Reading Pile: Memorabilia
Expanding on a shorter book titled DKW, Sergio Ponchione offers up an impressive looking homage to five comic creators that have all had a formative impact on his own artwork. The talents of Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Wallace Wood, Will Eisner, and Richard Corben are all highlighted in beautifully illustrated tributes that offer short insights on their careers and their impact on the artform. Perhaps a little too short though, and in such a way that mostly benefits those less familiar with the history of the medium.
The set-up follows a young hopeful artist seeking advice from a veteran (Ponchione himself) and is given a magical reality bending tour that introduces him to our first trinity of creators. On one hand I like the whimsical approach to this as it reminded me of a few educational shows I saw back when I was a kid, like that Fred Savage dinosaur special and other similar films where omnipresent narrators bend time and space to show a kid something because they're too lazy to read a book.
The most unrealistic aspect of this presentation though is that an up and coming comic artist who looks to at least be in their mid-20's doesn't know who Kirby is.
Perhaps I'm overlooking that the average non-comic fan wouldn't have any idea who these people are either. I did meet someone at a party once who believed Stan Lee created GI Joe and the Transformers. While that memory does make me weep for humanity, it does make me realize that in many cases a book like this is probably pretty handy as a baseline intro to get people on the road to learning more, and Ponchione does offer a handful of recommended reading throughout the book.
Each section is fairly short, but in some cases they are perfectly succinct. Ditko and Wood's section encapsulate elements of their personalities quite well, while Kirby's looks fun but is also sort of weird because it creates a fantasy scenario where he was teleported from his coffin by aliens and revived so he could create a cosmic amusement park. Which is....creative. But it doesn't really give you a sense as to why Ponchione sees Kirby as important to history. We know he's important, but we're basically just being showed how neat his style is and are told he's important, because we only have four or five pages to get that across.
Eisner and Corben are the new additions to the package, and again Ponchione does a great job of mimicking their styles to highlight their talents. There's even less meat here though as these sections don't really scratch past the surface as to why they were important to the medium or to Ponchione himself.
Including Corben is a very interesting choice, and I don't think he should be excluded at all. But if you're going to act as if Ditko, Kirby, and Wood are a holy trinity of sorts, please expand on why Corben is of similar merit. Of the infinite amount of other choices, I want to know more about why he was at least important to this creator. Instead Ponchione just plays with the idea of a magical sculpting material called Corbinite, which, ok, keep rolling with that, we can definitely play with weird ideas because we already had magical floating letters teleporting a kid's consciousness across space and time in the front half of this book. Oh, we only have four pages to talk about Corben.......ok, I guess we're done.
I think my main issue is that this is too short for what I wanted it to be, but maybe I'm projecting too much of what I want onto what it's trying to be. If it's meant as a light intro to get new readers familiar with some key figures, then it does do that and features some truly lavish artwork as well. And I want to add that I think that Ponchione's base style felt like it had a little bit of Bryan Talbot and R. Crumb in its DNA, so it had its own unique quality that I appreciated. I was unfamiliar with him before reading this, so seeing his own style makes me intrigued to check out more of his work.
I should note that this is 43 pages of story with an additional five mini-biography pages in the back for $16.99, which does feel a little light for the price point. It is a nicely formatted book and again the art is stellar, but it's also a fairly quick read and as I said a little superficial in its content. I think it would be a solid book to stock for a library or for a classroom even, but if you already know these creators it won't bring anything new to the table for you. However, if you just want a nice love letter to the past, it is a pretty great looking love letter.