Earthworm Jim: Black & White HC – Doug TenNapel

4 out of 5

I paid for it of my own volition, and creator Doug TenNapel is pretty open in his intro essay: that the following written contents are his unabashed views on things. So I can’t really criticize the creator for expressing his polarizing personal politics later on, though what is scary – further fuel for fright in a world of Trumps – is how he’s able to twist his bigotry into something very logical sounding; rhetoric that, applied in certain ways, is good advice! He doesn’t directly come out and say some things, rather taking the “true believers are always persecuted” stance, and when he drops examples like Martin Luther King, and talks about self-expression – creatively, but also sidelines it into “speak your truth on Twitter” jabs – it can, again, be inspiring; it sounds good. 

Again, consider that when you hear any rousing speech. What do you know of the speaker? How might they be applying their words in their own life? 

That doesn’t have to change whatever you take from the message, but is nonetheless a lesson in, y’know, critical thinking, which maybe never hurts. 

But anyhow: Black & White is all extra: black and white art from the first two EWJ books, leather bound, with 13 essays summarizing, from Doug’s point of view, how important black and white is in art, and then evolving that into a POV on life. You’re not missing anything in the EWJ story by skipping this, so, again, that it’s in part a platform for Doug’s politics isn’t my main criticism, rather just that the focus of the essays, by dint of being steered toward self justifications, wander. 

Doug is intelligent, well-written, and very funny. The opening handful of essays (periodically inserted between pages of dialogueless b&w art pages – what look like final inks before colors) entertainingly and interestingly weave through art history and philosophy and Doug’s own history to explain why black and white art is so necessary; is the “truth” of the picture. 

Again, though, we start to wander so that this can be applied more generally, and in so doing, the essays become less interesting. There are two whole entries which are a fictional origin for EWJ (he’s real, and threatening Doug to write his story), which is sincerely quite hilarious but… not on topic. 

However, given the gorgeous production quality of this book, with its solid leather binding, gorgeous embossed cover, awesome endpages, and satisfying design throughout – not to mention the Doug’s untouched black and white art is amazing to see, with the two books separates by pages from other projects (including some unpublished stuff!) – essays aside, this is just a beautiful coffee table artbook. 

I still struggle with that – paying money to someone with whom I absolutely do not align, politically, when that take does occasionally filter into their work… but that’s my own struggle. However you handle that is your business. Strictly from a quality and content perspective then, EWJ: B&W’s essays are a little murky, but the art itself and production is top-notch.