For a while now I’ve had the idea that something unusual happened in American comics between 1985 and 1987. The period was marked by a unique set of circumstances that encouraged a new level of seriousness about comics as an art form. Comics from this short timespan are something else. The direct market was booming. Marvel and DC were joined by a legion of smaller publishers which released comics in a dizzying array of genres and art styles. Foreign comics became much more available through European graphic novels, and they were joined by some of the first instances of serialized manga, leading to an exuberant experimentation and cross pollination. Beyond the now classic (and thoroughly analyzed) Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns, many of the comics from this period are marked by thematic and formal ambition. The roots of this moment stretch back to the late ’70s and early ’80s but it seems to reach apotheosis precisely during this short span. Something happened in comics between 1985 and 1987. Let’s call that something the Event. The Event influenced comics for decades…
My next column is on Ted McKeever’s Eddy Current. Here’s a little preview:
Gritty, deliberately grotesque, messy, and challenging; these days you don’t see comics like Eddy Current. Many comics from the time of the Event had this quality. It was a deliberate distancing from the dominant styles established between the 50’s and 70’s. the tight, abstract, dynamic pulp modernism (Kirby), and the elongated slickness of pulp neorealism (Neal Adams). In the 80’s, McKeever—along with his peers from that era, Kevin O’Neil, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kyle Baker, Howard Chaykin, Keith Giffen, and others—were developing new stylistic innovations that mapped closely to what was going on elsewhere in culture and art: postmodernism.
For more you’ll have to wait until the column is live. I’ll post a link when it’s live. In the meantime enjoy some of the images from the book. These ended up unused in the column, but all are great examples of Eddy Current‘s gritty urban nightmare lovingly depicted by McKeever.
Tom Kaczynski is a cartoonist, writer, publisher, and teacher. He is the author of the Eisner Award nominated graphic novel Beta Testing the Apocalypse (Fantagraphics), Cartoon Dialectics series, and the forthcoming Trans Terra graphic novel. His comics have appeared in countless anthologies, including The Nib, Mome and many more. Tom K is the founder of Uncivilized Books, a boutique graphic novel publishing house. Since its inception, Uncivilized Books has published acclaimed and award nominated graphic novels by Gabrielle Bell, Noah Van Sciver, David B., Joann Sfar, Sam Alden, Sophie Yanow, and many others. He also teaches comics at Minneapolis College of Art & Design and the University of Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis with his partner Nikki, two cats, and a dog.