Pictures That Tick

by on Dec.01, 2009, under Comics


I’ve hesitated to review Pictures That Tick, a reissue from Dark Horse Books of Dave McKean’s short comic collection, originally published by Spiegel Fine Arts in 2001. The original became a collector’s item, selling for as much as $500 for a first edition.

McKean is best known for painting all those stunning Sandman covers that were inevitably better than the plodding emo stories inside, and Pictures That Tick shows him stretching his creative wings. The art is amazing, miles beyond what most comic book creators can dream of doing. He often works in collage, combining painting, photographs, drawing, and typography in ways that seem descended from Marcel Duchamp or Hannah Höch.

But, and this is embarrassing to admit, a lot of the time I feel like I’m just not getting it. I’ve mostly decided to think of these as comic poems rather than stories, because that way I don’t have to worry about puzzling out the full sense of the narratives in a literal sense. And that, I suppose, is how I would recommend taking them.

With the critical vocabulary I’ve learned for poetry I have ways to describe when work is ill-formed, sentimental crap or finely balanced, careful, and beautiful. Unfortunately, I don’t have a similar critical vocabulary for comic book poetry, so I can’t really do the same here. Various parts of it strike me each of those ways. I recommend picking up in a store and flipping through to see what you think yourself.

A few isolated pages below the fold.





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  • Celluloid - Joshua Malbin

    […] a fair amount of narrative structure, even as it made some Surrealist gestures. Pictures That Tick, I was more ambivalent about, though because the pieces were shorter I was willing to deal with them as poems I didn’t […]

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