I just received DB Dowd’s new publication, Spartan Holiday. He calls is a zine; it’s also got the flavour of a short graphic novel, but with more typesetting. Still, it appears to be the first installment of a serial story, like a good old fashioned comic book. If it weren’t printed I’d call it a species of artist’s book. Yet it’s more than that, on account of the text’s serious contribution to current academic discourses in globalization and print culture - and eye-candy. It’s really a verbal-visual response to transnational visual culture by somebody who identifies as an illustrator and who has moved into the study of visual communication itself, and its history.
In this premiere issue Dowd is motivated by the question (one among many), “Were there illustrated newspapers in China? In Japan?”
He means circa 1900, when print media reached its peak in North America, an event that changed everything in the world. Dowd presents what he encountered on a recent trip to Shanghai to find out. His findings to the history question intermingle with his contemporary experience of the city’s east-west mashups of architecture, signage, and popular entertainment. This juicy little number is full of intellectually and visually engaging content and represents an important step forward for Dowd, who has been advancing critical thought in illustration for several years.