A weird collection of comics reading this month, and I mostly neglected online stuff again.
Best American Comics 2013, edited by altcomics (Download Links)
-Blaise Larmee released this pdf compilation into the world early this month via his alt comics tumblr, which, if you aren’t following it, is one of the most interesting comics tumblrs.
-Almost every word in the title is a bit of a misnomer: “best” is always arguable, it’s not all American artists, many people would say that a lot of the works contained within aren’t really “comics”, and they definitely are not all from 2013.
-So what we really have is a 206 page pdf of… well, basically what you’d find on the altcomics tumblr.
-It’s a good joke though, because, damn, I wish the actual Best American Comics series were this adventurous… or even a quarter this adventurous. (And with Matt Madden and Jessica Abel leaving the series editorship, it may get even less so, as I know Matt at least tended to select more experimental works for the first round of selections (even if the guest editors didn’t actual select those comics for inclusion in the book).)
-One of the big disappointments of this collection, is the lack of attribution, which is too common on Tumblr to begin with. Some of the work here I can identify, but some of it is a total mystery, and there’s no easy way to follow up on it (maybe extracting the page as a jpg and then using Google Image search…). The file names are at the bottom of each page, which, very rarely, provides some clues, but mostly they are just long gibberish tumblr filenames.
-The works are surprisingly varied in style. There’s a lot that I actively dislike, some that is very “meh”, but there is also a lot of work that is really interesting, beautiful, or both. A few favorites:
- The abstract pencil drawn comic on page 18.
- Lovely, lightly colored drawing on page 27.
- The series of pages, divided into 6 panels, each that are mostly cardboard and ripped paper. (45-47, 51-52).
- Nice all black page (62)
- A Jason Overby comic (63-67)
- Neat Lawrence Weiner images on page 123.
- Shuji Terayama photocomics! (158-161)
-A lot of the work that appears to be by the same artist if not part of the same series/sequence are interspersed with other works, which leads one to believe there was some more purposeful organization to the whole collection, though I have no idea what that organization would be.
-Like the tumblr there are a lot of pages featuring window frames/panes.
One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry
-My third Barry collection of the year. I think I’m Barry’d out for now.
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (1993, Fantagraphics, 2010)
-I remember reading parts of this in Drawn & Quarterly (the anthology) a long time ago. It felt so fragmented and discontinuous. I thought that was because I was just missing parts (I didn’t have all the issues), but it turns out that’s just the way this book is.
-More than anything this comic is about the landscapes (which Tardi draws marvelously). Even the people, the characters, are as often as not part of the landscape rather than active figures. Many of the stories (for this is a collection of vignettes/stories) are about the transformation of a person from a character to part of the landscape as the soldiers die on the battlefield, left to rot in no man’s land. In this sense the political bent of Tardi is made manifest. The overriding theme is the sheer inhumanity and meaningless of the war. The people are barely people, become not people at all. I can’t remember a single character in this book’s name. I can’t even remember a single character enough to differentiate him from any of the other characters. They are all just bodies on their way to integration with the landscape.
The Adventures of Jodelle by Guy Peellaert (Fantagraphics, 2013)
-As much a monograph on Peellaert as it is a comic, the Jodelle comic is about half of this large hardcover; the rest is a couple of well illustrated essays on Peellaert.
-I found the monograph portion much more interesting than the comic itself. It chronicles Peellaert’s early career (up to the point where he stopped making comics, but including much more than just his comics, including drawings, paintings, film, theater, dance, and even a happening) with lots of illustrations. Interesting to see that a number of his later comics made use of photo collage as well as drawing (on/around the photos). I’d like to see some more of those (maybe in the Pravda collection if Fantagraphics is still doing that).
-Jodelle is referenced a few times as the first real adult comic, which I find quite debatable and a bit ironic since Peellaert’s writer collaborator Pierre Bartier was only 19 during the time of the collaboration. That young age is evident in the story itself… I mean, the story in Jodelle is puerile (the jacket copy proclaims that Jodelle “obliterated the conventions of what had up to that point been a minor, puerile medium,” and I have to laugh) and pretty stupid. It’s “adult” in about the same way a “mature readers” superhero comic is “adult,” which is to say: the breasts are sometimes bare and it’s implied that people have sex.
-But then there are the images. Peellaert’s style is quite attractive. Its sinuous lines and saturated colors are almost an ur-style of traditional comics drawing, yet they are filled with movement, interesting compositions, depth of space, and unusual angles. He makes use of repetition smartly in a kind of proto-copy & paste method where a crowd of figures is basically one figure redrawn a number of times. It’s pretty to look at, at least.
We Will Remain by Andrew White (Retrofit, 2013)
-This is my favorite Retrofit book so far. Though with Simon Moreton’s issue coming out next, we’ll see how long this remains true. (Fight!)
-Andrew White is only 22 (so says the inside cover, is it a boast or a disclaimer?). I knew he was young, but damn. I wish my comics had been this adventurous when I was 22 (actually when I was 22 was during the time I stopped making comics to write instead). He deserves a lot of props for experimenting, pushing himself, in his work. You can see that in this volume and in the work he posts online. Comics needs more of that, and if the experiments aren’t always successful, that is the nature of experiments. But you have to be willing to try.
-Let me enter a tangent here… I wonder how often comic artists give up on work. Try something, not like it, and then destroy/delete it and not publish it. The historical and economic context of comics tends to favor a mode where the artist (once they were at the point that they were publishing) makes work and publishes it, regardless of how it turned out. For a comic strip artist or someone making comic books, there was not any luxury of time to try and fail. The “alternative” comics that grew from a similar model as comic books and strips also seemed to allow little extra time as artists got involved in serialized graphic novels and regular scheduled pamphlets. And because of this, there is/was perhaps a tendency to not experiment too much, to not go too far outside one’s comfort zone. Does the internet change that, does the lack of monetary publishing options change that?..
-This pamphlet contains a few short stories and a few one-pagers. Most of them are about attempts to grasp the ineffable in different ways (at least that’s how I’m reading them).
-”Travel,” a mostly abstract narration of a character’s interdimensional travel, has a series of lovely inked panels that veer between abstraction, landscape, spacescape, and subjective vision. It could have been a little longer, I think. The narration mentions the traveller experiencing/feeling other people’s memories and lives, and it would have added to the comic for the panels to evoke that at least a little. It’s one of the only straight black/white inked stories in the book, which gives it an extra visual punch in the collection.
-Tangent again… from Chapter 26 of Galaxies by Barry N. Malzberg which I was reading last night (and is so far a very good metafictional sci-fi novel from 1975):
And this is a concept so broad, so (as the old pulp magazines might have billed it) mind-shattering, that it is worth considering for just a little while. As the ship, past its initial lurch into the field of the neutron star, becomes part of the black galaxy, as the ship partakes of the energies and properties of a gravitation so immense, Lena begins to live not only her life again, but also the life of various separate identities which are not hers. Some of these are identities transferred from the dead in the hold, others are taken from those that she has known in her previous life and others still (like this novel itself) have been completely constructed, fictional lives that nevertheless have all the reality and omnipresence of truth. Self-invention, spontaneous creation are as pervasive as anything that has happened, Lena finds, and as she lives a thousand lives over these seventy thousand years (give or take a few years overall and falling well within the Bell Curve of chances), she has the time to find out a great deal.
-I’m not totally convinced of the story in “Change Color,” but I love the way Andrew has crafted the imagery. The landscapes and interiors are drawn in a light multi-toned pencil, while the characters are all darker pencil in outline only, so that the background can be seen through them. In a few ways this makes the characters sit on top of the background, which helps you see the backgrounds with their own importance, appreciate the often very lovely pencil work on them (there are a few great panels of landscapes and foliage), and feel them as an evocation of the characters’ disconnection.
-”Out of Focus” features (drawn) photos and attempts at grasping/forgetting memories based on those photos. The “photo” panels are drawn with a bit more tightness and set off with a slight shadow which sits them on a plane above the looser subjective panels (again with the layers). I wish there were a little more contrast between the two types, as they a little too close, or if the stylistic contrast were a little more controlled and varied to mimic the sense of clearer/vaguer memories.
-”We Will Remain” is also a comic with visual layers. Each page (except the last) has a single large image in the background of the page as a whole, while the panels show the actions of characters in the foreground, visually differentiated by tone.
-The last page is a nice, quiet eight panel landscape comic.
-I’m not sure how publisher Box Brown decided on the format for these books, but I find it a really odd size. It’s not zine size, a classic comics pamphlet size. or manga size. It’s a little too square for all of those. I wonder what Frank Santoro thinks of the page size ratio of these.
So Long Silver Screen by Blutch (Picturebox, 2013)
-One of the first arrivals from my Picturebox subscription for the year. (I couldn’t resist the offer with the number of books they are putting out this year that I really want to read.) The first translated volume from the French artist Blutch.
-I honestly don’t know what to make of this one yet. I need to reread it, but Blutch impresses with his visual style, and I love the coloring.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin v.1 by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (Vertical, 2013)
-While I did read superhero comics when I first started reading comics, I think, unlike many comics readers my age or older, my sense of nostalgia for comics lies with manga and anime rather than the Marvel/DC/Image axis of the 90s. An early dose of various anime followed by the discovery of the early manga translations has always left me with a nostalgic feeling for certain styles and genres. Among those is the mecha sci-fi space opera perhaps most prominent at the time in the US via the Americanized Robotech series. I actually missed the showing of it on normal television, but picked up later via bootleg vhs’s (of the Japanese Macross), novelizations (yes, I read the whole series), and adaptation or sequel comics (from Comico and Eternity). At the time, there being a shortage of actual anime/manga in the genre, I also read a three book series of Mobile Suit Gundam novels (which, oddly, were put back into print last year). I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the anime and I don’t remember those books at all.
