Underground Comics Legend Gary Panter at Skylight Books Tonight

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This summer is being hyped as the summer of the comic book movie. Okay, cool.

But as far as I’m concerned, it ain’t ever gonna get any cooler than the fall of 2005, when the Hammer and MOCA presented their joint exhibition Masters of American Comics, which highlighted the work of Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, and other past and present comic artist geniuses.

A slew of events are cropping up around town that are making me nostalgic for the two double-oh five.

First up is Master of American Comics featured artist Gary Panter, tonight (as in, TONIGHT!) at Skylight Books, signing copies of PictureBox’s exhaustingly comprehensive two-volume Gary Panter: The Book. Matt Groening, creator of Life in Hell and an obscure animated series called The Simpsons will do the introductions.

Who’s Gary Panter? You really oughtta know. More information and pics after the jump.

Image: Gary Panter’s Deadlier Than Male, acrylic on paper, 1986.

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If you haven’t watched Pee Wee’s Playhouse in, oh, say twenty years, take another look.

Go ahead, look, I’ll wait.

Not exactly Blue’s Clues, right? I was only ten years old when Playhouse first came on the air, which means the chances I truly understood all the imagery crammed into that program were somewhere between nil and zip.

Still, I understood that Pee Wee was a wild and crazy guy, and he had a playhouse to match his personality.

Nearly 20 years later at Masters of American Comics, I learned the evil genius behind Pee Wee’s humble abode was none other than underground renegade comic artist Gary Panter.

A Brooklyn-based artist and a teacher at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Panter is most famous for his work as art director for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and for his post-apocalyptic everyman comic book hero Jimbo, who’s been appearing in his comics since the ’70s.

Panter’s deliberately jaggedy, scratchy visual style has also appeared on album covers for Frank Zappa (yes, that’s a kick-ass rendition of Hedorah, Godzilla’s nemesis from Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster on his album Sleep Dirt) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; a New Yorker piece on the siege at Waco, Texas titled Waiting for Waco; portraits of Boris Yeltsin for Rolling Stone, Bill Gates for Mother Jones, and The Who for Time; and every medium of fine art conceivable including paintings, sculpture, light shows, prints, books, and more.

He also recently worked with writer Jonathan Lethem on issue number seven of Marvel Comic’s Omega: The Unknown.

Really, do you need any more reason to stop by Skylight and meet a legend?

Stay tuned for information on future events featuring Master of American Comics alumni. Who? Well, that’s a secret and I’d be a fool to reveal it too early.

But here’s something I can’t keep a secret. Tomorrow night, Storyopolis is holding a one-night exhibition of work by (yes, another Masters of American Comics star) Will Eisner, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of his graphic novel (and the first ever graphic novel) A Contract with God. It’s free, but an RSVP is necessary, so check their Web site for all the info.

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Images: Gary Panter in his studio (top); and Gary Panter: The Book (bottom).

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