Growing up, I never even held a stack of comics, to say nothing of reading issues by flashlight or protecting them in mylar. Free of nostalgia, I've up to now been immune to the constant yammering of aficionados (even impressive ones like Michael Chabon) -- but a visit to the Cartoon Art Museum changed all that. The single panels, hanging soberly on gallery walls, are unexpectedly compelling, made more so by underlying blue-pencil sketches and pasted-over corrections. The museum's current exhibit, "Gross, Gruesome, and Gothic," features more than 50 pages from horror classics, including work by macabre masters Basil Wolverton and Edward Gorey, Vampirella and Dracula issues from the silver age of industry comics, and recent titles like TheSandman and The Goon. One unusual piece is the unfinished Xt'tapalatakettle's Day by Mad Magazine's Sergio Aragonés, featuring the cast of The Simpsons -- including the show's perturbed creator, Matt Groening, who grips a copy of Aragonés' rag -- mixing with zombies.
The exhibition's opening reception starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday (and the exhibit continues through March 12, 2006) at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), S.F. Admission is free-$6; call 227-8666 or visit www.cartoonart.org. -- Michael Leaverton
What do you get when you combine jazz, poetry, run-ins with famous existentialists, and biting parodies of Western literature? A conversation between Quincy Troupe and Ishmael Reed, in this case. Troupe and Reed are mainstays of California's vibrant literary community, with careers as multifarious as their work. After a meeting with Jean-Paul Sartre, former California Poet Laureate Troupe was inspired and went on to publish volumes in both verse and prose that included two prominent takes on jazz legend Miles Davis. The equally prolific Reed has penned epic novels like Mumbo Jumbo, which has alternately been assailed as muddled and esoteric and hailed as revolutionary and multicultural. Gain some insight into their creative processes at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Tickets are $18.50 and benefit the 826 Valencia Scholarship Program; call 392-4400 or visit www.cityarts.net. -- Nirmala Nataraj
High Scoring Re-viewing the Man
Great art is often hard to describe, and Dziga Vertov's 1929 Soviet film The Man With the Movie Camera is no exception. It's nonnarrative, formalist, and as honest as Jerry Bruckheimer is false. As a bonus, its old, rich, black-and-white film stock is a joy to behold.
Vertov's renegade visual lyricism has made the flick a favorite of musicians, and two new scores have recently surfaced: Avant-drum 'n' bass trio Dr. Prisoner: The Brain! (Thursday) and noise-metalheads the Zag Men (Friday) have worked up twitchy accompaniments to Man's fast-moving machinery and jump-cuts. The screenings start at 8 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 21st Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-3890 or visit www.atasite.org. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
The "One City One Book" program is unavoidably mushy: San Francisco is now a book club, and we're all to read the same novel. Luckily, organizers picked China Boy, Gus Lee's stellar chronicle of growing up in the Panhandle. The author talks with the Chron's Oscar Villalon at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Library's Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free; visit www.sfpl.org. -- Michael Leaverton