***image1***WOBBLIES! A GRAPHIC HISTORY OF THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD
This year is the 100th anniversary of the formation of the IWW and historian Paul Buhle and illustrator Nicole Shulman are celebrating with this graphic novel-style chronicle of progressive labor. With a host of sympathetic writers and illustrators in collaboration, the book shifts graphic and storytelling styles with each short chapter, a technique that keeps alive the turns of a slightly self-indulgent history. But if the account leans more to lionizing than objectivity, the material is worth such emphasis in the current era where lefties pretend in public to be centrists and federal law threatens to arrest citizens for speaking out, just as Wobblies were routinely rousted. The graphic novel format is flexible and digestible, like a picture-book bible, but until histories are released as video games this is a worthy shot at cutting through the thick air of corporate power, political timidity and "intelligent design" education is currently enduring.
***image2***THE R CRUMB HANDBOOK
Neurotic, obnoxious, sex-crazed artist Robert Crumb claims to have hated being portrayed as such in Terry Zwigoff's 1994 documentary Crumb. Now, with the assistance of artist Peter Poplaski, the cult hero and Zap Comix founder releases an autobiography of sorts, with a heavy dose of social criticism, industrial portions of self-deprecating humor and a straight-talking, cartoon bubble warning on the cover "I'm not here to be polite!" The book lives up to that exclamation, with Crumb's acute and unapologetic analysis of, among other things, celebrity worship. In terms of artwork, the book is generous and offers capable views of Crumb's excellent sculpture, his album covers and his affection for tweaking found thrift-store paintings. It also includes a CD full of Crumb strutting his banjo work.
***image3***WEIRDO DELUXE, THE WILD WORLD OF POP SURREALISM & LOWBROW ART
Owing some of its DNA to both the spirit of the Wobblies and R Crumb's comic revolution, the "lowbrow" art movement comes under scrutiny by author Matt Dukes Jordan. But beyond an engaging historical timeline of lowbrow influences in history, the book is little more than an easy to assemble compendium of limited artists and quotes. It captures a marketing zeitgeist more than it captures an art movement, and the off-hand comments of the artists reveal a richer analysis of the genre than the author seems capable of distilling. Still, there are gorgeous color plates of exceptional talents like Camille Rose Garcia, Joe Sorren, Gary Taxali, Glenn Barr, Tim Biskup, Joe Coleman and the mafia Don of lowbrow art Mark Ryden.