-But when I saw Vertical was putting out a Gundam manga by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, who I remember from early translations like Venus Wars and Joan, I got curious. Vertical has a pretty good track record, so I thought I’d check out this version.
-Verdict so far: Eh… It’s (at least this far in) really lacking in character drama/development. I could barely keep them straight (and didn’t for awhile, as I was convinced this random German woman (I think, since someone keeps calling her “Frau”) was given the job of space ship pilot, but now I think there were just two women who looked kind of the same). And from something like this, a rather long running series, you really need to be engaged by the characters as much, if not more, than the setting (especially since I don’t expect this will be conceptually/thematically dense beyond something about war (good? bad?) and responsibility (good). One of the big sells of Robotech was that it foregrounded the characters and their interactions as much as the sci-fi tech and fighting. Maybe that changes as this series goes on. I’m not sure if I want to give it the benefit of the doubt or not.
Journal by Julie Delporte (Koyama Press, 2013)
-For something a lot different…
-Annie Koyama was nice enough to send a review copy to me, unrequested. I think this book is officially out in May.
-I’m already a big fan of Julie’s work, and this book did not disappoint at all. I know I’ve read a number of these pages online before, but seeing them all together (and reading them with less distance between pages) gave them a better unity and narrative movement.
-I don’t think anyone makes color comics like Julie. She draws directly with colored pencils in non-mimetic colors that are well balanced. The first comic I read by her was in black and white and it didn’t have nearly the same impact as her color work.
-The pages also have a real physicality to them, as they are printed like original art. You can see tape where elements are collage in, often the paper color and edge (sometimes looking like it was torn out of a book) is visible within the printed page. I think I saw a few erasures in there too.
-This was a real journal for Julie, so the pages do not have the structure of a conventional comic page, text and image mingle freely, one often overtaking the other to a great degree. The drawings appear to be a mix of life-drawing, photo(?) referenced drawing, and made-up imagery, which adds a nice stylistic variation to the details, representations, and amount of abstraction.
-I say “drawings” to reference the images/pictures, but the text itself is very much like drawing, in colored pencil, handwritten in a clean but idiosyncratic style. I’m really impressed with the work that must have gone into the pages to translate them. The text is often over/within/on the drawings, yet the translated re-lettering is seamless.
-The journal itself finds Julie dealing with a break-up (one of those where the ex remains a big part of your life) and spending a semester at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. It is a more confessional, expressive type of autobiography than a constructed story type. It doesn’t have that quality so many autobiographical comics have of being planned out.
-I need to reread this again too.
Today is the ninth anniversary of the first blog post at MadInkBeard.com (that first post has been deleted for awhile now, and before the blog there were statics pages since 2002). Posting has slowed a lot over the years. The past year was pretty lightweight in that respect. Most of the comics writing I did was posted elsewhere. On the other hand, I’ve posted more comics in the past year than in any previous year (not to mention all the ones posted to my Tumblr that haven’t made it onto the main site (yet?)).
I recently redesigned the site (if you didn’t notice) to be simpler and easier to read (I hope). It’s also fully (I think) responsive so that it should read equally well on large or small screens (I’ve come a long way in that respect, my original site was best viewed at 800×600 in IE!). While I was doing that I also streamlined the archives some. A number of posts are now gone (so much so that there aren’t any left from 2003 when I started the blog). You can see the (now much easier to browse) full list of written (ie not comics) posts here (or click “writing” in the header). That’ll give you the quick overview of posts from the past year.
Recently I started writing monthly posts about every comic I read in the month (expect April’s edition in about 2 weeks), and I’ve been hard at a work on a browser based comic generator (lots of in-progress samples on my Tumblr). I’m also about to start work on two publications that will be published by someone other than me(!), and probably should be thinking about MadInkBeard No.6 (for which I have no plan yet).
And, hey, if you missed the long essay I posted recently, go back one post and check it out.
The gaps between panels are one of the most prominent visual elements of comics. If the word balloon is eminently more iconic of “comics” to the wider public, for me it rarely takes more than two quadrilaterals separated by a thin band of blank space to see “comics.” The gutter is a structuring gap that separates two images: it separates but does not remove the relation, creating a tension between pulling apart and bringing together (a gap requires two ends around the space in the middle). In addition to the gutter—which separates individual panels—the page, its margins, and the action of turning the page are structuring gaps in most paper-based comics (the click or swipe in many digital comics). The page separates the hyperframes from each other but, through their proximity, maintains a unity across surfaces.
As a historically “low” form, printed cheaply as disposable artifacts, any historical conception of comics is gappy, from forgotten comic strips/books to innumerable pages of uncredited work and beyond. The gappiness only increases when crossing international and language borders. The American-English speaking world’s conception of European comics is riddled with gaps due to language and distribution barriers, but it is little compared to the gaps in the conception of Japanese manga from this side of the international/language divide, due to even greater cultural and linguistic differences. At a broad level, the American-English speaking world has been exposed to only bits and pieces of manga, leaving large swaths of the history/bibliography unknown. This is notably the case for historical periods predating the “manga boom” and those genres that fall outside what American-English publishers believe would be popular. These gaps are so broad as to be almost unknowable for the non-specialist, but to focus on one area that is at least partially known, we can have some sense of the gaps around the influential manga magazine Garo.
In some ways, the history of manga in the U.S. starts with Garo. Of the earliest manga series published in English, three have connections to Garo. The Legend of Kamui (Eclipse/Viz, 1987) by Sanpei Shirato was originally published in Garo. The series translated into English is a sequel (of some sort, I’m not clear on the connection other than the continuing character) to Kamui-Den, the series for which Garo was originally started as a showcase. Less directly, Mai the Psychic Girl (Eclipse/Viz, 1987) artist Ryoichi Ikegami published in Garo in the 60s and worked as an assistant to Garo artist Shigeru Mizuki. Another early English translation, Lone Wolf & Cub (First Comics, 1987), was drawn by Goseki Kojima who worked as one of Shirato’s assistants on Kamui-Den. None of these works were (or are) considered avant-garde or “alternative.” I imagine they were all chosen as translations because of a perceived popularity in regards to their genres and existing American comics: Kamui‘s ninjas and Lone Wolf‘s samurais had pre-existing models in the United States, and Mai, even just from the title, is reminiscent of the then very popular X-men (Mai as Japanese Jean Grey).
Then a gap (for most of the manga boom) until 2005 when Drawn & Quarterly begins publishing manga with a series of volumes by Yoshihiro Tatsumi as well as volumes from Seiichi Hayashi, Oji Suzuki, Susumu Katsumata, and Shigeru Mizuki, all of whom did work for Garo in the 60s and 70s (they also published Imiri Sakabashira, whose works from Garo appears to date from later years). At this point the name Garo seems to really take on its role as a metonym for “alternative manga.” The popular (is such a word can be used for fairly niche market publications) conception becomes most associated with restrained short stories (or single volume “graphic novels”) drawn in a style rather stiff (Tatsumi) or cartoony (Mizuki, Katsumata) with the occasional magic realist or surrealist flair. These works fit nicely with a North American comics fan’s idea of “alternative” or “literary” comics as a personal and expressive rather than a commercial art. They can be seen as sitting in relation to mainstream manga like Dragon Ball or Sailor Moon the same way other works from Drawn & Quarterly sit in relation to the “mainstream” superhero comics in America, both through the less slick (and often crude) art styles and the use of self-contained narratives rather than (nearly) endless serialization.
Seiichi Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy (originally in Garo from 1970-1971, published in English by Drawn & Quarterly in 2008) is my favorite Garo-related manga to make it into English (or French, in which I’ve also read some manga). A good part of my preference for it, besides its general visual flair (and shifting stylistics), is what I call its gappy aesthetic. Where most comics (especially those predating 1970) are almost obsessively concerned with a clarity of narrative and a smooth bridging of the gutteral gap, Hayashi takes the elements of his narrative and introduces greater gaps between panels and pages, taking a cue from the French new wave filmmakers whose works were making their way to Japan at the time. The transitions between Hayashi’s panels and pages are often abrupt, abstract, or metaphorical. Time, beyond the scenic moment, loses clarity. Scenes become fragmented.
Hayashi does not spell out all the plot points nor does he tell us every last thought and feeling of the characters, rather he uses allusion and metaphor to let the reader draw out conclusions (what conclusions there are to be had) and to create emotional and narrative effects. The elliptical construction of this manga forms a narrative that is more loose and insubstantial than any plot summary I’ve seen would have you believe. What could be a fairly straightforward romance/melodrama narrative is transformed.
Summarizing the plot of the manga seems almost beside the point, but… The story shows us Ichiro and Sachiko, a young unmarried Japanese couple, living together and struggling in their jobs and personal lives during the end of the 60s. They are isolated and isolating, pushing themselves away from their families and, often, each other. Ichiro works at home as a freelance animator (an inbetweener, drawing the repetitious minor images between the key images) while Sachiko is a tracer at an animation studio. Ichiro wants to make comics (he says that a lot); Sachiko is less clear in her wishes. That the female character is much less developed (and primarily acts in relation to the man) is par for the course in almost all the manga I’ve read from Garo. Both seem distraught, depressed, and almost aimless. There really isn’t too much of a plot, and that’s fine. Red Colored Elegy is about mood and feeling and foregrounding the art/form of the comic itself.
