Written and Illustrated by Various
Published by Z2 Comics
It’s hard to categorize The Illustrated Al.
Is it a song lyrics book? A story book? An art book?
There have, of course, been similar books, probably stemming from The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics and its often-surreal interpretations of Fab Four songs by artists of every ilk, including comics artists, and moving on through more recent books on the Ramones and Electric Frankenstein.
The difference with The Illustrated Al is that so many of Weird Al Yankovic’s song lyrics are themselves MAD magazine-style parodies and so the illustrators generally add an extra layer of same on top.
As with any music-related book, The Illustrated Al is at its best when you accompany it with Weird Al’s songs, many of which can be found online or in various music platforms for those without a collection.
Make yourself a playlist and jump right in.
One observation, seeing the lyrics interpreted by the large and diverse mix of artists here, is just how violent some of the songs could get. Not sure if that says anything about Al, the original concepts and songs he’s digging at, or the psyches of the artists involved. No idea. It does make some sections seem more like underground comix than Mad lampoons.
And what a group of artists!
The MAD connection comes right up front with Sam Viviano’s portrait of Foreword author Emo Phillips. After that, there are quite a few illustrators new to me but all are quite impressive. A few names I know quite well and was glad to spot here: Drew Friedman, Bob Fingerman, Mike Kupperman, Hilary Barta, Bill Plympton, Peter Bagge, Rick Parker, Mike and Laura Allred, and Robert Sikoryak.
As with any anthology, some sections/stories work better than others and your mileage may certainly vary but even my least favorites here are interesting. They’re all colorful, whimsical, experimental, and in the end, just as goofy and satirical as Weird Al himself.