I've always thought comics never get the recognition they deserve. They are either looked down on as being less than the plain written word, as if the inclusion of pictures somehow reduces their value, or they are elevated beyond their worth by those too embarrassed to admit that they enjoy them just for the pleasure they bring. The next time I have to listen to someone talking about the deep psychological and social significance of The X-Men or whichever comic they obsess over, I'll probably gag. Why is it so difficult to admit that you can enjoy comics just for the sake of enjoying a comic?
The majority of comics that you buy either in book form or read in your daily newspaper are simple escapist fun. Whether it's the gentle humour of Charles Schutz's Peanuts gang or the fantasy world of some superhero, the pleasure derived from most comics is immediate and transitory. This is especially true of the daily strips in the paper. You start in the first panel, and two or three panels later you're left with a smile on your face or some other similar feeling of contentment. Even the political strips, like Doonesbury or Minimum Security, work along the same basic premise, although they do have more to do with reality than most.
Of course, that doesn't mean that all comic strips are created equal or that there aren't some cartoonists whose work takes the medium into places where very few others dare to go. Unfortunately, you're not likely to find their work nestled in among the daily funnies offered by your local newspaper, as it isn't what most people would want to quickly scan during their morning commute to work. Occasionally, one or two of them will make there way into the pages of some speciality magazines, but most of the time you need to wait for a compilation of their work to appear as a book in order to experience them.
At least, that was the case for me when it came to Peter Blegved and his creation Leviathan, as I was unfamiliar with it until reading it between the covers of The Book Of Leviathan. Mr. Blegved is a man of many talents, as can be seen by a visit to Amateur Enterprises where some of his other work has been collected. A musician in bands such as Henry Cow and Slapp Happy in the seventies and eighties, he started drawing Leviathan in 1992, and it appeared in the British newspaper Independent on Sundays through to 1998. Now The Overlook Press has gathered together those Sunday oddities into the above book and will be unleashing it unto an unsuspecting public on July 29th, 2008.