Re/Read is a recurring column by Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery curator Larry Reid looking back at books you may have missed or are worthy of another read. This time we’ll discuss the stunning collection, Is That All There Is?, by Dutch master Joost Swarte.
Like many American comix enthusiasts, I first became aware of Joost Swarte though Art Spiegelman and François Mouly’s RAW anthology. It was a revelation when Fantagraphics Books published Is That All There Is?, the first substantial English edition of his remarkable comix and graphics. While Swarte’s work often references classic American comic strips, his work displays a distinctive European aesthetic. Swarte pioneered, and gave name to, the “clear line” rendering technique, an homage to Tintin artist Hergé. In his expansive introduction, cartoonist Chris Ware recalls, “Swarte so perfectly absorbed the look, approach and feel of the Hergé studios style that this writer, at least, originally took Swarte’s strips for the work of Tintin’s artist when I first encountered them as a teenager in RAW.” Apart from superficial similarities, Swarte’s work is distinctive and inventive.
Is That All There Is? includes the ingenious story, “Modern Art,” a clever commentary on the futility of novelty in avant garde art. It also reprints ambitious Swarte stories like “The End Times” and the “Jopo de Pojo” series, among many others. This Swarte project was edited and largely translated by late Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson. It remains a fitting tribute to Thompson’s passion for contemporary European comix.
A broad selection of adventurous European comix can be found at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, located at 1201 S. Vale Street in the heart of Seattle’s colorful Georgetown art community. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Please note new phone number: 206-557-4910.