Friday, June 5, 2015

Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, A Tragedy or at the Very Least a Great Pain in the Ass, told in 1 part.

I've just recently, within the past 3 or so years, gotten into the works of Daniel Clowes. I think I was peripherally aware of him back when the Ghost World movie was released and it was super popular for a hot minute. Other than that I was largely ignorant of his body of work aside from an ad I'd seen on the back of an old issue of Usagi Yojimbo.
Although that may have been an ad for a Peter Bagge book...
Hell, I dunno...

Anywho, a couple-or-perhaps-three years ago the staff of the HCB made a pilgrimage to Wizard World Chicago in order to pay homage to our ancestors and buy nerd-swag. A good time was had by all, longboxes were pawed through, and I got Boba Fett's autograph.

Jeremy Bulloch. Not the little kid from Episode II.
Jeremy is an exceedingly polite Englishman, and we had a nice conversation about the dearly departed Irvin Kershner, of whom he spoke quite fondly.

Paul Jenkins and Mark Texeira were also very friendly, though I suspect my girlfriends bosom-hugging Supergirl shirt may have contributed somewhat to their good cheer . . .

After the con, Chicago pizza, some games and lots of drinks, we retired to a mildly shady motel off the interstate that was located within walking distance of a strip club for your convenience. This motel also may have been featured in a news report about that guy who had murdered like 30 girls in the Gary region over the years, but I couldn't say for sure.
Although I'm fairly certain it's the same one.

The next morning was a tad bittersweet, as our site founder and brother-in-arms William Davis was leaving within the fortnight for South Korea to teach English to wee South Korean children. And to drink copious amounts of cheap Korean beer.
In any case, that morning William posed the following question:
"Hey, does anybody want to buy some statues? I can't get anything out of them at the local shops and I'm not taking them to Korea".

We all knew damn well what he meant by statues. Not garden statuary, library busts or the like.

We were talkin' comic book statues.

I gave fellow feature writer Cody Miller the first crack at them.
He had seniority.

Cody said something along the lines of, "Man, I have like 8 dollars left".

I told William I could give him $50 for the lot of them, and a look crossed his face that said he'd really like to get more than $50 for them.

"Yeah, I can do fifty. I know they'll be going to a good home".

The deal was sealed, money and statuary exchanged hands.

Full disclosure:
I really only wanted the Jesse Custer and Rorschach statues, but there were a couples more in the lot.
One in particular caught my eye. A slightly pickaninny-looking character that could be construed as a bit of a racist caricature by some of the more thin-skinned amongst us.

"What the hell is a Pogeybait?", I asked, holding aloft the odd fellow.

Mr. Davis went on to explain, a bit excitedly, that Pogeybait was a character in the indy comics written by this Daniel Clowes fellow.
I made a mental note, along with some other tidbits William gave me about my new acquisitions.
(Sorry, Waffles, I still haven't checked out that Chris Ware book...)

Quantum Leap forward a month or so, and I finally was on the hunt for some Clowes material. I figured if I was going to be the caretaker of this statue I'd better read up on him. Before long I'd found an inexpensive used copy of Twentieth Century Eightball and I was off to the races.
I loved it. Clowes comics were nearly Second Wave Of Underground Comics-style work, mixing that recipe of juvenile humor, acerbic wit, social commentary and raciness.
In the next year or so I picked Death Ray and Wilson, both excellent works, and always was I watchful for more.

Not that I couldn't order anything I wanted from the Daniel Clowes bibliography off the internets, but the chase is half the fun.
Right, kids?

Which brings us to ...A Velvet Glove.
Soon. I'll get there, don't fret.

Some years ago my parents retired to a quaint little village on the Ohio River. A nice little burg with a hippy -dippy art community, great architecture, and a hole in the wall pub with one of the best goddamn burgers I've had in recent history. Nestled amongst the downtown shops, across from the antique stores and down the street from the ice cream parlor, is a used DVD/video game store. The kind with just stacks and stacks of movies and bits of other assorted ephemera.
I'd pop in most times when I was down visiting my parents. I like to paw through movies and it's always good to strike up a bit of a rapport with merchants.

And then one day there were longboxes in the store.

Hot damn, we're in business now. We were talking the kind of flea-market longboxes, the dingy ones, devoid of bags and boards and plenty of spine curl and folded corners.
The fun ones to dig through.

Soon after that, bookshelves went up. The kind of bookshelves you put graphic novels and hardcover collections on.

I bought Marvel Masterworks editions of Young Allies and Rawhide Kid from this dude, because he sold them to me dirt cheap.
Reference the aforementioned rapport...

