January 9, 2019
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels.
The 1972 collection’s title is derived from amphigory: “a burlesque writing filled with nonsense; a composition without sense, as a Latin ‘nonsense-verse’” (OED). It contains fifteen stories, and if you know Edward Gorey’s work at all, you probably recognize some of the titles: “The Unstrung Harp,” “The Listing Attic,” “The Doubtful Guest,” “The Object-Lesson,” “The Bug Book,” “The Fatal Lozenge,” “The Hapless Child,” “The Curious Sofa,” “The Willowdale Handcar,” “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” “The Insect God,” “The West Wing,” “The Wuggly Ump,” “The Sinking Spell,” and “The Remembered Visit.”
Recurring elements include but are not limited to: voluminous fur coats, white sneakers, anagrams, verse, heavily hatched backgrounds, kohl-eyed vamps, mustachioed and bearded reprobates, innuendo, formal attire, troubled children, drapery, statuary, and death by misadventure and murder. The overall tone is simultaneously morbid and cozy, a combination that’s easy to imitate but difficult to pull off.
I imprinted on Gorey’s work early. My parents gave me Amphigorey and its sequels, Amphigorey Too and Amphigorey Also. We watched the BBC MYSTERY! series with Gorey’s animated title sequences together.
Once I’d moved out of my parents’ house, Gorey became a way to connect. Seeing the Gashlycrumb Tinies poster on someone’s dorm room door indicated that we’d probably get along. For a while I used doubtful_guest as a screen name. When I was studying the Canterbury Tales and got to the description of the Temple of Mars in “The Knight’s Tale,” which is basically a catalog of medieval ways to die, I imagined how Gorey would illustrate the scenes. The carter trapped underneath his cart-wheel would look faintly sheepish. The child in its cradle being eaten by a sow would have tiny worried eyes; the sow herself would be placid, and surprisingly endearing.
SERIOCOMIC: Mimi Lipson on LITTLE LULU | Sara Ryan on AMPHIGOREY | Gary Panter on THE NUT BROS./THE SQUIRREL CAGE | Gordon Dahlquist on POGO | Robert Wringham on VIZ | Matthew De Abaitua on CAPTAIN BRITAIN | Jessamyn West on FUN HOME | Bradley Peterson on HELLBOY | Stephanie Burt on KITTY PRYDE RETURNS | Jenny Davidson on OOR WULLIE | Luc Sante on MARSUPILAMI | Susan Roe on BLOOM COUNTY | Marilyn Berlin Snell on CHARLES ADDAMS | Deb Chachra on ARKHAM ASYLUM | Judith Zissman on ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | Alexandra Lange on BETTY (ARCHIE) | Catherine Newman on VERONICA (ARCHIE) | Josh Glenn on SPIRE CHRISTIAN COMICS | Adam McGovern on THE CREW | William Nericcio on ERRATA STIGMATA | Chelsey Johnson on DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR | Sherri Wasserman on TANK GIRL | Tom Nealon on MEGATON MAN | Erin M. Routson on THE WEDDING OF SCOTT SUMMERS & JEAN GREY | Douglas Wolk on FRANK IN THE RIVER | Annie Nocenti on DICK TRACY | James Parker on 2000 AD | Adrienne Crew on NUTS | Vanessa Berry on MEAT CAKE | John Holbo on WITZEND | Michael Campochiaro on SPIDER-WOMAN | Miranda Mellis on RED SONJA & BÊLIT | Michael Grasso on THE NEW MUTANTS | Ty Burr on BINKY BROWN | Bishakh Som on AMAR CHITRA KATHA | Mark Kingwell on CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED | Brian Berger on JIMBO | Kenya (Robinson) on AGENT 355 | Seth on THE ETERNALS ANNUAL | Susannah Breslin on SLASHER | Lisa Kahlden on JACK CHICK TRACTS | Mandy Keifetz on KRAZY KAT | Tom Devlin on DUM-DUM POSSE READER | Eric Reynolds on ACTION COMICS #460 | Rick Pinchera on EIGHTBALL #16 | Juan Recondo on DAYTRIPPER | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on ROZ CHAST | J.E. Anckorn on HALO JONES | Deborah Wassertzug on GREAT POP THINGS | Peggy Nelson on MAD MOVIE SATIRES | Holly Interlandi on ANGEL SANCTUARY | Karen Green on THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS.
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