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A little more on Sammy Harkham

Frankly, we didn’t expect the $125 price tag on KRAMERS ERGOT #7 to create such a ruckus in the comments. To give a little more perspective, here’s the ENTIRE quote on the book from a profile of editor Sammy Harkham:

Last year, Harkham lured the reclusive artist to Los Angeles for a weeklong Kramers celebration at the UCLA Hammer Museum. “It was the first time he’d ever left New York state or flown in a plane,” he explains, eyes twinkling. While Kramers is legendary in comics circles and a staple of mainstream year-end “best-of” lists, Harkham is still hustling fiendishly, holding down a couple of part-time jobs to supplement a cartoonist’s income that isn’t rising quite fast enough to support himself, his wife, and their 14-week-old son. But he thinks big.

“You’ve seen that Little Nemo book?” he asks, hands spreading reflexively to encompass the famous, full-page scope of Winsor McKay’s early-20th-century newspaper strip. “Issue number seven is going to be like that. Big—big—16 by 21! Every artist gets three pages. That’s it. But with that assignment, an artist is going to make work that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I’m so excited.

“The Clowes strip in this? Mind-blowing! Mind-blowing! And it’ll never be shown anywhere else. It’s going to be expensive. It’ll cost around $60,000 to make and sell for $80. We’re going to go to Singapore and watch them print it. But if there isn’t a clunker in the book, it’ll be worth it. I’ve found that anything I find mysterious or exciting, anything really special? People always pick up on that.”

Paul O’Brien and The Beat had a brief discussion in the comments on whether KE#7 had any potential to expand the audience for comics. Paul wrote:

In all seriousness, though, I find it hard to believe that anyone is going to spend $125 on a high-end art book for their first comic. This is going to sell to people who already have a strong interest in lit-comics.

I think there’s a degree of wishful thinking in the idea that avant-garde experimentalism is going to “expand the audience” in any terribly meaningful way. The audience for this stuff is pretty minimal in any medium. At best, it makes the point that “comics aren’t just for kids” – but (a) everyone knows that, and (b) it makes that point by demonstrating that comics are also for the sort of people who go to arthouse cinemas, rather than by showing that comics are for adults in general.

We suggest that anything worthy of an art show at the UCLA Hammer Museum is expanding the audience for comics in some way — is it a “terribly meaningful way”? That’s where the argument lies.

KE #7 sounds like an eye popping, thought provoking, “mind blowing” work that is very likely to get much academic/art snob attention from a publisher that is already taken very seriously. We would argue that all of this attention adds up to the increased profile of comics as an art form, an entertainment form, and sometimes even the two together. We subscribe to what we would like to call the “Ben-Hur” theory. You need ALL the horses pulling the chariot, not just one or two.

The post A little more on Sammy Harkham appeared first on The Beat.

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