Page 45 Review by Stephen
Oh my sweet lord! I'm a sucker for packaging, and this card box-tray affair is glorious. Inside you will find facsimiles of each of Adrian's original seven OPTIC NERVE mini-comics (not the later, full-sized ones published by D&Q) whose contents went on to form the 32 STORIES collection that's been out of print for a year. There's also an eighth pamphlet containing previously unpublished pages; an introduction by publisher Chris Oliveros cringing at the hand-written letter he sent encouraging Tomine back in 1993 (that's reproduced too!); the collection's 1995 introduction by the author mocking the work's development and publishing history which was and remains hilarious in its lacerating self-deprecation; and a new introduction by Tomine which kicks off in classic fashion thus:
"Earlier this year, my publisher informed me that my book 32 STORIES was about to go out of print. "Thank God! Finally!" I replied, a wave of euphoria and relief washing over me. Like pretty much everything that I wrote and drew (or said, or thought) between the ages of sixteen and twenty, this particular book had, in the intervening years, become the kind of thing that sent chills of embarrassment up my spine every time I was confronted with it. I'd been dreaming of the hypothetical days that it would just disappear, and, incredibly, that day was here at last. Chris Oliveros, my publisher, then went on to explain that he didn't intend for the book to go out of print permanently, but that he simply wanted me to update the copyright page before going back to press. I was crushed."
I should make it clear that:
a) this isn't false modesty on Adrian's part designed to extort cries of accomplishment, though here's one regardless: this work is little short of miraculous for a man of his young age back then, to the extent that Oliveros had assumed he was actually in his mid-twenties,
b) he's very much aware that "Fifteen years prior, I was begging this man to publish my work; now I was insisting he didn't",
c) he's not entirely wrong: a few of these stories are ropey and ragged BUT even they are fascinating as a record of Adrian's development, and the shorts that do stand out, stand out for a comicbook creator of any age to the extent that the cover of the original collection was one of the first images Mark turned into a three-dimensional shop-window box.
Gratifyingly it's the short which I always show potential readers that Tomine picks out as his own favourite: 'Smoke' from issue six. In it a young girl, depressed in her room, smokes a cigarette, reaches for the phone then decides against it. Instead she writes a Dear John letter, which begins like this:
"Dear Aaron -
"I've given this a lot of thought and I think it is time for us to break up. I'm sick of the way you treat me... I feel like I'm more of a pest to you than anything else..."
Full of determination, she strides out, mails the letter and slams the lid on the mailbox shut. Returning home, she sobs in the dark only to realise she regrets sending the damn thing. The Post Office refuses to let her have it back, so she tries breaking into the mailbox which proves equally intransigent. So she sets light to her matchbook and mails that too, before dashing over to her boyfriend's!
"Yeah?" he barks over the intercom.
"Hi Aaron! It's me."
"God! Can't you ever call before stopping by?" etc.
And the mailbox burns away...
The influence most often cited on Tomine's art style is Dan Clowes, but early on it's far more obvious how important David Mazzucchelli was to him, and there are other directions he contemplated on paper here as well. I have some of the originals thanks to Mark's quality radar and I have the collection, but I'm having this too for the covers ("In this issue: Confrontation! Frustration! Gesticulation! Asphyxiation!" Sounds like a Morrissey single), the letter columns, the packaging and most certainly for the new introductions by Oliveros - a comedian himself here - and Tomine himself.
One-time printing in this format.