The first few pages of the manga are worth taking a closer look at, as they offer a group of jarring transitions and address the themes that will take up the rest of the story. The first page is a single image, a high contrast drawing that looks like it is a copied/manipulated photograph of a man. He has a star in his eye and another shooting out of him. A juxtaposed poetic text is either translated poorly or excellently, because it reads like juvenilia (it is highly possible in this context that it is purposefully so), and it acts like an epigraph (“My life is an open book, I live it page by page. For what, I don’t know…”). Does this clue us in to pay attention to the page as a unit of narrative in the manga? Certainly, it does point at the existential void in the protagonist’s lives.
This page is followed by a scene with Ichiro walking alongside a headless Disney-esque cartoon character who is telling him to quit his animation job. Ichiro stabs or punches the character (blood/ink spurts out of him, the two are often equated in the book), and we see a barbed wire fence with the character’s white glove hanging on it. At this point in the story, it is not decisive whether this is a real or imagined event, though after a full reading, we can tell that this is some kind of mental projection of Ichiro’s. The imagined violence bubbles beneath the surface of his life.
The single page that follows contains what looks like two film strips side-by-side (eight frames of which we can see) showing more copied photographic images of a young woman’s head. We see her words; she is talking to someone (“I thought you were going to draw comics,” “I should quit my tracing job,” “maybe I’ll get married”). These fragments are clear indicators of the story to come, and the first quote would lead me to believe that this is Ichiro and Sachiko renewing a formerly casual acquaintance, starting the relationship that we see in the rest of the book.
The four panels that take up equal portions of the next two page spread (10-11, see above) are of elliptical connection. The first panel shows Ichiro and Sachiko walking along, the former with his shoulders hunched, the latter with her head lowered. On a distant horizon we see the silhouette of a person riding a bicycle. A line from the bicycle into the black that makes up the background below the horizon leads to a white star situated between the two characters. The second panel shows Sachiko kneeling and bent forward in front of a small mirror. A word balloon shows her words “I don’t understand him.” The third panel shows another seemingly photographic face, this time inset into the moon surrounded by a night sky. Black tears stream down the face and the mouth is open in an anguished cry. The last panel shows Ichiro standing under hanging laundry, speaking out the words “Am I drunk?” (I should add here, that Hayashi’s compositions are often quite excellent, and this page is a good example of that.)
These six pages are, to the first time reader, exceedingly opaque. What is going on? Who are these people? How does one page relate to the next? The reader is left to create their own connections or to just read on through without forming any (art of this sort is often as much about rereading as reading). The characters, drawn in a very simple outline with few details, can be difficult to differentiate (and how does the photographic imagery relate to the simple drawings). The panel of Sachiko kneeling in front of the mirror is primarily identifiable as her because of a single line that crosses over her leg above the knee, delineating the hem of her skirt. These simple and subtle differentiations are found throughout the book. The reader must pay close attention.
While the narrative has numerous conventional panel sequences (notably, ones that in their close time sequencing are reminiscent of the animation on which both protagonists work), Hayashi often juxtaposes panels that fit together in unusual, indirect ways. One page (21) offers a kind of metaphorical panel transition of undecidable subjectivity. The top panel shows Ichiro and Sachiko standing under a blossoming cherry tree. Sachiko has just told Ichiro that her parents have arranged a marriage for her. “It concerns you too you know,” she says. “Me?” he replies. They are separated by space and his word balloon. The following panel shows Snow White and Prince Charming in a smiling embrace as blossoms fall around them. I’m left wondering, is this a mental projection of one of the characters, a picture perfect romance filtered through animation (an apt image since they both work in the field)? Or is this an ironic commentary by the author/narrator, commenting on the storybook naivety of such an idea? Either way, the juxtaposition of the two images raises connections, questions, thoughts, and feeling through a method that is rarely seen in comics. A diegetic panel juxtaposed with one that is indeterminately extra-diegetic.
We see something similar late in the book (222). The couple decide to end their relationship. Sachiko points her finger out like a gun; “Bang!” goes the sound effect. The following panel shows Ichiro lying dead on the ground, blood splattered and spilled. This is more directly metaphorical, yet still a striking transition. The metaphorical blood sends us back to that early sequence of Ichiro asssaulting the cartoon character, a more distant gap to be traversed. This braiding (see Groensteen’s System of Comics (U Mississippi, 2007)) that connects disparate parts of the comic is another frequently used gap in Hayashi’s book. The narrative and visual gaps are not only sequential and are drawn out through rereading.
Some of the sequences are more difficult to bridge. One (58-60) starts with Sachiko’s father, in a single page image, one eye open, one eye closed. The four panels of the next page (59, see above) show: a lizard’s tale with a flower blossom, the father’s head with blossoms/leaves blowing in the background, a lizard’s head with clouds in the background, and a hand holding a razor blade with blossoms again in the background (this time in white on black). A turn of the page brings another full page image showing the father, slumped over, grasping his wrist as blood spurts from it. I have no idea why the lizard is there. I’ve puzzled it over and think there is some symbolism I am missing (like the cherry blossoms, perhaps something cultural).
Even thematically, I can read gaps into (and out of) Red Colored Elegy, as the narrative itself is focused on two major gaps. The plot is most obviously a progressive widening of the gap between the protagonists Ichiro and Sachiko, as they distance themselves from each other and their relationship falls apart. Less directly it sounds the gaps between dream and reality (Ichiro’s dream of making comics and his reality of endless drawing for animation studios). I can also see the gaps between everyday life and politics (for Sachiko) and those between generations (the protagonists and their parents).
In general Hayashi’s gaps foregrounds one of the comics most specific elements, the juxtaposition of images. His broadening of the gaps forces a slower reading and invites a closer reading, working against comics’ historical norms of “smooth” transitions and clear narrative. Red Colored Elegy cleared a path that, 40 years on, has been followed rarely.
In reading Red Colored Elegy, I find some aspects of the narrative or elements of the visuals obscure (like the lizard on page 59 mentioned above). Not just from a perspective of the plot, but from an intertextual and extratextual vantage. Hayashi is explicitly referencing aspects of contemporary culture in his work. Some of them are taken from an international popular/art culture (I’m pretty sure that’s a large image of James Dean on page 52), while others are domestic to Japan, such as the references to/quotations from songs (popular or traditional, I don’t know). Being neither Japanese nor a student of Japan, these references are a gap in my reading. These gaps will vary from reader to reader; I imagine many of them will exist consistently for contemporary American-English readers.
In a cultural vein closer to my own, I’m convinced the scene with Sachiko pretending to shoot Ichiro with her finger is a reference to a Godard movie (Breathless?), though I’m not sure without rewatching a bunch of his films. Maybe I’m filling a gap that doesn’t exist. A clearer reference is found in a two page spread where panels of Sachiko and Ichiro are intercut with panels containing text, a single sentence spread across five panels: “What a middle school grad needs to do to succeed” (26-27) is quite Godard-esque (including the graffitied way the text is written, adding a reference to contemporary political events). Godard often intercuts/interpenetrates text with images in that manner. Whether that was an explicit reference by Hayashi or is simple my own reading, I cannot say.
Our conception of comics allows us to bridge the structural gap between individual image panels and see them as one unit, the comic itself, instead of isolated imagery. This ability to unify/group images is one way works not culturally defined as “comics” can be seen in relation to comics, by translating the gaps. In the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC there is a room containing the 14 paintings of Barnett Newman’s “Stations of the Cross.” Read the white walls as gutters and margins and you can see them as comics or at least comics-esque: a wall that is a page, a page that is a wall. In a similar sense, placing almost any two images together on a page and it begins to invite a “reading” as opposed to just a looking, as the reader/viewer tries to bridge the gap between the two images, no matter how disparate.
That gap between 1987 and 2005 is not as large as I make it seem, and perhaps it is just a reading on my part to remove aspects of the history I don’t want to see. Between those years a number of one-off anthologies as well as a few isolated translations (like Tsuge’s “Screw-style” in the pages of The Comics Journal) presented other selections from the pages of Garo. Three anthologies that featured some work from Garo (Sake Jock (Fantagraphics, 1995), Comics Underground Japan (Blast Books,1996), and Secret Comics Japan (Viz, 2000)) primarily showcased work from the 90s (at least the latter two, bibliographic data for Sake Jock‘s contents is lacking) which show a considerably different conception than the work published by Drawn & Quarterly. The majority of works in these anthologies from Garo or artists who published in Garo are nonsensical, dreamlike, surreal, and/or grotesque, using a variety of styles from a kind of photorealist style to a cute cartoon style to the “hetauma” bad/good style (for example: Kazuichi Hanawa, Takashi Nemoto, Nekojiru, Muddy Wehara, and Usamaru Furuya). In comparison with the “alternative” comics of the D&Q published work, these Garo works could be seen as the “underground” or “art” comics version of manga (however much a misnomer those two terms are), especially if one takes Douglas Wolk’s equation of the latter term with “ugly” art (Reading Comics, Da Capo 2007).
Even this ignores other artists, whose styles are reminiscent of neither of the above trends, that were published in Garo and have made some appearances in western languages. Kiriko Nananan’s sparse stories about contemporary relationships (best featured in English in Blue (Fanfare, 2004)) are narratively gappy while maintaining visual continuity. Hinako Siguira’s work (some volumes available in French) both takes place during and is drawn in the style of Japan’s Edo period.
As Borges said, “every [artist] creates his own precursors.” In this sense we fill in our own historical gaps, and we also add new gaps where they do not need to exist. For me, Garo is Hayashi, Suzuki, Nananan, and the strange photo-referenced stories by Maki Sasaki from which I’ve only seen isolated pages. Primarily, this is the experimental/poetic vein. I leave the hetauma style, the grotesque, and Tatsumi to fall in the gaps.
