Comics Daze

Music festival’s over, so it’s about time to get some comics reading done.

Rival Consoles: Now Is

14:02: Social Fiction by Chantal Montellier (New York Review Comics)

I’ve only read one comic book by Monellier before — and that was like forty years ago, and there’s been nothing translated into any language I understand since.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been thinking “huh, I should start learning French so that I can read all these cool comics”, but I’m a lazy git, so I’ve never done that. But when I got this book a week and a half ago, I went… like… “this looks cool… and I’m finally going to read it now…” And that somehow spurred me into actually starting to learn French, kinda paradoxically? So I’m now plugging at Duolingo and this book:

Wherein it turns out that English is 73% just French misspelled. “Les bottes” is “the boots”. So how hard can it be to read French! I mean, I already know how to say that “Paul is going to the train station”!

Err… OK, perhaps I should Duolingo a few more days before I start reading Yakari.

But this time next year I’m totes gonna read some comics in French.

This book collects three of Montellier’s albums — in a smaller format. I find her artwork really compelling and attractive, so it’s unfortunate that they’ve reduced the size. Some of the linework seems to disappear, and it’s sometimes a bit “soft”, as if it’s been scanned in colour or something.

(NYRC’s taste level in selecting comics is pretty much impeccable, but their printing choices are questionable — their W The Whore book looked really awful, for instance, while the original books looked awesome.)

Anyway, aside from the shrinkage, this is great — it’s so 70s. The story is a really by-the-numbers dystopian thing, but the storytelling is fab.

The second album included here i Shelter, the book I read back in 1985. So… let’s just compare.

Wut. It’s been redrawn!? In the new edition, there’s blotchy grey tone, but it also seems to have been at least retouched.

So, the linework is a blotchy mess in the new version (because of the tone?), but look at the face of that guy — it’s been completely redrawn. Her face seems to be the same, though. Hm… it’s mostly that guy’s face that’s been redrawn?

Anyway, the blotchy reproduction in the NYRC book is unfortunate, because I really like Montellier’s marks, and they’re obscured here.

Trés Tardiesque.

Anyway, Shelter’s still great, and the ending is still … rather abrupt.

The third album, 1996, has a bunch of shorter pieces (some just one page) and one longer story.

It’s both the most inventive of the albums — it’s got some really striking pages — and also a bit slight? But it’s great, too.

I’m guessing I’ll be able to read her other albums in French before somebody gets around to translating the rest.

Sudan Archives: Natural Brown Prom Queen

15:41: The Riverside Companion by Kevin Huizenga

I think I’ve got about… eight minis here?

Oh… this is basically notes to the Ganges series.

I was expecting comics and stuff. This seems interesting, but I’m not going to read it now — this is more bedtime reading stuff.

And the other minis are stuff from his website collected?

Looks cool, and there’s even some comics in here.

Anyway, I’ll be reading these later.

15:50: Incubation by Charles Burns

These are sketchbook drawings, I guess?

Looks like it’s studies for the X’ed Out books. Looks great!

15:56: Dog Head Sunset #1 by Dustin Holland

Wow, this is something else.

It’s got a fantastic dream logic thing going on, and it’s wonderfully propulsive. Not a boring second in here.

16:01: Paid By The Line by Victor Cayro and Nate McDonough

This is a collection of illustrations and joke covers/movie posters and stuff. It’s pretty funny.

And then there’s a strip about religion and stuff at the end.

Laura Nyro: New York Tendaberry

16:08: Injury #2-3 by Ted May (Buenaventura Press)

These are 15 year old comics, but I think I’ve missed them the first time around? Domino was selling them, so I snapped them up.

And they’re great. They sort of look like classic 90s indie comics, but they’re more…. more. About half of the issues are possibly written by Jeff Wilson, and are stories about being a teenage metal fan, and they’re a lot of fun.

The other half of the books are completely insane, and hilarious.

Whu… whu… The US is an alien world.

Miss Kittin and The Hacker: Two

16:53: Offshore Lightning by Saito Nazuna (Drawn & Quarterly)

Drawn & Quarterly has turned borifying Japanese covers into an art. Surely the original cover couldn’t look this bad?

