Funny Book
By Various
Published by Fantagraphics Books; FREE

Fantagraphics often refers to itself as the "Publisher of the world's greatest cartoonists," and there's nothing in Funny Book that disproves that notion in the slightest.

Funny Book is an elegant introduction to North America's most vital comics publishing house, packed from cover to cover with excellent strips by some of the greats of the artform.

Ivan Brunetti kicks things off with over forty panels on page one, each one a gem. If I wasn't excited about the forthcoming Schizo #4 from Brunetti -- well, I already was, but this page whets my appetite for Brunetti's seriocomic nihilism all the more. A spare two page character piece follows by Jaime Hernandez, then brother Gilbert throws in a classic strip that features over 200 panels in its four pages. So in the first seven pages, there's already more good comics content than in any other single issue of any series you're likely to name.

But much more follows, from big artcomix names like Peter Bagge, Richard Sala, Sophie Crumb, Dan Clowes, Johnny Ryan and Rick Altergott. Altergott's piece is a true highlight, as he recounts meeting EC publisher William Gaines.

It should be noted that most (if not all) of these strips have appeared elsewhere in the past, but having them all together like this is like a Greatest Hits of the artcomix greats, a wonderful introduction to the styles and approaches to be found in the Fantagraphics creative lineup. Grab as many as you can, you're going to want to pass these on to friends. Grade: 5/5

-- Alan David Doane

Funny Book will be available at participating comics shops on Free Comic Book Day, Saturday, May 7th, 2005. Special thanks to Earthworld Comics.

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