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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/19/2004 Archived Entry: "Comic review: Silly Daddy by Joe Chiappetta"

Silly Daddy
Publisher: Reed Press

Review by William Wentworth-Sheilds

Joe Chiappetta's Silly Daddy collection is a funny, manically inventive, often very, very harrowing series of autobiographical vignettes. He focuses a great deal on his daughter, Maria; the animating force that connects many of the stories is his desire to be a good, worthy father, and to live his life in an ethical, moral way, in order to create a better world for her.

His imagination is boundless; while the drawings are sometimes crude, the sense of invention present is razor sharp, as is the emotional anguish and depth of feeling. Chiappetta unsparingly depicts how his temper caused him to strike Maria, and the overwhelming shame he felt as a result. The dissolution of his first marriage, his anguish at feeling his daughter growing closer to her mother, and pulling away from him, and his conversion to Christianity are all portrayed with unsparing emotion.

There's no sense of performance here, no artifice. In collected form, the Silly Daddy comics tell a larger story; it does coher, but not into an easily summarized homily with a clear meaning. The whimsical title, and Chiappetta's genuinely funny, heartfelt voice hint at a happy resolution, but once you're actually reading the stories, and following his life over the last thirteen years in comic book form, that safety dissapates.

Whatever incredible amount of work went into creating the Silly Daddy comic books, they don't feel like translations from a interior monologue, or something carefully arranged in order to impart a simple punchline, or insight. They feel like Chiappetta opened a vein, and dipped his brush. This doesn't mean the final product is some kind of primal rant, the very opposite is the case, actually. For example, when he shows the conversation that lead to his first wife deciding to divorce him, the moment of decision takes place in a large panel, a wide angle on the room they are sitting in, from a three-quarters view. Trailing away from his wife's head as she says "Let's get divorced," are a series of faces, showing the range of emotions playing across her face as she makes her choice.

Most of the orignal comic books that are collected in Silly Daddy are out of print, but you can find issues #20, #21, and #22: Weapons Not of this World at his website, as well as Jesus the Radical, and Son of God. I did mention his conversion to Christianity, right? Issue #20 wasn't available for review, but #21 is filled with poetry, including a really funny page of "Chicago Proverbs." My particular favorite: As the 'Loop' is really a rectangle,/so the Bears are merely men. Issue #22 is an illustrated essay touching on many of the events in the larger collection; and expands on some of them. It lacks the visceral immediacy of the collected book, which is no bad thing. If Chiappetta didn't vary his emotional pitch, he wouldn't be working at a job where he helps people with mental disabilities, he'd be on the receiving end of such help.

Replies: 1 Comment

You hit it right on the head with this review. Dave Sim also described my work as "crude" recently. I used to take offense at this, wrongly thinking that everything I did was a masterpiece. But now I actually understand the "crude" label as descriptive, rather than a put-down, and I think that's cool.

Posted by Joe Chiappetta @ 10/25/2004 07:57 AM PST

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