This is a collection of mostly shorter stories.

They’re a bit ruminative and kinda quiet. I like them, but I was thinking after the first half dozen that it was a bit samey and that they probably read better in the original context (I’m assuming they were originally published in some anthology).

But then there’s the last two stories — they’re much longer, and get further into… everything. They’re amazing. They’re both about dying and stuff, but are utterly original.

Tom Skinner: Voices of Bishara

OK, I have to run some errands now, but I guess I’ll be back in… half an hour or so? An hour?

Back! I had to run out and…

… get more comics. *sigh*

Ö: Hypernormality

18:47: Project Arka by Benessaya & Urgell (Humanoids)

Humanoids has a weird roster of comics — stuff from Metal Hurlant, of course, but also stuff by American creators. And … er … how to put it gently … most of it’s codswallop.

But they also occasionally publish something that’s readable, so I keep buying stuff at random, like this.

No, nobody’s heard of this plot before — a space ship with the entire crew in hibernation… and then they wake up but aren’t where they’re supposed to be! This is totally original!

And moreover, it’s got the standard amount of people shouting at each other for no particular reason other than There Must Be Drama.

But… it’s OK? The artwork is pretty slick, but not really my thing — so many characters look identical (except the guy with the beard; good choice). There are some original twists, and it keeps things moving along.

If you like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you like. I guess I’ll be buying subsequent albums? Probably?

The Au Pairs: Sense & Sensuality

19:42: Lille Viggo på banen by Léturgie/Yann (Zoom)

So this is a spinoff from Franquin’s Gaston Lagaffe — the same characters, but as children. (Which is quite normal with older French(ey) comics series.)

How does this fit into the mythos of the Extended Gaston Lagaffe Universe? This establishes that everybody that worked at the offices knew each other when they were kids — even the boss — but it’s never mentioned in the Franquin stories! Is this an alternate Gaston Lagaffe universe? Earth GLIV? Or SOUND OF RECORD PLAYING SCRATCH

This really isn’t very good. They ape Franquin’s art style pretty well, but the jokes aren’t there. I guess it’s aimed at smaller children than Franquin’s stories, but it’s more violent and has many pages that are “well, I can see that that’s meant to be a joke, but…”

A. G. Cook: 7G (5): Nord

20:16: The Buildings are Barking by Bill Griffith (Fantagraphics)

I’ve never read anything quite like this… Diane Noomin died last year, and this is so emotionally raw.

It feels totally unmediated — it’s just a desperate outpouring and it’s heartbreaking.

It’s an amazing book.

Lady Lykez: Woza

20:29: Together & Apart by Andrew White (Fieldmouse Press)

I think I’ve read the strips in this book before (as er three separate self-published books, if I remember correctly), but here I’m reading them again.

The first bit is about Virginia Woolf — it’s excerpts from her diaries.

It’s been revised a bit since I read it last time? It’s still fantastic.

And… I misremembered — I hadn’t read the Gertrude Stein bit, which is the middle section of this book. Or at least, I haven’t read all of it, because it’s mostly unfamiliar to me.

It’s a bit more chatty, and it’s really funny (as are Stein’s books, too, of course). The only Stein book I’ve had some difficulties with was Lucy Church Amiably, which took me a long time to get through… but I haven’t read them all.

The Soft Pink Truth: Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This?

Heh heh.

Anyway, the Stein section is both funny and really moving.

The O’Keeffe portion of the book is the shortest, and the most abstract, I guess. It’s still spiffy. And the last time I read it, it inspired me to buy this book:

Which I haven’t read yet.

Anyway, the Andrew White book is transcendently fantastic. It’ll definitely go on my Comic of the Year list.

21:26: Bonding by Christian Castelo (Domino Books)

So this is a Spider-Man book?

It’s a pretty OK Spider-Man book, but it’s not that different from the ones Marvel publish themselves. (Except for the punchline, which features more erect penises than is normal in a Marvel book.) Oops spoilers.

Get it from Domino Comics.

