Saturday, April 26, 2014

THE G.N.B. DOUBLE C (2011) by Seth

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently re-read Seth's WIMBLEDON GREEN (2005), which is among my favourite modern comics, in preparation for reading THE GREAT NORTHERN BROTHERHOOD OF CANADIAN CARTOONISTS (2011), a second sketchbook comic by Seth on some similar themes, which I somehow missed when it was published.

I've now read THE G.N.B. DOUBLE C, and it's an interesting companion piece to GREEN, although a very different book. Interestingly, Seth's introduction outlines the creation of the works, and it turns out that the initial work on this book actually began before GREEN was created, and picked up again after GREEN was done (all as a sideline to Seth's other work in that period). It sort of makes sense when you think about the two works, with GREEN being much more open and fanciful, less shackled by the bonds of reality than the much more melancholy world of THE G.N.B. DOUBLE C.

For those unfamiliar with the works, GREEN is a pretty broad comedy adventure about a world where vintage comic book collectors are rich and fanciful characters who engage in elaborate and unlikely escapades in the pursuit of rare back issues, most of which are fake golden age books created, sometimes in great detail, from Seth's imagination. THE G.N.B. DOUBLE C is, I guess in theory, set in that same world (or at least uses some of the same fake creators that Seth created for GREEN), but looks at the creators of the comics, in particular the members of the association of the title, of which Seth's stand-in is number 650. In his tour of their clubhouse in the fictional town of Dominion (plus an extended description of their off-site archive far in the north), Seth traces the history of cartooning, both real (Doug Wright's Nipper) and fictional (Bartley Munn's Kao-Kuk, Eskimo astronaut). It's a fascinating presentation, especially when the subjects are so obscure that it takes a few page to realize which are real (I'm still not sure about a few of them, and am resisting the urge to Google non-brand-specific web search for confirmation).

It's also kind of funny that I only read the book now, since a few months ago I would have had no clue that one of the last major "cartoonists" discussed was loosely based on Martin Vaughn-James and his fairly obscure 1975 book THE CAGE, which was only just republished with an introduction by Seth.

This is the type of book it's going to take me a few readings to fully digest.  At some point I want to re-read it, WIMBLEDON GREEN and Seth's earlier, more "serious" book IT'S A GOOD LIFE, IF YOU DON'T WEAKEN together, since I realized half-way through that these two are sort of cousins to that book, which revolves around Seth becoming fascinated with an obscure NEW YORKER cartoonist who turned out to be just as real as Albert Batch of "Trout Haven" fame (I assume).

A good companion piece to WIMBLEDON GREEN, or worth checking out as an independent book, especially if you find comic book history fascinating, whether real or imagined.

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