For those of you who thought the comic strip was dead by the end of the twentieth century, here are 292 pieces of proof that you were wrong. Mark Beyer was breathing delirious, heartbreaking, otherworldly life into it by means of Amy and Jordan. Obviously, you weren’t reading New York Press.
But I sure was. Voraciously. Back in 1989, when I discovered that Beyer’s strips were appearing regularly in this new “alternative weekly” paper, I quickly became hooked, and a thought seized me: I had to clip and save them–they were exquisite poems of urban despair, dreamy and nightmarish. I was already a fan of Beyer’s talent based on his book Agony (Pantheon, 1988), but these new strips revealed, week by week, a whole new dimension to his work–an ingenious reinvention of panel-design that redefined what a comic strip could be. As with Peanuts, it helps to try and picture these in the context which they first appeared in order to appreciate just how profoundly they emerged from anything else on the newspaper page. Even the “outré” NYP ads and listings which often ran alongside them were hopelessly dull by comparison. One of its most impressive aspects was the way Form served the Content–no matter how eccentric the layout got, it somehow never confused the narrative. And what narrative: it was as if Candide had been transported to the East Village and split in two like an amoeba and holed up in a squat on Avenue C. Along with giant bugs from outer space.
So I did clip and save them, and put them into an envelope, which was then placed in a shoebox with a lot of other envelopes (receipts, receipts!), which was shoved to the back of the closet of my sixth-floor walk-up studio apartment, which I moved out of three years later and in the process I unwittingly threw them all away. Which frankly is just the sort of thing that Amy and Jordan would do. Drat. “Oh well,” I thought, once I’d realized it, “at some point someone will collect and publish them, and I’ll get them back that way.” And that was that.
Fast forward more than ten years, to the spring of 2002. During a panel of cartoonists I was chairing in Philadelphia, a member of the audience asked what Mark was working on and where he was. No one seemed to know. The discussion was transcribed and published in The Comics Journal that summer, and in the fall Mark contacted me with the best possible news: He’d read the panel transcript and wanted to publish again. And the Amy and Jordan strips had never been comprehensively collected. So now, as an editor, I was able to grant my own wish.
Amy and Jordan ran from 1988 through early 1996. After that, Beyer put cartooning aside to pursue other projects. This book signals his return to the realm of comics, which he says he wants to start making again. We can only hope he does. For now, I’m just thankful I finally have my Amy and Jordan collection back. –Chip Kidd, NYC, 10/03
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Mark Beyer is a self-taught comic artist. His work has appeared in Raw, The Village Voice, The San Diego Reader, L.A. Weekly, and The New York Times. He has had exhibits in Japan, England, France, The Netherlands, and across the United States. He lives somewhere out west.From Publishers Weekly:
Generally acknowledged as one of the most important artists in underground comics history, Beyer is also one of the medium's most under-published. His last major book, Agony, was released in the late 1980s, and his other books have been released in small editions by independent publishers. This volume collects his 1988â€"1996 comic strip, Amy and Jordan, previously syndicated in only a handful of free weeklies across America. Amy and Jordan exist in a nightmarish urban landscape, and go from one awful situation to another with a combination of tragedy and laughter. Any good luck that comes their way is immediately negated by a horrible event. In one strip, Jordan learns his "good luck gland is damaged, and only the bad luck gland is working." But Beyer doesn't trivialize the horror of urban life and is never flippant; instead, his tone is accepting and humorous. Amy and Jordan always come back to keep exploring their world, no matter what happens. Beyer's work is universal at its heart, exaggerating the humor, paranoia, depression and exaltation we all feel sometimes. Every strip is unique and reads equally well as a whole composition or individual panels; the panels range from medallions on a patterned page to triangles in a zigzag pattern and everything in between. Each is a concise gem of storytelling and drawing. This work is a major release by one of the masters of the form, and is a must-have for anyone interested in the potential for profound art in the comics medium.
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