Comics Daze

I’ve been going a bit over board with my comics shopping the past few months. I mean, nothing is better than comics, but it’s getting in the way of, like, doing stuff, so I should cut back a bit. It’s basically all the fault of Domino Books — not just because I’ve been buying lots of comics from him, but the site’s been inspiring me to seek out publishers and buy stuff from them directly. (It’s beyond me why many comics publishers don’t have a web shop — it seems like a pretty low effort way to make some extra money, especially since the margins on selling directly are much higher than selling via stores. But I guess if you don’t have the manpower, you don’t have the manpower…)

ANYWAY! Probably fewer comics in the coming months, but there’s at least enough stuff for a dazing a couple more days. So let’s get started.

And… for music today: Only albums from the 80s.

Joe Jackson: Beat Crazy

12:44: Bug — livre 3 by Enki Bilal (Cobolt)

And the music choice is in honour of this new book by Bilal! New book by Bilal!!!! The 80s are back!!!

Getting a new Bilal album is An Event, but I’m not quite sure why — it may be pure nostalgia, because (let’s face it) his work the past decade has been a bit spotty. But I’m still like *gasp* every time a new album drops, until I sit down to read it, and then I’m more like… *mmm?*

The artwork’s just so wild and beautiful?

This is the third album in the Bug series, and it’s way more informed by current events than I can remember any other Bilal work being. It probably takes years for Bilal to make an album, but it makes references to basically everything that’s current now (except Ukraine): We’ve got Neo-Czarism, cancellation, Fascism rising, migration, etc. He even squeezes in a dig at Putin’s large tables, which had to be a last-minute addition.

So Bilal seems to be reinvigorated, and it’s a solid read — it’s exciting and just the right amount of confusing.

Talking Heads: Remain In Light (vinyl)

13:39: Sanatorium Magazine #1 edited by Jens Andersson (Sanatorium)

This week’s publisher is Sanatorium, a Swedish publisher that I know nothing about. But the web site looked interesting, so I bought bunch of books. Let’s hope they don’t suck.

This is a huge book… larger than tabloid size.

Most of the pieces are single page things, but there’s a longer story in here, too. It’s funny but melancholy?

Oh! This book isn’t stapled, but held together with a very large rubber band. So several of the sheets are really posters — if you deconstruct the magazine, you get a bunch of double page spreads suitable for pinning to the wall. Nice — I don’t think I’ve seen anybody do quite something like this before. (Except some portfolios and stuff, but that’s a different genre.)

Talking Heads: Remain In Light (vinyl)

13:53: Elsewhere by Fredrik Rysjedal/Anusman (Kinakaal)

This is a high concept cultural exchange book (there’s a text in the middle that helpfully explains it all). Half the book is Norwegian, and half Chinese, but they illustrate the same concepts. Above we have the Norwegian version of “Taking A Stroll”…

… and here’s the Chinese one.

I’m not sure this juxtaposition really brings added interest here, but the comics are pretty good. And it’s a very nice physical object as a book, what with the slightly metallic ink and the thoughtful presentation.

David Byrne and Brian Eno: My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

14:04: Möte med monsunen by Lars Sjunnesson (Sanatorium)

Wow, it’s like… it’s like an 80s punk strip? I’m getting huge waves of nostalgia here. And I think he’s trying to be kinda offensive, but it doesn’t quite work (except for one strip he’d kinda have to swap out if publishing this in the US today), so it ends up being really cute.

It’s funny, and it ends up being kinda wistful and touching towards the end of the book.

I’ve seen books from this guy in bookstores before, but I’ve never picked one up, because it superficially looked like lame gag books, but it’s really good. I’m surprised.

David Byrne and Brian Eno: My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

14:25: Koloss by Erik Svetoft (Sanatorium)

This oversized book collects a whole bunch of insanely intricately detailed illustrations.

It’s really cool.

And then there’s a huuuge fold out poster included, which is even more insanely detailed. Nice.

David Bowie: Scary Monsters

14:32: Jérôme K. Jérôme Bloche 7 by Dodier (Zoom)

I’m not a fan of this series — I used to see it pop up in various anthologies in the 90s, but it never seemed to stick around for long. I assumed that it was just too generic — a French(ey) series about a youthful detective set vaguely in the past — to make an impression on anybody. It certainly didn’t on me.

