(Fantagraphics) (Guest Review by ROBERT DAYTON) I never thought that this story would ever be collected. When I helped interview legendary underground cartoonist Kim Deitch for the Ink Studs radio show a couple of years back, it seemed like it wouldn’t happen. I’m thinking that it was because he is a quality draughtsman and storyteller that is hard on himself- too hard on himself! I don’t know how what convinced him to get The Search For Smilin’ Ed collected, I’m just glad that it is! Kim Deitch is my fave of the original still-active underground crop. This serial originally appeared in the late 90s for the comics anthology Zero Zero and is not only up there with his other work, it ties into it quite neatly as well.
Much of Deitch’s work weaves an elaborate, yet inviting, mythos of his own possible creation mixed in with an unsentimental awe of numerous past eras of American entertainment. This particular graphic novel features an actual 50s Children’s TV host named Smilin’ Ed who one day just disappeared...Throw in some demons- including Deitch’s long-time character Waldo the Cat, midget men, miniature aliens that film everything that humans do, as well as Kim Deitch himself acting as a storytelling conduit for narratives that dwell inside and alongside other narratives!
Kim Deitch’s father is the legendary Cartoon Modern animator Gene Deitch and the classic cartoon look is in Deitch’s work, except that he utilizes elaborate detail in skewed panel arrangements and elaborate tableaus. His smooth hatching adds layers of dimension and causes the page to glow.
The Search For Smilin’ Ed contains a brand new essay on Kim Deitch, a full colour fold-out of the Kim Deitch universe, and a new silly comic about beaver evolution.
For anyone who has not entered Deitch’s universe, fear not: it is remarkably easy to access, one does not need a map to enter or understand. It will most likely make you want to explore his other works, much of which have also been collected in graphic novels in recent years causing many to at last wake up and praise the Deitch!