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Silly Daddy Reviews

Silly Daddy Comics Avatar by Joe Chiappetta
Reviews of Silly Daddy comics and other Joe Chiappetta works, all in one place.

Gerry Alanguilan reviews Silly Daddy 6/2007

I've been aware of Joe Chiappetta's work for many years now... The title "Silly Daddy" is perfect fit for what the strip is all about. It's definitely silly at times, maybe corny at times, but all in a good way. When I'm feeling really bummed, like I tend to be once in a while, Joe's comic is one of those I'll definitely turn to for some fun and cheering up. The humor is innocent and real and there are moments that are genuinely touching.

The quiet and domestic silliness is complemented perfectly by Joe's cartoony art which resembles really well done children's drawings. Perfect examples of this would be "Silly Daddy Reloaded" and "It's Date Night". The innocence and beauty that one can get from such artwork can be quite satisfying and comforting.

It's interesting to see Joe experiment with his art with each strip, alternating different art tools from the traditional to the technological. You don't quite know what to expect next.

Copacetic Comics Company (Pittsburgh) reviews Silly Daddy, 2005
A comics memoir, Silly Daddy (2004 graphic novel) finally collects in one volume the scattered and strewn efforts that Chiappetta has been self-publishing for over a decade under the same title. Chiappetta's work is fairly unique in its combination of fantasy and realism (the only work that compares in this respect is that of Julie Doucet, but her work is otherwise very different). It is also unique in its focus on fatherhood as a constant concern as well as a central theme. Occupying artistic territory somewhere between Harvey Pekar's American Splendor and James Kochalka's Sketchbook Diaries, Joe Chiapetta's Silly Daddy will finally have a chance to reach the wider audience it deserves with this 256 page volume.

Order the Silly Daddy 2004 graphic novel

Chris Yambar Reviews Silly Daddy, 2/10/2005

Joe C is the genuine item 100 percent! Unlike most indi-creators
who are linked exclusively to the comics medium, Joe is an artist in
the most traditional definition. I own a few of his paintings in my
estate collection which I treasure & nbsp; (especially the one of his
daughter dancing joyfully). He's a two-fisted creator that is gifted
in numerous areas and he's always great to be around. The best thing
about Joe and his work is that it is 'out of the norm box'. My cup of
tea! I haven't seen Joe on the convention trail much in the past few
years but I think of him often and look forward to bumping into him
again sometime soon. He's my kind of people and has my continual love
and respect!!!

George Macas Jr. Reviews Silly Daddy, 2/5/2005

For what it's worth, I met Joe Chiappetta [only months after his conversion] at Wizardworld Chicago, at least 5 years ago - he was shining with the glory Moses had coming down from the mountain - seen him a few times in the last year - shine MAY be less intense, but a solid glow has continued - read most of the XERIC winning Silly Daddy comics - reread them in the graphic novel that I bought from him this last summer at WW chgo - just as self-brutal and "out there" as I remember - the end [his coming to Christ] seems ALMOST anti-climactic in the wake of the previous issues - then you realize the same intensity Joe carries into all his earlier "adventures" is still there - it just "took a turn for the better".
I'd HIGHLY recommend both the man and the book for hard-core indy fans/fanatics - he writes how he lives, and he lives how he writes, and both are focused on the witness of the gospel.

William Wentworth-Sheilds Review 8/19/2004

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society Authors and Editors News and Reviews

"Silly Daddy by Joe Chiappetta"

Joe Chiappetta's Silly Daddy collection is a funny, manically inventive, often very, very harrowing series of autobiographical vignettes. He focuses a great deal on his daughter, Maria; the animating force that connects many of the stories is his desire to be a good, worthy father, and to live his life in an ethical, moral way, in order to create a better world for her.

His imagination is boundless; while the drawings are sometimes crude, the sense of invention present is razor sharp, as is the emotional anguish and depth of feeling. Chiappetta unsparingly depicts how his temper caused him to strike Maria, and the overwhelming shame he felt as a result. The dissolution of his first marriage, his anguish at feeling his daughter growing closer to her mother, and pulling away from him, and his conversion to Christianity are all portrayed with unsparing emotion.