So I was shocked — shocked I tells ya! — to see this book. The Danes have apparently been publishing a collected edition for a while now, at three albums per book. And this is the seventh collection, meaning that there’s been (maths time) 21 Jerome K. Jerome Bloche albums! (Bedetheque informs me that they’re up to 28 now in France.) How can this be? Perhaps I was totally wrong and it’s good? So I bought this collection. Let’s find out.

Hm… I misremembered about this being set vaguely in the past — looks like it’s vaguely in the present? (This is from 2006.)

My immediate impression is that this is quite like stuff I like? It’s well made — that office really looks like an office, and the street scenes look like specific streets… the only thing I’m not quite sure about is the way the main character is drawn: He looks, like, 10% more cartooney than the surroundings, so he ends up in the uncanny valley.

This… it’s kinda good?

It’s good!

The stories are really original — the first two albums are about both domestic abuse and a contract killer, and it works. The third album is about a hit and run, and there’s a twist ending, and it’s all quite touching.

So: Either this series has gotten a lot better than it was back in the 80s, or I was just wrong. (Sounds impossible, I know.) I guess I’ll be getting all the volumes of the collected edition, then… Ooh! They’ve got 1-4 at 60% off! Yoinks!

The Cure: Seventeen Seconds (1)

15:49: Limbo by Erik Svetoft (Sanatorium)

Another book of illustrations…

Less extravagant in format this time.

Yukihiro Takahashi: Neuromantic

15:53: Natacha by Lars Sjunnesson (Sanatorium)

This is drawn in a very different style from his other book up there.

And it’s completely insane! Insanely complicated. Every chapter circles back to tell us more about what’s happened, seen from the point of view of the different characters, all of whom have multiple identifies and stuff. Every chapter is like “what you’ve already read wasn’t quite what it seemed like” and I think it all makes sense somehow? It’s not really Rashomon-like — it’s more post modern? It’s a dizzying read, and lots of fun.


Various: The Fruit of the Original Sin

16:46: Olycka by Lars Norén & Agnes Jakobsson (Kaunitz-Olsson)

Norén is a famous playwright, so is this an adaptation of one of his plays, perhaps?

The text on the back cover seems to imply that this is a play that’s never been staged?

In any case, it’s very very very very much like a drawn Swedish stage play. It’s three people in a room that talk and talk. Jakobsson does an amazing job under those constraints, sometimes zooming in on details in an interesting way, but… since this is all about reveals and emotions and stuff, I can’t help thinking this would have been much better as a play, because you need the human element more than what we’re getting here: A good actor can make even the tritest play devastating.

Norén has obviously spent a lot of time hanging out with really drunk people, so it’s got that going for it — parts of the conversation feels really well observed. Other parts — not so much.

*ding dong* Nobody ain’t got time to cook when reading comics, so I got a pizza from a place that used to be good, and then was awful, but that was like three years ago.

That looks reasonable, at least…

Various: The Fruit of the Original Sin

17:35: Intégrale Martin Milan 2 by Godard (Zoom)

So I’m reading early 70s second banana French(ish) children’s comics while eating.

(The pizza’s not bad!)

The artwork is quite on point for this sort of thing, and the gags are OK…

… but the storytelling often doesn’t quite work on a panel to panel basis — you can see what he’s going for, but it just doesn’t quite work.

But it’s fine for what it is. It’s pretty amusing. But a couple of these stories is enough for one sitting; I’ll save the rest for some other day.

Various: Methods of Dance (1)

18:30: Havet by Jan Egesborg/Kim Lars (Fahrenheit)

Wow. I haven’t seen something this Fumetti-looking in a while — it’s like the artist just had people act everything while filming then, and then traced the screenshots exactly. It’s barely a comic book.

And the plot… oy vey. A mother and a surly son moves to a remote island, there’s a Shocking Plot Twist, and then the mother has sex with a guy, and then dies dramatically (in the sea). They’ve managed to squeeze in an impressive number of tedious clichés in this brief story. *slow clap*

(OK, there’s a couple of scenes that work well — the pages where she’s surfing in the huge waves look rather good — a good use of the stark inky blackness of the artwork.)

Tuxedomoon: Desire

18:46: Spa by Erik Svetoft (Sanatorium)

Another Svetoft book? Is Sanatorium mostly just Svetoft’s thing, perhaps?

As a nerdy comics nerd (who’s nerdy and old), I’m rather fascinated that it’s financially feasible to just randomly use an extra colour for the lettering. It used to be so much more expensive to do some kind of colour that it was only used when there was a compelling reason to do so. But here it’s like a whim — red lettering? Sure! Why not. Things have changed in how printing presses are set up, I guess.

