One part essays and three parts comics, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern 13 is a rough guide to contemporary alternative comics and their role in American cultural identity. The essays, written by Ira Glass, John Updike, Tim Samuelson, Kip Kidd, Dr. F.W. Seward, Jr., and Malachi B. Cohen cover a variety of comic related topics ranging from Dr. Seward’s “The Great Health Value of Comic Strips” to “Our Blood Was Blue and Yellow”, Kidd’s crushing story of his youthful enthusiasm for Batman. Ware writes a number of these essays himself, which each reflect the depth of his love for the medium, from the book's introduction to his essays on Rödolphe Topffer (the “inventor of comics”), Charles Shultz (the great mind behind the American classic Peanuts), and Philip Guston (1970's figurative artist). As if he hadn’t done enough already, Ware submits a poignant four page comic, “We’ll Sleep in My Old Room,” the story of a young handicapped woman’s reliving of lost love while staying in her childhood bedroom.
In addition to those mentioned above, this collection also includes comic shorts by Ivan Brunetti, R. Crumb, Daniel Clowes, John McClenan, Bud Fisher, Milt Gross, Kaz, Mark Newgarden, Jim Woodring, Archer Prewitt, Lynda Barry, George Herriman, Mark Beyer, Gary Panter, Charles Burns, Richard Sala, Art Spiegelman, Kim Deitch, Joe Socco, David Collier, Chester Brown, Ben Katchor, Richard McGuire, Jeffrey Brown, Julie Doucet, Debbie Drechsler, Joe Matt, Seth, Gilbert Hernandez, Jamie Hernandez, Adrian Tomine, and David Heatley. Personal favorites (subjective, I know) are indicated with boldface.
McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern 13 takes a look into the life of a death row inmate, reflections on a post 9-11 America, an Asian-American’s experience with dating and racial identity, and the internal struggles of a man addicted to pornography to name only a select few, the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The diversity in essays, art and storytelling illustrates an overwhelming commendation for contemporary alternative comics and while I can’t guarantee that you’ll like everything in this collection, I can guarantee that you will receive a brilliant introduction to some of the brightest independents in the industry.