Help me find avant-garde comics/sequential art por favor?
December 17, 2010 11:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for avant-garde/experimental comics or sequential art.

I love comics/graphic novels, comic strips, and sequential art. I'm very interested in the ways that people create meaning with visual mediums that build and fragment reality. Comics as narratives have always been one of my fascinations but lately I've felt a bit jaded going to Barnes & Noble to find new reading material.
I know that last sentence probably will piss some of you off because there's bound to be a graphic novel or book out there that's really awesome and experimental that I may have dismissed while skimming a book during one of these B&N visits. (Maybe I'm too impatient or judge the stuff I find too quickly).

Anyway, long story short, can you point me to some cool artists/writers who are working on comics that are experimental (maybe the term would be avant-garde) or unusual?
I'm thinking along the lines of "artist who only uses regular quadrilaterals (squares) for panels" or "artist who blends photograhpy with drawn, comic style characters".

Here are some examples from an artist I've really digged lately:

And, of course, HyperboleAndAHalf
posted by fantodstic to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dinosaur Comics uses the same artwork for every strip, changing only the dialogue, and yet manages to be consistently funny and with a wide cast of characters. There's also a book available.

Axe Cop is illustrated by a professional artist, but written by the artist's six-year-old nephew. Hilarity ensues.

MS Paint Adventures is totally insane. Each new story begins with a simple premise, but the action from then on is driven by user-submitted suggestions. The stories quickly spiral out of control into sprawling morasses of magic, surrealism, bizarre in-jokes, and multiple branching storylines. The first story epic, Problem Sleuth, is a good place to start.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:18 AM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Rhaomi: "written by the artist's six-year-old nephew"

Er, make that "five-year-old brother." Also, here's a list of the comics published chapters.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:21 AM on December 18, 2010

Maybe take a look at Paul Pope's work? He has done a lot of different things, might be someone you would like.
posted by bibliogrrl at 12:35 AM on December 18, 2010

Have you read Asterios Polyp or Chris Ware's stuff? Also you may want to poke around Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly for material. There's some formally experimental stuff on the internet but it's not very prevalent at all.
posted by furiousthought at 12:45 AM on December 18, 2010

I found both of these at Barnes & Noble:

Charles Burns, X'ed Out

AX, Volume 1
posted by naju at 1:04 AM on December 18, 2010

I wish I were not trying to post from an iPhone and that I had more time. Here is a short list with descriptions from other fine folks. If you google any of these artists, you'll find a lot more information. These people are all kicking ass in the "experimental" comics landscape.

Ron Rege, Jr - "Ron Regé is one of a handful of cartoonists in the history of the medium not only to reinvent comics to suit his own idiosyncratic impulses and inspirations as an artist, but also to imbue it with his own peculiar, ever-changing emotional energy. To me, he is unquestionably one of ‘the greats.'" - Chris Ware. Seek out Skibber Bee Bye, The Awake Field, or any of his Yeast Hoist installments.

Brian Chippendale - "Over the past decade, the Providence stalwarts Brian Chippendale and C.F. have revolutionized adventure comics, DIY culture, and contemporary art. Both artists' work feature a unique mix of personal politics, humor, fantastic worlds, and visionary drawing. Brian Chippendale's new book is titled 'If 'n Oof' - an 800 page, epic graphic novel, focusing on the misadventures of the mismatched eponymous duo, Chippendale's own Laurel and Hardy. Chippendale allows the two to explore his landscapes and alien beings in a story-driven, manga-style adventure, replete with the frenetic linework and concise, witty dialogue for which he is notorious. ... His previous graphic novels include Maggots and Ninja.

C.F.'s Powr Mastrs 3 is the latest installment in his Dune-like science fiction/fantasy epic, featuring a misguided scientist and the race of beings he has created, inhabiting a surreal world called New China. Powr Mastrs overflows with graphic innovation, from the intricately designed costumes each character wears to the exactingly drawn architectural detail rendered in C.F.'s distinctive pencil line... He is a contributor to Kramers Ergot, among other books."
- Family Bookstore

Genevieve Castree - There is so much I'd like to say about Castree's work, but words kind of fail me. There are echoes of Maurice Sendak in her illustrations, but she is a true original. She has been published by Drawn + Quarterly which another MeFite suggested above. It's probably best to let her books speak for themselves, so please just visit her website.
posted by pinetree at 1:14 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I came in to recommend Chris Ware too, especially his more diagrammatic work. Here's an example.
posted by gerryblog at 1:32 AM on December 18, 2010

Best answer: Hmmm, the ones you posted are definitely on the more experimental side of comics. I'm not too familiar with that stuff, but you can also find some crazy stuff at Same Hat. (Careful, some of it is NSFW.) Try Kago's Abstraction Series for a taste. Good luck finding an easy narrative in that. :)

As for artists who only use regular panels, seemingly the strongest advocate of that these days is Frank Santoro (see this page from Storeyville [sorry, it's in French]). He comes from the more formalism school of comics (read this short blog post for instance to see what he's getting at and then read his other posts on that blog), and his stuff usually leaves me feeling a bit cold, but you gotta respect what he's doing. If you can, get your hands on a hard copy of Storeyville. The book is HUGE (physically). And more of his stuff online: Cold Heat.
posted by jng at 1:38 AM on December 18, 2010

If you're looking for experimental work, you might like 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style. Although the underlying "work" is pretty thin (a single page comic of no particular note), the 99 experiments (variations in style) are fascinating: single panel, wordless, genres, etc.
posted by zanni at 1:43 AM on December 18, 2010

Best answer: 1. abstract comics might suit you, as it's REALLY avant garde plotless art craziness.

2. the kramer's ergot anthology has many weird/ amazing artists...i personally felt this one was particularly satisfying.

3. gazeta comics, which i help put out, prints avant-garde comix from around the world ("bangkok to belgrade").

4. john porcellino's spit and a half distro has a lot of unusual comics both domestic and international.

5. sparkplug comics prints a lot of fresh, unconventional work.

6. Also, have you already read Jim Woodring and Kevin Huizenga? I think they're both Barnes and Noble-available but also unique and worth checking out.

7. I could go on all day, so PM me if you want more / better personalized recommendations. Also, thanks for linking to that dancing skeleton video -- it was awesome.
posted by hungrytiger at 2:25 AM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

RabbitHead by Rebecca Dart starts with a single event, whose storyline is followed throughout the book, but every couple of pages, the (wordless) narrative branches, and that thread gets added to the page layout. Eventually, there are seven storylines running concurrently, which collapse back together by the end. (You should probably just look at this scan of a spread.) I think it's out of print, but you can get copies from Amazon sellers pretty cheap.
posted by Su at 3:15 AM on December 18, 2010

It may be more avant-garde than you're looking for, but how about Abstract Comics?
posted by cropshy at 4:28 AM on December 18, 2010

You might enjoy the Frank comics by Jim Woodring.
posted by a.steele at 8:11 AM on December 18, 2010

Mark Newgarden, Love's Savage Fury, just one of the great things in his collection We All Die Alone.
posted by idiopath at 8:25 AM on December 18, 2010

We3 is some pretty experimental characterization, and damn good.

Gary Panter is pretty exclusively experimental and avant garde.

Jim Woodring is avant garde and has changed a great deal. He started out doing early-Crumb-style personal monologue type stuff but his later stuff is... not that.

R. Crumb, for that matter, has changed a bunch of times. As a kid he's got volumes of talking cat cartoons that are pretty incredibly boring, if also incredibly well done for such a young kid. Eventually, he started with the 30's cartoon grotesquery and then took acid and went into the surrealist stuff as well as the sort of psychoanalytical stuff, looking at misogyny, power, and racism. He sort of calmed down after that and now he does really sort of scholarly comics, if there are such a thing. The Book fo Genesis and an illustrated biography of Kafka are the two most recent things he's done that I know of. He also does these really crotchety comics about how much better the old blues were than anything today.

Spain's stuff from the 70's is still pretty avant garde. I think he did a comic of Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain... if I'm recalling correctly it was written by Jodorowsky's brother, Mobius Jodorowsky and the comic might have predated the movie. Mobius also did comics, I think.

You can pretty easily get ahold of old issues of RAW. It was an anthology type book curated by Art Spiegelman and Fracois Mouly that really only dealt with cutting edge stuff.
posted by cmoj at 9:35 AM on December 18, 2010

an excerpt on flickr (Bazooka Joe saw Nancy on the train, and it was love at first sight, as he keeps remembering and reimagining her and hoping to see her again her features become more and more abstract, this page is one part of that process).
posted by idiopath at 9:35 AM on December 18, 2010

I just read this book of Peter Blegvad's strip Leviathan, which I used to read in the Independent as a teenager. Really, really good. Makes more sense to me now.

There was an online archive at that I looked at only a month or two ago (after buying the book), but it is no longer functioning.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 10:28 AM on December 18, 2010

Listening to 11.975 MHz is good.
posted by oonh at 11:23 AM on December 18, 2010

Best answer: Try to find some old back issues of RAW Magazine. Many classic non-linear artists, some mentioned above, were introduced here. Mark Beyer is a personal favorite of mine, but not for all tastes, of course.

(Oh, cmoj mentioned that. I'll say it again.)
posted by ovvl at 11:54 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nding Brian Chippendale, 3rding Jim Woodring, 2nding Kramer's Ergot 5.

You should also check out Shrimpy and Paul and Friends by Marc Bell.

And of course, the online Paper Rad comics.
posted by beerbajay at 3:35 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm stopping in here to mention Johnathan Hickman's The Nightly News. His art is a blend of normal comic art, grungy paint splashes, and polished graphic design infographics.

Any comic that stops the action occasionally to show you charts and graphs is pretty solid in my book.

Also, seconding A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is Irreversible. It is both hilarious and gorgeously painted. Sad that it has ended.
posted by cirrostratus at 9:20 AM on December 20, 2010

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