Comics Daze

It’s a nice afternoon, so I thought I’d try reading out on the balcony…

Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gil Kalish: Caroline Shaw: Narrow Sea

17:27: Le château des animaux vol 2 by Delep & Dorison (Shadow Zone)

Oh, so this is basically a riff on Animal Farm? The level of anthropomorphism here is interesting: All the animals look like perfectly normal animals, except that some of them can somehow grasp tools in their paws… but these animals look very real otherwise.

I haven’t read the first volume, but this was just excruciating to read. It’s basically about how a cat Gandhi protests against the new farm overlord. It goes on forever, and nothing interesting happens.

Blue Iverson: Hotep

18:18: The Giver by Lois Lowry adapted by P. Craig Russell (Haughton Miffin)

I’ve read the novel before (a long time ago), but I’m a Russell fan, so I thought I’d give this adaptation a go.

Russell makes a lot of interesting choices (that work well), like doing the first … half? of the book in this vague style — with almost looks like he’s reproducing blueline work, but it isn’t quite that. (It’s a sci fi book about a very, very regimented society.)

And then we get more distinctly rendered artwork when the protagonists learns more about what the world. It’s a choice that makes absolutely perfect sense… but it gives us a whole bunch of pages to get through before we finally get some beautiful artwork in the final chapter.

Coil: Swanyard (1)

19:26: The Adventures of Hergé by Boquet, Fromental and Stanislas (Drawn & Quarterly)

Oh, yeah — wasn’t this published in the Drawn & Quarterly anthology many decades ago? … ah, yes. But that was slightly abridged. No wonder this seemed eerily familiar.

So this is a biography of Hergé, drawn in his style. It’s telegraphs a lot of the story — if I didn’t know a lot of this already, I don’t think I could have made any sense out of much of this.

So it kinda functions like a … souvenir? for people who are already really into Hergé? “Ah yes, here’s the bit where he did that thing, and here’s that bit with the guy that co-wrote the Moon books”…

But, I mean, it’s pretty good?

Stereolab: Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements (1)

20:01: West End Boy by Tomas Lagermand Lundme & Rune Ryberg (Cobolt)

This is a very odd book. Except for the first few pages, it all takes place in a hotel room. Which makes me wonder whether this was adapted from a stage play? Or a very low-budget indie movie?

So Much Drama! It’s about a sex worker who *gasp* finds out that the older, married guy who’s paying him isn’t actually planning on them spending their lives together in the countryside.

OOPS SPOILERS.

Xeno & Oaklander: Hypnos

20:19: Comics For Choice edited by Ø. K. Fox & Whit Taylor

This is an anthology about abortion. There’s a wide range of approaches — but most of them are really straightforward.

Some are appropriately angry.

And some of this I didn’t know about, like the Jane network that performed abortions in the early 70s? Wild!

There’s a few pretty…. er… amateurish things in here, but quite a few like the above, are cool.

Heh heh.

(It was getting too windy outside, so I moved inside.)

The Sophie Foster-Dimino thing is absolutely devastating.

Neil Young: Archives Vol. II (8): Dume (1975)

22:08: Sangen, vi ikke kendte by Christer Bøgh Andersen (Fahrenheit)

Hey! This is signed and with a sketch from the artist? Thank you, Faraos.

I’m not super excited about the palette — everybody’s doing this desaturated thing now?

But it’s a really lovely book. I don’t know whether it’s autobio or not, but if it is, it’s been really well digested and considered. Autobio people often drop into an axe-grinding mode that’s offputting, but this is really smart. The point-of-view character is this teenage guy with an older sister and a younger brother, and the book is more about them than himself.

The central scene, with the dinner at the neighbour’s house, is pure magic. Perhaps too magical? It does feel very real and it is moving, but it’s also a scene that feels very calculated in this book. That is, the structure of this book is totally perfect — and that can start to feel fake?

Anyway, it’s a fantastic book.

Stian Westerhus: Redundance

22:51: The Stringer by Ted Rall & Pablo Callejo (NBM)

Oh god, not another journalist biography comic book! I hate these so much!

And this flashback style gets really boring really fast.

But… but… WHOHO! Rall pulled a fast one on us! It’s not a book like that at all! Wow! That’s cool. Good one, Rall.

Callejo’s artwork is quite pleasing — he sometimes goes kinda Tardi in his lines, and that’s even better, but even when he’s not doing that, the pages are quite attractive.

Now, I imagine everybody hates this book, and, yes, the storytelling gets really choppy after about the halfway point. It’s like things don’t quite connect? It manages to feel like it’s too long and there’s not enough connecting tissue… at the same time? That’s a unique achievement. So … this isn’t a good book, but I like the concept of it.

The Comics Journal:

Ted Rall knows nothing about journalism, just as he knows nothing about anything. The Stringer is another impressive low point in a career composed of little else.

