Stephen Powers (A/K/A ESPO) is one of New York City's great graffiti artists-- about six years ago, he went all city with a wonderful series of gates. Since then, we've seen less of him, but he occasionally does a beautiful burner down on a truck in SoHo. This week we've noticed him working on a huge piece on three sides of a truck at Wooster and Spring-- turns out it's an ad for his new graphic novel, First and Fifteenth. Trashotron has details:
Next out of the box is Steve Powers' 'First and Fifteenth: Pop Art Short Stories' (Villard Books / Random House ; November 1, 2005 ; $17.95). This is a square 10" x 10" collection of short stories told entirely by pop art images. Powers is a one-time graffiti artist who earned himself a six-count indictment and a glowing review in New York. Here, he turns to very strange sort of one act plays done as a series of pop-art posters, any one of which you might find hanging in a chichi art salon or, equally likely, plastered over plywood wedged into the empty spaces left by broken windows in a bad part of town.
You've got to hand it to Powers. He's come up with something very unique, a wildly weird form that allows him to get at ideas, at people, at characters, and at storytelling in a manner nobody else has done yet. Should you pick this book up in the store, you'll know immediately if it's for you. Powers is the Iggy Pop of graphic novels. He kind of hits you over the head with concrete, in this case, the concrete you might expect to find these images plastered upon. But he makes some very nice not-so-blunt points.
Witness the first story, where it looks like a heavy-handed superhero lampoon, at least until you get to the panels where the character's flaws are revealed. Then it ain't so funny. Powers adds a nice sting to his work, to take it beyond sloganeering and into another realm entirely. He's write to describe the works here as short stories, but they’re not like anything you've ever "read" before. And reading is not necessarily the best description of how you experience these works. 'First & Fifteenth' is a lot like an art museum exhibit -- with a plot.
Now if we could just get someone to publish a book by REVS!