Charles Burns: Black Hole, Xed Out, Big Baby and other phantasmagorias

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Maddie (via Bookslut) was telling me about this comic. It sounds great, like an indie X-Men except without the "cool" mutants. Has anyone read it?

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:22 (thirteen years ago) link

i'm very tempted to get this. i've read a bunch of them, but years ago. i dug.

s1ocki (slutsky), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:25 (thirteen years ago) link

but uh... an "indie x-men" it most certainly ain't.

s1ocki (slutsky), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:26 (thirteen years ago) link

Douglas might've.

David R. (popshots75`), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:26 (thirteen years ago) link

Yes indeed. It is FANTASTIC.

Douglas (Douglas), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:29 (thirteen years ago) link

Cool, I'm hoping the store will have it today.

(btw Douglas, I enjoyed noticing your blurb on the last volume of Finder that I read!)

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:30 (thirteen years ago) link

it's more like a david lynch/cronenburg type thing from the bits I have read

Mark C (Markco), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:37 (thirteen years ago) link

less lynch more linklater
documents 70s NW stoner teen reality with guilt-ridden "sex mutant" plot. The art is A+

sexyDancer (sexyDancer), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 21:46 (thirteen years ago) link

Isn't he almost done with it? I'm just waiting for it all to be collected.

jaymc (jaymc), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 22:13 (thirteen years ago) link

It appears that it's done, collected, and out. And cheap!

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 22:16 (thirteen years ago) link

Oh sweet! Time to go to Quimby's.

jaymc (jaymc), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 23:20 (thirteen years ago) link

that is a disgusting euphemism.

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 10 November 2005 05:16 (thirteen years ago) link

Which one, "going to quimby's" or "charles burns' black hole"?

Austin Still (Austin, Still), Thursday, 10 November 2005 05:40 (thirteen years ago) link

"going to quimby's to dig on charles burns' black hole"

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 10 November 2005 05:43 (thirteen years ago) link

cover design: most beautiful book of the year

dustcover design: really awkward and hideous by comparison

kit brash (kit brash), Thursday, 10 November 2005 07:06 (thirteen years ago) link

how many issues did this run? i have, uh, 4. (that link took forever)

mullygrubbr (bulbs), Thursday, 10 November 2005 09:13 (thirteen years ago) link

12 issues. Buying it as a partwork was painful, really. Issue 1 came out in, what, 1995?

aldo_cowpat (aldo_cowpat), Thursday, 10 November 2005 10:32 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah, I think so. I don't have any of the issues after it moved to Fanta.

kit brash (kit brash), Thursday, 10 November 2005 12:20 (thirteen years ago) link


kit brash (kit brash), Thursday, 10 November 2005 23:44 (thirteen years ago) link

the thing with burns is - ah - he does what he does well. really well. how much of what he does do you need? (ie does he ever do anything else? or develop what he does...12 issues sheesh...he must, right? does he?)

mullygrubbr (bulbs), Friday, 11 November 2005 08:07 (thirteen years ago) link

yeah, I (RELEVANCE...REGAINED!) stopped with the issues after one or two because he was just teasing out the themes of Blood Club... BUT if you like seeing authors work out their pet themes and expand on them as their abilities grow and they find themselves able to deliver more nuanced versions, then the full novel of Black Hole is definitely interesting and worthwhile. But yes, you don't need it, he's not going to substantially tell you any more than you already know.

kit brash (kit brash), Friday, 11 November 2005 14:21 (thirteen years ago) link

I finally saw the it me or is a it a bit smaller then the original issues? Also the orig. issues had nice glossy pages, the book just didn't look as nice.

personally, I'm not a huge fan of all his stuff, story wise, but this book is the culmination or something.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Friday, 11 November 2005 20:29 (thirteen years ago) link

it seems to be of this genre, of queer disaffected, isoalted , sex and violence soaked indie genius from the pacific northwest (ie gus van sant, chuck palinchuk, dennis cooper, todd haynes, there are others that i cannot remember)

i was suprised he wasnt...

anthony, Saturday, 12 November 2005 03:15 (thirteen years ago) link

Yep, the book is smaller than US-comic-size.

kit brash (kit brash), Saturday, 12 November 2005 08:13 (thirteen years ago) link

I liked this a lot, especially for the art (so much black!) and atmosphere.

