These five books contain a mixed bag of alternative cartoons for readers who can't face the prospect of yet another "Garfield" collection:
Roz Chast's minimalist ink-and-watercolor drawings tell weird little stories, including an adaptation of Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain" for ballpoint pens and "A Parakeet's First View of the Universe," in which a budgie flies out an apartment window--and beyond the Milky Way.
In a similarly outre vein, Bill Griffith presents the latest adventures of his so-out-of-it-he's-hip hero, Zippy the Pinhead. Zippy's tongue-in-cheek embrace of the excesses of American popular culture can be read on several levels, and was obviously an influence on David Byrne's "True Stories."
The urban world of Lee Lorenz's very funny New Yorker cartoons is slightly less skewed than Griffith's, but only slightly: A street-corner hot dog vendor, frowsily rendered in gray ink wash, asks his customer, "Is that with or without goat cheese?"
Gerard Donelan's strong contour drawings simultaneously depict and satirize the special foibles of the urban gay milieu: A badly shaken young man awakens from a nightmare of Bloomingdale's holding a half-price sale--when his credit was no good.
"Read Yourself Raw" showcased the Punk/Post-Modern graphics of the early '80s. Joost Swarte's elegant, neo-'30s cartoons and Kaz's bold line drawings retain their strength, but many of the artists used the magazine's avant-garde aesthetic as an excuse for sloppy drawing and/or storytelling. Mark Beyer's crude figures already look passe, and Joe Schwind's photo collages cast the reader hopelessly adrift in the stream of consciousness.