Black Hole by Charles Burns

April 23rd, 2008 at 4:34 pm

As novels go the way of five-act plays written in iambic pentameter, graphic novels have emerged to provide a glimmer of hope. Graphic novels have gained much relevance and respect as a legitimate art form in the past years thanks to the undeniable brilliance of artists like Christopher Ware and champions like Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem.

And there just might be some money to be made as well. Graphic novel sales were up 12% in 2007 over 2006.

Black Hole by Charles Burns will not find itself included in the Whitney Bicentennial as a lauded, official Work of Art like Christopher Ware’s masterwork Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth, but it is just as equally obsessed with sex as every single other graphic novel.

The Salon. Shortcomings. David Boring. Blankets. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex.

Graphic novelists love them some sex (or are at least fixated on the lack thereof). And unlike traditional writers, they’re not confined to just describing it. They get to show it; in all its awkward, pubic hair-filled glory.

Charles Burns is no different by any means. Black Hole is absolutely full of penises and vaginas. Especially vaginas. And I mean to the brim, overflowing, and maxed out with sex.
Burns’ dramatic black and white illustrations are vivid and stirring; but mostly stirring, vivid images of penises and vaginas. Lots and lots of vaginas. And pubic hair. Don’t forget the pubic hair.

Why are graphic novelists so obsessed about sex?

Because they’re nerds.

Why are graphic novels so popular/successful? Because they’re written by nerds about nerdy things that nerds can relate to. And nerds are the only demographic reading these days. Any cool person is playing a sport or getting laid or getting drunk or getting high or getting paid. The nerds are in the bookstores nerding out to nerdy things like graphic novels.

But nerds run the world. So it all evens out. The true dopes peaked in high school. Poor saps.

I would like to think that graphic novels are also popular/successful, and will continue to be, because they tend to be well-crafted, worthwhile works of artistic entertainment. As their name suggests, they are novels, yes, like any other novel with a decent story, but they’re illustrated so they’re fun and enjoyable to read. And they typically don’t take forever to get through. Even Black Hole, coming in at 400 some-odd pages, only took me a handful of sittings to finish (I don’t know how many pages it is because the pages are not numbered. Those graphic novelists, so artsy with their formalist reinforcements of themes.)

When I was done with Black Hole, that bizarre thing, I was truly confused and disturbed. But I’d prefer to praise Mr. Burns for his marvelous tour de force than reveal my own ignorance of what exactly he was doing with all that weird coming-of-age, sexually transmitted disease, drug, sex, violence, freak show weirdness.

So bravo, Charles Burns!

Reading is sexy, indeed!

Thanks for all the penises and vaginas!

And pubic hair!!!

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