Part of my mind kept getting annoyed that the story was being told in a vacuum, i.e. I was wondering things like "Is this a widespread phenomenon? Is the media aware of it? If the kids weren't so ashamed could they get treatment?" But of course it's not about the bigger picture, it's about the kids and the sex and especially the guilt/stigma.

The ending seemed a little abrupt for a story ten years in the making, but I think I'm coming to expect that from GNs.

Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 21 November 2005 16:14 (thirteen years ago) link

Also, my X-Men reference was not totally offbase! Though really I'm only thinking of the Beak/Angel storyline in New X-Men. I wonder if Black Hole was an influence on Grant.

Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 21 November 2005 18:01 (thirteen years ago) link

i saw it and i covet it. its def my next 50 bucks bye bye.

mullygrubbr (bulbs), Thursday, 24 November 2005 05:33 (thirteen years ago) link

and (having read burns before) i think...its totally about the vacuuum

mullygrubbr (bulbs), Thursday, 24 November 2005 08:11 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...
I just read this last night, and will likely revisit it tonight. Absolutely loved it. It gave me nightmares, but not nightmares about monsters. It just stirred up feelings about sex and high school that I never knew were so unresolved. Some of the horrors in the book work well outside of high school -- the neck-mouth that starts talking when he goes to sleep shook me up a little. That's a big, fat fear of mine, that I'll say things in my sleep that I don't want anyone to ever hear, and one that's come true a couple of times. Even the metaphors in the book that seemed a little clunky while I was reading -- i.e. the shedding of the skin -- work marvelously upon considering the atmosphere as a whole. The Chris character was fantastic throughout, and her resolution was perfect and subtle (the black hole that Keith falls into at the beginning becomes the black hole that a galaxy spirals arouns at the end).

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Paunchy Stratego (kenan), Monday, 9 January 2006 23:25 (thirteen years ago) link

i got given this for xmas!!

am too sleepy to post opinion now, beyond that i like it

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 15 January 2006 18:22 (thirteen years ago) link

does mark always talk like the incredible hulk when he comes to ILC?

Dan I. (Dan I.), Monday, 16 January 2006 11:34 (thirteen years ago) link

s stand for SMASH!

mark s (mark s), Monday, 16 January 2006 16:33 (thirteen years ago) link

i got this for two pounds today! for that price i am very extremely happy with it

tom west (thomp), Friday, 20 January 2006 02:40 (thirteen years ago) link

i got this for two pounds today!

!!! Where?

aldo_cowpat (aldo_cowpat), Friday, 20 January 2006 13:58 (thirteen years ago) link

a market stall in newcastle-under-lyme

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 21 January 2006 16:53 (thirteen years ago) link

i think everyone in this thread is right but douglas is the most right

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 21 January 2006 16:54 (thirteen years ago) link

I read that as moist.

aldo_cowpat (aldo_cowpat), Saturday, 21 January 2006 19:28 (thirteen years ago) link

that works too

they didn't have any other copies by the way

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 21 January 2006 20:57 (thirteen years ago) link

two years pass...

<a href="";>David Fincher</a>! (Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary?)

David R., Wednesday, 20 February 2008 23:52 (eleven years ago) link


David R., Wednesday, 20 February 2008 23:53 (eleven years ago) link

Man, I love this book. If Fincher takes a similar direction with the movie as he did with Zodiac, could be a very nice fit. OTOH, they will probably severely rework the structure of the book's plot to make it more cinematic, and it'll lose all the subtlety and depth of the linework, but... still, hopes are good.

Nhex, Thursday, 21 February 2008 00:58 (eleven years ago) link


You've gotten rusty in your absence.

R Baez, Thursday, 21 February 2008 22:14 (eleven years ago) link

No, I've always been rusty.

David R., Friday, 22 February 2008 03:01 (eleven years ago) link

I have high hopes and am happy to hear about this if only because it means Charles Burns is gonna get rich.

forksclovetofu, Friday, 22 February 2008 20:47 (eleven years ago) link

Dude, those OK Cola cans probably made him enough to buy at least a really nice hubcap.

David R., Wednesday, 27 February 2008 04:41 (eleven years ago) link

two months pass...

i adore this book.

^@^, Thursday, 1 May 2008 12:54 (eleven years ago) link

(Curious if anyone reading this thread hasn't read the book yet...)

Douglas, Thursday, 1 May 2008 16:21 (eleven years ago) link

I have it and keep meaning to get around to it. (Ditto Bone.)

