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Saturday, June 14, 2008

On Comics: Inside the 'Mane' Vein

Posted By on Sat, Jun 14, 2008 at 6:50 AM

click to enlarge _2.jpg

By Matthew Shaer

Adrian Tomine, occasional New Yorker cover artist and “Optic Nerve” star, made headlines late last year with “Shortcomings,” a book the NYT called “an investigation into matters of the heart.” Mostly correct: Tomine does mine the sacred and intimate. But he does it with a glancing, feather-light touch. In that way, he’s not unlike, say, David Sedaris, an author with an ear for pathos and for one-liners and for the ways in which the two can best fit together.

Tomine fans, take note: the young artist Michael LaRiccia’s has a new book called “The Death of Black Mane and Feared Self,” which owes much to “Shortcomings” but also pioneers a fresh aesthetic style, equal parts scrawl and emotional sprawl.

Writes LaRiccia, in the introduction, remembering the terms of a recent family tragedy: The experience “was an unrelenting teacher, educating me on life’s one guarantee: nothing; we are not entitled to anything. This way of thinking may appear to be pessimistic, but I would argue if you recognize you are not entitled to anything, you will appreciate the gifts you are given even more.”

click to enlarge blackmane03.jpg

The original 'Black Mane'

“Black Mane” begins with a fantasy tale, set somewhere – presumably – in the age of Vikings and monsters. Over that, LaRiccia layers the mostly autobiographical story of a young man struggling to make enough money to support his young wife, who is home sick, weathering a ferocious stomach disease. The young man, Mike, is far from content with his job, or his bosses; still, he can’t see a way out. “What the hell will we do?” he wonders, puttering around town in his beat-up car.

Answers are not immediately forthcoming, but like in “Shortcomings,” for LaRiccia, the journey – full of angst, sadness, and unexpected joy – becomes all.

Buy "Death of Black Mane and the Feared Self" here.

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Matt Shaer

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