Glenn Head has been a fixture in the underground and alternative scenes since the 80s, contributing to legendary anthologies like R. Crumb's Weirdo, Zero Zero, and his own Snake Eyes (co-edited with Kaz). He's not as well-known as many of the other names that even the moderately-educated alt-fan like me can rattle off, because he doesn't have that singular, long-form work that the others do. In Chicago from Fantagraphics, Head finally has his signature piece.

A memoir about growing up in Jersey, dedicating one's life to art, and heading for the big city, Chicago has themes similar to more art-comic biographies than one can count. But with an approach that is surprisingly frank, and refreshingly different, Head brings new depth the underground bio-comic. Many independents are about starving artists roughing it out in the city, unwilling to compromise their principles just to make a few bucks, but few are written with the perspective of a few decades of honest, unflinching self-assessment. Even fewer are illustrated with the type of controlled mania that Head possesses.

Although his work for anthologies is much more abstract and Basil Wolverton-like, in Chicago Head leans much closer to a stark, highly-stylized cartoon realism, heavy on whole-page composition saturated with familiar comics motifs.

In just the short sample of pages below, one can see enough reasons to be interested in Chicago: nuanced, realistic character work from an honest and objective point-of-view, and art like a strung-out, desperate Kim Deitch relieved of his whimsy. A great-looking long-form from an art-comix veteran hitting his peak thirty years into an impressive career.

The following preview contains some strong language.

 

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Chicago is on sale now from Fantagraphics.