August 1st, 2012
A few months ago, we received several new graphic novel titles, including two immensely oversized books by Gary Panter. Shortly after that, we had a class come in to look at Medieval manuscripts and the professor also asked if we could get out some modern books influenced by the Medieval. These new graphic novels certainly contained a lot of imagery and symbolism that could be related and they were a hit with the class as well.
Gary Panter was born December 1, 1950 in Durant, Oklahoma. He went to school in Texas, lived in California for a while, and now resides in Brooklyn. In trying to understand Gary Panter, it should be noted that he defies categorization into any genre, and he is an amazingly prolific artist.
He became noticed in the 1970s as a California punk designer of flyers and album art for various bands. At that time, he also exhibited his first major paintings and continues to paint. Panter and Pee Wee Herman began a long collaboration and he designed the sets and puppets for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, which garnered him several Emmy awards in the 1980s. He contributed to Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly’s Raw magazineand other comic anthologies. He became a legend in punk and underground comics, influencing such people as Matt Groening. In the 1990s, he published seven issues of his Jimbo comic book. He had designed Jimbo in the 1970s as a sort of alter-ego. He also is a musician and a designer and stager of light shows. And he makes sculptures. This is not an exhaustive list.
In addition to comics, Panter has also published several books featuring Jimbo. Special Collections has the Fantagraphics limited editions of two of them: Jimbo in Purgatory, published in 2004, and Jimbo’s Inferno, published in 2006. Each book is signed and numbered and has a block engraving tipped in. These books are loosely based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. In Jimbo in Purgatory, Jimbo meets icons such as Frank Zappa, John and Yoko, robots and dragons. Each character is a stand-in for a character in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
In Jimbo’s Inferno, Panter borrows dialogue as much from from Lewis Carroll and Frank Zappa as he did from Dante. Hell in Panter’s version is a giant shopping mall called Focky Bocky. Jimbo’s Inferno was awarded the American Book Award in 2007. Panter was the second Fantagraphics published author to win the prestigious award. Joe Sacco’s Palestine was a recipient in 1996.
“Don’t try to pass a pop quiz on Dante’s Hell based on a reading of this comic,” … “It won’t work. Even though the comic is engorged with Dante’s Hell and though Jimbo mouths a super-condensed version of what happens in The Inferno, canto by canto, characters are fused, actions inverted, parodied, subject to mutation by my odd memories and obsessions and whims…” Source
In addition to the Jimbo books, Special Collections holds a copy of an artists’ book, Facetasm : h simulated and real by Gary Panter and Charles Burns. We also have a number of issues of Raw magazine, which he contributed to.