Tee hee. Score!

JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs

00:10: Billionaires by Darryl Cunningham (Drawn & Quarterly)

What the…

What the…

This is just a straight-up Wikipedia dump of some evil people?

Not today, Satan.

JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs

00:14: Det må du selv om by Johan Krarup (Cobolt)

Oh, deer. This is kinda exactly what I was worried that other Danish book was going to be.

It’s about a dorkish kid, and it’s all about him, him, him — and how his parents just sucked, and his teacher sucked, and his sports trainer sucked. (And, to be fair, how he, himself, sucked.) So many axes to grind.

I mean, it’s not… awful or anything? But it’s so undigested.

And I just had huge problems keeping the Jeff Lemire-looking characters separate. Fortunately they keep calling each other by names in ever other speech balloon — otherwise it would have been impossible to tell who’s who.

Jane Siberry: 2020: A World Without Music

00:51: Tin Foil #3 by “Floyd” Tangeman

Is that the perfect way to open the book or what?

Is the theme of the issue different medias? Here’s something that seems drawn unto skin…

And here’s some knitted work, and there’s other stitched things, and pieces that look like they’ve made with food and glue?

Anyway, it’s a pretty thrilling issue. Every piece is a surprise. Love it.

Various: The Wire Tapper 52

01:27: Silas Corey 1 by Fabien Nury & Pierre Alary (Faraos Cigarer)

Oh, this sort of art style has been hegemonic in French(ey) comics for a decade now. It’s a sort of mix of… er… let’s go with post-Jandy classic children’s comics style (which is a post-Franquin style) mixed with Japanese dynamics.

And I’m pretty sick of it.

But perhaps it’ll be good anyway.

Well… it’s not so bad? It’s a fairly standard plot, but much more convoluted than normal. But it was just kinda boring? I think I won’t buy any further volumes in this series.

And now I’m all comicsed out.

Nighty night.

PX98: Burning Monster

Burning Monster by Gary Panter (216x160mm)

This is a collection of stuff from 1983, but published by Le Dernier Cri in 1998. I think it’s all screenprinted? It feels that way, at least.

It’s a stylish little book, with fold-in flaps and everything…

Some of the pages look a bit like sketchbook work, but many of them are among the more traditionally and fully-rendered things Panter has done. And were these things originally meant to be printed on top of each other? Panter was working with similar techniques for his Jimbo story in Raw around this time, which seems to suggest… er… I don’t know.

Some of these seem to echo stuff from Japanese comics.

But take the page to the left there, for instance: The orange layer is stamped “May 15”, while the dark blue layer says “May 20”, which seems to indicate that they were drawn separately… but the orange does seem to match up to the contours of the dress, at least.

Such confuse.

Anyway, this is a delightful little book. So much to stare at. I love the semi-confusing overlays, and the drawings have such a vitality. So fresh.

*gasp* And it’s signed.

Printed Matter says:

Part of the sketchbook series issued by maverick French screenprinters Le Dernier Cri, Burning Monster features Gary Panter’s ultra-scratchy, almost totally self-obliterating sketches of monsters and monster trucks alongside holiday and wedding scenes, museums, and cityscapes. The sketches somewhat resemble random biro-scrawl encrusted cigarette packets that would be found on the floor of a pub, but together admit entrance to the mind of the comic master.

Hm… I don’t agree. Doesn’t look very biro to me.

And… this seems to confirm that it’s all screenprinted.

This blog post is part of the Punk Comix series.

That Range, Tho

I thought I’d move to the balcony for some comics reading, so I wanted to set up a bluetooth speaker there, and so I opened up the bt panel on my laptop:

And on and on and on.

There’s about 60 devices in the list, and most of them are called “Tier” and “lime”, so finding my little speaker was er interesting, especially since the interface dynamically added and removed things with blazing speed, making it … interesting to actually click on a line.

I did it! Look! It’s playing music. See?

The “Tier” and “lime” devices have to be these electric scooters that are everywhere here?

I just have to say that I’m really impressed with the bluetooth range on these things. I usually count myself lucky if my bluetooth devices have a two meter range, and those things are like twenty meters away.

Very impressive! Keep up the good work!

PX08: Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@꩜🟊!

Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@꩜🟊! by Art Spiegelman (260x363mm)

Man, that’s a bad cover…

Well, the front endpapers look OK…

But then… yuck!

OK, I should probably explain what’s with all this kvetching. I just read the original version of this book, and it was such a thrilling book — a thrilling object.

This book isn’t, and I’m just wondering why: It’s the same format, basically, as the first book: It’s large hardcover book, but it just feels … cheap? It’s so standard! The cover’s got some shiny bits, but… it’s a lot thicker than the original book without having that many more pages. It feels like an ordinary, standard book, while the 77 book was something quite special.

