(click to headline to go to Mark Alan Stamaty's website)
Maybe it's because I'm an inveterate doodler at heart and a failed Jimmy Hatlo, but I've been a fan of Mark Alan Stamaty since I first beheld his intensely detailed work in the Village Voice back in the 1970s. I've followed him through his Washingtoons, the New Yorker and his spate of children's books. But I haven't really appreciated him or considered his work seriously until some shed time with my pal Casey who is also a fan of the Stam and actually knows him.
Casey gave me this book SHAKE, RATTLE, AND TURN THAT NOISE DOWN! HOW ELVIS SHOOK UP MUSIC, ME, AND MOM (Knopf Books For Young Readers) in which Mark Alan Stamaty reveals all - his childhood obsessions with Elvis, the transistor radio, and teen culture, as filtered through the eyes of a Greek-Jewish kid growing up in New York.
The story line is engaging, even if you don't feel the same way Mark does about the Big E. But what grabs the eye is the artwork. Call the cat a cartoonist if you must. I tend to see him more as a (ahem) visionary artist, aka an intuitive artist. His extreme sense of detail may strike some as obsessive (the lettering is one tip-off) and was once associated with "folk art." Indeed, he shares many of the same artistic qualities as Howard Finster in his rendering of human portraits, minus the het-up religious fervor of the late Mr. Finster, a Born-Again if there ever was one, but plus a true passion for the people he draws, especially his gallery of music heroes (James Brown! Jackie Wilson! Fats! Little Richard! Buddy Holly!).
Bottom line, no one - not even Crumb - can tell a good first-person story through drawing like Mark Alan Stamaty does, and Elvis once again serves as a great vehicle through which a great American story can be told, although I'm more enraptured by the renderings of other icons such as Davy Crockett, Roy Rogers and Gabby Hays on the television, the radio, a turntable, and dancers.