Comics Daze

OK, gotta read gotta read gotta read some comics.

And for music, let’s got with… albums from 1975. Sure.

David Bowie: Young Americans

16:45: Flake by Matthew Dooley (Jonathan Cape)

Hm… the name seems familiar, but I can’t quite place it…

Well, my immediate reaction to the artwork isn’t very positive — it looks like it’s a derivation from art inspired by Chris Ware, like somebody who’s really into Ethan Persoff. But like it’s drawn in Photoshop. And then there’s Nick Drnaso smothered all over it. I realise that probably everybody who’s doing comics from major publishers (that are supposed to be “literary” as opposed to YA, etc) probably get told MAKE IT LOOK LIKE DRNASO these days, and it’s a horrific development.

(And also… Scott Russo and somehow Al Columbia, too?)

But… this is quite amusing. The distanced artwork somehow makes the jokes land harder.

That’s a solid joke.

Anyway, I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. It’s quite well-told, it’s amusing, and it’s a bit affecting, too. But reading it, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps it was a parody of something, although I’m not quite sure what. (And there’s the sci-fi aspect of a guy apparently making enough from an ice cream van to support his family (but perhaps the wife makes all the £££ — typically, we’re never told what she does, I think?).) It does read a bit like a pitch for a feel-good slightly kooky British movie.

It’s a fine book. Although the artwork is hard to get enthusiastic about.

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here

17:38: A Home Without by Don Gaddis (Northwest Press)

This is a pretty harrowing book of domestic abuse.

The problem with it is that it reads like a series of vignettes instead of a story — there’s no feeling of time passing, so I wondered whether we were just getting a bunch of anecdotes about how much his abusive father sucked. But then towards the end, we leave the static setting and things change, and that’s jarring, too.

So the overarching storytelling doesn’t quite work, which is a shame, because the artwork’s attractive and the page-by-page storytelling is strong.

17:57: Copra 44 by Michael Fiffe

Always fun to get a new issue of Copra in the mail.

As usual, I have absolutely no idea what is going on — I always forget who all the characters are between the issues. And as usual, that’s fine, because the book is fun to read in a state of complete befuddlement, anyway.

Joni Mitchell: The Hissing Of Summer Lawns

18:07: A Gleaming by Adam de Souza

This looks really attractive. Love how it flows so apparently natural.

And… it’s fantastic! The storytelling is so assured — it makes the reader work a bit at understanding what’s happening; getting the reader involved emotionally at the same time. And he sets up all these characters (at least a dozen?), but manages to keep them all distinct.

It’s a lovely book, and I’ll be on the lookout for further issues. Hm… oh, it’s out years ago. I guess I just have to find somebody selling it.

18:27: Acid Nun by Corinne Halbert

This is wild.

And also cathartic. It’s good.

18:37: Hobo Mom by Charles Forsman & Max de Radigués (Fantagraphics)

This feels a bit like a throwback to something you’d find in anthologies in the 90s. It’s barely a story at all, but expanded to quite a few pages.

It’s also just set in a squishy kind of past or present that’s hard to believe in. The “hobo mom” travels on oldee tymey train cars, while the rest of the book seems to be set in… er… the 60s? There’s a beetle car… I dunno; it didn’t quite make sense to me.

And always with the rape as character development.

Brian Eno: Another Green World

18:49: A Frog in the Fall (and later on) by Linnea Sterte (Peow)

This is a lovely book. I mean, as an object — it’s in a slipcase so that it looks like a vertical book, but it’s a horizontal one with this nice “naked” spine.

And… it’s really good. It’s a fable of sorts, I guess, or just a story about a kid going out into the world with some possibly shady characters.

I guess the obvious touchstone here is A Wind in the Willows.

But this is it’s own thing — it’s quite unique. There’s a slight feeling of menace throughout, because we don’t know the rules of this world — are the cats going to eat the frog and the mice, or are they going to dance with them? It’s a whimsical book, and feels magical. It’s really special: The lovely artwork, the meandering story, the wistful tone, and, yes, the physical book. I love it, and if I’d read it in 2022, it would have been on my “best of 2022” list.

The Residents: The Third Reich ‘n Roll

19:19: Clusterfux Comix #3-4 & FCBD edited by Cameron Hatheway

The third issue follows in the footsteps of the previous ones.

