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review:

Glenn's Kind of TOwn?

Chris Auman

Chicago: A Comix Memoir Glenn Head


Chicago: A Comix Memoir
Glenn Head
[Fantagraphics]

Chicago is the true story—a comix memoir, if you will—of a young comics artist (gonna spell it 'comics' from here on out) living in the late 70s. It chronicles the artist/author's freaking the F out, dropping out of art school in Cleveland, then hitchhiking to Chicago to live a pure artistic life. A noble plan in theory, perhaps. The would-be comics artist did so without a plan. Or money. Or an extra change of clothes. Or even so much as the telephone number of an acquaintance in the city. The ramifications of that decision fill up most the 160 black and white pages of the book. It’s shocking to read the confidence, albeit ignorance and sheer chutzpah of such an act.

The story of 19-year-old Glenn Head shows a young man who’s perception of artists as struggling and living life without regard to consequences and paying no heed to earning a living. It was a hard lesson for Glenn. It seems, from Head’s more contemporaneos update at the end of the book, that he learned many hard lessons throughout his life.

In a thick lined, black and white heavily contrasted style not unlike that of the 60 era comics pioneers he admired so much, Head reveals this brief unhinged period of his late teens. He relied on some good fortune and avoided starvation and in fact got extremely lucky. He was befriended by a good samaritan on the street who gave him a place to stay in his South Side flophouse, he badgers then befriends fellow comics artist and the art director at Playboy Magazine, Skip Williamson, who he managed to coax a small illustration job from. He also encounters Muhammad Ali on the street and, at the invitation of Williamson, attends a dinner party with R. Crumb who questions the intelligence of anyone who would entertain a career in comics art.

After returning to his family’s home in New Jersey, Head realizes that his life on the streets wasn’t about freedom and that money is an absolute necessity, however evil. His family takes an RV trip, they don’t really ask him, he would have said no anyway, as is his custom, and while he is alone in the house he has a breakdown in which he fired his dad’s pistol and plays an impromptu game of Russian roulette half destroying the attic. Flash forward to present day, Glenn reconnects with a girl Sarah who was introduced at the beginning of the strip. Sarah is a divorced, mom, ex-addict, living in Colorado. She flies to NY to visit. They’ve both seen many miles of bad road in between Head and hook up in New York fulfilling his lustful teenage wish. With artwork influenced by the 60s Head captures that late 70s look and feel Chicago is open and honest autobiography. He went a little nuts and got it out of the way. He gave everything to his art, without much thought and he almost made it work. Is Glenn a likeable character. He comes off as smug, arrogant, maybe a bit pretentious is in quest to live the life of an authentic artist. A time between the underground comics heyday of the 60s and the 80s comic boom.

VISIT: Glen Head

BUY: Chicago

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