November 6, 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.
Fantagraphics published the 16th issue of Daniel Clowes’s Eightball in November 1995. By that point, I’d been playing catch up — grabbing back issues where I could find them and waiting patiently for new ones. Everything about this issue, from the paper quality, to the artwork, to the stories themselves, felt solid and more grounded than its predecessors. To me it was a high peak in the series’ run. MORE PAGES, HIGHER QUALITY, MORE EXPENSIVE warns a cover burst: it was well worth it.
From the “Ghost World” installment to the semi-autobiographical stories “Like a Weed, Joe” and “Immortal, Invisible,” to the endpaper adventures of Squirrel Girl and Candy Pants, the book is filled to capacity. This, despite the reserved cover — a warm pink background, tasteful lettering, bits of decorative flourish and Enid and Becky from “Ghost World” in soft, hand-painted gouache.
Nearly a quarter of a century later I’d have to say that my favorite story in this issue is still “MCMLXVI (1966).” It’s one of the funniest things Clowes has ever written. But maybe you had to be there? I lived in Portland, Oregon, in 1995; I was surrounded by 20somethings preoccupied with retro cool. The narrator of “MCMLXVI,” believes he was born about 20 years too late — and that everyone around him is a fool for not understanding that the height of American culture was in 1966. Clowes has it both ways with this guy, allowing him to point out some of the genuine dissatisfaction of the mid-90s, while also demonstrating how silly obsessive stubbornness can be. The character found a persona and stuck with it. As he confidently states his position to the reader, we watch as he squirms uncomfortably in the actual world he’s trapped in. Clowes’s observations are spot on, and embellished by rich detail and dry humor at its most subtle.
I never took particularly good care of my comics, I’m proud to say. Many of them, especially ones from my early childhood, are absolutely destroyed from use. Somehow, though, Eightball #16 has survived unblemished. Is it because of the HIGHER QUALITY Fantagraphics splurged for? Maybe. But I think it’s also because every time I’ve picked it up, I’ve treated this issue reverentially. In doing so I’m preserving a treasured period from my past, not to mention the moment that I believe an incredibly talented storyteller and artist hit his stride.
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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