Now You’re Logging by Bus Griffiths follows the life and times of two loggers during the dirty 30’s. As a former logger and artist, Griffiths wanted to capture the inside story of the industry. What better way to do that than with words and pictures?! With an introduction written by Canadian author, Jack Hodgins, in 1990 is a nice piece of comic text since he points out the term ‘comic book’ is “misleading, though because there is no question that Bus Griffiths wants this book taken seriously. This is a special and innovative type of history.” Hodgins relents after that pointing out that no matter what the book is called, people are reading it far and wide.
Undoubtedly this text is rather priceless in its combination of first hand accounts, drawing, history vocabulary and logging techniques. The comic is quite dense both in panel layouts and drawing. Thin black lines with charcoal pencil almost choke the panels. Griffiths obviously knew how the whole operation worked but never once pulled back to give you a sense of overall purpose or how each part of a logging job worked together toward the end product. He does, however, provide a lot of footnotes that clue the reader into the lingo and terms used by the loggers.
Griffiths is an excellent cartoonist and draftsman but the men start to look the same, they are all so illustrative that they have no distinct features, they are almost androgynous! That might have been an unconscious decision on Griffiths’ part, the men are all part of a great group that works to clear the forest. Part of me cannot help but think of Tom of Finland while reading this as well. Thank goodness though, the main character Al tends to wear a small jaunty hat for most of the book.
The characters are pulled from Griffiths’ experience out in the logging world and abso-damn-lutely are larger than life. While they are all huge, muscle bound men with the hearts of lions and voices of bears. In particular, one logger sits on top of a cut or ‘topped’ tree and spouts, “When you’re up here you’re on your own – you don’t have to look out for a bunch of other bastards” and then leaps down the side of the tree!
The story aspect of the book, not just the learning portion, hits a sweet spot as a female interest is introduced as well as her father. The father figure reminisces about his days as a logger, beautifully placing the industry in context with history. Non-fiction or educational comics have an important place in the world given that they act as a bridge betwixt the art work and pure academia. I wonder how Bus Griffiths would have reacted if he had read Larry Gonick’s Guides to (ANYTHING) U.S. History, Non-Communication, etc. or the Stuff of Life (an excellent comic about genetics). Would their fact framing and open layouts breaking that grid have made an impact on him?
Cartoonists, historians and fans alike have used this text for inspiration. CCS founder and cartoonist, James Sturm, bonded with cartoonist Seth over the book. Whenever one is working really hard on a comic, the other one chime in, “Now you’re logging!” Luckily, this 1978 book was reprinted back in 1990 but costs a pretty penny ($70-90). Hopefully, it will be reprinted soon. Look for it at your local library instead of online.
-Jen Vaughn (in memory of the Bus Griffiths)