Kazuo Kamimura’s Dousei Jidai (1972-73) tells a fairly similar plot to Red Colored Elegy: the dissolution of a cohabitating, unmarried young couple’s relationship. Both couples are artists, struggling with work and family. You could summarize both works with the same few sentences. In fact, Dousei Jidai‘s first chapter followed not long after the ending of Red Colored Elegy, and the similarity is no coincidence. But what is not similar is how much Kamimura’s aesthetic differs from Hayashi’s. Hayashi’s story is all gaps, jumps, and symbols in a shifting visual style. Kamimura’s is consistent and smooth. His use of metaphor and symbol is clearer, more direct. His storytelling is decompressed—to use the term that has become almost equivalent with manga—drawing out each scene for many pages where Hayashi might only use one or two panels (compressed? hyper-compressed?). That Dousei Jidai is 2100 pages to Red Colored Elegy‘s 230 does not come as a surprise. If Hayashi is gappy, Kamimura is all clearly marked roads and bridges. His protagonists are like filled-in versions of Ichiro and Sachiko: their thoughts are clearer, their emotions are expressed, even their sex lives are more explicit. Kamimura takes time to linger over a scene, to explore a setting, and to show the shifting emotions of the characters. This is not to say Dousei Jidai leaves nothing to the imagination or to inference (not everything can be shown or said), but the reader does end up experiencing a very different story. For the interested reader, the two works stand both together and apart, a fascinating and exemplary contrast in comics narrative.
These types of gaps are often lessened through the paratexts: footnotes, endnotes, introductions, afterwords. Many manga series include translator’s notes to explain cultural specificities (if not necessarily intertextual references). Drawn & Quarterly seems resolutely against such paratexts. Even the original place and date of publication is omitted in their translations. At no point is Garo mentioned on the Red Colored Elegy volume and the original date of publication (1970-1971) is only mentioned on the paper band that encircles the back cover. Their translation of Oji Suzuki’s A Single Match includes even less information, citing neither publication source nor original date. These gaps are frustrating to me and do a disservice to comics history in general, as they tend to create misreadings and misconceptions of the cross-cultural history (misreadings that I am probably not clearing up here). With all this context left out, readers are forced to find or generate their own, which can lead to misinformation spreading (especially online). For instance, in the text above I mentioned Susumu Katsumata’s work as coming from Garo, but after the writing I was informed that the stories from Red Snow did not originally appear in Garo ( though Katsumata did publish in the magazine). Also, the general (incorrect) conception that Viz’s The Legend of Kamui is a translation of Garo’s primary serial from its early years, Kamui-Den, has spread from a lack of historical and contextual information.
Until we see a fuller picture in English and some gaps get filled, we are all just seeing the Garo in our mind. What we draw from that imaginary Garo may or may not be “true” to the historical magazine, but in bridging the gaps we are at least staying true to the form.
—DB, Aug 2012
Charles Hatfield discusses comics as an “art of tensions” in his Alternative Comics (U Mississippi, 2005). Two of his tension, “single image vs. image-in-series” and “sequence vs. surface”, are most often found through the gaps.
Most of my Garo related knowledge that does not come from reading the manga itself (in English or French) comes from Ryan Holmberg’s Garo Manga: The First Decade 1964-1973, a 2010 exhibit at the Center for Book Arts in NYC and its accompanying catalog essay. Other information comes via Bill Randall (see note 4) and maybe a tiny bit taken skeptically from various internet sites (primarily for connecting more recent authors to Garo and seeing samples of artists with whom I’m not familiar).
Hayashi admits the influence in a 2010 interview: “Their [Nouvelle Vague movies] narrative composition was also especially interesting to us: to cut the story so it wouldn’t seem so simple – as in Breathless.”
For historical information on Dousei Judai, I am indebted to Bill Randall’s column in The Comics Journal 295 (2009). While you’re digging around in the back issues read his column on Red Colored Elegy in issue 292 (2008). Dousei Jidai was translated into French as Lorsque Nous Vivions Ensemble v.1-3 (Kana, 2009) which is the version I’ve read.
Images from Red Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi (Drawn & Quarterly, 2008), copyright 2008 Seiichi Hayahi$1
[This essay originally appeared in Secret Prison #7, edited By Ian Harker and Box Brown (2012). Buy a Copy it has a lot of comics in it.]
Month three of this project and I’m getting better at taking time for the some of the webcomics I come across (though not the large number that go by in Tumblr, I’ll try better next month). I also seemed to have read more comics this month. Am I being too flip with these comments? Maybe.
The Life Problem: Two Stories by Austin English (Drippybone, 2013)
-The tension between art and story?
-The unity between art and story?
-On one hand as Austin’s art gets ever more abstract, less traditionally representational, his stories are also simplifying. The two short stories in this comic are more minimal than his earlier work (Christina & Charles, the comics in Windy Corner 1-3). In this sense there is a unity in the move away from certain methods.
-On the other hand, he is telling these simple stories with chaotic art, art that could never convey the story as it is found in the words, without those words. The words and the images are almost at odds, throwing away traditional comics obsession with clarity.
-Rooms and interiors seem really important to Austin’s work. Living situations. Strange friendships. People on the margins.
-I find myself reading the text first. It anchors the images in some respects. It’s like I need that context to make sense of what I’m looking at, mostly because I know that there IS a story and that the art IS representative of something. I think I would read it differently if I my expectations were different (i.e. if I thought this was non-narrative work).
-The stories are not realism: a sense of irrationality suffuses them.
-This is the first comic I’ve seen from Drippybone. Their name does not inspire, but I love the cover.
Lettres au maire de V. by Alex Barbier (Fréon, 1998)
-I got this from the Frémok table at BCGF this past year, one of the many books I bought from them. It’s an older book, from when it was just Fréon, before Fréon and Amok merged. Interestingly, this was originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Maybe this is one of those comics made when they were getting a lot of western artists to make work for them (like Paul Pope and Edmond Baudoin did)… though this is decidedly not manga-like. Not even slightly close.
-Two watercolored panels per page with epistolary text in the form of short letters to the mayor of a town called “V.” (hence the title “Letters to the Mayor of V.”).
-At first the author of the letters is unclear, inconsistent. I started out thinking it was one person, then thinking it was multiple people. The ambiguity is part of the narrative (resolved by the end).
-It is a violent comic. The primary figure is the loup-garou, the werewolf, a killer and the author of letters to the mayor.
-Barbier’s watercolors are often really beautiful, even with the disturbing content. At time though his figures, especially when he delineates the faces too much, become cartoony and a little goofy looking.
-There is an interesting appearance of little red arrows and ‘X’s on the panels. They sit on top of the representational content of the image, and, if nothing else, serve to recall to the reader that the images are, diegetically, created images. The letter writer is sending the watercolors to the mayor (it is explicitly referenced at least once). They are not an objective view of the world accompanied by narration, rather they are part of the letter writer’s narration. Which then brings in to question the reality of the whole of the comic, that is, the reality of the narration within the narrative. The whole comic could be the narration of a crazy person, not a werewolf at all, just someone spinning out a tale.
The 3 Snake Leaves by Emily Carroll (online, 2013)
-This is a very pretty comic.
-It’s also a fairy tale adaption, so it has that against it.
-Still, it’s nice to look at, stylistically: rich colors, sharp line work, subtle textures.
-It’s got a bit of hypertext interaction where the narrative bifurcates. At first you think the two options are the same and then they turn out to be two sides of the story.
Voyager by Jed McGowan (online, 2013)
-A long scroll of a comic following the Voyager 1 explorer into space.
-I like how the opening panel shows a map of where Voyager (and thus the comic) is going.
-Great sense of flow and movement throughout.
-The early drawings of Jupiter are really beautiful. There’s a sequence that is almost completely abstract.
-I find some of the images of Voyager itself to be a little flat and oddly textured, though.
Outside 1 (of 3) by Marc Geddes and Warren Craghead (Oily, 2013)
-This is a small (quarter letter size) 12 page mini. Very lo-fi.
-A surfer goes into the ocean and catches a wave. That’s the narrative, but Geddes’ words make the narrative itself more of a poem.
-Warren makes use of a great variety of line weight and texture: thick, thin, dark, light, dense, airy. His line is dynamic and swift as it expresses the movement of the ocean, the waves and splashes.
-My only complaint: it’s only 12 pages, part 1 of 3. I wonder if the experience will be improved or damaged by a serialization over 3 months (I think it’s monthly).
Comics as Poetry (New Modern Press, 2012)
-Another anthology I’m in, so bias alert. It’s compiled by Franklin Einspruch.
-You should buy a copy, I think anyone who is bothering to read this site would like at least a few of the comics collected here.
-The introduction by William Corbett, who is some kind of poet and professor, is awful. He clearly has not seen any of the work in the book. He doesn’t mention any of it, or anyone contemporary, but he does manage to work in the obligatory superhero reference and alludes to the “comics aren’t just for kids” motif, if rather obliquely. He also seems to be positive on Dave Morice, which in itself makes him suspect. The text is basically a string of references, as if Corbett just mentioned every comic or comics related thing he could think of, one after the other, and then stopped. There’s also an internet reference at the end that sounds like it was written by someone who’s never used the internet. I’m not sure if the inclusion of Corbett is supposed to offer some kind of poetry street cred, but it doesn’t offer any… well anything of value. So much for any context to the actual work.
-I had to vent about that.
-Thankfully, it’s only one column of text on one page.
-And then you get to the comics, and things are better, so much better.
-Alphabetical order: Kimball Anderson, me, Warren Craghead, Julie Delporte, Oliver East, Franklin Einspruch, Jason Overby, Paul K. Tunis.
