Comics Daze

I went to bed way too early last night, so here I am, up at four in the morning… I guess I’ll just have to spend all of today reading comics, then. And for music — albums from 1980 only.

Joe Jackson: Beat Crazy

04:47: A Sister by Bastien Vivès (Ablaze)

I’ve been reading a whole bunch of books from Ablaze the past few months — I was totally unaware of them until I started following Paul Gravett’s listing of new comics. Ablaze’s selection of comics is pretty odd (in that it’s hard to see an overarching aesthetic) — it’s apparently mostly translated works, and they do both European and Japanese comics. And there’s so many releases! If I counted correctly, it 36 of them this month? And the vast majority of them hold no interest for me…

All of the other books of theirs I’ve read have all had something wonky going on — wrong form factor, shrunk too much, uncomfortable binding, way too shiny paper. This one looks almost perfect — except for the slightly-too-thin paper, so you get some bleedthrough. Nitpicking!

I really like Vivès’ style — he drops details (especially faces) all the time, but it makes sense, somehow.

This is a classic “growing up is confusing” kind of book, and it’s really tense. It’s, however, a bit too classic in that he has to squeeze in both sex and death in ways that are too expected, so it gets a bit annoying. But it’s a solid book, really — very well observed and quite affecting.

Joy Division: Closer

05:28: Forty Lies by David Shenton (Knockabout Comics)

Wow, this is like classic underground comics — you don’t see to many things like this these days. It’s got a charmingly digressive approach; you feel you’re spending time with a very amusing person. It reminds me of Leslie Ewing? But there’s a reason for this oldee-tymey feeling — Shenton has been doing comics since er the 80s? 70s? But in the UK.

And… It somehow also reminds me of Gerald Jablonski, but in a less full on insane way: It’s just the density of it all.

Grace Jones: Warm Leatherette

The book is (sort of) an autobiography — we loosely follow Sherton through the years, but with many skips back and forth in time. While it’s not at all clear how it’s all organised, it doesn’t feel random: It’s got a really good flow that makes it all somehow cohere. It’s just rather gripping, in a way?

That is, until we get to the last, say, fifth of the book, when things seem to become more of a grab bag of stuff. I mean, it’s all funny and interesting and stuff, and I’m not sure what changed exactly (we’re still loosely following Shenton’s life), but I lost the thread…

Anyway, I love the book — it’s so warm and compelling.

But now I think it’s time for a little nap.

*time passes*

Oops. Three hours. Oh well.

The Clash: Sandinista!

12:37: Tihku by Kutikuti (Living the Line)

This is a collection of quite short pieces.

Reading this, I thought all the pieces were by the same person, using a bewildering array of different styles (a la Tommi Musturi).

Because while the art styles are different, it’s amazingly unified in tone.

But it’s all these people, as is revealed at the end, and what do you know, Musturi is involved with this book. (And it’s apparently published with Finnish money.)

I’m not sure that it’s a totally successful anthology, though. It’s so samey in tone, and virtually all the vignettes end on similarly ambiguous notes, and there’s something symbolic going on in most of the stories… I got a bit impatient towards the end.

Bauhaus: In the Flat Field

13:00: Zine Panique by Yann Deplanque

Hey, Bhanu Pratap! Great!

Anyway, this is a French anthology, but mostly in English. (There’s a translation sheet for the few French-language pieces, like this My Fat Pony lasagne, which I almost don’t need, since I’m getting gradually more Frenchified.)

All the pieces are about food, sort of. Some a jokes, and some are horror stories. And annoyingly, there’s no index to tell who did what.

Like, I’d really know who did the final (and longest) piece, which is (apparently) an autobio thing about working in the er poultry industry. And it’s enough to make you never eat a chicken ever again. It’s a great piece.

Zine Panique has the feeling of an old-time anthology: You get everybody working on a common subject, but otherwise there’s little to unify the participants, and it works really well here. (In some anthologies, that approach fails completely.)

Speaking of French comics…

This week I bought a whole bunch of comics by Daniel Varenne (some with Alex).

I can’t wait to learn more French so I can read these.