Rock Hardy, Thursday, 1 May 2008 21:41 (eleven years ago) link

it's dialogue-light and you can read it in an afternoon.
maddening reading it as it came it out--slowly over the course of a decade.

sexyDancer, Thursday, 1 May 2008 21:56 (eleven years ago) link

In an afternoon? No way! But I don't know, personally I found it just so crawly, I had to take decent breaks between reads. Took me a couple of months to finish it.

Nhex, Friday, 2 May 2008 08:10 (eleven years ago) link

floating world comics in portland has them. you can also get it from directly from le dernier cri pretty easily (no outrageous international shipping fees) - my copy from them was about $30 with shipping.

rag photographique (ytth), Saturday, 4 December 2010 19:57 (eight years ago) link

i just came back from a brooklyn comics fair and i bought a signed copy of johnny 23 directly from burns for twenty bucks... and he threw in a piece of original pencil art from xed out for free! there's a brooklyn shop nearby (desert island i think?) that had copies for 25 bucks.
i talked to him a bit and he said that as far as he knew, no one had translated it yet. That he was waiting for it to happen. That it's a one-to-one letter translation so it's not impossible to do. That it's not the script from xed out but just random thoughts and pieces from burroughs' cut-ups BUT that because he had used a program that rendered the info on the screen as he was typing (rather than translating after the fact) he knew he would occasionally mistype so that it's likely that several errors in "spelling" made it into the book... so added degree of difficulty for accidents.
lots of good stories from this alt con by the way.

Lou Ferrigno (Hulken) (forksclovetofu), Saturday, 4 December 2010 23:19 (eight years ago) link

oh and when i asked him when i should expect the next installment he said "when i finish it"

Lou Ferrigno (Hulken) (forksclovetofu), Saturday, 4 December 2010 23:19 (eight years ago) link

he was real friendly and nice. super low key.
i saw lynda barry wander by and i yelled "i love you" at her and she said "Oh! I love you too!" so that was super awesome.

Lou Ferrigno (Hulken) (forksclovetofu), Saturday, 4 December 2010 23:20 (eight years ago) link

oh man, i wanted to go to the the brooklyn fest so bad, but i suffer from living on the opposite coast. i was going to ask someone to pick me up a signed copy of j23 and mail it to me, but i didn't.

rag photographique (ytth), Sunday, 5 December 2010 03:47 (eight years ago) link

it was a great time! i blew about 170 bucks in fast motion. such a neat collection of people and booths. Robin and i had a watercolor picture done by for a buck and it looks awesome.
These guys: blew my mind; had never heard of them and was astounded by the Harrison Cady book they had. Ones to watch.

Lou Ferrigno (Hulken) (forksclovetofu), Sunday, 5 December 2010 03:57 (eight years ago) link

Thanks for the info; I'm pretty much housebound for the next month so getting up to the city isn't really an option, but I've ordered a copy direct from the publisher. Unless someone beats me to it, I'll start work as soon as it comes in and try to get as much as possible figured out and posted online before the end of the month (both Johnny 23 and the "coded" dialog in X'd Out).

muus lääv? :D muus dut :( (Telephone thing), Tuesday, 7 December 2010 23:34 (eight years ago) link

It came! I haven't had a chance to give it a proper read (or "read," really, at this stage) yet, but it's a gorgeous book- it's all printed in this queasy off-purple mimeograph-looking ink, and my copy came with a little print/bookplate of Nitnit and Inky in nauseatingly hypersaturated red/green/purple. I hope to get started on it tonight.

muus lääv? :D muus dut :( (Telephone thing), Thursday, 16 December 2010 18:58 (eight years ago) link

thank god you're doing it and i don't have to.

I spilled, saucer-eyed, into the Tonetta fanclub underground. (forksclovetofu), Thursday, 16 December 2010 21:50 (eight years ago) link

four weeks pass...

I don't know if I should be admitting this level of obsession, but I did "translate" the alphabet (though not the whole book yet.) The part i have gone through so far is only marginally sensical...sort of like dream talk, it seems. For anyone who wants some hints, here is the translation of the first part:
(Code cracking spoiler alert!)
"Nothing good will come of this" "There will be tears" "Nothing can become of nothing" "all hearts will grow cold and weary"
Enjoy! (I got my copy at the Brooklyn Fest, had a brief chat with Charles Burns and got it signed, and then a couple of days ago my friend's dog chewed the corner of the book off! Sad, though he didn't chew through any content, which I appreciate.)

rafkelman, Friday, 14 January 2011 20:31 (eight years ago) link

Nice work, Rafkelman! Are you planning on doing the rest?

buildings with goats on the roof (James Morrison), Sunday, 16 January 2011 08:27 (eight years ago) link

can a mod change title to "Charles Burns (Black Hole, X'd Out, etc)"?

basically just a 2/47 freak out (sic), Sunday, 16 January 2011 09:19 (eight years ago) link

i did. It's .... good? art is perfect, format is great but it's SLLLOOOOOOWWWW getting going and I want five hundred pages not sixty five once every year for four years.


