The Big Book of Wag

This tidy volume purports to contain the best of the first nine issues of Wag Magazine, a self-published zine of the ’90s hailing from Hamilton, Ont. I cannot attest to the “best” aspect, having never seen the originals, but I admit to enjoying much of what the book contains.

As a “best of,” the book stands on the choices made by editor Joe Ollman, who also happens to be the author and illustrator (although there are hints and references to other creator names, which I finally accepted as fictional).

I have to report that, if he were a better editor, he would curtail the text and commission more drawings. Ollman tends to a rather over-extended satire of Victorian flowery prose and repressed sexuality or a goofy Kafkaesque surrealism, which work to a point, but ultimately run on too long.

The art, on the other hand, may be some of the best produced in Graphica Canuckia. He demonstrates such a great range of styles and facility with such myriad materials that he suggests the possibility of a team of cartoonists and illustrators.

But the good art just makes me skip the text and race through the drawings. So it is that his best entry is a loving tribute to Edward Gorey’s “Ghastlycrumb Tinies.” Here Ollman’s wonderful drawings team with smart one-liners that contain all the text necessary for effective and essential wagdom. (Lloyd Chesley)

by Joe Ollman, $19.95, 192 pgs, Conundrum Press, PO Box 55003, CSP Fairmount, Montreal, QC, H2T 3E2, conundrumpress.com

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