Mahmoud Fadl: Drummers Of The Nile Go South

21:41: Paracuellos 1-3 by Carlos Giménez (Zoom)

This is a new collected edition of Giménez’s somewhat legendary and extremely overrated series about growing up in an orphanage during Franco. The strips in the first album is striking: The small panels without gutters result in a claustrophobic reading experience, and the atrocities that befell the kids are horrifying. The book seethes with anger and hatred towards the horrifying system and the people victimising these boys.

But: Reading these strips, one after another, my left eyebrow got raised higher and higher, because the more you read, the less credible it seems. Like in this strip — the kids are given water to drink only once per day? (And the hapless protagonist here misses even that.) Like… really?

Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork

The first album collected two-page strips that ran in various anthologies (I’ve seen them it at least two as a child, and they made quite an impression back then). The second album has somewhat longer pieces (four to six pages, mostly), and seems to contradict most of the stuff in the first album. Instead of being literally tortured, starved and thirsting to death, we get stories like this, where Giménez sells off some of his food to the other kids so that he can boy a whole lot of comics. In a bright shiny moment, he is happy. (The twist ending is, of course, that that sadistic tears all the comics up, and he is sad again.)

In addition to being less horrifying, the layouts are also more traditional, with more larger panels, and there’s gutters between the rows of panels. Graphically, it’s a whole lot less interesting, but the stories are more believable (in general, but often not in the particulars of the twist endings).

The third album is much newer, apparently — the first two were from 77-81, and this is from 98. And it’s another retrenchment from the first album: The abuse is being played for laughs (especially in the way it’s drawn).

But, I mean, it’s OK.

Kuedo: Severant

23:41: Watching Days Become Years by Jeff LeVine (Sparkplug Comics)

I remember LeVine’s The Days Go By Like Broken Records from the 90s — these are books that he did after that… spanning 98 to 07.

The first book starts off in this regimented way — like a daily comic thing, but not daily.

But then he branches out.

Perhaps there a Porcellino influence?

Then things grow more sketchbook-like and random. But pretty nice, still — it’s ruminative and calm. I like calm.

Not everything here is as interesting, though.

TSHA: Capricorn Sun

00:14: Eric by Tom Manning

This is a hefty book — must have taken years to make.

It’s a slippery book; we’re never quite sure whether what we’re reading is a hallucination or whether the alternate dimensions and stuff are “real”, and it makes for an exciting read. The storytelling is mostly extremely assured and moves along at a brisk pace, and has real complexity to it.

There are, unfortunately, some bits that makes you go “uhm”. That is, there’s a few scenes, like the above, that seem really clichéd, and other scenes where they suddenly start infodumping way more than is strictly necessary, and the fun, intriguing things that make you go “whoa” stop.

But the book is a real achievement. While it’s easy to draw comparisons to other works that play with “reality”, it’s really a quite unique book. And a lot of fun to read.

I went “whoa dude” several times. In the best possible way.

I didn’t quite get the ending, though. I mean, I got that it was a reference to what he said in the hotel, and to what the bar guy told him, but I still didn’t get what it was supposed to mean.

But whatevs; still a very compelling book.

Amerie: Touch

01:38: The Re-Up by Chad Bilyeu/Juliette de Wit

This is a very straightforwardly tale of how the author became a mid-level pot dealer.

It’s entertaining.

01:49: You Are Not A Guest by Leela Corman (Fieldmouse Press)

Oh, I’d forgotten that I got a bunch of comics from Fieldmouse Press.

I love Corman’s artwork — the line, the figures, the colour.

It’s a very powerful work, but you can get whiplash from going from one piece to another. It’s a collection of shorter work, and some is funny, and some is heartbreaking. It makes for an emotionally exhausting read.

But it’s great.

Brendan Perry: Songs of Disenchantment

02:25: Freden by Oliver Levang (Überpress)

OK, I should be going to bed, but just one more.

This is collection of very drama-filled fantasy/sci-fi stories.

The artist is obviously a talented artist and storyteller, but unfortunately the stories have simple “ironic” twist endings that you can see coming a mile away, which makes things less fun.

02:43: The End

OK, time to do some French and then go to bed.

That was a really strong bunch of comics, and I’ve still got a whole bunch more to read… and some busy days ahead. Perhaps I can squeeze in a comics day on… Thursday, because there’s probably not gonna be time the next couple of weeks.

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