Review by Win Wiacek
Some people do it for money or fame… and money. It doesn’t matter what form of creative endeavour “it” is. Whatever art-form you’re thinking of, there are those who are rewarded for their creative efforts as they either work within or expand the boundaries of their medium, and there are the other sort. Sometimes the other sort gets really lucky and finds fame and fortune along the way.
Bassist and musician Zak Sally has travelled far (as a member of bands Low, Enemy Mine and The Hand) and dabbled in photography and all forms of print media, but at his core he’s a cartoonist. He sees the world in terms of incidents, epigrams and bon mots to be reproduced as sequential images. He has been producing stories, mini-comics, gags, nonfiction and biographical tales and even historical and political drama for over twenty years in his self-published ‘zine Recidivist, productions such as Mome, Dirty Stories, The Drama, Comic Art Magazine and other places discerning enough to print them.
Even if they hadn’t, he would still have drawn them, and in 2009 they were collected in a magnificent hardback collection from Fantagraphics. It gathers the first two issues of Recidivist in their entirety, and includes another thirteen unique and compelling tales in a variety of styles and media, all copiously and tellingly annotated as an encore.
Personal favourites – and there are many – include the bleakly informative ‘Dresden’ (because haven’t we all wanted to be rock stars?), the graphically bold ‘Dread’ and ‘The War Back Home’. But, unfettered by commercial pressures, Sally has been able to turn his attentions to whatever caught his eye and the book is a broad anthology ranging from horror to comedy to surreal dreamy pure imagery, all underpinned by a keen wit, a canny eye for design and a great ear for dialogue.
Without doubt the best pieces are the utterly superb ‘At the Scaffold’, being an account of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s imprisonment by the Tsar, and ‘The Man who Killed Wally Wood’ an “it-happened-to-me” recollection that will captivate any fan with an ear for scandal and rumour.
This is a gloriously rough-hewn and hands-on collection packaged with the flair and imagination that has become a trademark of the world’s leading publisher of fascinating comics. This book didn’t make much of an impact back then and won’t appeal to everybody, but Sally’s dedication to innovation, exploration and imagination will astound and entrance anyone who knows capital “A” Art when they see it. This is a read that demands rescue, revivification, and resounding renown. Over to you, then…