Sloth; I Love Led Zeppelin; Las Soldaderas: Women of the Mexican Revolution; TV's Grooviest Variety Shows of the '60s and '70s
Reviewed by Cindy Widner, Fri., Dec. 15, 2006
by Gilbert Hernandez
Vertigo/DC Comics, 128 pp., $19.99
I Love Led Zeppelin
by Ellen Forney
Fantagraphics, 111 pp., $19.95
Las Soldaderas: Women of the Mexican Revolution
by Elena Poniatowska
Cinco Puntos Press, 95 pp., $12.95
TV's Grooviest Variety Shows of the '60s and '70s
by Telly R. Davidson
Cumberland House, 400 pp., $24.95
Ellen Forney's world, no less lovely but more uniformly boisterous, gets a thorough workout in her latest collection, I Love Led Zeppelin. Forney's "panty-dropping comics" are manna for a certain strain of sexually adventurous, post-feminist, Seventies-seasoned free spirit; they've been published in a number of alt-mags and weeklies (most notably and regularly Seattle's The Stranger), and they work best as journalistic hybrids. In her how-to series, she interviews experts on subjects underrepresented in the service journalism arena ("How to Smoke Pot and Stay Out of Jail"), with entertaining and informative results. Forney's a good writer and storyteller, sometimes to the detriment of her comics; in memoirlike pieces ("I Raced My Car at SIR!"), a flurry of words crowds out the drawing. Elsewhere ("Wednesday Morning Yoga," "Trapeze"), Forney stretches her considerable stylistic talent, and the visual takes precedence, often with more profound results. There's a weird Nineties-celebrity element running through the collection Margaret Cho on "How to Be a Fabulous Fag Hag," illustrated stories from Dan Savage and Kristin Gore, awkward encounters with Tom Waits and Camille Paglia, and an end-page that's a testament to Seattle's extra helping of Courtney Love fascination that can be either irritating or thrilling, depending on how you feel about the Nineties. Regardless, Forney's tales are sweet and funny ones, told with liberating frankness and dork-positive humanity.
The most arresting thing about Elena Poniatowska's Las Soldaderas: Women of the Mexican Revolution isn't its portraits of the women who served sometimes willingly, sometimes not during those long wars, formidable as they are: bandoliered, petticoated, in the arms of stern-looking men or alone, dressed as men, left behind on train platforms or riding on top of box cars so the horses could have food and shelter below. Rather, it's the information that almost all photographs of the revolution are from the Casasola Collection, part of the archives of Mexico's Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca. This is because typographer and sportswriter Agustín Victor Casasola, along with his brother Miguel, set up a vastly acquisitive photographic agency during the war, sending his photographer brother off to the battlefront and buying other photographers' work (including whole newspapers' archives) as well. Safe in Mexico City, Agustin frequently scratched off the original photographer's name and replaced it with his own. Over time, the collection "developed a near monopoly on the iconography of the Mexican Revolution," according to Poniatowska. Her book, which convincingly argues against Susan Sontag's claim in On Photography that the Spanish Civil War was the first one extensively documented by modern photography, presents only a small portion of the collection's more than 30,000 images of the revolution, but every one is striking. One wishes the format were bigger, and Agustin's habit of revisionist authorship frustrates curiosity about details of subject and scene, but the ferocity of Soldaderas' imagery is undeniable.