There's no sense of performance here, no artifice. In collected form, the Silly Daddy comics tell a larger story; it does cohere, but not into an easily summarized homily with a clear meaning. The whimsical title, and Chiappetta's genuinely funny, heartfelt voice hint at a happy resolution, but once you're actually reading the stories, and following his life over the last thirteen years in comic book form, that safety dissipates.

Whatever incredible amount of work went into creating the Silly Daddy comic books, they don't feel like translations from a interior monologue, or something carefully arranged in order to impart a simple punchline, or insight. They feel like Chiappetta opened a vein, and dipped his brush. This doesn't mean the final product is some kind of primal rant, the very opposite is the case, actually. For example, when he shows the conversation that lead to his first wife deciding to divorce him, the moment of decision takes place in a large panel, a wide angle on the room they are sitting in, from a three-quarters view. Trailing away from his wife's head as she says "Let's get divorced," are a series of faces, showing the range of emotions playing across her face as she makes her choice.
Most of the original comic books that are collected in Silly Daddy are out of print, but you can find issues #20, #21, and #22: Weapons Not of this World at his website, as well as Jesus the Radical, and Son of God. I did mention his conversion to Christianity, right? Issue #20 wasn't available for review, but #21 is filled with poetry, including a really funny page of "Chicago Proverbs." My particular favorite: As the 'Loop' is really a rectangle,/so the Bears are merely men. Issue #22 is an illustrated essay touching on many of the events in the larger collection; and expands on some of them. It lacks the visceral immediacy of the collected book, which is no bad thing. If Chiappetta didn't vary his emotional pitch, he wouldn't be working at a job where he helps people with mental disabilities, he'd be on the receiving end of such help.

Ray Olson Review of Silly Daddy 2004 graphic novel
Booklist Star Review excerpt, 2004

Chiappetta is as sunnily appealing as Kochalka, and also as slightly unnerving. As one does with Kochalka, though only at the end of American Elf, one questions whether Chiappetta could be a good father. Fortunately, he addresses the question right away in his big book focused on his parental responsibilities by confessing his worst moments as a father: the two times he slapped his daughter, then too little to understand his momentary anger. It may be as painful to see Chiappetta own up to the slaps as it is for him to do it, but the admission predisposes us to like the guy thereafter as his first marriage tanks and he adjusts to being a noncustodial parent, making his fatherhood the focus of his comics, and meeting and eventually marrying his second wife, with whom he has a son. There is more than strict autobiography in Chiappetta's work, however. The longest story in the book seems naturalistic at first but turns into an earnest, worrying vision of the future that extends to his daughter's adulthood and beyond. Throughout, he is a varied and fanciful draftsman, who sharpens or blunts realism according to a story's or episode's tone. At its best, his work as is serious, humane, and affecting as the best of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor.

JoAnne Ruvoli Gruba Review

Excerpt from her 2004 paper on Italian American Sequential Artists
(JoAnne Ruvoli is a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and assistant editor at the fiction magazine Other Voices.)

Joe Chiappetta, Diane DiMassa, Marisa Acocella and Joe Sacco all work within the comics tradition but bring elements, both visual and thematic, of Italianita that link them to other Italian American narratives. I would like to approach a reading of these comics with an ethnocritical lens, but one that also focuses on the particular characteristics of sequential art, and specifically the subculture of underground comics. Underground comics traditionally exist for small, specialized, often alternative communities; the first underground comics were distributed primarily through drug paraphernalia shops until they were closed down in the 1970’s (Witek 51). Because the underground style developed in the late 1960s in opposition to the censorship of the 1950’s, it brings with it a long heritage of anti-establishment counterculture and social critique (Witek 54). The subversive nature of underground comics provides license for Italian American sequential artists to both engage and wildly transgress codes of l’ordine della famiglia (protecting the power of the family), bella figura (public performance), and omerta (public silence).

Joe Chiappetta is an artist from North Riverside, Illinois. He started self-publishing a comic called Silly Daddy in 1992. The subsequent twenty issues are compiled in The Long Goodbye and A Death in the Family, and Reed Press of NYC is reprinting the complete series in its entirety in June 2004.

