cover image Reincarnation Stories

Reincarnation Stories

Kim Deitch. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (260p) ISBN 978-1-68396-261-8

Gloriously mad and bordering on nonsensical, this graphic novel from underground cartoonist Deitch (Shadowland) bounds around like it’s composed by Carlos Castaneda crossed with Fritz the Cat. It stars Deitch himself as an old man, suffering from the aftereffects of retinal surgery, who falls down the rabbit hole of his past after remembering an incident from his childhood: when a drunk D.W. Griffith mistook him for one Sid Pincus, a writer who came up with a creativity aid called the Plot Robot. Deitch feverishly slaps out tangled tales that weave biographical realities—he did draw cartoons in 1968 for the East Village Other, and his dad once ran the Terrytoons cartoon studio—with unlikely fuzzy childhood flashbacks about meeting old Hollywood stars (he claims to be very mistrusting of “the memory game” overall) and layers of outright psychedelia mixed with Hindu-inflected mysticism. In between, he follows long tangents, including a madman’s story of being raised by an extraterrestrial-worshipping band of monkeys and that of a whacked-out lost screenplay. Deitch’s signature crowded, heavily cross-hatched stiff figures with goony expressions mesh well with the reality-hopping stew of cross-dimensional riffings and reincarnations. This ribald Rubik’s Cube of a book feels both like paean to 1960s alternative comix, which Deitch helped define, and gleefully ignorant of any tether whatsoever. [em](Oct.) [/em]