OK, enough with the moaning: This book reprints the 77 book in its entirety, but first we get the story of Spiegelman’s childhood, drawn in this very easy-on-the-eye style. But… kinda… dull…

We get a smattering of sketches from around the time, and that’s exciting…

I mean, it’s not that the childhood stuff isn’t interesting or anything, but again, it’s pretty standard. And… Spiegelman comes off as pretty full of himself, and I don’t know whether that’s on purpose or not.

Then we get to the bulk of the book — the reprints. I wondered whether they’d be able to re-do the colour sep shenanigans from the 77 book, so here’s a comparison: The six “covers” to the left are from 77, the six on the right are from 08. They’re not identical — there’s some difference in colour tones — but it’s pretty darn impressive, eh? Some poor soul at Pantheon spent a lot of time on this. Or perhaps Spiegelman still had the seps in his archive?

Even the page with the sticker is reproduced. (But they didn’t glue in a new sticker.)

And then we get an essay where Spiegelman talks about himself in the third person a lot.

Oh, that Chris Ware is so deep. Who is that “you” that makes these assumptions about comics? And there’s oodles of people that think that arteests are morons — and many of them are cartoonists.

The self-pitying tone (mixed with Spiegelman patting himself on the back a lot for being such a genius) gets pretty grating.

Oh! So that’s what happening with the Nostalgia Press/Belier thing. I suspected that the porn publisher took the book over because of the penises, but it’s because Nostalgia Press went broke and couldn’t pay the printer?

R. C. Harvey writes in The Comics Journal #300, page 268:

Still, counting as we go, we take up
Art Spiegelman’s latest production, the
reissue last year of Breakdowns, which
Obliges us to cast a moistly rolling eye
back 30-some years in comics history
to see, by comparison, what we may
have learned in the three decades that
the Journal has rhe-
present proprietor.
Time travel is always risky. We may
discover that a foray into Breakdowns is
more excuse than measure, but it’s an
excuse worth taking.
The Irish novelist James Joyce once,
in a flight Of verbal fancy, wrote: No-
birdy avair soar anywing to eagle it.
If not high praise, at least acknowl-
edgment of extraordinary achieve-
ment. And we may say the same about
Spiegelman’s Breakdowns: Portrait ofthe
Artist as a Young (76 IOx14-
inch pages, many in color, hardcover;
Pantheon, $27.50).
My invocation of Joyce is neither fa-
cetious nor arbitrary: Joyce, the inven-
tor Of stream-of-consciousness writ-
ing, was a formalist, unabashed and
unrepentant; ditto, with a vengeance,
Spiegelman, but with pictures. And
Comicopia by R.C. Harvey
Breakdowns is the par excellence exem-
plar of his preoccupation. dubious
relationship between formalists has
scarcely evaded Spiegelman’s attention:
The subtitle of his book echoes that of
Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel.
Spiegelman’s book gives us the per-
fect pivot upon which we can turn to
look back while standing, firmly root-
ed, in the present. With Breakdowns
as the fulcrum and the Journal as the
lever, we should be able to move the
world of comics.

[…]

Considering the content, it’s not im-
possible to imagine how this edition of
Breakdowns came into being.
Spiegelman is a notoriously slow
worker: It took him two years to Com-
plete his last book, In the Shadow ofNo
Towers, which he undertook to express
his alarm and anger in reaction to the
terrorist attack on the twin towers
of the World Trade Center in lower
Manhattan, just a few blocks from his
studio and near the school one of his
children was attending.
“Reaction” implies something nearly
immediate, but Spiegelman’s treatment
soon evolved into a pousse-café of the
agonies the cartoonist endured in the
immediate and ensuing aftermath Of
9/11, in which he layered allusion af-
ter allusion in his original comics con-
struct and then laminated the whole
rbjngæir.b.
per comic strips.

[…]

Similarly, many of the individual
undertakings in the book, for all their
pyrotechnical storytelling methods, are
often meaningless in any but a purely
formalistic sense.
‘The longest “story” — the eight-
page “Ace Hole, Midget Detective”
— is a witty visual-verbal spoof Of the
hardboiled-detective genre, deploying
visual allusions to Picasso as well as to
classic comic strips (with a telling dig at
the Comics Code), but it doesn’t con-
dude so much as it simply stops, as if
Spiegelman had run out of allusions to
make. All form but no content.
I don’t mean to imply that Break-
downs is somehow inferior. It decid-
edly isn’t. As a demonstration of the
capabilities of the comics art form,
the book is usually superior. And the
demonstrations are not the stuff of dry
classroom lectures: They are entertain-
ing. One-to-three pages long, they’re
short and quippy, a little like blackout
playlets but often without punch lines.

Man, R. C. Harvey’s never very insightful, is he? Not enough punch lines. Check.

This blog post is part of the Punk Comix series.