My last trip 'round, last month , yielded a great haul. There were 3 Will Eisner books I hadn't previously owned and lo! Some Daniel Clowes books.
One was his Caricature collection, and the other was Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. What luck!
All these books were between $2-$4 apiece, and that, dear readers, was a done deal. I loaded up my arms, zippety do dah'd to the register and headed home with my fresh nerd loot.
I hadn't even looked at the books to speak of, certainly hadn't examined them, as I was too excited by my find to rationally make a decision more advanced than "buy product!"

So imagine my consternation when I discovered Like A Velvet Glove... had at some point been the recipient of some water damage and subsequently the pages had welded to one another after they had dried.

Fuck. Beans.

I really wanted to read this book. I'd eyeballed the book online for quite awhile but had balked at buying it because I tow the line between "$8.99? I bet I can find this cheaper somewhere..." and "$125 for the book club edition of Captain Marvel and the Monster Society of Evil? I'm in..."

I've some experience with book-shepherding, so I gingerly attempted to separate the pages. Almost the entirety of the book had pages stuck together in the bottom quarter of the book, nearest the spine.
Which meant every seventh panel in the nine panel layout on every page was illegible.

My efforts were unsuccessful, netting a result of some pages getting separated but for the most part gained naught but torn pages.
Perseverance soon gave way to frustration and I put the book away. In my luggage, to be revisited at a later date.
I briefly bandied about the idea of taking the book back to the shop, but opted not.
It was a $2 purchase, not a high dollar expenditure. I'm fairly certain the proprietor wasn't sequestered in his lair, twisting his mustache and thinking, "Nyah-ha! I finally got some clueless rube to buy that damaged Clowes book! Thanks for the two dollars!"

Plus at this point it was a war of attrition between me and this damaged book...

Upon my return home I did some research, didn't find many realistic options I was ready to explore, and certainly wasn't willing to spend any money on getting this book professionally repaired.
I'd already spent 2 whole dollars, after all...

At the end of the day, I threw caution to the wind and attempted a slapdash rendition of one repair technique.

Do not replicate this on any book you want to keep intact...

I started by running each page under hot water at the stuck point. Each page. One at a time.
It worked. The hot water broke whatever hellish grasp the pages had on one another and separation occurred.
On the downside, I was fully aware that once the pages dried, they would simply stick back together.
A mixture of lackadaisical apathy and good old American laziness led me to an answer.

I'd freeze-dry that sumbitch.

It's sound logic, but not quite a task your Friendly Neighborhood Refrigerator Freezer is up to.

But that's what I've got, so into the freezer went Like A Velvet Glove...

As a great aside, this served to confuse my girlfriend who, upon returning home from vacation, discovered a comic book in the freezer with no explanation as to why.

After a couple of weeks in the freezer I got bored with the whole thing. I was ready to render this book to a readable state or call it a loss ad buy a replacement.

But I'd already spent those 2 dollars, so I had a pretty good idea where I was going with this...

The freeze drying process actually kind of worked and many of the pages had separated and the moisture had been expunged via freezing.
The middle of the book, however, was a solid frozen mass of ice and comic book.
Utterly defeating the point of my freeze-drying , my impatience compelled me to throw the book into the microwave and start thawing/drying it in 20 second bursts.
The attempt to thaw was much more successful than the attempt to dry, and at the end of the day I was left wet pages that would stick back together once the pages dried.

Which was exactly where I was before I threw the sucker into the freezer.

Not willing to go through this freezer business again, I opted for plan B. Daniel Clowes was simply taking up too much valuable pizza roll space.
Plan B (From Outer Space...) involved suspending the book in front of a high-powered fan, leafing through the pages one by one to prevent sticking, and thinking, "Really? Two dollars?".

That was 2 days ago.

I've been blow-drying this thing for 2 days, and it seems to have worked. Everything is nearly dry, but at the expense of the structural integrity of the book. The spine is cracked nearly a quarter of the way up the lengthy, and the bottom half of the book is so flared out and rippled from water damage I may have to park my car on the thing in order to press it flat. In all honesty in may only peripherally resemble flat once it's all said and done.

Soon I'll be able to read the book, however, and really that was all I was after in the first place. I'd prefer to have a nice, pristine copy, devoid of water damage and frustration, but such is life.
The fan is still whirring in the other room, putting the final drying on Like A Velvet Glove . . . and I may see if some of my artsy friends have anyone in their collective network who can rebind books .

For a reasonable fee, of course.

After all, I've already spent two dollars on the book . . .

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