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Comic Books Quantified

Caped Crusaders are Put Under the Microscope in a New Book of Superhero Infographics

Superhero narratives are renowned for their complicated histories: costumes change, sidekicks shuffle off into the distance, villains die, get resurrected, then die again. It’s a problem that Tim Leong, the man behind new book Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe, is familiar with. “The sheer volume of that history can be overwhelming,” he says. “Where do you start? There are back stories, obscure characters, interweaving plot lines—it's all great stuff that’s begging to be distilled into a more understandable package.” Including an exhaustive number of graphs and charts relating to multiple strands of comic book history, Leong’s collection of data art deliberates over the relative earnings of your favorite masked vigilantes—Batman’s Bruce Wayne is richer than Iron Man’s Tony Stark—and spells out the liberal, conservative, authoritarian and libertarian political persuasions of these fictional heroes and villains. Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Comic Foundry and Director of Digital Design at Wired before assuming his current role as Design Director at Fortune, Leong has been a comic book fan for most of his life. “I was attracted to comics as they contained these huge worlds that were fun to read; it was total escapism,” he says of the roots of his passion. “It felt like a big, reassuring hug because you were instantly part of this bigger community of like-minded people.”
 
Super Graphic, A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe by Tim Leong is published September 1 by Chronicle Books.

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    Andy Hope 1930: Studio Visit

    The Berlin-Based Artist Reveals His Favorite Comic Book Heroes

    The superheroes, aliens and robot cowboy killers populating the studio of German artist Andy Hope 1930 are documented by photographer Axel Hoedt. Famed for a thrift store aesthetic that blends subjects drawn from the golden age of comic books in the 1930s (hence his pseudonym) with a Russian suprematist painting style, Andy Hope 1930 had his first encounter with comics as a child, when a friend of his mother gave him American serials like Superman and Batman. “I couldn't read them back then, but I was immediately attracted to the images, especially to the movements of the figures, the distorted perspectives and the speed they evoked,” he explains. The artist’s current show at Hauser & Wirth in London, Medley Tour London by Andy Hope 1930, sees Batman, Beavis and Butt-Head, and the Watchmen’s Rorschach rub shoulders with the likes of Paul Klee, Francis Picabia and Kazimir Malevich. Taken from his X-Medleys series, the works echo familiar refrains from his earlier output and show a close connection between early 20th century avant-garde artists and cartoon superheroes. “It’s a nice vision to put Russian constructivism and the figure of a superhero in a mixer and see what happens,” he says. Here the painter details his favorite superheroes and villains.

    Batman
    , later also known as the Dark Knight. I like the ambivalence of this character, his secret identity. He is both brooding and a champion of justice. My sign system is not based on the coordinates of good or evil or similar moralistic categories. I am looking for other traces and adventures. The caped crusader in X-Medleys is no longer a figure. He has no characteristics, virtues, vices or life. It’s a pure sign.

    Wonder Woman, a superheroine who represents for me the strongest superhero teams like Justice Society (from 1941) and Justice League (from 1960), with all its historical and political implications. Wonder Woman is also considered a feminist icon.

    Mister Mxyzptlk, a malicious trickster. His godlike power can only be stopped by tricking him into saying or spelling his own name backwards. In mythology, the trickster figure frequently exhibits gender and form variability, changing gender roles. 

    Doctor Strange, his mystic arts were a strong influence on me; the graphical inventions of [comic book artist] Steve Ditko gave this character his incredible dynamic.

    Spider-Woman, because of her outfit and appearance. In a way she is the Marvel version of DC’s Wonder Woman.

    Medley Tour London by Andy Hope 1930 is at Hauser & Wirth, Saville Row until May 26.

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  • MOST SHARED IN FASHION
    MOST SHARED IN FASHION

    Hans Feurer: Exotic Eye

    A New Monograph Celebrates the Sensual Fashion Photographer’s Singular Vision

    Supermodel Iman is obscured by an explosion of colorful fabric and slick-skinned glamazons pose on Togo beach in Hans Feurer’s tantalizing images. This fall, the Swiss-born photographer’s oeuvre is brought together for the first time in a new monograph published by Damiani: the eponymous tome features collaborations with Emmanuelle Alt, Grace Coddington and his one-time assistant Patrick Demarchelier. Inspired by a two-year road trip across Africa in the mid-60s, Feurer took to fashion photography and became a regular in Elle, Vogue and, later, i-D, while also creating era-defining campaigns for Kenzo. The self-proclaimed “observer” rarely retouches his images, and instead plays with texture, motion and shadow. “The figures in Feurer’s dreamlike images are feminine: strong women, natural beauties, women in war paint, women in motion, women without makeup, women without clothes, women in veils, women on horseback,” writes New York-based curator Gianni Jetzer in the foreword to the book. “Feurer describes himself as a feminist who has the utmost respect for female intelligence. He thinks that our planet would be in better hands, if it were run by women.”

    Hans Feurer is published by Damiani this September. A selection of photographs will be exhibited at Colette from September 2 to October 5.

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