Chiappetta’'s Silly Daddy is the most raw, most personal comic of these four. It is a mostly autobiographical, confessional comic book that follows Joe as he tries to raise his daughter before and after his divorce. The focus is on Joe’'s struggle between his political activism, his ability to earn a living while remaining true to his dreams of being an artist, and his responsibilities to his wife and daughter. Initially Silly Daddy was distributed in local comic bookstores until eventually through word of mouth, better distribution, and awards Chiappetta’s books spread to the wider comic community.

Silly Daddy is a serial episodic book that draws its humor out of the situations in which the character Joe finds himself. Chiappetta’s lines are expressive and sketchy, at times even a little shaky. The naturalistic and casual style of drawing highlights the ordinariness of the narrative--the quotitian experience of raising a child. Depending on the episode, the balance between text and image changes. In the more confessional stories he uses a large amount of language and words, as though he needs to explain more. When he defends his family instead of hurting them, he lets the images stand alone to show the action by itself. Text is lettered in a hand written style, instead of the slick professional lettering style used in superhero comics. In the comic book universe, the more handwritten the letters look, the more they signify speech and along with the use of speech balloons, sound words and the phonetic spellings of daughter Maria’s words, Chiappetta emphasizes the orality of everyday living. Another element that places Silly Daddy in the oral tradition is Chiappetta’s introductions. Before many stories he explains why he is writing the story. For example, in “I was a Bad Dad” from The Long Goodbye, he writes “New parents need to be warned by old parents who have been there and faced the madness. Someone should have warned me.” Chiappetta manipulates his style to locate Silly Daddy in the oral tradition.

The underground comics tradition necessitates that Joe fail or transgress in a dramatic way. And he does. The Italian American code of l’ordine della famiglia is engaged most obviously in Joe’s ongoing struggle to defend his own nuclear family and get along with his extended Greek and Italian kin. At times, he defends his daughter in superhero mode and he fantasizes a costume in several episodes that gives him super powers. He protects the family and in particular his daughter by killing spiders, intervening against bad guys and mean playmates, and in a futuristic fantasy evens kills a man who threatens the daughter on a trip (Death in the Family 26). While the character Joe successfully protects the daughter, he fails to save his marriage and in “The Big Divorce” from The Long Goodbye his idea of family changes to include moving back home to his old room in his parents’ house to live. Joe’s comic universe is populated by the Italian characters from the paternal side of Chiappetta’s real family: grandfather Papa Joe, his Nana, brother Nino and his “Italian toughguy” father Achille (Chiappetta).

The code of omerta is overturned routinely as he exposes family secrets and problems. For example, in the first issues collected in The Long Goodbye, he hits his daughter--age five months--out of frustration, hides money from his wife, struggles with depression, has a turbulent relationship with his father, and struggles with controlling his anger. Visually, Chiappetta highlights the secretive aspect of telling these things by including captions that reveal little details about when someone is lying, or provide the real story. In one panel from “Family Powers” in The Long Goodbye, Suzy, his soon-to-be-ex-wife complains to his daughter Maria: “‘He never combs his hair. Barely washes it. Comes home all scummy from that stupid bike. Never wipes the toilet or the shower. Never cleans up after you [Maria]’”. The next panel Chiappetta breaks in as the narrator with a text box that explains: “Suzy’s lie detector test: The 1st statement (about combing hair) is true. 2nd statement is not quite true (wash hair once a week). Scummy from the bike is totally true. Wiping the toilet: False! The shower: true. Last statement: Sometimes true.” Over and over, he self-consciously calls attention to his own revelations.

Joe the comic book character is also a failure at performing the code of bella figura. On the surface level, since he doesn’t drive, he portrays himself as messy, sweaty and windblown from cycling, which his wife constantly nags him about. Chiappetta draws Joe with long messy hair, at times unshaven, and usually wearing casual clothing. He just doesn'’t care about those things. He puts more value into his religious faith, and in Art. He worries about his public persona as a Dad as well. With mild self-loathing characteristic of underground comics characters, he struggles constantly with whether his daughter views him as a good father, laments how his divorce might effect her, and in addition to the ex-wife’'s complaining, Chiappetta portrays Joe as a disappointment to his own mother and father as well who nag him about the similar things.
Visually, Chiappetta adds details throughout the Silly Daddy series that signify a localized Italian American culture like Papa Joe’s plastic grapes, the backyard tomato and pepper garden, and Italian American sites like “Vito’s Bar” and Chicago’s Taylor Street.

