Friday, January 19, 2007
As the name of the post reveals, I wanted to take a minute and write about Swiss cartoonist Thomas Ott (billed on his books as simply T. Ott). Ott's books have been released stateside by Fantagraphics, and he is one of the too-small handful of European comic artists with books released/translated in the U.S. (although :01 and others have been changing this lately, thankfully).
Do people dig his stuff? Are you over it already? Here come the cliches my geeky-alter ago uses to describe Ott's comics: Channeling the dead ghosts of silent cinema (ooh!). Macabre morality plays with contemporary settings and repercussions (oooh!). Short yarns reminiscint of The Twilight Zone blended with the hard knocks zingers of EC's horror comics (ooooh!). BANG BANG BANG-- that shit is all true!
Some of the books that should be on your shelves:
I kept running into his stuff in really odd places in 2006, and I wish I knew more about him and his earlier work (ahem, European readers of this blog--a little help?). From what I gathered, he lives in France, and used to front a band called The Playboys. His work is getting more widely distributed, it seems, and I came across this awesome shirt from a Spencer Gifts-meets-Hot Topic style shop in Berlin, below a records store where I got early Malaria! and DAF records:
Don't pretend that you don't want this t-shirt
It was 25 Euro, but STILL--- why didn't I buy it?
In addition to this, some genius at Penguin tapped Ott to do one of the covers for their Graphic Classics editions-- a series of luxury reprints coupled with covers by indie cartoonists. Radical ones include Akutagawa's Rashomon and other stories, translated by Japanese PopLit all-star Jay Rubin and illustrated by my main man, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and Charles Burns' nasty meat slab cover for The Jungle, and Kerouac's Dharma Bums with a cover by Jason.
But the best, most-inspired edition is T. Ott illustrating the cover of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle, with an introduction by the SF-turned-literary, Philip K. Dick-evangelizing author, Mr. Jonathan Lethem. Could you ask for a better team? Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors (she wrote a score of creepy stories, including The Lottery, along with claustrophic novels like The Haunting of Hill House) and this is one of her best (and surprisingly hard to track down) books. When I saw the mock-up for this cover back in June 2006, at Penguin's BookExpo America booth, my response was "NO FUCKING WAY!" Check it out:
And that is my squeeling lovefest. Long live the Swiss! Any Europeans have more info on him they want to send our way?