A mix of horror and humour, I guess.

The FCBD book is mostly illustrations, but also has a few one-page strips.

The fourth issue has longer stories, and I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing altogether. There’s a strong point of view here, but it’s mostly rather unpleasant (instead of being horror), and the storytelling mostly isn’t up to snuff.

There’s some pleasantly absurd pieces here too, though.

I feel like perhaps the editor should be editing a bit more, because it’s slightly exhausting to read as is — it’s too much of the same thing.

Kraftwerk: Exceller 8

20:06: Parenthesis by Ëlodie Durand (Top Shelf)

Yet another Top Shelf book I’ve missed — I feel like their books fly below the radar a lot these days. (Oh, many of the more book-like books (like this) in today’s haul are from a sale at a bookstore here.)

The back cover says that Fnac praised this as one of the ten best comics about illness ever. That’s… er… er… is that high praise?

But this is really good. The artwork is expressive which allows the storytelling to be really straightforward. There’s no special pleading or mystification going on here — Durand describes her experience in as clear as way as she can: Both what she remembers (which sometimes isn’t a lot (we’re talking brain tumour)), and constant later corrections from her parents about what was really happening.

The effect is heartbreaking. It’s a really moving book that’s not maudlin for a millisecond.

Robert Wyatt: Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard

20:59: Det grymma svärdet edited by Fredrik Jonsson (Lystring)

Last time around, I had stumbled onto the final issue of this long-running Swedish anthology, and I got a box of older issues in the mail the other day. So here I pick one at random — this is a thick one from 2020. (The series seems to have no set size or format.)

This anthology had its finger on the pulse (of 2020) (Simon Hanselmann.)

It’s got a very clear editorial point of view. The vast majority of the pieces are drawn on paper, and most of them are pencil only (Rikke Villadsen). So it’s “the other” stream in art comics in the past decade.

It’s also virtually all narrative pieces, where most of them have clear stories , like this excellent piece by Joanna Hellgren.

Some of the pieces are more jokey (HTMLflowers).

Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Kate & Anna McGarrigle

Just when I thought it was all going to be pencils (and coloured pencils), there’s Tommi Parrish.

And there’s also a bunch of text pieces here.

The most dominant stream in art comics the last decade was Instagram/cartoon/Corporate Memphis stuff, and a couple of pieces from that lineage have snuck in here, too (Aisha Franz). They do stick out awkwardly in this company.

Anyway, looks like it was indeed a brilliant anthology series, so I guess I’ll be reading all of it…

21:52: Action Hospital 1 by Dave Baker and friends

Wow, you can get whiplash from reading comics… this is, er, not… quite… Actually, I have no idea how I came to buy this book, so I had no expectations. But it seems like it’s a sci-fi action kind of thing? I like that, so let’s go.

Unfortunately… the storytelling is really clunky, and the artwork varies wildly from chapter to chapter (there’s one writer and different artists). And I just lost interest in this, completely, after about 20 pages.

So I ditched it.

Betty Davis: Nasty Gal

22:11: The Story of Bern by Dorothy Iannone

This is printed the same way as Doucet’s Time Zone J — but it made more sense there, as that was drawn as a continuous scroll, while this is just single pages…

Anyway, this was originally published in 1970, and it tells the story about censorship at an art show in Bern. So we get a lot of discussion between a handful of characters about whether to remove the work from the show or not, and… it feels more like a way to document what happened than as something that’s meant to be fun to read.

But the artwork’s pretty appealing, and it’s a handsome book, anyway.

Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert

22:24: Alltid hejdå by Alma Thörn (Galago)

Back in very popular genre land again — this is about growing up and stuff, and it’s set 20 years ago, so I’m guessing it’s (partially?) autobiographical.

Because it’s kinda high concept as these things go — it’s about a girl (of divorced parents) visiting her father, but she’s found her mother’s diary from when her mother was 12 — and mother’s parents were getting divorced.

So we get both of these timelines, and we see the connections between the grandmother/mother/daughter… and it’s interesting. But the storytelling is sometimes kinda choppy, because she features more than a handful of secondary characters, and it’s hard to keep up with who’s who — I’ve found myself flipping back pages half a dozen time now to confirm just who these people are.