Bart Beaty Reviews Silly Daddy. Excerpt from The Comics Journal, 1997

What is there left to say about Joe Chiappetta at this point? Surely everyone reading this section of this magazine must have realized long ago that he’s one of the most consistently inventive cartoonists of his generation. Everyone must be aware of his constant risk-taking on all fronts: aesthetically (reproducing work directly from his pencils to produce a faded look), generically (combining science fiction and autobiography to create a political/romantic thriller) and economically (stepping outside the direct market to be a self-publisher with newsstand distribution). Everyone must know that he’s been telling meaningful stories for years now, stories filled with genuine emotion and enthusiasm. Surely, everyone must be reading Silly Daddy.

Well, on the off chance that some of you have somehow missed the boat on this title here’s the tip: Joe Chiappetta is one of the few truly distinctive voices of his generation of American cartoonists. Now, I recognize that “distinctive” isn’'t necessarily a compliment -- Rob Liefeld'’s work is distinct in its own way. But in this case it should be taken as such. When I say distinctive in reference to Chiappetta’s work I mean that he’s telling stories that few others would have the courage or the audacity to tell. At a time when the cold hand of ironic detachment seems to guide the pens of so many cartoonists it’s truly distinctive to continue to create comics about things that still really matter, whether that’s family or politics or, as in Chiappetta'’s case, both and more.

The comics of Joe Chiappetta have just enough reality to keep us grounded in the here and now and just enough fantasy to liberate us from exactly that. As one of the few real dreamers left in an increasingly cynical comics industry his comics should sound a clarion call to other cartoonists: a reminder of the value of refusing to sell-out, of refusing to contradict the legitimacy of one’s own vision of comics as self-expression, and of the desirability of following one’s muse in life and in art. If you’re one of those people still not hip to all the good stuff Joe Chiappetta’'s been throwing our way for these last few years I have only one question for you: What could possibly have been keeping you?

--Bart Beaty

Fra Noi Review of Silly Daddy. 8/1996.

In a few pictures, Joe exposes himself to be as sadly unprepared for fatherhood and nurturing a newborn as most of us males. That part of "Silly Daddy" should be required reading in high schools for all young men expecting to someday have families. There is so much about this subject that never gets transmitted to the boys, yet in these times, men are called on to either share in the child rearing, or, as in Joe's case, take over the responsibility. He makes a case for educating young men in child development, so they can have some idea what is going on with the stages that tiny babies go through, and gives a sad, very confidential picture of the mistakes he made. This creates a dilemma, where in the Italian culture collides with American reality. We, as men, love our children and want to do what's best, but have been conditioned to think in means of supporting the family as protector and financial supporter; assuming also a right to plenty of free time to ourselves. We've not been taught what it means to actually care for a child day by day, taking on all that truly awesome responsibility that many women traditionally prepare themselves for and take for granted. Then, when circumstances force a mother to take a difficult, low paying, menial job outside the home, young families can easily be stressed to the breaking point. Joe Chiappetta wrestles with all this, plus a big dose of his own hormones, romantic ideas, and the irresistible urge to create art. The result is a tough life and some fascinating comics. Joe is unique in that he also doesn't let up on himself. Like most artists, he is a careful observer, and his cartoons are portraits of his family and friends. Where he goes beyond the norm is when he quotes their criticisms of himself, admits his faults, and bares his feelings about the situation. The self-portrait is so perfect, his mental struggles depicted so graphically, that to see the pictures and read the dialogue is to experience the pain. Another fascinating feature of "Silly Daddy" is a series of covers for possible future comics Chiappetta includes in the center of the book. Included are "It's Tuffguy Week," featuring "Uncle Nino's Taylor Street Gambling Outfit," and "The Death of Papa Joe, 1921-1994." Joe Chiappetta's acute eye for detail and storytelling ability may someday go a long way in documenting Italian-American life and immortalizing the lives of his ancestors in a new and original manner.