I did dig this tho.
Except I didn't realize it was part of a series until the v v end and was like, "How is this going to resolve itself?????"

Stop Non-Erotic Cabaret (Abbbottt), Thursday, 20 January 2011 23:24 (eight years ago) link

Now I want to get Johnny 23 thanks to this thread. You guys.

Stop Non-Erotic Cabaret (Abbbottt), Thursday, 20 January 2011 23:28 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

oh wow that looks like burns + hellstrom's hive!

anybody else love DEFECTIVE COMICS?

the late great, Sunday, 23 September 2012 03:47 (six years ago) link


the late great, Sunday, 23 September 2012 03:48 (six years ago) link

three weeks pass...

anyone else read The Hive yet? i liked it a lot. it was more coherent to me than X'ed Out, although i think that's just because the reappearances of certain visual elements make more sense (dream logic sense) the fifth, sixth, seventh times you notice them.

Z S, Sunday, 14 October 2012 20:20 (six years ago) link

i was ultimately let down by black hole ... it was a great set-up and very "real" and pitch-perfect for the setting and time, but i felt like it kind of petered out at the end rather than coming to a real climax, i think maybe he wanted to set up a kind of circular structure (seems like one of his things) and that's why it seemed that way to me

we should have a clowes vs burns t/s

the late great, Sunday, 14 October 2012 20:24 (six years ago) link

i've read black hole three times and i still can't keep any of the plot in my head, just images

a hauntingly unemployed american (difficult listening hour), Sunday, 14 October 2012 20:27 (six years ago) link

i felt similarly about the last few chapters of black hole. the jonny 23 stuff (x'ed out and the hive) seems like it's going to avoid that fate, though. in the first two entries in the series he's already shown us the beginning and the end of the protagonist's story, and has clearly hinted that something deeply fucked up happened in the middle, to be revealed in future entries. looking forward to finding out what happened!

Z S, Sunday, 14 October 2012 20:31 (six years ago) link

i think one weakness of black hole is that the female characters kind of blend together (not a problem w/ the dudes) both because they are drawn similar and because their personalities aren't as strongly sketched out as the dudes

i think burns would win a clowes vs burns t/s handily, what do you guys think?

the late great, Sunday, 14 October 2012 20:38 (six years ago) link

no way!

Number None, Sunday, 14 October 2012 20:42 (six years ago) link

hmmm ... maybe i should start that thread though i haven't read any clowes in a long time

clowes gets some points for coining SUNROOF!

the late great, Sunday, 14 October 2012 20:45 (six years ago) link

and obv "velvet glove cast in iron" is up there w/ the best of burns

the late great, Sunday, 14 October 2012 20:45 (six years ago) link

no way!

― Number None, Monday, 15 October 2012 07:42 (2 hours ago)

set the controls for the arse of your mum (sic), Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:36 (six years ago) link

never liked 'velvet glove' all that much - just seemed like 2nd-hand david lynchisms - but the rest of eightball (and esp ghost world) is soo much better than burns (who is an immaculate draughtsman but a fairly limited - or repetitive - writer, imho)

Ward Fowler, Monday, 15 October 2012 06:58 (six years ago) link

feel like there's a level of misanthropy in clowes that turns me off, burns seems like the gentler soul

the late great, Monday, 15 October 2012 07:09 (six years ago) link

fair enough, tho' i think that that one of the most...moving?...things abt clowes is the way he's trying to reconcile his misanthropy w/ real human feeling/compassion (you cld even say that's one of the themes of ghost world) - i guess i just identify more w/ that position!

Ward Fowler, Monday, 15 October 2012 08:02 (six years ago) link

plus Clowes is a billion times funnier

Number None, Monday, 15 October 2012 12:20 (six years ago) link

I've always been critical of Clowes because of his misanthropy (though in his better works, like Ghost World, it felt like he acknowledged how limiting such a worldview can be), so I was pleasantly suprised by the recent Mister Wonderful, where he finally seems to have gotten over it.

