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26 March 2008

Ed Moorman's MAYFLIES & SLIDE GUITARS


Mayflies & Slide Guitars: Comics and Poems by Ed Moorman.
36 pages. Color cover with black and white interiors. 8 1/2 x 11" perfect bound.
I'll get straight to the point. This book is fantastic. Ed Moorman looks way too young on his website to have had any business making a book that looks this good. If I met him, I'd kick him in the knee for being so good then give him a hug for being so darn cute. The book is not perfect and there are some variations in the art quality but I find that it is that sort of thing that makes a self-anthology of a young artist so interesting. The book collects "comics and poems" that range from relationship metaphors that hint in the direction of Chris Ware to matter of fact auto bio to illustrated poems to one page gags. On the title page, Moorman calls the book a "collection of little windows of myself". For a collection of such varying styles you would expect the cartoonist to have some weak spots but he nails most all of it.

The book is quite large, magazine sized and printed on quality paper. If it had a Fantagraphics, Top Shelf or Alternative Comics seal on it you would not question it at all and would be excited at getting it for $5. (Well, $7 if you buy it online.) It actually reminds me quite a bit of Alternative's Rich Tommaso books of which I'm a big fan. The book had a great feel to it and I'm glad to own a copy. Moorman applies some very nice ink wash to some of the stories that probably would not look as nice at a smaller size or with cheaper printing. The book design, the cover design and each comic's design are very nice and the book as a whole has a melancholy yet soothing feel to it. I don't know what the title "Mayflies & Slide Guitars" means but the book fells just like the title sounds.
The Most Important Meal (pictured above) is a clever little slice of life story where the conversation about eggs and toast is a metaphor for the couple's relationship. The drawing is minimal but appropriate. for Kinji is another minimally drawn but heartfelt two page story on grieving. I wish my arms were branches to shelter you is a short auto bio comic that shows both the art and the narrative become more poetic. on touching is a dreamy stream of consciousness recollection of coming of age moments. Paleontologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences is essentially an illustrated poem. Desire is a one page gag strip but it would be more appropriate to call it a visual poem than a gag. All of the before mentioned comics except the one page Desire are framed by "a poem in the margins" called Song for Eleanora. This does a nice job of uniting what could seem to be uneven pieces from a young artist's portfolio into one consistent volume.
Moorman saves the strongest work from the book until the end. I don't know the order in which the collected stories were drawn but it is in the story Sing Into My Mouth where Moorman's art and storytelling seem the most mature. This ten page story is beautifully drawn and well told. It is a simple story of two young girls sneaking out at night at that last possible moment of youth where it is still okay to veil one's nakedness and insecurity behind a blanket of innocence. I love Moorman's character design here. It reminds me of some of Sam Kieth's more cartooney characters but the ink wash provides a different kind of warmth and depth. In just ten pages Moorman makes these characters seem real and leaves me wishing there were a hundred more pages of the story.
Obviously, I recommend this book. It is one of the favorite things I've received in the mail since starting file under other. I also recommend you visti Moorman's website. You could kill an hour or so in many less interesting ways than checking out the webcomics and art available there.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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