Deitch, Kim 1944–
Deitch, Kim 1944–
PERSONAL: Born May 21, 1944; son of Gene Deitch (a cartoonist and animator).
CAREER: Cartoonist and writer. Editor of Gothic Blimp Works, 1969. Exhibitions: Exhibitor of original drawings at galleries, including La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, 1994; and Bess Cutler Gallery, New York, NY, 1995. Group exhibits include Kartoon Fever, Four Color Images, 1994; and Comix by the Bit, Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, CA, 1995.
Hollywoodland, Fantagraphics Books (Westlake Village, CA), 1987.
Beyond the Pale! Krazed Komics and Stories, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1989.
A Shroud for Waldo, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1992.
All Waldo Comics (collection), Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1992.
(With brother, Simon Deitch) Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Author-illustrator of comic books, including Corn Fed Comics, Shadowland, and No Business like Show Business; of comic-book series The Search for Smilin' Ed; and of children's comic-book series Nickelodeon. Contributor of comics, articles, and interviews to periodicals, including East Village Other, Raw, Bijou Funnies, Arcade, Comics Journal, Pictopia, Weirdo, Tales of Sex and Death, Details, Zero Zero, and Little Lit. Contributor of comics to anthologies, including Thrilling Murder Comics, San Francisco Comic Book Co. (San Francisco, CA), 1971; Lean Years, Cartoonists Co-op Press (San Francisco, CA), 1974; and The Narrative Corpse, Raw Books (Richmond, VA), 1995.
SIDELIGHTS: Veteran comic-book author and illustrator Kim Deitch has been heavily influenced by the animation industry, in which his father, Gene Deitch, worked. Kim has been drawing comics since 1967 and is considered one of the most influential creators of "underground" comics. He is known for such characters as the Sixties flower child "Sunshine Girl," the sex-crazed dual personality "Uncle Ed," and the blue cartoon cat "Waldo," a main character in his 2002 graphic novel Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Often collaborating with his brother, Simon, Deitch has widely published his comics in periodicals and anthologies, as well as in graphic novels. He is noted for his complex characters and narratives and his bold, intricate drawings.
Beyond the Pale! Krazed Komics and Stories is a collection featuring autobiographical comic-book stories, including "Keep 'em Flying," in which Deitch is hypnotized and winds up on another planet with Waldo the cat, and "Two Jews from Yonkers," in which the cartoonist becomes involved with drugs and the pope. A contributor to Publishers Weekly described the book as having "Sunday-morning-funnies charm as interpreted by a hippie/Bowery bum."
A Shroud for Waldo brings back the biblical Judas Iscariot as a cat demon, which turns out to be Waldo. In a hospital detoxification ward, Waldo finds an orderly who is actually an immortal spirit from Jesus' day. The orderly discovers a shroud with none other than Waldo's image on it. A Publishers Weekly contributor was disappointed with the book, calling the illustrations "amazing" but overdone and the story "directionless and lackluster."
For All Waldo Comics, Deitch compiles Waldo strips from several sources, beginning with late-1960s newspapers, thus bringing many of his earlier works back into print. Gordon Flagg, of Booklist, found this countercultural collection to have "a certain period charm thanks to … drugs, sex, and a conspiratorial CIA."
A collaboration between Deitch and his brother Simon Deitch, the graphic novel Boulevard of Broken Dreams contains three chapters: "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "The Mishkin File," and "Waldo World." It features Waldo as both a demonic talking cat and a doll and is an allegory of the rise and fall of animation in America. Deitch told Jeffrey Ford, in an interview for Fantastic Metropolis, that the story took about four years to develop and another five months to fine tune. It grew out of a true story involving a comment made by cartoon pioneer Winsor McKay at a testimonial dinner in the late 1920s. Creator of the classic comic strip Little Nemo, McKay told the group that they had taken what he created and "turned it into shit!" through the process of animation.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams follows brothers Ted and Al Mishkin, animators who work for the small Fontaine Talking Fables studio, from their teenage years in the 1920s through Al's death in 1993 in a toy store. It is rich with parodies of well-known figures in the animation and cartoon business, including McKay. Deitch's drawings have been compared to those of the Fleischer brothers, who created the "Betty Boop" comic strip. Ted is Waldo's alcoholic creator, and the cat is driving him to madness, even as he serves as inspiration for the cartoonist.
A Publishers Weekly contributor commented on the intricate but clear story line in Boulevard of Broken Dreams, saying its "complicated chronology is remarkably engaging, albeit weirdly paced." Ray Olson, in Booklist, described the book as "marvelous" and said its main and secondary characters—created in the style of 1920s and 1930s cartoons—are so successfully woven "into what is already a tapestry of flashbacks and flashforwards that the momentum of the whole never flags." Nick Hornby, writing in the New York Times Book Review, compared Deitch's drawings to those of Robert Crumb in their "feverish, angry energy." Hornby also said the book "is just as much about the neutering and Disneyfication of animation as it is about the self-destructiveness of genius."
Yakov Chodosh, writing in the Copacetic Comics Company, praised Deitch's art, with its bold, black parallel lines used for shading. As Chodosh observed, "Panels can include up to fifteen individual faces, all belonging to characters with their own evident personalities. And his layouts are some of the most innovative that have ever been seen in comics."
Steven Heller, in a review for Eye, found that the book "creates emotional tension between those who are fervent about original iconoclastic cartooning versus those who proffer derivative, market-driven pap," but that it is also "a gripping narrative about failure, betrayal, passion, and cruel twists of fate," as well as "a stunning analysis" of the way dementia can take over the mind. Tasha Robinson, in an online review for the Onion A.V. Club Web site, commented that the story is "vivid" and "rich," with "many carefully crafted layers" that "cloak reality under fantasy." Ford, in the interview with Deitch, wrote: "Deitch's story blends drama and humor in a non-linear, meta-fictional narrative with black and white pen work that in its complexity of imagery at times achieves the hallucinatory. This said, the story never confuses; the characters never fail to elicit the reader's interest or emotional response."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Acton, Jay, Alan LeMond, and Parker Hodges, Mug Shots: Who's Who in the New Earth, Meridian, 1972.
Booklist, April 15, 1992, Gordon Flagg, review of All Waldo Comics, p. 1493; November 1, 2002, Ray Olson, review of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, p. 465.
Eye, winter, 2002, Steven Heller, review of Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
New York Times Book Review, December 22, 2002, Nick Hornby, "Draw What You Know" (review of Boulevard of Broken Dreams), pp. 10-11.
Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1989, review of Beyond the Pale! Krazed Komics and Stories, p. 61; July 6, 1992, review of A Shroud for Waldo, p. 51; December 2, 2002, review of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, p. 36.
Copacetic Comics Company Web site, http://home.earthlink.net/ (August 6, 2003), Yakov Chodosh, review of Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
Fantastic Metropolis, http://www.fantasticmetropolis.com/ (October 9, 2002), Jeffrey Ford, "An Interview with Kim Deitch."
Lambiek, http://www.lambiek.net/ (August 4, 2003), "Kim Deitch."
Onion A.V. Club Web site, http://www.theonionavclub.com/ (January 29, 2003), Tasha Robinson, review of Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
Random House Web site, http://www.randomhouse.com/ (August 6, 2003), "Kim Deitch."