Anyway, this is a horror story about a spa hotel. It’s like… it’s like a mix of Lars Trier’s The Kingdom and a gazillion Japanese horror comics? With a dash of David B?

It’s got a good flow. If I have one criticism, it’s that too many of the characters (and there’s a lot of them) are hard to distinguish from each other, so I found myself flipping back a bit to see whether I’d gotten things right more than a few times.

The horror bits didn’t quite land for me. It felt like it should be scarier than it is? The funny bits were pretty amusing. So — it’s pretty good. Love the line work.

19:31: Popocomi 2 by (Popotame Books and Gallery)

As with the first issue of this anthology by artists that don’t normally do comics (if I’ve understood the concept of the anthology correctly), there’s some pieces in here that are pretty weak. There’s some good ones, though.

Maiko Dake’s thing was cute.

Imjina’s thing was very moving.

Akiko Miyakoshi’s thing was gorgeous and wistful.

Tom Tom Club: Tom Tom Club

19:47: Klaus Magazine no. 3 by Richard Short (Breakdown Press)

That’s a good letters’ page.

So… this is told as a series of four page gag strips? It makes reading it really choppy.

Like one of the (fake?) letters said, there’s a disconnect between the dialogue and the action — it like the text goes in and out of phase with the artwork, vaguely intersecting each other. It’s interesting, but it’s ultimately exhausting to read. Or perhaps I’m just tired? I ditched the book halfway through.

Simple Minds: Sons and Fascination

20:24: The End by Anders Nilsen (Fantagraphics)

I’ve read the previous incarnations of this (the Coconino book like in like 2007) and then the bigger book in like 2015 — is Nilsen going to release this book every seven years forever?

If so, I don’t mind, because it’s better every time. I mean, the original book was heartbreaking, and this is still heartbreaking, but is a richer reading experience. It’s a great book on a difficult subject.

*sets calendar to buy the next edition in 2029*

Simple Minds: Sister Feelings Call

21:10: Puttana Cartoonist by Heather Loase

… this is fucking brilliant! I love it!

I started snickering at the first page, and then I was laughing and then I kept laughing until it was over. It’s over way too soon! Funniest comic book of the year!

And gorgeous too. Fantastic colours.

Wow, that was just what I needed right now. Perfect.

New Order: Movement

21:21: Brigade Verhoeven – Rosie by Bertho/Corboz (E-Voke)

This is the kind of Extruded Comics Product that the French churn out so well — everything here is professional and well-made.

Unfortunately, it’s based on a novel by Pierre Lemaitre. I had the displeasure of reading one of his novels a few years back, and yikes — it was so awful. The plot here is so moronic that I’m rather annoyed with myself for guessing what the ending was going to be one third through this album, because that has to mean that I’m pretty stupid myself for thinking of it. (I’m sure that makes sense?)

I rate this one Ten Eye Rolls.

OK, I should end this daze there, but… One more?

Kraftwerk: Computer World

22:02: Alpha 1: L’echange by Jigounov/Renard (Zoom)

What’s this then? It’s a series started in the mid-90s, and there’s 16 tomes so far. The Danish comics er industry is so weird to follow these days — all the classic French(ey) series have been published long ago, and in several editions, but there’s somehow an apparently insatiable hunger for more. So there’s random stuff now they’re picking now where the hook seems to be “doesn’t that quite remind you of…” And this looks so generic it reminds me of basically all oldee tymey French(ey) boys’ series, from Michel Vaillant on down.

But this isn’t at all bad. It’s told somewhat clumsily, but it looks generally attractive, and the plot is intriguing (mostly because nobody explained anything). I totally expected nothing to be left in the dark until further albums…

… but then they end the album with six pages of this: Wall to wall explanations. And the reason the plot seemed original was because it’s just too stupid for somebody else to come up with before: The KGB wants dollars, so they’ve tricked the Mafia into exchanging dollars for Roubles and promises of a happy welcome in Russia (lies, of course, and the Mafia are just so gullible), and the CIA (who’s the heroes here) want to put a kibosh on it all because unhappy mobsters will just be too… OK, let’s end the explanation there.

So… not a winner, but better than expected.

King Crimson: Discipline

22:43: The End

Of the comics daze, that is.

That was an interesting batch of comics. Some clunkers, but also some great stuff. And one work of sheer genius: Puttana Cartoonist by Heather Loase. Looks like you can get it from Silver Sprocket, Domino is sold out.


Leave a Reply