Sunday, March 17, 2013

They Mysterious Bob Callahan

          I had a surprisingly difficult time finding information about Bob Callahan. I found some very basic background information in the Contemporary Authors database from Gale Literary Databases. It states that his full name was Robert Owen Callahan and he was born on April 23, 1942 in Easton, MD. The database was last updated in 2002, and I found some blog eulogies stating that Callahan passed away in 2008. It also states that he was a National Endowment for the Arts fellow in 1978; however, I was not able to verify that information in any other source. A blog obituary stated that he was a prose and poetry writer in the 1970s and 80s in the Bay Area and was the co-founder of the Turtle Island Foundation and the Before Columbus Foundation. I was able to find a review of The New Comics Anthology from Publisher’s Weekly which stated he was a former book columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.
            Callahan has several writing credits including Hit Comics, Neon Lit: Barry Gifford’s Perdita Durango, The New Comics Anthology and The New Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Stories: From Crumb to Clowes. He was also a predominant editor including, City of Glass, The Graphic Novel, Gli Squali, Krazy Kat: Drazy & Ignatz, Neon Lit: Paul Auster’s City of Glass, The New Comics Anthology, and The New Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Stories: From Crumb to Clowes.
            As I was searching for more information, I found information in the Alternative Press Index from EBSCO databases. The article was titled “Dark comix: on the steamier side of the strip”. In this article, Callahan discusses how comics as narrative have always been used as political satire since ancient Egypt. He uses the example of Art Spiegelman’s Maus as the quintessential use of factual story telling in popular culture. He ends the article by stating,

“The tone is dark, terribly dark, because that is the term of our own contemporary unease. Noir is everywhere. In the new graphic journalism of Sue Coe and Joe Sacco, and Willem at Liberation magazine in Paris; in the serial comics work of Daniel Clowes, Julie Doucet, Charles Burns, and Adrian Tomine; and in the ongoing graphic novels being generated, particularly by European artist/authors such as Munoz and Sampayo, and France's Tardi, Louseal, and Baru; indeed, even in the film work of Terry Gilliam, Terry Swigoff, and France's Jeunet and Caro, we find an actual art movement--a picture literature uniquely able to address multimedia challenges.” (Callahan, p.30)

These people and art styles accurately sum up Callahan’s views on the ability of art to create, and challenge, politics.  

Callahan, B. (1998). Dark comix: on the seamier side of the strip. Whole Earth, 92(Spring), 24–30.

Nonfiction Review: The New Comics Anthology by Bob Callahan, Editor  First Glance Books $19.95 (287p) ISBN 978-0-02-009361-9. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2013, from

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