawings depicting the sexual adventures of three icons of classic children's literature -- Alice from "Alice in Wonderland," Wendy from "Peter Pan" and Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" -- now grown up and curious.
Top Shelf Productions has finally compiled all the "Lost Girls" chapters in three volumes released in August.
Lucky for me, I bought the book early. All 10,000 copies of the first printing sold out on the first day of release. Publisher Chris Staros reports that a second printing of 10,000 is out now, with a third printing scheduled for mid-December (a perfect holiday gift for that discriminating someone).
THE CLOSEST thing to unbridled passion that can be seen in the latest collection of "Peanuts" strips is Linus facing the unexpected return of his favorite teacher and heartthrob, the unseen Miss Othmar. He also wears glasses for a time, learning that they're not only good for his vision, but also for preventing his sister, Lucy, from slugging him.
If you're keeping score, the current "Classic Peanuts" run has the blanket-toting kid in the early stages of amour over the unavailable instructor. And Charlie Brown's sister, Sally, has just been born. In the 1961-62 collection, Sally, like her big brother, starts having anxiety attacks, only for her it's over starting kindergarten.
"Do you think maybe I could get a deferment?" she innocently asks Linus in one strip.
Such "Peanuts"-loving celebrities as Garrison Keillor, Walter Cronkite, Matt Groening, Jonathan Franzen and Whoopi Goldberg have all written introductions to the five previous volumes, and this time around, it's Diana Krall's turn.
Krall, not surprisingly, most identifies with "the occasionally exasperated pianist, Schroeder." She speaks for all fans of Schulz and his enduring masterpiece when she writes that "his creations appeal to you as a child and speak to you as an adult."
TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS
Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" is all grown up in "Lost Girls."
WHEN IT COMES to sex, however, the child and adult are churned together in a messy mix of carnal appetite and desire. In "Lost Girls" nothing is forbidden, and human sexuality in all its imagination is ultimately celebrated.
In his review of "Lost Girls," the Village Voice's Richard Gehr stated that Moore's work "is to erotic literature what (his) now classic 1987 'Watchmen' (with Dave Gibbons) was to the superhero scene. Each busts the frames of its respective genre with formal precision; each reflects upon its own ways and means through books within the book; and, most importantly, each kicks great writing into hyperdrive with dense and resonant imagery."
In an interview with the Onion A.V. Club, Moore said he had been an admirer of Gebbie's work "since the underground days, in the early '70s, when she was working with people such as S. Clay Wilson and Spain Rodriguez and Robert Crumb.
"She and I started talking about how we felt about erotica, pornography and the comics medium. It was a subject we didn't think had been treated in the way we'd like to see it treated. Then I mentioned an idea I'd had, a kind of half-assed connection between flying in 'Peter Pan' and Freud's comment that dreams of flying are sexual. I thought there might be something I could do with that, but I couldn't come up with anything beyond a smutty parody of 'Peter Pan.' Then Melinda mentioned that in her earlier strips, she'd enjoyed working with stories that had three women. So these two ideas kind of collided, and I thought if Wendy from 'Peter Pan' were one of three women, who would the other two be? Alice and Dorothy sprung to mind immediately. The story kind of suggested itself from there, in an excited rush of conversation.
"'Lost Girls' probably marks the closest that I've worked with an artist on a comic, perhaps unsurprisingly," Moore later said. "With the nature of the material, it more or less demands an intimate relationship between the creators. Not just intimate in the usual physical sense, but also intimate in a mental and creative sense.
"We're working for, hopefully, something human and timeless," he said, "like I think our sexual imagination has proved to be thus far. It's been with us since (the ancient erotic statue) 'The Venus of Willendorf,' and will certainly be with us until we've managed to eradicate ourselves from this planet. We wanted to speak to that quality, that timeless eternal human interest in sex. We wanted to apply art to that. We had to be as comprehensive as possible. We tried to be encyclopedic without making too big of a deal about it."
But "Lost Girls" and "The Complete Peanuts" collection are big, glorious deals, as they should be. You should make them part of your collection.