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Trouble with Comics

ADD Reviews Jim Rugg’s Supermag

Jim Rugg’s Supermag (published by AdHouse Books) is kind of like the AdBusters of comics magazines — it takes a familiar format and recontextualizes it to display Rugg’s many and varied illustrative modes. There’s no single narrative; short stories and random pages from hypothetical comics co-exist within Supermag’s pages. Readers of Rugg’s Afrodisiac graphic novel will be comfortable with the approach, although Supermag lacks the laser focus of that book. Rather, Supermag seems to be a summation of everything Rugg has learned about creating art and comics, a “Where Is He Now?” moment that begs the question, “What comes next?”

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I loved Rugg’s work on Street Angel a few years back, a five-issue alternative superhero comic that was strong on story and featured bold cartooning and some early hints of the various styles that Rugg often utilizes, from ballpoint ketches to fully-realized paintings. There’s a lot of pastiche and homage at work in the pages of Supermag, as well as some one-off illustrations and Photoshop wizardry. The comics content shows a lot of Dan Clowes and Charles Burns inspiration, but if you’re going to be inspired, you could do far worse than Clowes and Burns.

The magazine’s visual virtuosity suggests a budget-friendly coffee-table art book, something Rugg’s art has earned and probably would have achieved by now if the economy hadn’t taken the turn it did five years ago. The non-superhero comics industry has adjusted to our new reality in a number of ways since then, and if Supermag is an answer to the question “How can we affordably present a dazzling array of Jim Rugg artwork and remind people of just how powerful and witty a cartoonist he is?” then, I am glad someone asked. At a smidge under ten bucks, you get a lot of stunning design and memorable eye pops for about what you’d pay for a crappy lunch at Wendy’s.

Me, I’ve quietly been waiting for more Street Angel for a long time now, but Supermag indicates that Rugg has a lot of other interests (although Jesse Sanchez, and Afrodisiac do both pop up in the pages of Supermag), and its implicit promise seems to be that whatever Rugg does next, it should be fun and beautiful to look at. I hope it happens soon.

Alan David Doane