So here's the pull-quote part of this whole review: In a year that's really been full of some pretty amazing books so far, Paul Pope's PULPHOPE is not only the most impressive release to date, but a book that everyone who has an interest in creativity owes it to themselves to read. And here's the most amazing part about that statement: I mean it completely.
(For a second's digression, this year really has been pretty damn good for graphic novels, hasn't it? This past month alone, I've read three that I really have to get around to writing about purely because I loved them so much: Robot Dreams and Laika, both from First Second, and Clubbing from the pretty-impressive-even-if-no-one-else-seems-to-be-saying-so Minx imprint over at DC. Add to that things like The Homeless Channel or Garage Band, and it really seems like a pretty good year, all things considered.)
I picked up Pulphope partially because I was at SDCC and felt as if I could get away with spending $29.95 on something I was only randomly curious about ahead of time - I'm cheap, what do you want? I wasn't the biggest Pope fan ahead of time, I have to admit; I'd thought that he was an interesting visual stylist, but didn't really have much of an opinion beyond that. What I got for my money was a book that owes a lot in terms of design to people like Tomato and Julian House (As a particular and somewhat random example, anyone remember House's designs for the Primal Scream single "Miss Lucifer"? It's like that, kind of), filled with not only some beautiful - and warning, kids, some potentially pornographic depending on where you draw your particular lines - images that come so close to visual overload but never go overwhelm. It's stunning to look at, from its abstract (logoless, wonderfully) cover - reminiscent of Pollock but cleaner, a shiny pop version - onwards, but that's not where its real value for me was.
Y'see, this book has essays by Pope. They're similar in style if not content to his posts on his blog, which are insightful and distractedly conversational, but his writing here is more focused in intent - each essay deals with Pope's creativity, whether it's particular influences, his past, where he sees his work and himself in context with contemporaries and history - and kind of inspirational, to be honest; you can't help but feel the passion Pope feels not only for his own work but for the creative impulse in general. It's wonderful writing, even if you have absolutely no interested in Pope's art and design (which, by the way, would mean that you have no taste after the 228 pages of awesome herein), and essential, compulsory, reading for creative people of all stripes. You might not agree with what he writes, you may not even like what he writes, but you'll end up inspired by it nonetheless.
Pulphope is a book that engages you emotionally and intellectually; it's something that doesn't fail to impress on a visual and visceral level, and - if you're anything like me - will get things bouncing around in your head for days afterwards. I've been talking about it to people for days after reading it, and continually going back into it and discovering new things to think about and admire. Really, it's that good. It's downright Excellent.