January 23, 2009

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Autobiographix

Written by Various Writers
Illustrated by Various Artists
Dark Horse

When I first heard about this one, I knew that I was going to enjoy it immensely. With Will Eisner, Paul Chadwick, Frank Miller, Sergio Aragones, Bill Morrison, Matt Wagner, and Linda Medley (amongst others) involved, there was little doubt I'd find it to be a great anthology. If you like any of those authors I named, this is definitely a must-read. If you like stories taken from real life and placed on the drawn page, this is also a must-read. If you like both things, this is going to be one of the best things you read all year.

AutobioGraphix is a collection of short stories, written and illustrated by well-known comic artists in a variety of genres, from superheroes to parody, to personal work, to those that have done a little of both. But instead of being asked to write a story about someone else, they've been asked to tell us something about them.

And that's exactly what they do, in ways that may surprise you. Matt Wagner, for instance, wants to school you on how to make chicken parmigiana. Frank Miller turns himself into an action hero on the Daredevil set. Sergio chats it up with Richard Nixon while we learn about Linda's childhood games, many of which I played, too. Stan Sakai travels with his wife and watches helplessly as a man dies while they eat. (If THAT doesn't catch you attention then I'm not doing a very good job of writing reviews these days!)

The stories are perhaps best by the fact that no two are even close to alike. They are all personal experiences but the variety of those experiences make this so good. While Eisner might talk about breaking into the business, Paul Chadwick comments on how he (and may others) were very nearly taken out of the business all together. Another artist gets very philosophical while Bill Morrison shows a bit of Bart Simpson in his past. I don't know if the editor, Diana Schutz, requested the tales be varied or if it just happened by chance. Regardless, it works very well.

My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is the ordering of the stories. There's not a very good flow between them and the book is too front-loaded (i,e. all the names people would know easily are in the first half of the book). Eisner's contribution, for instance, would have had more power at the end than its slotting towards the front. Otherwise, this is an amazing collection I urge you to read.