The Daily Heller: No Sense Makes Sense

Posted inThe Daily Heller

More than a maven, Glenn Bray is a brazen collector of comics and culturally off-the-wall things. He is among a pack—if not the most prolific hoarder and chronicler—of what norm-society refers to as “disruptive.” This includes any once-and-or-forever-unsavory cache of folded and gathered pages that individually or en masse breaks or has broken accepted conventions and mores. Among Bray’s favorites is genius work by Harvey Kurtzman and Basil Wolverton, paintings and drawings by comic pioneers such as George Herriman, and funky-funk from early to contemporary sources.

His library is an immense and enviable wellspring, a demimonde of objects by murky creators who for decades have gnawed away at the inner organs of polite society. During COVID, Bray was locked in quarantine with gazillions of books, newspapers, troves and troughs of various off-kilter treasures, which he decided to start scanning one at a time until he had what amounts to a Los Angeles Bibliotheque Nationale of yellowing vintage classics and Jurassics.

Published in a limited to 500 copy run, Library is a “dump” of preserved and pickled commercial matter, much unusual and rare, others depending on one’s collecting and archiving tastes and interests, very familiar. Library will be perceived by some as being stuck in Bray’s labyrinth, exit blocked—no way out—reminiscent of that memorable eyes-wide-open torture scene in A Clockwork Orange. If that’s too exaggerated of an analogy, it’s a fact that the book is nothing less than an assault on the senses. And—we get to read Bray talk about his intent and motive below.

For copies, write him here.

Library stacks up there among the thickest and heaviest books of published ephemera I’ve ever tried to lift. What was your reason for doing this book?
The COVID pandemic is to blame! Early in 2020, we were basically told to be in lockdown, save for a needed grocery store pickup.

I was sitting here, and I looked upstairs to my library and thought that I should scan some of my favorite covers, just to have on digital file. I was in touch with friend Frank Young (co-editor of the first Fantagraphics book on Art Young) and he had done some print-on-demand books. He knew how to make page-files that the printing house would use. COVID also brought his income down, so I hired him to help me group the pages. I asked him when I started working on the book how many pages we could do. I recall him emailing, “I think their limit is 800 pages.” So off I went, setting that as my limit. The more I scanned, the more I saw relations between certain covers or topics. These are all real books (save for two, which will remain nameless) from my personal library. Sixty years of collecting. The result took the better part of two years, with maybe six months in the middle [to shut] down and rest my brain in order to get a fresh look.

After 50 or so back-and-forth versions of the book, I stopped and asked Frank to find out the pricing of the 800-page book.

He came back and told me that the limit is actually around 600. So at that point, I just shared a PDF file of the book with several people, and Blue Trimarchi at Artworks publishing became interested. Scott Dunbier put us in touch with ZOOP, who crowdfunded the thing.

Good saga, that. What are your sources for what turned into a large selection of rarities
My upstairs library …

Did you start with a planned theme and then go hog-wild?
It was gradual. It became like the game of whack-a-mole, where one image would work with or against another, but another worked better. Edit, edit, edit. Stop. Rest. Then more editing. I can look at the printed book and feel like I did my best job.

Did you empty out every nook and cranny in your airplane hangar?
There are many book and comics covers I didn’t use, just because they didn’t fit any of the “theme” layouts. I would guess that this [volume] may represent a third of my hoardings.

Was there ultimately a rationale for your juxtapositions?
“No Sense Makes Sense.”