Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #15: Comics Cookbook

Centrala, the Polish (by way of England) publisher, certainly releases a wide variety of books. Its latest anthology of sorts, Comics Cookbook, is exactly what it sounds like: a number of cartoonists offering up recipes in pictorial form. The most interesting entries were the ones that eschewed simply choosing to depict a recipe in typical sequential format. Some, like Curcija Vina's recipe for a "Croatian delicacy" called Strukli, offer up a gestalt of image and words, as the ingredients form a sort of anthropomorphic version of the rolled-up dessert. Then there are some more expressionistic pages, like a recipe for pancakes from Katarzyna Rucinska that simply has its ingredients spill onto a griddle and then onto a plate. On the more absurd end of things is Fraet ComicPopart's "Grilled Rattlesnake", which simply depicts a cowboy, a spit over a fire, and a diced-up snake on the spit.

Some artists worked a dense, scratchy style and others a lush, illustrative technique. Some had the diagrammatic precision of a Chris Ware while others employed a minimalist line. It's really a book that's better to look at than attempt to actually read, since there's almost no narrative content whatsoever, but there's certainly no skimping on production values. That said, my favorite part of the book, otherwise arranged by "side dishes", "desserts", "drinks", etc, is the "abstracts" section. This included a strip by Grzegorz Janusz & Tomasz Niewiadomski called "Feast For Two", in which a loaf of bread and some black dye are employed to create a chess set. Maja Starakiewicz's use of bizarre, spiky and spongy imagery combined with nonsense words that nonetheless carry an intelligible syntax ("Exrcill flacful of doshes") is fascinating, especially in the way the words "translate" a loopy script. Joanna Witek's "Futurist Cooking" is a take-off on F.T. Marinetti's original "Futurist Cooking" work, depicting the familiar Futurist whooshes and cold, steely images. There's an avalanche of interesting young cartoonists in Eastern Europe these days, and this book is just a brief sampler of what they have to offer.

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