-If you’ve read recent work by any of these people, you probably won’t be surprised by their contributions. And I don’t think anyone offered lesser work here. There are samples (big ones!) at the site for the book.
-I feel weird talking about this one too much.
-I think I just really needed to vent about that introduction.
-And I wanted an excuse to mention the book again to tell you to buy a copy.
-Just start on page 5.
Vagabond #34 By Takehiko Inoue (Viz, 2013)
-Inoue took a break from making Vagabond for quite awhile, the previous volume having come out in mid/late 2010.
-Maybe Inoue was just bored with his story, because after all this time, in this volume, the series feels stuck in stasis. Not much happens and even less that gives us any added insight into the characters or moves the plot much. (Often Vagabond does slow down considerably, but it is usually for the purposes of building depth, in this case, I feel like it was an unnecessary dragging of feet.)
-This is still one of my favorite manga series, another volume is forthcoming in Japan, so maybe we’ll see that within the year and the story will move along. It’s gotta be moving towards an ending soon.
The Half Men by Kevin Huizenga (2013)
-This is a minicomic containing three short stories. Two of them are “redraws” of some old comic book stories (one from the last Kramers Ergot issue, one that Huizenga has been posting online). I don’t think he is transforming them enough to make them interesting beyond the concept of the exercise itself. They seem to primarily just be straight redraws in Huizenga’s style.
-The other story, “Second Attempt”, is a strange little mythic story, that combines Huizenga’s use of science, abstraction, and simplified design. It is reminiscent visually of some of his video game imagery, though not at all, as far as I can tell, explicitly related, though implicitly it makes some sense.
The Greatest of Marlys by Lynda Barry (Sasquatch Books, 2000)
-After enjoying The Freddie Stories last month I decided to get a copy of this collection of Barry’s strips. It covers some number of strips from 1986 through 2000. They are only dated by year (and not all of them) so it’s hard to say what percentage of strips are included or how they all fit together (the years skip around a bit, so it’s not a strict temporal ordering). I’m not totally clear where The Freddie Stories fit in here, I don’t think any of them are included in this volume, though they definitely fit somewhere into that time period (and use the same characters).
-There are basically three kinds of strips here.
1) The “show and tell” where one of the characters (primarily Marlys, but often Freddie) talks to the reader/audience more directly, explaining (usually with a good deal of imagination) something or other.
2) The strips that are made like replications of drawing (crude) and writing (less consistently lettered, less narrative) by one of the characters.
3) The narrative strips. Barry frequently switches narrators (Marlys, Freddie, Arna, Maybonne, etc.), so you often have to tell from context who is speaking. These strips are most like the majority of The Freddie Stories (excepting the outtakes that are at the end of the D&Q edition) and One Hundred Demons.
-I really only enjoy that third type of strip, which means, after I realized this, I started skipping a lot of the strips. There are some quality moments in here (a sequence near the end where Arna moves into the trailer park with Marlys and family, for instance), but I didn’t as often feel the same sense of emotion and appreciation that came from reading The Freddie Stories or One Hundred Demons.
-Read those other two first. I think I’m going to go reread One Hundred Demons.
Comics Workbook, edited by Frank Santoro
-It’s a mixed bag, but definitely worth following. It’s a ridiculous amount of content. Some of it is pretty immature, but there is a lot of beautiful and/or innovative work.
-A huge downside of Tumblr is being able to browse for specific content. The Comics Workbook site doesn’t seem to have any metadata I can use to just, for instance, see all Oliver East’s strips in a row, so you have to scroll through the archive page which goes on and on and on.
-Oliver East’s “Rolling Stock” series is at #96 as I write this at the end of the month. Oliver has been cranking out these pages, nearly daily for a few months (since November). It’s great to see this kind of (nearly) live production of work. I don’t see that much from comic artists I admire. With that output there are hits and misses, but Oliver’s been hitting more than missing. At lot of these pages have a more minimal/abstract quality to them that I really love (for instance #93 is a great recent example). I wish there were some easy way to page through all these so I could more easily try to ascertain the connection from one to the next. #83 adds in a great visual element with the ripples in the thin paper created from the applied medium. You rarely see that type of dimensionality introduced into a comic page.
-Warren Craghead is pretty new to contributing to the site. His “Colonialism” series is reminiscent of his work in the Comics as Poetry book (inspired by Stuart Davis, it turns out), and it more traditionally comic-esque than a lot of his work, as far as panel structure, yet so untraditional in the use of collaged elements. He’s also been doing some political work with a series of drawings from the 700 Club television series.
-Andrew White has made a ridiculous number of comics for the site since July. They are often sketchy or rough, it’s like reading Andrew’s sketch book, except not sketches of life, but sketches of comics ideas. They don’t always work for me, I think partially because I’m not a fan of the real loose pencil drawing Andrew frequently uses. It hovers somewhere between refined, full drawing and purposefully minimal drawing, in a way that is unsatisfyingly neither. But that is the nature of sketches. For something more refined (and successful) by him recently, check out this short comic or this one. After all this, I am excited to see what Andrew does with his new comic from Retrofit that is out this month.
-Aidan Koch has consistently produced lovely, short strips for the site, often in series (Artists’ Studio, Color Study, The Elements of Painting). There is always a lovely simplicity to her drawing, and a assured sense of composition to her panels. The series has all been non-narrative in a conventional sense. The 19 strips in Artists’ Studio seems to build up a location rather than a story, less a narrative breakdown of panels than a locative breakdown.
-I love this one: Elements of Painting No.14
-If you go back far enough you can find Alyssa Berg’s The Great comic, which I really love.
-I wish Frank posted more of his own work on the site.
http://0o0o000.tumblr.com/ by Dunja Jankovic
-Wow. Woah. Yowza. Damn.
-A mix of hand-drawn, collaged, digital, animated imagery.
-I like how some of the images are time delayed. You have to wait a bit to see the animation. Once you notice that it forces you to linger on each panel.
-Love the line fields and the geometric overlays. (Not as big a fan of the weird organic creatures.)
-Really really love that last panel.
Still reading daily Peanuts and Krazy Kat. I also reread Extra Time #1 and #2 and parts of Tusen Hjartan Stark #1 for the February post.
[They are all gone now. I'll post a digital version in a week or so (after the mailed copies have likely been delivered).]
Download the Minicomic as a 1.2MB CBZ File (Note: each of the originals had a different cover, this scan is of the copy I kept for my archives.)
I learned this morning that it is apparently Minicomics Day. So, naturally I made a minicomic (8 pages plus a cover, ~4″ x ~5.25″). Created it (mostly remixing images and text from comics I’ve made in the past year), layed it out, printed it, folded, cut, stapled, signed, and numbered. Now I’m giving them away! Send my your address, and I’ll send you a copy, while supplies last (at this point I think I have 10 of the original 20 left). It’s just a short comics poem, nothing too fancy.
Over at du9 Balthazar Kaplan has an interesting post up today. [in French] I thought I’d do a quick summary and translation of part of it.
Kaplan was co-creator of the zine Dorénavant with Balthélémy Schwartz. All I know of it comes from a few posts by Domingos Isabelinho: on the zine in general and some images from it; and an interview and reprinted content with/by Schwartz in L’Association’s l’Éprouvette #2. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen, and their list of comics (see the second link to Domingos’ blog) lead me to a few works that I now really love (like Deborah Turbeville’s photo sequences).
He starts off his post at Angoulême, where he is “seduced” by Brecht Evens’ imagery. He buys Les Amateurs and gets a sketch in it from the author. But when he gets home and reads the book, he is disappointed by the comic itself: “A simple sequence, an unconsidered flow of images. They were sometimes full of poetry, but their internal richness disappeared into the gutter.”
This sends him back to considering the legacy of Dorénavant and the goals of their discourse, which he divides into three “stages”, the first two of which he feels have come to fruition: the rise of independent publishers and the diversity of graphic expression. But, the third, which he considers the most important, hasn’t quite taken off in the same way.
This stage is that of comics as writing [in the sense of literary writing, not hand writing]. Denouncing the expression which is often limited to a story board and inviting authors to take hold of the specificity of comics as art — less the interaction of text and image than the division of a space to create a temporality, we wanted comics to finally seize the medium’s potential. This stage hasn’t yet taken off. Perhaps it will be the big event of this decade.
What does it mean, comics as writing? When Proust, in la Recherche narrates the visit of little Marcel to his bedridden Aunt Léonie, he’s not only telling the story of a discussion between a little boy and an old lady. At the same time, he brings in the entirety of the town of Combray and above all, through a web of metaphors, he puts the reader insidiously, not without humor, in the interior of… an apple turnover. Writing is the weaving of several levels of reading, the creation of depth, a thousand leaves[mille-feuilles, which is a pastry known here as a Napoleon] on a single page[feuille]. Comics, because they benefit from both the spatiality of the page and the temporality of the breakdown/division can easily create such a densification. [There's a pastry metaphor (and some wordplay, I think) in here with the Napoleons and the apple turnover, but I'm not familiar enough with Proust to get the connection.]
It is precisely this that Brecht Evens lacks. Undoubtably he has graphic talent, but he still uses the same story model — a linear model with a single level, without densification, without the play of depth. He makes comics that are extensive. This is a characteristic of the new comics: they are often voluminous. The author is animated by a desire to say something, but always uses the same basic model: he juxtaposes images then pages.