But at about the halfway point, things straighten out a bit (so to speak), and it becomes riveting. And very moving.

23:04: Revolver-Harry by Jakob Nilsson (Kartago)

This book presents itself as being the biography of a guy called Harry Södermark, and I have no idea whether that’s true or not (I don’t know from famous Swedes).

The colour palette isn’t very appealing — it’s all very muted and dreary. But I do like how he draws buildings. It’s very Tardiesque, right? The figures are less like Tardi — or rather, they’re as if… uhm… you told Jacques Martin to try to substitute for Tardi. On a Cintiq! Or something!

Oh, heh heh. I guess the Tardi homage is explicit…

The book doesn’t make much dramatic sense. We get one anecdote after another from his life, and we skip back and forth in time. After 120 pages of this stuff, I realised that I had kinda stopped paying attention to what I was reading, and I think that’s a signal that I should stop. So I did.

Kraftwerk: Radio-Activity

23:51: The Grande Odalisque/Olympia by Vivès/Ruppert + Mulot (Fantagraphics)

This is two big albums in one slipcase.

This is very pretty, and it’s not what I expected from Ruppert & Mulot — it’s a fast-paced, jokey heist movie. I mean comic. It’s got all the clichés, and has a lot of fun with them.

It’s a good read. It’s really appealing, and feels like a real epic. So I’m wondering if anybody has done an adaptation of this, because it seems ready-made for a Michael Bay adaptation. (Some of the set pieces were so similar to what Bay did in 6 Underground that I started to wonder whether that was somehow the adaptation of this, only they’d changed the women into Ryan Reynolds. It could happen!)

But no — Netflix is doing the adaptation now, apparently.

David Bowie: Station To Station (1)

After making such a successful album, I totally understand why they’d want to make another one. But they unfortunately decided to make the characters deeper, and deal with loss and stuff, and that makes the first half of Olympia less than thrilling reading.

However, the last half brings the fun again, and the resolution to the storyline is so flabbergastingly over the top that I’m at loss for words.

I know!

So… *four thumbs up* (I see that the nerds over at bedetheque do not like these albums much.)

Patti Smith: Horses

01:08: Jerome K Jerome Bloche integrale 6 by Dodier (Zoom)

I’ve been living under the delusion all these years that this series was rather naff. And indeed the first couple of albums aren’t all that great, but once artist Dodier took over the writing himself, it became a whole nother thing — charming and smart.

So I’ve been reading these collections slowly over the last few months, and this one is the only one left. *sniff*

I really enjoy the way Dodier draws Paris. It gives a real sense of location to the series — there’s nothing generic going on here.

The second album has a kinda cliched plot concept, but the resolution is quite original.

And the final album here is properly original — a mystery involving a painting and stuff.

Dodier is still doing this series, and they’re up to 28 albums, so hopefully the Danes are going to get around to translating them all…

Richard and Linda Thompson: Hokey Pokey

02:22: The End

And now I should go to bed, but: Jamie Coville has just dropped his combined Best of 2022 list. Those are always useful to see whether there’s something I’ve missed buying, and fun to see how far down any of my pics are…

Ducks by Kate Beaton won — I’m not at all surprised. I didn’t think it was quite all that, but it’s good, so that’s a fine choice.

I’ve read some of the rest of the top 10… Oh! I haven’t read the Jim Woodring book! I thought it was just a collection of old stuff, but there’s a 100 new pages. Well, I’ve gotta order that, then.

The rest of the books that I haven’t read don’t look very interesting to me.

The first appearance of something I have on my “Best of” list is the Julie Doucet book — at #24, if I counted correctly. Let’s see… anything more… man, there’s a lot of tedious stuff on that list, or books that are “well, that’s a somewhat professionally-made book of that kind”. I’m down to the Top 50, and I’ve read quite a few of the books, and it’s just so… unambitious.

Well, these two are fine.

OK, that’s an art comic, at least.

Well, that’s good.

Yeah, only a single book from my list made it to the “five or more” section of the combined table. Whoho! I’ve still got it!

Julie Tippetts: Sunset Glow

02:37: The End For Real

It’s sleepy time.

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