Books — Blab! Vol. 15
Blab! Vol. 15

By Amy Diaz

Pictures with meaning, Blab! puts the story in comics


Blab! Vol. 15, By Monte Beauchamp, Fantagraphics Books, 2004, 120 pages.

Like Where’s Waldo for adults, the stories in Blab! Vol. 15 are a colorful feast for the eyes.

From art deco black-and-white drawings illustrating lines from Steely Dan songs to a film-noir-ish tableau of a boxer, a beautiful-looking dame and a threatening fedora-wearing man, to the single-page picture of a relaxed man made out of a crushed Yoo-hoo can, the images of Blab! are arresting. You stop, you ponder, you turn the page, you turn back. Most stories last no more than a few pages; some pieces are only two- page murals of wall-to-wall color. But each one is as engaging and absorbing as a museum painting.

Perhaps more so because when was the last time you were at a museum and saw a fetal Elvis attempting to run away from a one-eyed Arnold Schwarzeneggar who was trying to induct the pompadour-having Elvis into the army? Or how about the ghoulish little tale of bird-flu in “Fowl Plague” that ends with the deaths of millions of Southeast Asian chickens? Or the strange story of “Astrida,” an alluringly tattooed woman who slowly undresses as her answering machine plays?

Each piece — it’s hard to say story because many of these, er, things are so indefinable in their structure — struck me visually first, so much that I usually had to go back and read them a few times to catch each nuance. The more I read each entry, the more I saw the rich layers of meaning and message, the hidden visual clues, the symbolism. But you know, look at anything three times and you’ll find symbolism. Perhaps the story of a headless chicken, as in “Miracle Mike the Headless Chicken,” is just about a headless chicken. But, trust me, that headless chicken — like all the oddly drawn characters in these pages — knows more than you think.

- Amy Diaz

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH