In the summer of 1968, Harry Stanton, then editor and vice president of textbook publisher Addison-Wesley, arranged a day of sailing with Harvard professor Peter Neumeyer (1929–) and the iconoclastic author and illustrator Edward "Ted" Gorey (1925–2000), plotting a collaboration in the form of a children's book about a boy and his housefly. It would be wildly successful, spawning Donald and the . . ., published in 1969, and two more famed collaborations (Donald Has a Difficulty and Why We Have Night and Day, released in 1970 and 1982). The illustrative style, which recalls Gothicism and Orientalism, still looks fresh today.
In 2005, Charles Burns' serial graphic novel, Black Hole (Pantheon), combined 10 years of comic frames and 12 separate volumes (the first four by Kitchen Sink, the remaining eight by Fantagraphics) into one hard cover. Black Hole would prove to be arguably the first literary crossover of the graphic novel-not a memoir or a superhero, but a bona fide work of multi-media fiction.
Black Hole was typical of the work of Burns, a longtime illustrator for The Believer, for its evidently deep care, stark black-and-white lines, and spartan narrative and composition. In 2005, John Hodgman of the New York Times described the project—now a screenplay by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, with David Fincher attached to direct—with unqualified awe:
The division of art and text was, from the start, artificial; the technology of the printing press limited the art it could reproduce. Present-day media is restoring that relationship: art and text, back together, as it should be. The more difficult re-integration is art and science. The Romantics saw no distinction: scientists wrote poetry; poets contributed and borrowed from science. Today, the rift is vast.
"It's all the same," is an argument at the core of the Twentieth Century. We find it in the totalizing narratives of anthropology (Joseph Campbell or Sir James Frazer), and structuralist-inclined psychology (Freud or Jung)-even in notions of art as universal or timeless. But by the second half of the century, artists and critics were no longer convinced that everything was the same, world-over, even if they had gained assurance that as far as pop culture went, the same, over and over and over, was all there was: a uniform dimension of the spectacular, insipid, and unfathomably shallow. Step in, cultural decoders and re-fashioners like Andy Warhol—and prefabricator extraordinaire (and not coincidentally post-FabFour) producer-cum-artist Malcolm McLaren.
Collage and acrylic on paper, thread, string, plastic lid
48 x 30 ¼ in.