Tomi Ungerer’s Books, for Adults, to Be Rereleased

Four books by the widely celebrated artist and writer Tomi Ungerer, who died this month, will be rereleased this fall, in a revival of his oeuvre for adults.

Fantagraphics Books, a Seattle-based imprint that specializes in comics and graphic novels, will republish Ungerer’s “The Underground Sketchbook,” “The Party,” “Babylon” and “Adam and Eve,” beginning in the fall.

Ungerer was perhaps best known, especially in the United States, for his children’s books. He created the “Mellops” series, about a family of pigs and their misadventures, which included spelunking, striking oil and diving for treasure. He also wrote and illustrated the classic children’s book, “Crictor,” about a boa constrictor who manages to become a local hero.

[Read his New York Times obituary here.]

But Ungerer also worked in decidedly adult realms: he made antiwar posters during the Vietnam War, and in 1969 published “Fornicon,” a series of comical but erotic drawings that shocked the public and was removed from libraries. In 2015, some of this work was displayed at the Drawing Center in a survey, but much of it is out of print in the United States.

Gary Groth, the publisher of Fantagraphics Books, interviewed Ungerer last year for an issue of “Comics Journal” and was surprised by how difficult it was to find Ungerer’s books. “Most of his books weren’t available in the States anymore, which was a terrible shame,” Groth said in an interview on Tuesday. “I wanted to reintroduce the American public to his work, especially his satirical works.”

The four books will be released over the course of about 18 months, beginning with “The Underground Sketchbook” in October. That book, first published in 1964, is an exploration of Mr. Ungerer’s subconscious and worldview. When it was first published, The New York Times described it as “modishly macabre.” Groth said that its dark humor and visual puns “really did influence a generation of comics.”

Groth said that he is in awe not only of Ungerer’s drawing skill, but to his “conceptual skill, which was clever and ingenious and wildly outrageous.” Groth described his worldview as “nihilistic with a leavening degree of humor and pathos.”

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