In comparison, Le Rêveur captif of Barthélémy Schwartz (l’Apocalypse, 2013) is constructed as true writing. Within a single page several tracks cross. Like Spiegelman, in Maus, connected “the circumstances of the telling of the story at the same time as the story”, Schwartz tells his cycle of dreams at the same time as the context of his dreams, his familial, social, and geographic circumstances, as well as adding references to writers, thinkers, and artists. And when he takes up the “situation of the dream”, he plunges us, simultaneously, into the graphic universe of the Situationists, in their discourse as well, with detachment and a touch of humor. The essential word is “simultaneously”. The thousand pages[mille-feuilles] are there. Like Proust, Schwartz densifies his story. And the reader’s pleasure, gourmand and gourmet, can finally be satisfied.
Some will say that this is no longer comics. Faithful to Dorénavant, I say, rather, that this is finally comics. Can Brecht Evens — and all the other talented graphic artists like him — question the model they use and rethink their medium as writing.
[I hope Kaplan will forgive my hasty and rough translation of his words.]
With all the recent arguments (see TCJ and HU) about “literaries”, this seemed like an à propos segment to highlight. I’ve actually got Schwartz’s new comic here to read, it’s a dense book. Kaplan’s description makes me all the more excited to really dig into it.
I understand Kaplan’s criticism of Even’s work. I haven’t read that particular book, but while I was impressed with The Wrong Place visually, the story itself was rather simple/linear. A few years out now, I don’t have a strong desire to revisit the book. I think, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, there is often such a focus on visual style and talent/skill/polish in comics that anything else can get thrown out of the conversation.
These six comics (of which the above is the sixth) are all redrawn appropriations from a number of Vince Colletta drawn romance comics (most from Charleton) accompanied by text copied and edited from various sources. I was trying out a strange 9 panel layout, designed as a set of 3 groups of 3 panels, that is partially an attempt to confound a normal reading path.
The comics are found in the Comics as Poetry anthology. It was compiled and published by Franklin Einspruch, and, besides Franklin and myself, includes work by:
- Kimball Anderson
- Warren Craghead
- Julie Delporte
- Oliver East
- Jason Overby
- Paul K. Tunis
So, there’s a lot of good work in there. Order it from New Modern Press.
Here’s a little something I wrote about the process of creating these pages:
As I work on these comics, I’m finding it hard to evaluate them. As I move further away from narrative and from really strict structures (such as I used in Badman’s Cave), it is harder to tell what is working and what isn’t, beyond some basic visual elements like layout, color balance, and composition. The text is based on procedural limitations (in this case, it all comes from paragraphs in The Tale of Genji where the word “letter” appears) which remove me from normal modes like story/narrative as well as from a more general personal expression (I’m not attempting to say anything about myself through the words). So the “writing” is very much a process of intuitive selection and arrangement. I grab a bunch of phrases that sound interesting, then I rearrange and edit them (slightly) into something that might work with the images (these recent comics have been done images first, then text). In the end… I’m not sure how to know if it works at all. I just stop when everything seems balanced (I think balance ends up being the main factor). Some of the later ones became a little more geometric than the previous pages, as I’m starting to think about how I create my comics digitally and there are some medium specific elements I can make more use of (why should I necessarily try to make my images look like they weren’t digitally drawn?).
I was so late with January’s post (because I didn’t have this idea until mid-February), so here’s February already. Read more comics this month (still wasn’t thinking about recording digital/web reads), but didn’t like most of them.
Extra Time 1 + 2 by Jeff Levine (2012, 2013)
-This is pretty classic autobio comics. Not your “my life and how it revolves around some big issue” (oh so popular in the literary world) style, but the “this is my regular life” style. This is really daily life comics (kind of journal comics I guess), not even a romance subplot to be seen, just Jeff… reading books, watching movies, taking walks, playing videos, a little bit of work (no idea what his job is, except he sits in front of a computer), and then his thoughts and feelings. We don’t even get any meta-”I’m making comics” elements.
-This is kind of like King-Cat if John Porcellino made comics about art/media he consumed rather than nature.
-I’m not sure I’ve read any of Levine’s comics before, though I know he’s been making them for awhile. Looking at his works on his website, I think maybe it’s good I waited, as some of that older work looks a little too “underground comix” for me.
-The first page in issue 1 is from November of 2007, the last page in issue 2 is from February 2012. That’s a lot of time covered and it’s interesting to see the progression of Levine’s drawing style in that time. His panels and lines become a lot cleaner and sharper over time.
-Most of the comics are 1 page = 1 day, but there’s a longer comic in issue #1 that is primarily landscapes in San Francisco with an accompanied text. Reminds me of some of Porcellino’s or Simon Moreton’s work, except the drawing is more detailed (actually I think it was Simon mentioning this comic on Twitter that got me to look it up). There are a lot of these nice landscape panels in issue 2 also. That’s one of the elements that makes Levine’s comics stand out.
-I don’t think we see any other people in this comic except Levine (other than the occasional person in a landscape image or a couple people at his workplace). It makes you wonder if that is a planned omission of some kind, or if he just doesn’t see a lot of people.
-Levine won me over by mentioning Jean-Phillipe Toussaint, Yasujiro Ozu, and Kamimura’s Lorsque Nous Vivions Ensemble (he seems to be reading the French edition I read). I can identify with a lot of what Levine writes, too.
-The image above is from issue 1.
Farm School by Jason Turner (Retrofit, 2013)
-This comic has some kind of alternate or post-apocalyptic world or something that is never explained.
-A woman (who I thought was a man for awhile, though on looking back at the comic, that clearly shows I wasn’t paying much attention) goes to town and talks to a couple people. Apparently she used to be a bouncer for a library.
-The most interesting thing about this comic was a brief scene where the protagonist goes to check her email. She talks to a man behind a service window (like a ticket booth or post office) who checks her email for her and tells her what her messages said. I guess internet/electricity is hard to get in this world, but since this random woman who lives in the woods has an email account, one assumes there was some kind of event that caused access to get limited/difficult. That’s a nice element and bit of world building.
-Mostly I was just bored. I’m not really sure what the point of the comic was. It wasn’t all about the world building (the way Finder is at times), at least not enough to be interesting on its own. It wasn’t really about the characters. It didn’t have much of a plot. It wasn’t poetic or just aesthetically beautiful. It was more like a part of something bigger that got hacked down to short comic size. A lot of narrative comics seem to have that trouble, like people don’t want to spend the time/effort to really do the narrative, or they can’t quite edit out in a way to make it work, but they still want to tell a story.
Happiness 3 (2013)
-Sometimes you get rejected for an anthology and then you later read the anthology and say to yourself: “Oh, I really do suck compared to these people.”
-Sometimes you get rejected for an anthology and then you later read the anthology and say to yourself: “Oh, it’s not me who sucks.”
-Live and learn.
-Most of the comics in this anthology are what I call “ugly comics,” which is a very popular type of comic these days.
-The best thing in this anthology is a one page essay by Darryl Ayo about the term “graphic novel” and how comics don’t need to strive to replicate other art forms. Preach it, Darryl!
-Anyone want a copy of this?
The Comics Journal #302 (Fantagraphics, 2013)
-Okay it’s not technically a comic, but it’s “about comics.”
-I can’t really review this in detail, because I’ve already given my copy away. For free (I even paid extra postage). Just to get it out of my house.
-I think TCJ has some kind of contractual obligation (maybe it’s in the publishing contract with Fantagraphics) to have at least one article about Crumb in EVERY FUCKING ISSUE.
-Does anyone love Crumb that much? Is anyone’s life that sad?
-I recall an okay article about Anders Nilsen and Kevin Huizenga, though for how much I love work by both of those guys, the article didn’t really make me excited to throw down the TCJ and pick up the comics in question. (I’m super excited about the new edition of Nilsen’s The End coming this year. I LOVE that comic. It’s on the list of comics to make you cry.)
-There was a long article about Blake and artist-writers that was in that “No, really, these are ‘comics’ before ‘comics’ existed but no one wants to admit it because comics suck” articles, that mostly felt like a long list of “and then there was this guy who did this work and no one cared.”
-I’d love to read a really good piece about Blake and how his poetry, images, and self-publishing all fit together (with a bit about how we’d consider that in regards to comics).
-Mostly this issue was about comics artists I don’t really care about. I feel like the new format for the magazine has actually limited its scope. No manga at all in this issue. (And as someone on Twitter (maybe Ben Towle?) pointed out, no women either.)
Tusen Hjartan Stark #1 (Domino, 2013)
-A new newspaper anthology from Austin English’s Domino Books featuring Warren Craghead and two other people… It didn’t matter, because I’ve bought a lot of not very good anthologies just because I wanted the Craghead Comics™.
-And wow, nice big tabloid size Craghead Comics is great stuff. (And he’s even one of those comic artists, where you don’t immediately lament that the comic is black and white. I guess it’s the whole pencil thing.)
-I’d call this “backyard comics” because that’s what first came to mind, and it made me think about some of Warren’s old minicomics like Jefferson Forest where there is a lot of imagery of suburban landscapes, house, yards, etc.
-I think there are hex color codes in this comic.
-Classic comics have a tendency to overuse exclamation points. They are everywhere and quickly lose all meaning or purpose other than filling space. When I find an exclamation point in one of Warren’s comics it always feels like a little exclamation of joy and excitement.
-Just read and look, let it flow over you. Don’t try too hard to get it. Then reread it. Linger a bit.
-Ok, the other two artists are Joanna Hellgren and E.A. Bethea. Hellgren’s comic is like a minimalist short story in a ton of small panels. Not bad, but I wouldn’t have finished it if it were longer. Not my taste. Bethea’s first two comics are pretty interesting, kind of poetic, kind of abstract (narratively speaking). But then I gave up on the rest of her pages, as the lettering was such, and amount of it was such, that I just couldn’t get myself to actually read all those words in that lettering.
R.L. #2 by Tom Hart (2013)
-Now that you’re crying and feeling depressed…
-Should I have warned you that this is also on the list of “comics that make you cry”?
