Hey Hey Hey!
The good people at Microcosm Publishing have sent me a few interesting packages lately and now that the blog is nearly fully powered again – we’re still planning on dressing up the place – I’ve been sifting through the goodies and I found a few to share.
The first is a book written by and old friend who has always been interested in that place where art meets activism. The second is an almost-too-good-to-be-true comic starring heavy rockers Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig…as…roommates?
Firebrands: Portraits from the Americas
This great collection of portraits of political radicals comes from the Just Seeds Artist’s Cooperative. It was edited by Bec Young and my old friend Shawn Slifer. Shawn once operated a-still-remarked-about living room art gallery just up the street from my place in Nashville. Shawn was always a decidedly friendly, warm guy to be around, but he was also serious-minded when it came to art and politics and this volume shows no dulling on his blade.
Firebrands instantly reminded me of Josh Macphee’s (also a Just Seeds-er) radical portrait poster series Celebrating People’s History. Shawn turned me on to those back in the day and I still have about 20 posters that he was generous enough to see into my hands. Although, Firebrands features a number of illustrations, this really is – first and foremost – a history book. Think a condensed, wider-ranging version of Howard Zinn’s (to whom the book is dedicated) A People’s History of the United States with the volume turned all the way up. Firebrands features artists like Nina Simone and odd-ball visionaries like architect-designer Buckminster Fuller. It begins with Muhammad Ali and ends with the Brazilian slave-rebel leader Zumbi dos Palmares.
The book’s one-page-each-image-essay-image-essay design builds a nice rhythm that connects the disparate personalities through the momentum it creates. Although the strength of the writing and art varies throughout, that is to be expected in such a compilation and Firebrands certainly never commits the sin of being uninteresting.
As I’ve mentioned, Slifer knows his stuff and when – in the book’s introduction – he suggests that readers should “stick this book in your back pocket and stick these stories in your mind” we can only agree. He’s never steered us wrong.
Henry & Glenn Forever
When we first saw this book among Microcosm’s up-coming releases, we anticipated a kind of tongue-in-cheek fan-fiction romance in which macho-rockers Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig put their tongues into each other’s cheeks.
While Henry and Glenn’ wasn’t what we’d expected, we’ve fallen in love with this warm wonder of sweet insanity.
Henry and Glenn’ consists of a number of barely connected cartoons, comic strips and journal entries created by the Igloo Tornado art collective. Rollins is clearly “The Man” in their relationship and some of the book’s best bits find Danzig decked out in various accoutrements, inquiring whether a given get-up makes “my butt look fat?”.
While the book certainly has a blast with too-easy-gay-jokes and plenty of raunchy humor, it also does a great job of keeping a straight face in a cartoon that finds Henry and Glenn watching a flock of birds circling in the sky while Rollins observes “When angels get tired they sit and rest on soft pillows of clouds…” It’s the little details that make this book more than just a clever joke. The photocopied images of handwritten journal entries bring an unexpected level of tangible reality to the crazy cartoons and a drawing of a message on a postcard from one of Henry’s spoken-word tours is so sincere you almost forget to laugh.
Oh yeah…and their neighbors are Hall and Oates. They also live together…as practicing Satanists.
I’m totally serious.
The Exclaim.ca site had this to say regarding Danzig’s reaction to the book:
Danzig found out about the comic done by “art fraternity” Igloo Tornado in an interview with Decibel Magazine and expressed his displeasure, refusing to even look at the creation. Now, instead of turning tail and running, those pesky Igloo Tornado fellows created The Final Blow, a comic documenting what happened when the Decibel interviewer tried to show Danzig the collection, plus an imaginary scenario where their relationship is again misconstrued after the interviewer sees what looks like Danzig giving Rollins fellatio.
We also like Al Burian Goes to Hell, the eponymous author’s contemporary updating of Dante’s Inferno. Check out these Sleepless Book Club selections and support these authors and our friends at Microcosm.
Enjoy and leave a comment!
Joe Nolan <3