Tuomas, Monday, 15 October 2012 15:14 (six years ago) link

clowes IS much funnier, true

the late great, Monday, 15 October 2012 15:28 (six years ago) link

funniest thing burns ever did was use the Marvel Try Out Book for some of his layouts

Ward Fowler, Monday, 15 October 2012 15:39 (six years ago) link

have never quite understood why so many ppl seem to automatically object to any hint of 'misanthropy' in art -- obv there are tons of idiots who do it poorly but some of the greatest artists of all time (swift, voltaire, kubrick, bunuel, blah blah insert your favorites here) were pretty contemptuous of their fellow men in a way that makes clowes look like frank capra. that said i do agree that clowes has come a long way in terms of generosity and subtlety since his 'here is a list of things i hate' stories.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 15 October 2012 18:21 (six years ago) link

<3 capra


the late great, Monday, 15 October 2012 19:00 (six years ago) link

haha don't get me wrong i am the biggest frank capra stan ever, it was just first name that popped to mind.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 15 October 2012 19:50 (six years ago) link

So one thing about The Hive that's bothering me: I can't really place where the scenes with the iteration of Doug on the cover take place. He's gained a lot of weight (from the meds?) and his hair is longer, and the scenes he's in make it seem like he's no longer with Sarah, but I was under the impression that immediately post head-injury was the "present" of the story. Not that flash-forwards are off-limits, but it's a bit disorienting (more so than the rest of the book, I mean).

muus lääv? :D muus dut :( (Telephone thing), Sunday, 21 October 2012 22:39 (six years ago) link

one month passes...

man, this was so great. just sorta skimming past the burns vs clowes arguments upthread, right now i'd vote for burns over most anybody (it's cool, i haven't read building stories yet), just because of how singular he is; i don't know that clowes does anything that's so distinctive in terms of mood - that's the obvious thing to wheel out in praise of burns, & maybe my lack of attention to horror & suspense as genres means that it's just distinctive to me, but as period pieces & as a bildungsroman & in catching the weird, self-aware sadness of youth, love that keeps you awake, it's really uniquely rendered i think. i enjoyed it so much, anyway. there's a kind of alex katz quality to the images, too; so clean & fresh. it's so moving to see the interactions between the book's characters and the comics they read, because he observes both so well, & with different emphases. i sorta want the first row of this on my wall.

kristof-profiting-from-a-childs-illiteracy.html (schlump), Friday, 14 December 2012 07:05 (six years ago) link

one year passes...

hahaha yesssss

CAROUSEL! CAROUSEL! (Telephone thing), Friday, 3 January 2014 08:04 (five years ago) link

Clowes was funny for a couple years in the 90s. By contrast, Burns has several decades of really unique, quality work behind him.

Ayn Rand Akbar (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 3 January 2014 16:57 (five years ago) link

"clowes was funny for a couple years in the 90s" was the name of a subforum on the old comics journal message board, i think.

eh mec, elle est ou ma caisse? (ytth), Sunday, 5 January 2014 03:00 (five years ago) link

eight months pass...

this is out!

schlump, Saturday, 4 October 2014 17:27 (four years ago) link

this one is the end of the trilogy right?

Mordy, Saturday, 4 October 2014 18:21 (four years ago) link


Karl Malone, Saturday, 4 October 2014 18:24 (four years ago) link

psa: it rules

schlump, Saturday, 4 October 2014 21:32 (four years ago) link

eleven months pass...

this guy is a treasure

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 8 September 2015 16:58 (four years ago) link

just read X'ed Out and The Hive from the library, they don't have Sugar Skull in yet

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 8 September 2015 16:58 (four years ago) link

i highly recommend getting all three and reading it start-to-finish in one sitting.

eh mec, elle est ou ma caisse? (ytth), Friday, 11 September 2015 02:01 (four years ago) link

one year passes...

Just finished doing the above and, not to get too much into spoilers, I'm not sure how to feel about the conclusion. It seems to wrap things up neatly in a way I really didn't expect based on Black Hole and that doesn't ring entirely true with the setup of the first two volumes. I can appreciate it as a commentary on immature, self-obsessed indie comic heroes, but I don't know if that's enough of a payoff. Maybe there's more ambiguity intended but it def doesn't seem that way from the last few pages.

JoeStork, Tuesday, 3 January 2017 02:18 (two years ago) link

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