-I guess this is some kind of proof that art can come from traumatic situations. This is the best work I’ve seen from Tom. The writing, the imagery, that wonderful use of screen tone, it’s all top notch.
I also reread Lynda Barry’s Freddie Stories and parts of C’est Bon #19 so I could say something about them for last month’s post. And I’m still reading daily Peanuts and Krazy Kat.
Over the years (particularly over the last year) I’ve been reading less comics. My tastes have been refining and I feel like I’ve reached a point where I’ve read enough in the history of comics that I don’t need to be filling in those gaps anymore (for awhile I was reading a lot of older comic books and strips for the historical context) and I don’t feel the need to “keep up” as much with whatever is going on. I try to keep a list of every book I read each year (including print comics), and I realized earlier this month that I only had 1 comic on my list so far in 2013 (I later added another one I forgot to include). I’ve added a few more in February, but, as I’ve been wanting to write again on this site, I thought I’d try writing about every comic I read this year. (We’ll see how long this lasts.)
I can’t possibly include all the comics I see online, too much zooms by in Google Reader or Tumblr or Twitter for me to list it all, let along say anything about it. But I will try to say something about the works I really read (rather than just glance at) or really enjoy.
The Freddie Stories by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013)
-This is a new edition of a collection of strips from Barry’s long running Ernie Pook’s Comeek strip. Formatted as a wide hardcover where each page spread is a four panel strip (two panels per page), on rereading this I realized this might be how
-I used to read Ernie Pook’s Comeek in the local alt weekly. I’ve had a love-boredom relationship with Barry’s work since then. I loved One Hundred Demons (wrote about it), I was bored with What It Is and the first volume of Everything.
-This edition falls onto the love side.
-I wasn’t prepared for how dark this collection would be, Freddie’s stories don’t have as much of the lightheartedness or humor I remember from other Ernie Pook’s strips (though I could be misremembering, it’s been years since I’ve read more than a strip here or there). The first two strips are lighthearted, but it goes downhill from there for Freddie. He quickly becomes involved in numerous traumatic events and begins to show various mental disturbances (for instance, for awhile everyone he looks at has just a skull rather than a head/face). It’s hard to say whether Freddie starts out that way or it is a result of the events (though it becomes clear his mother has not helped and could be a major cause of his troubles). Either way there is little respite for him, even, in this volume, little hope.
-One of the most noticeable aspects of Barry’s strips are the way they break some of those cardinal “rules” of comics in regards the use of text. Text overwhelms a majority of the panels. Sometimes there’s barely room for the drawings at all, but it never feels wrong. Barry is a wonderful prose stylist, literary in a true sense of the word as it relates to language. The strips’ narration, all via the various child protagonists, has a wonderful, imaginative flexibility to it. The language evokes the sense of a child speaking, simplistic yet rich, but evocative and creative in a way that does not feel believable for a real child (if you really think about it). I don’t mean that as a negative criticism, rather, I think the combination of the two is what makes the narration so successful (I wouldn’t want to read something that sounded like it was really being narrated by an elementary school kid).
-Even though the text predominates, Barry manages to skillfully combine that text with the images in the panels. Sometimes the images are redundant to the text, yet in being redundant reinforce certain aspects of the story. Other times the text and images diverge to run parallel courses through the strip, creating added meaning in the comparison.
-Her almost art brut cartooning is also powerfully effective in conveying a gamut of expressionistic emotions, fear, horror, joy.
C’est Bon v.19: Interposed (C’est Bon Kultur, 2012)
-Ok, so I’m in this anthology (a silent four page comic featuring Mars, the planet), but I also did read it.
-Like any anthology this is hit and miss. It has a number of editors, so I’m guessing the range covers their tastes.
-Inside are at least two good arguments for not printing color work in grayscale. Mine is one of them. The other is the pages from Oliver East’s forthcoming Swear Down. Oliver’s images lose a good deal of effect when converted to grayscale (I have seen the color versions in this case).
-Oliver’s pages are shown as part of a collaboration with (one of the anthology editors) Allan Haverholm. Allan made his own drawn “interpretations” of some Oliver’s pages. In general Allan has abstracted and geometized (I guess I made that up) the pages. It’s an interesting effect that works better on the less abstract originals. A lot of Oliver’s images, while being representational, tend towards abstraction, and the more the originals are abstracted, the less Allan’s feel like successful pieces. The converse is true, though, that the less abstract pages from Oliver make more successful pages from Allan. These two made a whole book like this called “East Haverholm”, with Oliver also interpreting pages by Allan.
-Milena Simeonova’s “Between the Lines” is potentially interesting, but it is a potential unfulfilled. It is a series of four page spreads. Each page shows a single black and white, semi-pixellated photo (looking like images cut out of a newspaper). The two pages in each spread both have the same sentence/phrase written on them. The idea, I assume, being to create different meanings via the text-image anchoring. This is sort of successful in the first spread: “I don’t know what future [sic] may bring.” The images are of a young smiling girl and an old frowning woman. Pretty obvious. But in the rest of the spreads the combinations feel less varied from verso to recto and didn’t end up communicating anything to me.
-Tym Godek has a verbose 3 page gag comic. Lots of text setting up a final panel. Like many of Tym’s recent comics, the gag is a sort of comics meta-joke, in this case about gaps.
-I didn’t read a few of the contributions because just looking at the art turned me off (I’m not reading a comic that seems to star an ugly stuffed Frankenstein-like rabbit).
-I’m reading one week of Peanuts strips a day to try to catch up with all the volumes I have. I started the year with The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 (Fantagraphics).
-Reading Peanuts like this feels more natural than just devouring page after page of strips. You feel the rhythms a little more, the way Schulz structures the strips so the week tends to revolve around certain themes, plots, variations, the way the seasonal markers both stress the passing of time and retard the passing of time.
-Like many long running strips, it can be hit and miss with the story lines, characters, etc. Though I imagine different readers will have different opinions on which ones are hit and which ones are miss. I tend to be less enamored of Snoopy and Woodstock (lots of them in this volume), though I know they were uber-popular. I love the talking school strips (a number of them in this volume, up until the school commits suicide by collapsing) because they seem so weird. We get used to anthropomorphized animals like Snoopy, but a talking building just never quite becomes familiar in the same way.
-I’m also reading a month of Krazy Kat Sundays everyday (in the form of those three large hardcover collections from Fantagraphics). In this case I started at the beginning of the strip and am going to read through the whole run. Maybe more on this strip next time.
Sorry, it’s gone, try the 3-pack instead.
Get the four print issues of MadInkBeard (1,2,3,5) for a reduced price (and reduced shipping since this will only count as 1 item. This it the last issue of #1 I have left to sell, so there’s only one of these packs available.
This is the textual introduction to MadInkBeard No.5 (now available to order).
As evidenced from previous issues, I’ve been making a lot of four panel comics over the past year. For non/semi-narrative work the format offers a concision that lends itself to experimentation, variation, and speed. Four panel comics can be seen all at once, in toto, before being read in a conventional sequential manner, which, more than most comics formats, brings the page/strip composition to the fore. The consistent format also acts as a kind of constraint, taking away certain decisions (how many panels, how big, etc.) for structuring the creation process.
As all my work is made digitally, I have a template file with panels marked off, that allows me to quickly get to the creative process without going through much prep work. I can sit down at my computer and start adding to the page. In early January, I decided to put a black background on my template and see where it took me, forcing myself to work with white as the primary foreground color. I was inspired at the beginning by the painter Robert Motherwell’s series of “Iberia” paintings that are primarily black with bits of white peaking out on the edges of the canvas (the fourth strip in this issue is the most directly inspired). [Edit for web: Here's a nice one.]
I have also been purposefully avoiding “drawing” in a conventional sense. I didn’t use my Wacom tablet for any of these strips. All the imagery is generated from photographs (often manipulated into abstraction) and the occasional vector shape (clicking a few vertices for the shapes in the sixth strip is the closest there is to drawing in this issue). Even the panel borders are all found lines and rectangles. The photographs were all taken by me (the lines, the abstractions) or came from slides my father-in-law took many years ago (the landscapes). This use of varying sources has increased my sense of comics as collage, a juxtaposition not just of sequential images/panels but of images within the panels (a juxtaposition of juxtaposition).
Like much of my recent work, all the text is appropriated. In this case words and phrases (occasionally rearranged) have been copied over from the Gudo Nishijima edition of Eihei Dogen’s Shinji Shobogenzo, a collection of zen stories (a.k.a. koans). I’ve been reading one or two of the stories every morning before I get to making comics, so when it came time to find text for the strips, that volume was where I looked first.
In designing this volume, I ended up scaling up the strips (rather than the conventional way of scaling down) so they would be as large as I could manage (within limits of keeping the printing bill reasonable). I hope this encourages you to linger on each image rather than quickly moving from one page to the next. The strips as a group were not meet to be sequential, though, due to the imagery and text, they share a certain relatedness, more like a series.
This is the fifth issue of my quarterly series of comics. It contains 19 four-panel comic strips created during January 2013. The strips are all primarily black, containing photographic content and digitally created shapes/forms, accompanied by short appropriated texts. Each strip is shown across a 17″ page spread (two panels per page) for maximum size/impact.
This comics originally appeared (in a black and white version) in Catch-Up v.1 no.3 (2012), at least I’m told it did. I still haven’t seen a copy. The text is extracted from Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space; the images (well at least the figures, the backgrounds might be severe manipulations from somewhere else) are redrawn from Tarzan #38 (Dell, Nov 1952) drawn by Jesse Marsh.
