Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peter Blegvad's Leviathan

Peter Blegvad is a musician who also makes comics. Or is it the other way around? Either way he's brilliant creating in whichever medium he chooses to do so. Blegvad is highly intelligent, playful, and always fun. In other words: he's pretty much the opposite of what I usually put in my canon (dead serious geniuses). In The Book of Leviathan's (Overlook Press, 2001 [The Independent on Sunday, 1992 - 1998]) inside cover's blurb, someone wrote: "Quirky and referential, dark and droll by turn, [the strip] follows the faceless baby Levi's journeys [Levi's short for the ironically dubbed Leviathan] into and out of the world. They are escapes, but as some sage once observed, only a jailer would consider the term "escapist" pejorative." She's or he's right: being one of the "jailers" I definitely want to grasp greatness. The problem (if there's one) is that The Book of Leviathan is far from being an escapist book. One needs just to read Levi's first "adventure (," an incredibly dark take on Orpheus' myth, to easily understand that. Rafi Zabor nailed Blegvad's style in the book's intro using just two words: "intelligent surrealism" (in case you didn't notice it, the expression is, in a rather Blegvadian way, an oxymoron, or so wanted the surrealists to make us believe...). A fine observer of what surrounds us, it seems to me that Peter Blegvad turns the world inside out to see its linings.In the book The Education of a Comic Artist (Michael Dooley and Steve Heller, eds., Allworth Press, School of Visual Arts, 2005), Peter Blegvad described his background (98 - 100): "My father, Erik, has illustrated more than a hundred children's books. My mother, Lenore, has written several. My education began with their examples and encouragement." He goes on to cite the artists that were represented in the family's library: Saul Steinberg, James Thurber, Maurice Sendak, Edward Gorey, Palle Nilsen, and many others....Blegvad described Leviathan, the character, as (according to this article by Mike Zwerin: "a quizzical and querulous infant whose most distinctive feature was his lack of features. His face was a tabula rasa, symbolic of his embryonic identity. It was a sort of willfully esoteric, woozily stoned subversion of the genre of which 'Calvin and Hobbes' is perhaps the mainstream paradigm. [...] 'Leviathan' sometimes baffled readers, as it did myself. My narratives frequently failed completely. In such cases, I told myself, 'understanding is overrated.' I think I mystified and alienated a lot of people. But the English like to be mystified, as long as you do it with the right poetic spin." The Book of Leviathan's first edition was titled Book of Leviathan (Sort of Books, 2000)."The Pedestrian" (The Independent on Sunday, 1999 - 2000) was inspired by Baudelaire's and Robert Walser's concept of the Flaneur. I called "The Pedestrian" a kosuthian strip on this blog already. Speaking of which: Narrative Art (one of the branches of Conceptual Art) and this post, remind me that Jochen Gerz and Jean le Gac should also be part of my comics canon.

Images and sounds:
Slapp Happy (Peter Blegvad, Dagmar Krause, Anthony Moore): "Mr. Rainbow," "The Secret," "Slow Moon's Rose" from the album Casablanca Moon (1974); "Nine Mineral Emblems," from the progressive rock album Kew. Rhone. (1977): Peter Blegvad, John Greaves, Lisa Herman; other collaborations: Andrew Cyrille, Mike Mantler, Carla Bley, Michael Levine, Vito Rendance, April Lang, Dana Johnson, Boris Kinberg.

PS Blogs and etc...


Peter Blegvad's Eartoon:

The Pedestrian (even if you don't have to, please pay € 1.50; I did):

A bibliodiscography:

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