Born in Moscow, NYC-based painter and illustrator Dimitri Drjuchin creates bright, mystical eye candy that reads like a riddle. You may recognize his surrealist work from gig posters for comics Marc Maron, Jim Gaffigan, Eugene Mirman, and Hannibal Buress — or, more recently, you might have spotted his mind-bending cover for Fear Fun, the debut album from Father John Misty.
Before Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine, before Frank Miller and Alan Moore, and even before Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, there was Lynd Ward — America’s first, real graphic novelist. The terms “visionary” or “pioneer” could be applied to Ward, but the truth is that he was making graphic novels way before it was cool, and probably before it was even thought possible to create such a thing. Between 1929 and 1937, he dared to tell dramatic adult stories with just a series of woodcut images and his own vision.
Born in 1905 in Chicago, Ward lived through some of the most tumultuous moments of the 20th Century, most of which found a way into his dynamic, wordless picture books, now widely regarded as the origins of the modern graphic novel. His stories included sociopolitical commentary on the inter-war atmosphere of dread — the sinking American economy, the meteoric rise of European fascism, and the effect of swift industrialization on the self-hood of the worker — as well as more thoughtful matters, such as the whether or not the soul could survive in the modern age, or the price of artistic ambition and greed.
When I first read Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel Shortcomings more than a year ago, I was struck by two things: the comic’s sensitive and honest portrayal of modern race relations, and the wonderfully clean art style. The former proceeds mostly from Tomine himself, a fourth generation Japanese American. The latter is strongly inspired by modern masters of the medium like Daniel Clowes and the Hernandez brothers, and it results in evocative illustration that recalls classic comic art of the 1950s and even Roy Lichtenstein.
Ask anyone in Chicago where the best place is to get independent books and zines, and they will surely have just one answer: Quimby’s. Located in Wicker Park, this bookstore carries almost everything independent, artistic, off-kilter, silly, or profound that you can imagine, and it boasts an intelligent and capable staff to help you navigate it all.