My stack of unread French comics is becoming rather high…

Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel 3

13:56: We Will No Longer Have To Cover Each Other’s Wounds by Siyuan Wen (Fieldmouse Press)

13:59: Frank Johnson: Secret Pioneer of American Comics by Frank Johnson (Fantagraphics)

Johnson apparently didn’t publish anything while he was alive, but he drew comics for half a century, and now he’s been discovered. These strips are as accomplished as many professional strips. The problem being (like a friend once said) “humour is never funny”.

Only the first fifth of this book is gag strips — we then get Wally’s Gang, which is more comic bookey (here’s from when he was 16).

He got better, but let’s face it, these aren’t particularly good comics. They’re not bad, either — they’re just extremely mid (being neither rare nor particularly well done).

I ditched this book after reading about 80 pages here and there — perhaps the remaining 450 pages display astounding wit and talent? I’ll never know.

14:26: Feathers by Tyler Cohen (Fieldmouse Press)

Lovely artwork.

This is a very metaphorical wordless story about growing up and putting your head on straight, or something. It’s good.

Yes: Drama

14:34: Peepee Poopoo #80085 by Caroline Cash (Silver Sprocket)

This is a really breezy issue — the storytelling is so on point.

And it’s funny. It’s another great issue.

Steve Reich: Octet – Music For A Large Ensemble – Violin Phase

14:46: I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together by Maurice Vellekoop (Pantheon Books)

Wow! Vellekoop has finally done a book? I loved whenever he had pieces popping up in anthologies in the 90s, but then he moved into illustration, I think, so I wasn’t expecting him to pop up with a hefty brick of a book almost three decades later. Perhaps he retired from illustration and finally had the time and money to do a comic book again?

Wel, OK, Vellekoop’s style has changed quite a bit since last I saw his work, I must say. It used to be super-duper elegant, but also very fussy and intricate. But I guess he had to streamline it — it would have taken decades to do a 500 page book in the old style. And I guess he’s drawing digitally now? It’s got that “not touched by an actual brush” look.

OK, so I’m disappointed.

This is one of those huge traditional autobio books — we follow Vellekoop from his childhood to the present day (ish; 2006 is present day, right? right?).

David Bowie: Scary Monsters

Hey, is that Fiona Smyth? This is an annoying thing with this book — Vellekoop features a lot of people here, but he never gives last names to anybody. I mean, it’s nice that he’s er protecting their privacy, but, er… He doesn’t really do that, though.

Talking Heads: Remain In Light

Wow, those pages look awesome. Were they collected in that collection he did in the late 90s-ish? I don’t think so.

It all ends up in therapy, of course, where Vellekoop realises he’s turned into his mother, not his father. I’m not sure: He describes his father as somebody who’d bore somebody with a four hour monologue at the drop of a hat, and that’s basically what he does in this book. (I’m sorry to use hate speech (the “b” word)!) But this book feels so hermetic. We’re not given any real reason to be interested in Vellekoop’s life story, and not a lot of things that can be called “interesting” happen over these 450 pages. Vellekoop tackles problems that are difficult to write about — shyness, avoidance, depression — but everything feels like it’s been sifted through therapy speech, and has been denuded of life and humour.

But don’t mind me: most people seem to like it.

The Residents: Commercial Album

17:34: Leftstar and the Strange Occurrence by Jean Philippe (Silver Sprocket)

Really attractive artwork.

The book reads like a sort of philosophical musing upon video gaming and (unfinished) world building in games, and which unfortunately isn’t that thrilling.

The Human League: Travelogue

17:51: Not Today by Ana Margarida Matos (Fieldmouse Press)

This is a pandemic comic, and it’s really interesting.

It obsesses about various little things, as one does when sitting at home all day. Mostly I wonder whether she ever got that camera to work!

*parsing dates* *parsing dates* *parsing dates* *tilt*

Anyway, I really liked this book — it’s like nothing else.

And now — I think I’m comicsed out, so I’m calling it a day. Reading comics is exhausting.

2 thoughts on “Comics Daze”

  1. Just got the Vellekoop book at MoCCA. Looking forward.

    But wait, did you read We Will No Longer Have To Cover Each Other’s Wounds? You showed the cover, but didn’t say anything. The title alone seemed too sad for me.

    1. Oh, did I include a snap of We Well etc in the blog? After I started reading it, I discovered that I’d already read it (and talked about it in a previous Daze), so I didn’t re-read it this time. But I must have forgotten to remove the snap.

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