Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Top 5 Books for 2009

Over at CARTOON BREW Jerry Beck has picked his top ten animation books for 2009, I will throw in with a few offbeat favorites of mine:

This tells the untold story of the little known quartet of talent that created UNDERDOG, TENNESEE TUXEDO, KING LEONARDO, and many other cartoon hits of the 1960's. Since
precious little has ever been written about this team, this book sheds welcome light on the group, who are all still present, accounted for and lucid, despite the fact their ad-hoc company dissolved 40 years ago. The key artist of TTV was Joe Harris, who appears to have very nearly single handedly designed and storyboarded their entire output of shows. A few of Mr. Harris' original sketches appear in the book and their energy and wit managed to sustain their charm despite the fact that the shows themselves were usually shipped off to be produced under bargain basement conditions. The more I learn about this group the more I want to know. And hey--the nifty cover art is by Mike Kazaleh!

I enjoyed this movie immensely and was glad to get the book, another handsome and slickly produced SONY "art of" book. Some of the group behind the movie also created the very funny and short lived MTV series CLONE HIGH and their rough sketches, storyboards and designs are fun to see. Looking forward to seeing the film again when it is released on DVD next month.

3. THE BEST OF THE WIZARD OF ID by Brant Parker & Johnny Hart

(Brant Parker originally worked for Disney on MICKEY & THE BEANSTALK, so it kind of qualifies as an animation book)
I really liked Johnny Hart's B.C. comic strip as a kid--it was a real departure of comic style from what was currently running at the time. My personal favorite however was WIZARD OF ID, which followed, being even more broadly goony and grotesque. It is hard to tell where Hart leaves off and where Parker begins; they appear to have been such copacetic partners. But while Hart established his success with B.C. first, Parker was a decade older and had been an early influence on Hart. In any case, their WIZARD strips are great to see again in this volume, which also compelled me to track down some of the early paperbacks, which I owned and loved as a kid.

4 & 5. EEK & MEEK (vol. 2 & 3) by Howie Schneider
(OK, not animation, but nice cartooning all the same)
Eek and Meek were two comic strip mice born in the 1960's in the aftermath of Hart & Parker's considerable influence. Howie Schneider sketched them as spidery, post-atomic cousins of Herriman's immortal "Ignatz Mouse", and though I never saw them in the newspaper as a kid, I was happy to purchase these two volumes from Charles Brubaker, who was kind enough to post a book list for sale a few weeks ago. I am still slowly going over the books to enjoy Mr. Schneider's deceptively simple artwork. Curiously, he later evolved the characters into humans without much fanfare, and continued the characters' antics until his death a few years ago without missing a beat,


Brubaker said...

Glad you enjoyed the Eek & Meek books. I just sent one more I found today.

Brubaker said...

I just sent the first Eek & Meek book today. Enjoy, because those three were the only book collections the strip had.

The strip actually ended in 2000, but Howie decided to start one more strip called "The Sunshine Club". Technically it was a spinoff, because the main character was actually a grandfather of one of the characters in E&M. Howie did the strip until his death.

Howie had one animation credit: he wrote on one of the made-for-TV Popeye cartoons from the sixties.

Will Finn said...

Thanks Charles. I knew H. Schneider was still publishing something when he passed away.

I never lived anywhere that had a paper carrying EEK, but at one point the Syracuse Sunday paper carried P.T. BIMBO, his circus strip. I saved a few of those. I only knew of EEK AND MEEK because as a very small kid I flipped thru a paperback I found at a store and I never forgot the characters, even tho I did not get the book. Thanks for make your copies available....

chrisallison said...

cool! i looked up some eek and meek comics on google image search and they're pretty funny. thanks for the tip. really reminds me of pearls before swine's style.

from what i've seen the animal ones are funnier, but the art is really nice all around. love how loose it is. ah, to be a loose artist!

Clair said...

I never saw Eek and Meek in the paper either, but bought the books when I was very young because I loved mice. (Had one named Ralph - after The Mouse and The Motorcycle - that I kept with me in a shirt pocket most of the time.)
Anyway, no one I've ever talked to has ever heard of Eek and Meek but I still do have those books, well worn from all the times I've enjoyed them.
I note you like John Kennedy Toole's most famous book. Have you ever read his high school 'essay' entry, "Neon Bible?"
It still gives me chills whenever I reread it. To realize such a talent at such a young age. We really lost a lot when Toole left us.

Will Finn said...

Yes I've read THE NEON BIBLE. What a great writer he was. Maybe too good for this world....