This is the fourth issue of my quarterly series of comics (though it is late). This issue is a digital only release of 27 four-panel strips created in October and November of 2012. It is available in two digital formats.
A cbz file containing 29 images for reading with a comic reading app.
A web version suitable for reading online. On wider screens (desktops) it will show 4 panels at a time, on narrower screens (phones, preferably in landscape orientation) it will show 2 panels at a time.
This is an experiment in responsive webcomics reading, so there may be display issues on some browsers/devices. If you try it and experience any issues, please let me know so I can improve the code for the future.
For those not familiar with it, a cbz file is basically a zip file within which are a bunch of image files. There are plenty of decent readers that will give you a nice page-spread view. For Mac I use Simple Comic. CDisplayEx seems to work ok for Windows, and Perfect Viewer is nice for Android (tablet or phone). Haven’t used it, but ComicFlow looks good for iPad, not sure about iPhone. I’d appreciate any recommendations for the latter.
One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2012 was to make at least 2 comics a week (theoretically, one during the week and one on the weekend). This seemed like an easily achievable goal to reach above and beyond my other responsibilities (like having a full time job). I didn’t actually end up making 2 comics (in this case counting each page or strip as 1) a week. There were large swaths of time where I didn’t make any at all, especially early in the year, where I think I was in the middle of some transitions of how I work. Moving away from drawing, but not totally sure where I was going with it. But there were also a number of times were I was making a comic every day (sometimes 2) or nearly every day (late in the year when I got into a better working rhythm). All told I ended up (by my best count) making 133 pages/strips in 2012 (a lot of them are on this blog or at my Tumblr). Which is a bit better than 2/week. I can’t say for sure, but it might have been my most productive year ever.
I put out three issues of MadInkbeard (I fell behind in getting number 4 done despite having enough work for it, hopefully before this month is out I’ll rectify that) and participated in a number of anthologies. I had a piece in Secret Prison #666 which I did in collaboration with Warren Craghead. I had a comic in C’est Bon Anthology #19 (which just came out last month, here’s a color excerpt). Supposedly, I have a piece in the new issue of Catch-Up, but I haven’t seen it yet. There is also the Comics As Poetry anthology, which I also haven’t seen, though I know there are a few copies out there somewhere. I made some strips for Carousel Magazine’s 4Panel series (here, here, here, with one more still unpublished).
There were a few positive mentions of my comics by the likes of Rob Clough (also here), Frank Santoro, Ryan Holmberg, and Craig Fischer. Also my minicomic “Badman’s Cave” was a Notable comic in the Best American Comics 2012 volume.
On the writing front I was much less prolific (maybe that’s why I was more prolific in making comics). I wrote a piece about manga and Red Colored Elegy for Secret Prison 7. I wrote a few pieces for Hooded Utilitarian on: comics poetry (I’ve stalled on part 2), Wonder Woman and Harry Peter, Locas and superheroes, and the first comic book I ever read. There’s also the essay on photocomics in MadInkBeard No.2.
I read 239 books/comics during the year (almost 240 since I’m halfway through rereading Lord of the Rings), with a mix of comics, literary fiction, poetry, criticism (comics, art, photo, literary), zen, webdesign, fantasy (I’m on a fantasy kick right now), and a good bit of Thoreau.
All in all, I guess it was a productive year. I’ve already got some plans for 2013, we’ll see where they go.
Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for reading.
A short comic, I made in the past week or so. They were partially made as single pages, but they are all built from the same source, so they ended up going together pretty well.
It’s the end of the year, which means it’s “best of” time. I tried real hard to keep track of every book/comic I read this year, though, as usual, I neglected to take any notes about web/digital comics. I’m also not so good about keeping track of short stories, single page comics, or anthology pieces that I really liked. So, this list comes with caveats about those forms. I had these in categories at first, but that’s pointless, so it’s just a list in alphabetical order of as many comics as I felt like including along with some brief and inadequate attempts to explain why (most of these rely too much on visual effect to be easily summarized). All of these are comics I read for the first time in 2012 (so not counting rereads), and most were published in 2012 (with a few minor exceptions for foreign works which I’m usually a little behind on).
Hic Sunt Leones by Frederic Coché (Frémok, 2008) – If you’ve seen some of Coché’s other works, you might know that they tend to be etchings, for this book he switched to painting, and it’s beautiful. Often abstract (visually and narratively), it reads like a poem with images that veer between abstract color fields to expressively painted representations (figures, landscapes, objects). It’s published from Belgium, but the comic itself is multi-lingual (English, French, German, and some Latin I believe).
seed toss, nameroughquena 1-3 by Warren Craghead (2012) – More of Warren’s tiny, print-out-and-fold-em books, there were supposed to be 6 of these that are sort of tracing the history of Arlington, Virginia, but so far only 3 have appeared. Like a lot of my favorite comics, these move between narrative and abstraction. The first issue has a lot of plants and seeds, then we find natives and colonials in issues 2 and 3 with all these great little drawings of people and tools.
Lenin Kino by Olivier Deprez (Fremok, 2009) – Most of the panels in this comic are blurry abstract field paintings in a dark, murky color. I haven’t the slightest clue what this comic is about. I love it. This is a comic that two of my friends, who are painters and don’t read comics, really fell for. Deprez seems to mostly do wood/linocut work for his comics, so, like the Coché above this is a bit of a departure.
Rolling Stock #1 by Oliver East (2012) – Again with the narrative/abstraction, this time in the form of Oliver’s walking/landscape comics. He seemed to really level up this year with this series. They are more sparse/subdued than his other work and with a cleaner design to the pages/panels, often breaking into what seems like complete abstraction but, in context, is pared down representation from his observations.
Le Wagon Engourdi by Vincent Giard (Colosse, 2012) – This little comic is like an explosion of bright colors and crazy lines which, if you’ve seen Vincent’s work, will be no surprise. Each page is beautiful. It’s pretty much wordless so don’t worry about the French title. It’s kind of got a story about a woman reading on the train. There are explosions and comics within the comic and fantasy and… well you should just get this and read it. You can even read it (slightly different version, I think) online.
RL #1 by Tom Hart (2012) – This is probably one of the most painful comics you will ever read (well maybe until #2 appears) telling the story of Tom’s young daughter’s death. You can see Tom really stretching himself to do justice to the work. He succeeds admirably well (visually I think this is the best I’ve seen from him) for what must have been a very difficult creative process.
Q by Aidan Koch (Floating World, 2012) and/or After Nothing Comes by Aidan Koch (2012) (out of print I guess) – Aidan is so damn prolific I had to list two of her comics here. Q is a large tabloid comic in color and After Nothing Comes is in a smaller b+w zine format. Seeing Aidan work large and in color for Q is really something especially when she takes advantage of the space offered by the dimensions. After Nothing Comes is, I think, more successful as a kind of poetic narrative, but you can tell it was created in color and then printed in greyscale, and I can feel that loss of effect after looking at Q.
The Shape of the World by Jason Overby (2012) (out of print I guess) – A strange little minicomic/zine from Jason that I kept thinking was hand drawn (that is, some parts don’t look like they were copied/printed). There are ripped drawings taped onto the pages, and a smaller register of pages stapled into the middle. Many of the pages have no images at all just text, most have a abbreviated sketch or just small black squares. The text addresses Jason’s frequent theme of memory, reality, and perception. In comparison to a lot of Jason’s denser work (of which there has been some great examples this year too) this is very sparse.
Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton (Blue Rider, 2012) – This isn’t exactly a comic. It’s a memoir about Shapton’s experiences with swimming (she swam competitively), but interspersed with the textual sections are quite a few sequences of images that are really lovely: beautiful blue watercolors of a swimmer swimming, a series of blue watercolors of swimming pools, a series of bright colored landscapes(?). The memoir was also quite enjoyable and well written with an interesting attention to the sense of smell.
Kamui-Den by Sanpei Shirato (4 vol., Kana, 2010-2012) – This is a French edition of the manga from the late 60s in the form of 4 ~1500 page volumes. It’s a huge epic about class struggle in medieval Japan mixed with almost incongruous ninja stories. There are so many plotlines and characters it is often hard to keep track, and Shirato himself seems to drop plotlines at will when he loses interest or they stray too far from the main thrust of the narrative. There are, especially early on, long side stories that overwhelm the narrative (like a long tale about a wolf). It’s a huge baggy monster, but easily ranks with Lone Wolf & Cub as a masterful work of manga about Edo period Japan (LW&C’s Goseki Kojima was an assistant to Shirato on Kamui-Den). It’s a shame there’s no English edition as I think it could attract the classic manga and the samurai manga fans; I could see Dark Horse putting this out.
Stopping at ten seems to make sense here. Though there are other works I read this year that could have also made the list depending on the circumstances:
-Les Hommes-Loups by Dominique Goblet (Frémok, 2010)
Building Stories by Chris Ware (Pantheon, 2012)
-Dro 1-3 by Pascal Tessier (2012) (issue one online)
-One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Hiroshige (Taschen)
-Infomaniacs by Matthew Thurber
-Smoo 5 by Simon Moreton
-Koan by Allan Haverholm
-Corporeal Breach by Chris Day (2011)
-”Samuel Lipinski” by Daniel Blancou in Lapin 37-40 (2009)
-”The Great” by Alyssa Berg (2012) (starts here)
Here are the last bunch of comics for this month for the 22nd through the 30th. A bit more than nine as I did two comics on quite a few of these days. I stayed into making all white (or white-ish) comics by the end there.
Originally drawn for #30dayscomics in 2010.
Only 1 available, it was hung in a show, but remains in excellent condition.
Email me if you are interested at: first name . last name AT gmail dot com (no spaces, all lower-case) (or leave a comment if that is easier).