Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Johnny 23 by Charles Burns

I'm really excited to have finally tracked down a copy of this: Charles Burns's rare "bootleg" version of X'ed Out, Johnny 23, published by French publishers Le Dernier Cri.

Readers of the blog may already know that I'm a big fan of Charles Burns, so Johnny 23 is a really special find for me. Johnny 23 is actually a black and white paperback reprint of last fall's Tintin-themed nightmare X'ed Out, but get this: Johnny 23 is translated entirely into an alien cipher. Yeah. Seriously. Every letter has a corresponding symbol, and the book actually can be translated back into something very close to the text of X'ed Out.

What's especially exciting about this is that Johnny 23 is an entirely new reading experience. I know from a talk that Burns gave that he grew up reading Tintin comics in their original French without knowing the language--he explained how formative this strange experience of reading an unknown language was and how much it affected his imagination and his ability to conceive a story. Johnny 23 recreates those feelings pretty faithfully, and is a very different thing from X'ed Out despite being the "same" book.

Here's a look of two frames, one from each book. I love that despite the translations and ciphering, the hooded foreigner still maintains his mysterious language:

Currently reading:
Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

Currently listening to:
Grinderman, "Evil"


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  2. Thanks for the heads-up. Have you covered the Permagel book by Burns? It's my favorite printing of his art. The Crumb portrait alone is worth the search for the book.


  3. Permagel is an absolute beaut! Wish Buenaventura was still publishing like he/they used to. I haven't featured Permagel directly on the blog but included it here: