I made this 2 page comic for “Can’t Lose: A Friday Night Lights Fanzine”. Unfortunately the zine was risograph printed in blue on yellow paper, which… well I should have thought about that more when I designed the comic. So here’s the color version.
This issue is contains comics generated by a computer program I wrote to make comics for me (primarily as a way to make 24 24 page comics for 24 Hour Comics Day 2013). These comics were all made in early October, some use photos from Flickr, all use text from various epub files I had by Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau, Robert Burton, and Izaak Walton. The issue contains 15 4 panel comics and 4 2 panel comics.
This page will be updated as I process and format more of this comic (and hopefully offer a print version).
Further explanation will be forthcoming.
Digital version of the hours:
(The pdfs are best read as 2 page spreads.)
Tomorrow is 24 Hour Comics Day (though that website has a bad countdown clock on it). If you follow my Tumblr you may already know about this, but… I’ve been working on a computer program to make comics for me (I call them “autocomics”) with the goal (at least a mid-stage goal) of generating 24 24 page comics for 24 Hour Comics Day. That’s 570 pages total. The biggest damn 24 hour comic ever. At 12:01 tonight I’ll start my work. The 24 pages should be done in a few minutes. Then I’ll take a break and make 24 more at 1:01, and so on.
Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy with my job and some other projects that I haven’t had time to work up a system so you’ll be able to view these comics as they are generated. I’m making them print resolution (it’ll be a few GB of images by the end of the day), and I’d have to resize them on the back end, generate the html, etc. Not a ton of work, but there just hasn’t been time. So, I’ll start posting the results on Tuesday… Tuesday? Yes, that’s because I’m actually going to be away at the beach while making these comics… Isn’t that the proper way to make comics, anyway?
I’ll post more about how they are being made some other time (it’s a combo of js, php, and html for the comics themselves and phantomjs and launchd for the activation).
As a preview here’s a short comic from the test run I ran last night (from 2:55-2:57am). This one’s only 8 pages (2 panels a page displayed as spreads, which is how I imagine them printed), but it gives you a pretty good idea of what will be made.
(Sorry for the weird layout. Turns out my lightbox script doesn’t handle really wide/tall images well. Don’t have time to fix that now.)
In other news… it’s almost November (already!?), which means it’s time to state your intentions to participate in 30 Days of Comics 2014! This will be year 5 for me doing it.
Learn more about 30 Days of Comics. No sign up necessary. Just use the hashtag.
Subtitled, “An Unwitting Collaboration,” this issue is a collage of images and text made from materials received in the mail (or in one or two cases, in person) from a variety of artists. I cropped, resized, recolored (monochromatically), and juxtaposed the images as well as adding a few geometric circles. The text is all taken from words in a letter Allan Haverholm sent me that I chopped up and pasted back together into something new.
I made the issue for SPX 2013 where most of the copies were given out for free (and I’m mailing copies to all the collaborators I didn’t see at the show).
I have a very few copies left in print that I can send to you for the cost of postage (let’s say $1 in the US). Contact me if you want one.
The unwitting collaborators are:
- Jimmy Beaulieu
- Warren Craghead
- Julie Delporte
- Oliver East
- Vincent Giard
- Allan Haverholm
- Aidan Koch
- Blaise Larmee
- Simon Moreton
- Jason Overby
- Ron Rege Jr.
- Frank Santoro
- Andrew White
Thanks to all of them for sending me stuff and their unwitting participation in this comic.
Got back from Small Press Expo (SPX) in Bethesda, Maryland last night. Drove down Saturday morning and stayed for the short weekend. This was definitely the most fun I’ve had a comics show. I expect some of that is having stayed over the night so I could hang out after the show. For other shows (like Mocca or the Brooklyn shows) I tend to just go for the day, walking around, seeing panels, chatting, and then leaving, which can make further socialization harder as you rarely get to just be in one place and talk to people. It also helped a ton that there were people at the show that I felt I was friends with and who I knew were excited to talk with me too. A big part of these shows is clearly the social circle element, and if you don’t have that social circle you are just floating around on the edges. That’s partly why I haven’t made it to SPX before, I don’t have a publisher or a collective or a school group, or even a local comics-making buddy, that I could go with, so I feared I’d end up by myself.
But this year, Simon Moreton come over from the UK and Warren Craghead came up from Virginia to table together. And that’s what made me decide I had to go this year. I’ve interacted with both online a good bit (and got to meet Warren once) and feel a certain comics making kinship with both. Andrew White was also going to be at the show without a table–I really enjoyed meeting Andrew a few weeks ago at Pat Ausilio’s Comics Barbecue–so there’d be someone else table-less to wander around with.
And thankfully (to those guys especially) it worked out and I had an awesome time. That’s probably the most I’ve actually talked (as opposed to written) about comics with people.
-Finally got a chance to hang out with L Nichols and her partner post-show. I think I first met L at MoCCA a few years ago and have only really gotten to chat briefly at shows since then, but I’m always impressed by the varieties of her activities she’s reporting about online (comics, painting, blacksmithing(!), canning, coding). That process of meeting a few times and then hanging out connection probably undoes my earlier concerns about going to the shows in the first place. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle if I don’t go to the shows because I don’t know people, then I won’t go the shows and meet people (though online social networks help that some). Makes me wish I had had time to sit down with some other folks at the show.
-Lots of standing around Warren and Simon’s table talking (hopefully not keeping people from looking at their books!). I learned it’s way easier behind the table if you are hawking someone else’s work. You can avoid any conflicted feelings about self-promotion or ego, and just talk about someone else’s work’s greatness without feeling any rejection if the people pass.
-Briefly talked with 3/4s of the Comic Books are Burning in Hell guys (ran into Chris the other 1/4 a few times too). I don’t think I’ve met Tucker before, and it was kind of strange to hear his voice coming out of a person, going off about one thing or another.
-Kind of weird walking around and just seeing all these people whose books I’ve read over the years, though in many cases it was people I no longer have much of an interest in. At one point I looked up from a book and there was Seth and James Kolchalka talking. But in the fanboy vein, I met Kevin Huizenga and later got a sketch from Anders Nilsen in his new book. I didn’t manage to say much to either, but at least told them how much I like their work. I feel really awkward about those interactions.
-I moderated (very loosely using that word) a panel late Sunday (last of the day!) on “The New Comics Minimalism”. Video is theoretically forthcoming. Unfortunately we had no computer/projector connect so we couldn’t show anybody’s work on the screen, which would have been nice since I suspect there were few, if any, people in the crowd who knew everyone’s work. Panel was Frank Santoro, Jon McNaught, Simon Moreton, Christopher Adams, and Andrew White. I didn’t have to do a lot of moderating, since most everybody was pretty good at talking and asking questions. I don’t know we established much about comics minimalism, but we had some good conversation, perhaps a little too focused on process for people who aren’t process junkies. There was a good crowd (lots of familiar faces up there), though we only had time for a few questions. I’ll post a video link when it goes up.
-Frank said very nice things about my comics which was really flattering, and it was recorded so I can rehear them again later.
-Quotation I never got to use in the panel: “I like “minimalist” comics – not necessarily abstract and without a clear narrative, but something airy like the best painting, something without words so there’s nothing to translate. Just images – like a series of paintings – but sequenced in a way that is interesting to read and decipher graphically. When I saw Lenin Kino I thought, “Oh, it’s like a Luc Tuymans comic,” and I meant it in a good way.” (Frank Santoro, TCJ.com 2013-08-01) [Lenin Kino by Olivier Deprez (Fremok) is awesome.]
-Once again I went to a comics show and didn’t spend all the money I budgeted, but I did get some good stuff, I think. I got a bunch of minis from people who gave me something when I handed them a copy of MadInkBeard no.6 (even though I was telling people I was’t trying to trade the comic, just giving it out free). Bought a few things that I went to the show looking for. Found a few pleasant surprises by new names and a few new comics from familiar names. I slobbered over the new Seiichi Hayashi book Picturebox is putting out (they only had a few copies, didn’t buy one since I’ll be getting a pre-ordered copy in the mail). I have high hopes for that book, as I love his Red Colored Elegy. The only big publisher books I picked up were the new Anders Nilsen (so I could get the sketch) and Fantagraphics’ Barnaby vol.1 (pro tip: go to Fantagraphics in the last 30 minutes of the show for amazing deals, 50% off!).
-Unlike the NYC shows there wasn’t much of an international contingent. A good number of folks from the UK (like No Brow), but I didn’t notice many others.
-Got contributor copies of “Can’t Lose: A Friday Night Lights Fanzine,” which I’m in, from Melissa Mendes (printed on their risograph). Unfortunately the blue ink on yellow paper printing didn’t do my photocomic any favors, as it made my images a little too dark. Alas. I’ll post the original color version soon.
-I managed to miss all the panels except my own, but knowing they would be recorded did keep me from really caring about attending most of them (I wanted to see the Santoro/Shaw conversation but it was first thing and I didn’t wake up early enough on Saturday to arrive in time).
-Warren and Kevin Czapiewski both had newly printed compilations from last year’s 30 Days of Comics, which was heartening to see and a good reminder to start gearing up for this year’s edition.
-I didn’t give out all my copies of MadInkBeard No.6. I didn’t want to be too profligate with them on Saturday and then by later on Sunday when I realized I had a bunch left, I wasn’t sure who to give them too (or who I hadn’t already given a copy too). So I’ll have a few of those to put online for anyone who wants one for the price of postage. I’ll also post a digital version soon.
-The pile of stuff (about half trades, half bought… pretty good average):
- Rage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen (D&Q)
- Barnaby v.1 by Crockett Johnson (Fantagraphics)
- Melancholy by Aaron Pittman (Temporal)
- Blinking/Twitching split with Warren Craghead and Simon Moreton
- Polis Ample by Warren Craghead
- 30 Days of Comics 11/01/12 – 11/30/12 by Warren Craghead
- Word & Voice 5,6,7 by Aaron Cockle (Oily)
- Annotated 10,11 by Aaron Cockle
- Internet Comics by Maré Odomo (Sacred Prism)
- Pace 1 dies with both eyes on the jackpot by Kevin Czapiewski
- A Lesson in Survival by Kevin Czapiewski
- Abyss by Samal Bemel-Benrud (2D Cloud)
- untitled by Samal Bemel-Benrud
- L3 No.2 by Laurel Lynn Leake
- Wolf Girl by Laurel Lynn Leake
- Dailies by Juan Fernandez
- Solid Sight by Rebecca Mock
- Linen Ovens a Poetry Comics Anthology by Keren Katz, Molly Brooks, Andrea Tsurumi, Alexander Rothman
- Intern by Scott Longo (Oily)
- An Introduction to the Principle of Cartozian Magic and An Alphabetical Bestiary of Cartozia by the Cartozia folks (Isaac Cates, etc.)
- St. Owl’s Bay by Simon Hanselmann (Floating World)
- Two Eyes of the Beautiful by Ryan Cecil Smith
- Study Group Magazine #2
- Freefall by Alexey Sokolin / Vespers by Alexander Rothman
- Zero to Forty by R.M. Rhodes
- Biobuddy by Anya Davidson
These will be making it into my “Every Comic I Read” series, though I may split September into two posts since I’ve already gotten through a number of comics this month (thanks to panel prep reading).
-Read some of these comics Sunday morning before the show opened and there are some definite gems in here. Of course Warren’s and Simon’s stuff is awesome (shame on you if you missed their table), and a bunch of the comics I had pre-planned to find turned out to be good bets like Laurel Lynn Leake’s L3 no.2 and Rebecca Mock’s Solid State, and I’ve already written a bit about Samal Bemel-Benrud’s Abyss.
-I don’t think anyone I voted for won an Ignatz, though I didn’t even vote in all categories because I didn’t know or hadn’t read most of the entries.
-Realized like 95% of the tables held no interest to me. Maybe 98%.
-Covers are super important. Make your covers look like the contents. Make them cool, but don’t make them look so much cooler than the inside, because then people will pick up the book based on the cover, page through it, and be really disappointed. That’s not good for sales. I totally picked up Melancholy by Aaron Pittman from the Temporal table just because the cover was so lovely. I ended up buying it and convinced a few other people to get it too when I showed it off. The thing is, the cover is cool and it fits the book. It’s like a colored image from the black and white insides. Similar to the content but enhanced. Cover win!
-Looking forward to next year. Next up, though, is Comic Arts Brooklyn, which I plan on visiting (I’d really love to see Paul Auster but fear that panel will be ridiculously crowded and I dislike crowds).
-I didn’t take any photos, but I attached a shot of some of the comics I got that I’ve already really enjoyed (and plan on rereading soon to enjoy again). That’s (in the order you’d read them as panels): Pittman, Craghead, Czapiewski, Bemel-Benrud, Leake, Mock, Bemel-Benrud, Craghead, Craghead/Moreton, Czapiewski. Sorry it’s a little blurry, here it is again so it can be viewed bigger (need to attach the lightbox effect to those top images).
This weekend is SPX. For the first time, I’ll be there (Saturday and Sunday). I don’t have a table, but Warren Craghead and Simon Moreton will be at table D13B and said they’d let me put some comics on their table. I plan on taking copies of MadInkBeard No.5 for that purpose. I’ll also be debuting MadInkBeard No.6, the “Unwitting Collaboration” issue, which is wholly made up of collaged/altered images that I was sent in the mail by a variety of artists over the years. It turned out really nice (well, the art, I’m expecting the printed copies today or tomorrow) and seemed like an appropriate concept for SPX. I’ll be giving those away for free until I run out, so if you see me feel free to ask for a copy.
I’m also moderating a panel for the first time. Here are the details:
“The New Comics Minimalism”
While the comics marketplace generally favors work that offers conventionally novelistic narratives conveyed through artwork that inclines towards naturalistically-based figurative clarity, a rising generation of artists, often working in alternative publishing formats, is exploring the limits of expressive poetic minimalism. Comics critic Derik Badman will discuss the new comics minimalism with Christopher Adams, Simon Moreton, Jon McNaught, Frank Santoro and Andrew White.
Sunday 4:30-5:30 in the White Flint Auditorium
It’s the last panel of the show, but I hope some people will stick around to see it. That’s a great line-up of participants.
Did not read many comics at all this month. Read a lot of D&D related stuff, read some novels and short stories and nonfiction, but not many comics except what zooms by in Tumblr mostly (some in Feedly, but the “webcomics” folder has gotten really sparse over the past year or so).
Looking back at this list I feel pretty blasé about all of these, and I feel myself tiring of trying to say something about all of them. A lot of these are comics I read for some brief entertainment, which most of them provided to more or less an extent. Maybe next(this) month I’ll do better, as I’ve already read some more interesting works (new ones from Simon Moreton, Andrew White, and Frank Santoro, with the new Anya Davidson, Oliver East, and Yuichi Yokoyama on the “to read” pile).
New School by Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics, 2013)
-I need to reread this again, but on first reading the story seems really simplistic. I’ve seen a couple reviewers try to put some kind of political allegory into the narrative, but I’m not sure that holds up to any scrutiny.
-The images on the other hand are really interesting. Shaw has a fairly normal representational drawing style with a thick cartoony line on one level and then puts all these colors, patterns, textures, and even photos behind the normal drawings. It’s tempting to try to read meaning into the interaction of the two, but on my first read I found that in most cases I couldn’t. It’s a strange disjointed experience, perhaps (I hope) purposeful.
Fatale 16 by Brubaker and Phillips (Image, 2013)
-More mysterious backstory? Not really since the protagonist lost her memory. So instead we get more Seattle in the 90s plot about struggling one hit(album) wonder rock band. Nothing from the framing story at all. Not one of the best issues.
Knights of Sidonia v.4 by Tsutomu Nihei (Vertical, 2013)
-More mechs fighting weird organic monsters. More cool spaceship settings. More mysterious (and perhaps sinister) backstory.
Goddamn This War! by Tardi (Fantagraphics, 2013)
-World War I as narrated by a front line soldier with all the horror and vitriol one would expect.
-Tardi does great work with the colors in this one. Mostly cool grays with frequent brown and flashes of red or yellow. Actually it’s a good amount of red for the blood and explosions.
-For some reason I love the way Tardi draws the hands with these big cartoony sausage fingers.
-This is more chronological and historical than It Was the War of the Trenches, and I think holds together better as a book for that reason.
-This has a very long (~1/3 of the book) textual chronology of WWI at the end. I tried to read it but got bored. I don’t care that much about the specifics of the history. The theme seemed to be “the French commander is a power hungry idiot,” at least as far as I got (a few years into the war).
Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1 v.4 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Viz)
-More death and trauma and… mysterious backstory revealed as this series runs to its conclusion (this book includes v.10-12, the series ends with v.14).
-Ok, I also read the rest of the chapters via scanlation, since Viz hasn’t even scheduled the last volume yet… and… That’s not how I remember the anime, so maybe Sadamoto made his own ending. I don’t think you can read the ending logically, without involving some paradoxical plot, which I guess is ok.
-In the end, I have no idea how I felt about this series. I’ll probably reread it.
“Wolves,” “Demeter,” and “The Mire” by Becky Cloonan
-Read all these through Comixology where they are really cheap.
-Three fairy tale-esque fantasy tales of the “dark” variety.
-Cloonan’s art is quite nice and really works for this type of narrative. She handles setting and character and mood really well (and you can see her improve over the course of the three stories).
-In the end, while visually appealing, I found the stories thin and predictable. Each had it’s own variety of twist ending, but none felt like there was an engaging variation of the model.
I wasn’t feeling it this month, so some of these comments kind of suck. But I am a slave to my pre-determined project.
In other news, I’ll be at SPX this year (for the first time). I won’t have a table, but I will be walking around Saturday and Sunday, hopefully with something new (and some old stuff). I’ll also be moderating a panel (my first) with some great artists (more details on that when they officially announce the programming). Say hi if you see me, maybe I’ll give you a comic.
[The image above is Rolling Stock 138 by Oliver East. See below.]
Outside 2 by Geddes and Craghead (Oily, 2013)
-More surfing action… with an awesome section where the surfer protagonist wipes out, the drawings get all dark and chaotic, and one panel on a page goes off-kilter like a tv set with the vertical hold messed up (do you people remember “vertical hold”?).
-Not much else to say at this point, as it’s still unfinished, and it’s hard to comment on what is essentially a third of a poem.
Ulysses by David Lasky (1991)
-I bought this on Bloomsday, when someone (maybe Tom Spurgeon?) pointed out that Lasky was selling copies. I’d been wanting to see this for a long time, so…
-It’s basically a 12 page condensation of Ulysses in comics form. 18 chapters in 36 panels (based on my recollection of the original, Lasky did 2 panels per chapter). In the end, it’s not so interesting in itself… you get a basic narrative outline of the novel, which is what I assume Lasky is going for… but it is interesting to think about how different it could be. You could draw 2 panels per chapter and probably make a hundred versions of this comic, no two using the same bit.
Fatale 15 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image, 2013)
-Just learned that while this was original meant as a limited series, it’s now an ongoing series… I’d heard it had been expanded in length but for some reason I thought that meant a couple issues. Wondering if that is a good idea, as it could encourage plot sprawl and even more endless deferment of heretofore hidden elements and motivations. Seems like the story, as it is set-up, really needs to be going some place definite as opposed to “ongoing adventures of immortal Lovecraft noir lady.”
-This one gives a little more on the present-day framing narrative and then goes into a 1990s Seattle flashback featuring a character that is apparently designed to look like Tom Hart (?), though he’s a former musician who makes zines.
-More death, though no Lovecraftian monsters.
Random bunch of manga
-Some of Macross the First which is a remake of the original Japanese Macross series in manga format. Drawn by the original character designer (kinda like the Evangelion manga I guess) it’s quite lovely, but there’s not much via scanlation (about 1 volume), and I truly doubt anyone will translate it for real in English. I’d read more of it.
-Some Sanctuary by Sho Fumimura and Ryoichi Ikegami which is one of the few series from old Viz that I never read. For awhile there (early on) I was reading (or at least an issue or two, that is, when they were just doing pamphlets) pretty much all their publications. This is a long crime and politics drama. There’s something about Ikegami’s hyper-realistic images that really works for this type of story. This could totally be a “prestige” drama on cable television. In comparison to Ikegami’s work with Kazuo Koike this is a little less batshit crazy and has a bit more realistic grounding. Though it is severely lacking in decent female characters, which at least Koike can do some of the time.
-Some other stuff I didn’t write down and have already forgotten so it was clearly not memorable.
Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1 v.1-3 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Viz)
-Viz is releasing this newer volumes with three of the original volumes in one softcover volume with some color pages. So this amounted to 9 volumes of the 14 volume series which was just finally completed in Japan this year. I read some of this in pamphlet form when Viz was first putting it out… in the late 90s. Which shows you how slow Sadamoto was on this.
-Probably more people have seen the anime than read this manga, but it’s been so long since I saw it that I’m not sure how this compares to the anime at all.
-Maybe my reading is colored by slight memories of the ending to the original anime, but this whole series has a weird sense of irreality to it… like even within the diegetic world things don’t really make sense. It’s almost dream-like in that respect. The original project is clearly written with a knowing nod to the tropes of the genre except everything is turned inward and made unheroic. This is not a story of triumphant victory or love conquering all. An enjoyable series nonetheless.
Knights of Sidonia v1-3 by Tsutomu Nihei (Vertical)
-Another sci-fi mecha manga series. This is of the “humanity flees earth and lives in giant spaceships that have cities within them” genre. Also weird alien creatures that no one seems to know anything about. And clones. And people who have been modified (genetically I think) to photosynthesize.
-The people of this future have some genetic changes to them which are so far mostly played for contrast against the protagonist, who is a classic fish out of water, raised in secret away from the rest of society, and he also appears to be the “seems normal at first but actually has some kind of secret power/legacy/skills” character. Lots of tropes mashed into this series, but something about it is entertaining and interesting, partially due to the diegetic world being less contemporary and more alien than stories like Macross, Gundam, or Evangelion. I like that the protagonists best friend is some kind of third gender, though Nihei hasn’t really explored that through 3 volumes.
-Sometimes you just want something that is well made and entertaining. This fits the bill. Also I like Nihei’s slightly flat character designs and the often almost completely nonsensical space battles.
-Some cool settings in the city inside the spaceship too. This one is almost more about the setting than the plot. The chapters are all started with an image of somewhere on the ship labelled: “One Hundred Sights of Sidonia” like some sort of old Japanese print series.
Abyss by Saman Bemel-Benrud (online)
-I really like the simplicity of the drawing and design: no gutters, a base 8 panel grid, pencils, a really nice light blue, rough pencil shaded blacks.
-It’s interesting how often we see the characters from behind and how little that is a bad thing.
-I love the sequence in the middle where the woman is in the abyss and the panels are all drawings of objects and symbols on blue background. Not totally sure how I should interpret it, but that adds to my liking of the comic. Nice little Chipotle burrito sequence too (I never tried all salsas at once!).
-You don’t see a lot of comics engaging with contemporary technology in such a way. Bemel-Benrud is a coder or designer (or both) which may make a difference in that respect.
-You can even go to the site in the comic: http://opening-soon.tumblr.com/
Rolling Stock 138 by Oliver East (comics workbook, 2013)
-This one is just awesome. A vaguely mysterious structure that looks like a jungle gym or some kind of raised platform in a blank space. Then the almost symmetrical waterscape with the object in the top panel in line with the water entrance/exit between the rocks.
-Great colors in light washes, with the rocks and structure standing out as a darker focus. The horizontal brush stroke in the water, the mottled wet splashes at the very bottom (some kind of vegetation?).
-The a few pages later there is Rolling Stock 141 and 142. More of those framed structures (perhaps something to do with fishing?) on top of waterscapes with rocks and pale blue washes that beautifully streak across the paper.
-Between the three there is the rock wall (maybe a jetty of some kind) open closed and open again across the horizontal of the pages. A nice rhythm along with the shifting differences in the structures at top.
I made these two comics for the comicsworkbook Composition Competition 2013. Both are using the 8 panel grid per the competition rules, a layout I’ve only used rarely in the past. The first one is admittedly a semi-joke, but it did turn out pretty nice. The second was a little more thought/worked out. I believe all the text in the comic is taken in fragments from Warlock by Oakley Hall which I was reading at the time.
(In other news, I just released MadInkBeard No.2 (the photocomics issue) as a free download.)
Didn’t actually read a lot of comics this month. I’ve been busy working on some projects, reading novels, and reading/prepping D&D stuff (some friends and I are starting a game and I am DMing).
Puppyteeth #3 edited by Kevin Czapiewski (Czap Books, 2012)
-A full color anthology of comics with a vaguely waxy feeling cover. Most of the comics in this anthology are too cute/cartoony for me. Some feel like they are telling stories I’ve read before and not doing it in a way that makes the retelling worth it.
-A few stand-outs from L. Nichols, Alex Martin, Liz Suburbia, and Kevin himself. They are all the ones that are formally more adventurous (in different ways), and less narratively straightforward.
-Alex Martin’s comic looks to be made at least partially of comics paged that have been abstracted down to squares of color at varying sizes of square/levels of abstraction. He places appropriated word balloons over the abstracted images, with some of the text reaching towards the way the pages have been transformed into the building blocks of color (cyan, magenta, yellow) in traditional printing: “foundations,” “simplicity of existence,” “limits” of power. It’s an interesting piece, though I wish it were pushed a little more.
-L. Nichols piece seems to be about chaos theory. It’s a series of smaller panels that are manipulated photos. Transformation of different sorts form the sequence, a kind of relentless but slow shifting of the image, like a fade-out, a zoom-in, a deterioration of quality. One images leads to another via the transformation. Order leads to chaos leads to order. I like this comic, though I think the text written over the images is often too on-point. It is explicitly talking about chaos and order, cycles, entropy, which is already manifest in the images. It ends up being a little too redundant, so the text makes it easier to not have to pay as close attention to the images, to think about the transformations going on.
-Liz Suburbia’s comic features Joan of Arc, a series of pages primarily taken up by a series of portraits of Joan over time, as a kid, as a mohawked punk, as an armored warrior, being burnt at the stake. The text above is a directly addressed monologue of moral advice, that spins a more modern take on Joan’s story. Beneath those primary images is a short strip that runs across each page showing a horned furry snake like creature flying around and finding love. I’m not totally sure what to make of those, but the structure is effective for a short comic. It has a medieval altarpiece quality to it, with the primary icon and the smaller secondary panels. Some really nice coloring on these pages, too, especially a kind of colorful halftone in the backgrounds behind Joan.
-Kevin’s comic is a dense, vibrant collage. A short meditation that you can reread multiple times without feeling the work is exhausted. There are images in it that are really lovely, some that feel a little clash-y with the collaged work, and some that are symbolically opaque to me (little bug, flower things that float over one spread). I stared at one inset panel a few times before the abstract blue blobs transformed into a close-up image of soles of feet leaving the ground (though I’m open to the idea, that interpretation is purely made up on my part).
Trigger No.3 by Kevin Czapiewski (March, 2012)
-A short mini from Kevin. You can read this one at Kevin’s Tumblr. He did a few of these (maybe 12?) in 2012 and more recently was posting them to Tumblr. I remember commenting on this one when he posted it, which is maybe why he threw a copy in with Puppyteeth when I ordered it (or else, it’s just a coincidence).
-Just 8 pages, this comic is primarily photographs with words and the occasional figure drawn on top in loose white strokes. Like Kevin’s story in Puppyteeth this is a kind of meditation or micro-monologue. I think there is a young woman repeated across a few of these images. In one we see her getting her head shaved (and then I start seeing her as looking like Sinead). Perhaps that’s her in an earlier scene with a shaved head holding a glass of wine, almost centered in the panel, but the photo itself is clearly cropped to focus on her (other figures go off-panel, a lot of negative wall space taking up most of the image). In a subsequent photo of a group of young people, the text “here” with an arrow points out a young woman half-off panel, perhaps the same young woman. Are the cover photos (front and back appear to be crops from two images that are variations of each other) images of the same woman when she had hair (strands are obvious, though the photos themselves are just neck, shoulders, a hand)? They are reminiscent of a senior year high school photo (I can’t help think of that Laura Palmer photo). The text is about discovering hardcore and one can imagine a transformation from long-haired girl in the high school photo to the one getting her head shaved. Is this a fictional recreation (maybe the photos aren’t all the same girl)? Is it someone Kevin knows, a close friend, an old crush? I like that ambiguity into the existence of the comic itself (which is hard not to think of when faced with photographs that look more like snapshots than posed images).
-I really like this comic, though that is slightly tempered by the strange little cartoon duck figure who is drawn onto a couple of the photos. It appears on three of the pages, though not on the two that are most clearly the same young woman. I’m not sure what to make of the duck, but his stylistic difference and the way he floats on the photos with the text makes it a little… discordant.
In Situ No.3 & Sleepy Details by Sophie Yanow (Colosse, 2012/2013)
-Two more autobio minis from Sophie Yanow. In Situ is part of her continuing journal comics, each page is dated with a different day from May through August of 2012. Sleepy Details is a 24 hour comic.
-My favorite parts of these are when Sophie breaks away from the normal narrative figuration and really abstracts the images, or uses (almost) blank panels, or scribbles on the page in dark pencil, or repeats the same image with small variations or just shows a bit of background/object in the panel. Those feel like the times when she’s either thinking much less about what she’s doing (just producing panels as quickly as possible) or thinking much more about it (trying to get away from the most normal way to narrate her life). It’s hard to tell, it could work either/both ways depending on the context. Would those sections work as well outside the context of the more conventional images? I’m not sure. I think, yes.
Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort by Simon Hanselmann (Space Face, 2012)
-After reading that really interesting (and brave) interview with Hanselman at The Comics Journal, I decided I try some of his work other than the “Truth Zone” pages I’ve been following on Comics Workbook (can’t figure a way to link right to the those pages specifically). I think I saw Oliver East praising this one on Twitter, so I ordered it and then read a bunch of Hanselmann’s tumblr-posted pages while I waited for delivery.
-This is a small comic, smaller than a quarter-sheet, using an eight panel grid (the panels are small). Like many of Hanselmann’s comics, this one features his Megg, Mogg, and Owl characters. This one seems to show, in the background, some kind of alien invasion, which I have to read, in this comic, as a setting subjective (and metaphoric) to, the witch, Megg’s psychological state. She’s depressed and clearly disturbed in some way. Though, the fact that we hear the others comment on the space ships/invasion does problematize that reading. Though she could be hallucinating some of what they are saying.
-Maybe I’m just too determined to fit this comic in with the others I’ve read where there doesn’t seem to be an invasion or a world that looks destroyed. There’s a certain narrative expectation when you see the same characters that the world they live in is consistent from one narrative to the next (unless it’s been clearly set-up to the contrary). Though that’s certainly never been the case with older cartoon characters (the Warner Brothers or the Disney cartoons for instance). Even if the aliens aren’t a hallucination, they certainly seem metaphorical.
-I wonder what this comic would read like to someone coming cold to his work. I’ve certainly learned to appreciate this work more as I read more of it.
Fatale 1-13 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image, 2012-2013)
-Enjoyable genre reading. This is like a comic book version of a Call of Cthulhu adventure.
-If that means nothing to you… it’s like a Lovecraft story, except instead of focusing on the unfathomable horror, it’s like a film noir detective story… with mystical evil, horrible monsters disguised as people, and characters that go insane. Also… blood and death.
-It’s got a framing narrative that might work a little better as noir than the more prominent embedded narratives. The framing story has that “everyman pushed into circumstances he doesn’t understand” (beautiful mysterious woman who disappears, getting framed for crimes he didn’t commit, secret gangster like bad guys) aspect, while the embedded narratives are more focused on the mysterious woman at the center of the comic. But because the woman is so mysterious, you can’t really see her in the same way as the dude in the framing tale. Her background story is withheld, I assume in anticipation of some big reveal down the line (and they have been slowly filling in her story), which makes her less effective, I think, as the primary focalizer of the story.
-It’s a pretty effective genre narrative. Brubaker knows what he’s doing and Phillips has a nice style that deals well with the darkness of the story. Though in neither case does it ever really reach that awesome horror that Lovecraft is known for. Partially that’s because this doesn’t feel novel anymore, and partially because this kind of straight up illustrative artwork just can’t do that kind of visual effect without really breaking out of the style. I’d almost say it’s just something comics have a hard time doing, but I’ve also been reading Alberto Breccia’s Lovecraft adaptations, and he can do it with his crazy multi-media semi-abstract style, where the art isn’t always so damn clear that you know exactly what you are looking at. Breccia can capture the darkness and the questioning of what you are seeing and the distortion of perspective.
-Read this via Comixology, which is a good way to read something like this, because you can enjoy the story and not get stuck with a pile of comics that you’d probably just want to give away after you read them anyway.
Mere by C.F. (Picturebox, 2013)
-This one isn’t for me. I tried (I read it twice), but my favorite parts are the photos that were interspersed between the comics. I kind of get what he’s going for here with the abstracted genre narratives and the cheap throwaway comic stylings, but it doesn’t overlap with any of my interests.
Odette #1 by Sarah Ferrick (2013)
-This is pretty low-fi comic, photocopy, pencil, some string. Looks like the cover is half pasted-on construction paper with a hand-written title. The book is letter size paper folded in half vertically, creating a tall narrow page, a shape that is echoed throughout the comic itself (it seems very self-referential). Even the front cover has an simple image on it that looks like the book itself, open (a spread).
-An airy comic: no panels as such; not much in the way of imagery; many of the pages are just a few bits of text. It’s most unusual.
-A window the same shape as the comic. A figure in the gutter of the book, black scribbled there, with just arms and legs splayed out to the verso and recto. A screen of crossed hatch. The tall rectangle repeats often as a window, a door, a book, a frame, a caption box, the space between the T’s of Odette.
-Lots of noise. Often the noise is all you see other than text: dots from the printing (copier I guess since a printer wouldn’t leave such marks); smudges around the pencils (it all appears to be pencil of differing softness); faint lines at the edges of the page that look like edges of the page.
-The text is monologue and dialogue. I believe we have Siegfried, Odette, and some perhaps imaginary voice that talks to Siegfried. Siegfried longs for Odette. Perhaps they are dreaming of long ago when they were young.
-Page 1: “Swan Lake” in big letters at the top. “Here’s the lake” in smaller letters about a quarter of the way down. A bit of copy noise towards the bottom.
-The lettering, for being the primary part of the work, is almost non-aesthetic. It looks like regular handwriting as opposed to a constructed style of lettering. Kind of awkward looking (adding to the low-fi aesthetic), it’s like a thumbnail sketch.
-”#1″? Should I expect a continuation?
Bulletin Vol.1 No.1: Jason Overby; Supplement by Stephen Hayes (Booklet, 2013)
-I got this for something like 1 yen, mail-order from Japan. It’s a single piece of paper (some Japanese size I guess), folded twice, with another half-size page folded once inside it. Blue and black ink.
-Jason’s part is the larger page. A drawing of a painter on the front. Other than that, this is pretty much an all text comic. The smaller inside is a page from one of Jason’s comics, “Truth” in block letters across the six panels, and some text on truth/fiction in, I believe, auto-biography. The larger “broadside” section is a series of tight word balloons on a blue speckled background, “Dialectics” (crossed-out once). This section is a sort of dialogue (though mostly a monologue) about art as gesture.
-I’m pretty sure I’ve seen both of these before in a different form, but they are the type of work you can always reread. Like a lot of Jason’s work, you can see him trying to work out problems on the page. The art is like a record of an internal thought process, though we know it’s also an internal thought process that has been re-processed for the work’s reader. The two pieces in this pamphlet push against each other in that respect, as one questions the “truth” of the work, and the other seems to question the work itself as an object.
-Stephen Hayes’ inserted page is Jason’s “Dialectics” page (in black and white) with four white rectangles inserted behind Jason’s word balloons. Three of them have text from Hayes as he inserts himself into Jason’s dialogue.
The End by Anders Nilsen (Fantagraphics, 2013)
-An expanded, hardcover edition of The End #1 (from the Ignatz line), which is one of my favorite comics ever.
-It’s also one of the saddest comics ever.
-It’s slightly smaller than the old version, but nicer printing (and the color is better). There are a number of added sections (a few from Mome, a few from other places), a couple pages removed (a section about Nilsen’s time in Berlin that never did feel quite right in context), and what looks like a few minor edits.
-The added sections are for the most part to the benefit of the book. One section has the silhouetted male character (Nilsen) talking to the silhouetted female character. He’s talking to her like she’s really there, asking her questions and such, and she responds to him, but keeps reminding him she’s dead. It’s a brutal frankness in a conversation that is essentially (narratively and materially) Nilsen talking to himself. One of his “character drawn over photo” comics from Mome included here does feel a bit like filler. The other similar section works in context quite well as an addition.
-What I think is so powerful about this book is the way it is both specific and abstract. The way it’s not just Nilsen telling the story (which he does very effectively in “Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow”), but him exploring the after-effects of his fiancée’s death, the grief and questioning and emptiness and coping. And he swerves between the very specific (like the section “Since You’ve Been Gone I Can Do Whatever I Want All the Time”) and the abstract (“Solve for X”). They feed on each other and make something that is more emotionally powerful than if he had just illustrated a narrative with lots of figures and scenes and backgrounds.
-I wish I could write more effectively about this book.
Takemitsu Zamurai v.1-8 by Issei Eifuku and Taiyo Matsumoto (2006-2010)
-I haven’t been a huge fan of the Matsumoto works I’ve read. Didn’t care for Black & White (what I saw of it in Pulp) and was luke warm on GoGo Monster.
-I did enjoy this manga a lot. I read it in scanlation after hearing about it from the French translation.
-It’s written by Eifuku which might explain my like for it in opposition to Matsumoto’s solo works. Also I think Matsumoto’s drawing is much looser and more expressive in this than in his other manga.
-There’s a pretty strong narrative resemblance to Ono’s House of Five Leaves: ronin in Edo, secret pasts, a light-hearted but deadly samurai, the use of place as a community builder, though Takemitsu Zamurai is considerably more dramatic and expressive (and more fights).
-My biggest issue with the whole series was the primary antagonist in the series seemed unmotivated in context and was a little too monster-ish. The authors side-stepped some of the more interesting narrative threads and thematic possibilities by focusing a lot on this big crazy assassin guy who was really not interesting at all (too crazy, too “quirky”). The story started out in this quiet mode, with the ronin (with the mysterious past!) settling into a new home in Edo and interacting with the community, but then at some point the crazy assassin plot just got too prominent.
-I plan on reading this again though to better think about it. Matsumoto’s art is fantastic, often showing an inspiration from Edo period illustration and often breaking out into expressive brush work.
Download the Comic (pdf, 3.4mb)
I made this comic for an upcoming gallery show. It’s original format is as one of Warren Craghead’s little single-page fold-up books (kind of like these), but it’s probably more convenient here to just offer a pdf.
House of Five Leaves by Natsume Ono (Viz)
-This is my second full read through this series, but the first time through it was one volume at a time with a few months between each, this time I read the whole series in a few days (I ended up reading the second half in one sitting).
-Only on this second reading did I consider the importance of the title and that “house” in the title. The location, the gathering point, the social connection/network that is a key element to the story, but also “house” as in family. In the end, this is the story of a family being created as much as it is anything else.
-It is also, in a large part, a story about men in love with each other in non-sexual ways. There are women in the story, but the primary relationships and catalysts of plot in the story are between men. These relationships are more than just friends, or they are not friends based on interests or circumstance, but rather some deeper feeling of connection and love.
-This has to be the least violent manga about samurai and criminals ever. There aren’t many fights and when there are Ono barely shows them. Characters are facing off. An almost close-up, maybe two. The fight is over. Characters are again facing off (or one is dying/dead). It is, in its way, wonderfully evocative of the speed and confusion of a violent conflict, making the fights a gap in the events, a jump in time from stasis to stasis that can leave behind horrible results (though, in this case, they are not graphically too horrible). Ono makes a great counterpoint to the stylistics of a volume long fight by Goseki Kojima or Takehiko Inoue.
-I do love Ono’s style: thin lines, awkward cropping, breakdowns that are often slightly confusing or abstract, nearly empty spaces, crowded narrow panels, weighted silences.
Barrack Hussein Obama by Steven Weissman (Fantagraphics, 2012)
-Weissman’s style in this comic is really appealing: off-white paper (moleskine looking yellowish), a few colored Sharpies (black, green, blue, red), a couple ziptones, the occasional underlying pencil marks.
-The comics themselves, though, veer between amusing and stupid.
Brandstifter Nr.3 and Schlaflos by Jonathan Kröll
-Jonathan sent these to me in the mail after I send him my free mini from minicomics day.
-”Brandstifter” is short and wide mini with card covers.
-The imagery is semi-abstract, I can see waves and maybe a moon, but also lines and curved brushstrokes and circles that are more enso than representational. Strokes in the last few panels almost make letters, yet elude cohering into anything recognizable.
-It’s like a stormy night.
-”Schlaflos” is scratchy and spluttery. A thin-lined figure is slightly more than a stick figure (something about it makes me think, stylistically, of parts of Cages). This mini is one page, folded in such a way, that after paging through its 8 pages, you can unfold the comic to find the panels printed on the other side. This other side is two pages of panels: eyes, tongues, insects, that same figure, beds, some hard to read words in German that end with “nothing happens” (that’s what Google Translate says it is).
Sonatina 2, edited by Scott Longo (2013)
-An anthology in two parts, one at full page size, one at half size. Really lovely covers (they are uncredited so I assume they are the work of editor Scott Longo). The smaller book has a great matching back cover. This is one of the more adventurous anthologies I’ve read. Lots of good work in here.
-Anthologies are often good places to discover new artists. A little disappointed to realize all the artists I like in here are artists I’m already familiar with.
-The little book is the weaker half, though it has back-to-back Julie Delporte and Sophie Yanow autobio comics. Both are really effective in their own way: Julie’s brightly colored, more narratively elliptical, less structured; Sophie’s more structured in her black lines that know when to come and go, leaving visual blanks and abstracted space.
-The larger book has a lot of familiar names. Jason Overby’s pages are like words and images rising out of the darkness of the large black pages, an interior monologue accompanied by collages. Collage is prominent in a few of the comics here. Dunja Jankovic’s abstract drawings have some collaged elements in them, but also look like collages in the way the parts of the drawing are composed. Leslie Weibeler’s comic has a more contemporary layered collage aspect using transparency and repetition. It’s the most interesting comic I’ve seen from her, fragmented and dense. Blaise Larmee’s 4 pages look like more of his photocopier experiments, this time with primary colored paper and those prominent window panes/gutters. His pages have a real visual depth. If Jason’s pages are rising up from blackness, Blaise’s are sinking into, separated from the viewer by a window. Aidan Koch’s four pages are painted in brilliant blue on brown paper. Shapes, textures, and objects repeat, with small text inching across the very bottom margin. It’s very beautiful.
-A big improvement on the first incarnation of Sonatina. Order a copy here.
Twin Spica v.1-3 by Kou Yaginuma (Vertical, 2010)
-I enjoyed reading House of Five Leaves so much I figured I’d reread other manga series. Like devouring full seasons of tv shows in a short period of time, there’s something satisfying about reading through volumes of manga all in a row. It satisfies the urge for narrative continuation (what comes next?) and closure (how will it end?).
-It’s also got me thinking about what I look for in comics, and how, there are different ways I read comics that vaguely correlate to other art forms: tv series, novel, poem, painting (or other related fine arts). I don’t go into a John Porcellino comic reading it the same way (or with the same types of expectations) as I would read Twin Spica or how I’d read a Vincent Fortemps comic…
-Twin Spica is definitely one to read for more traditional narrative pleasures, though, I found myself stalling out at volume 3. I read the first 3 in quick succession, went on vacation, and weeks later I haven’t picked up the fourth. I think part of the issue is that the art is not a draw. A first read through, you can read for plot/story, but the second time through you want a little more out of the art, and Yaginuma does not have a style I particularly like.
-It’s like an exquisite corpse as a endless series of comic strips… about a skeleton. As you would expect this is more about novelty than… well any of the normal narrative pleasures. You get a mishmash of visual styles (though on the other hand, you also see how similar most of the styles really are).
-I did participate in this, as it really needed at least one photocomic. I made one that followed up a John Porcellino strip.
-I browsed in this here and there, but… in four isolated panels I don’t see anyone really able to pull anything out of the whole. In the end it’s not unlike exquisite corpse drawings, there is fun in the execution/process but little in the product.
Tamara Drewe by Posey Simmonds
-Reread this while on vacation.
-I don’t think this one is quite the success that Gemma Bovery was (but I haven’t reread that in awhile either), though perhaps my familiarity with the source Simmonds is playing with injures that (I’ve read Madame Bovary more than once, I have not read… I can’t even now recall which Thomas Hardy novel Tamara Drewe is based on).
-I do think Simmonds is a skilled artist. Her characters are expressive, her landscapes and backgrounds are attractive and successfully provide the sense of place required for her narrative. I’m just not terribly engaged by the narrative itself, which unravels and ravels back up like a nineteenth century novel, which never was my favorite period.
-Her use of text in relation to image is still almost unique in contemporary comics. Parts of Cerebus do something similar, though less successfully, as the parts of Cerebus that most interrelate paragraphs of set text with panels using word/thought balloons are done in such a way that the set text itself is a) really hard to actually read and b) not as consistently integrated with the images. (On the other hand some of the text/image combinations in Cerebus that are really effective tend to mix the set text with comics panels in a more divorced way (Jaka’s Story for instance where the two work as separate threads of the narrative, rather than as a combined narration like in Simmonds’ work).)
Alack Sinner, integrale t.1 by Munoz and Sampayo (Casterman)
-Reread this, as comics this dense with French text tend to require reading for me to really appreciate the work. Even on a second read, I still feel like there were elements I missed, or aspects I didn’t pay close enough attention to.
-These stories (of widely varying length) were created between the 70s and the 2000s (the last is post 2001). Munoz’s art changes dramatically (and quickly) from a pretty traditional comics realism to a loose black-swathed expressionism (Frank Miller was highly influenced by him, though not nearly as good), and Sampayo’s stories slowly drift away from the noir detective stories he starts writing at the beginning of the series. Politics are quickly inserted into the stories and Sinner (the protagonist ex-NYC-cop private detective) is slowly moved into stories that are not always about solving some murder or disappearance. Instead they become rather bleak existential, political stories.
-These are dense comics. Munoz, even at his most abstract, puts a lot into his images, especially the crowded New York City scenes. And Sampayo is a wordy comics writer, though not in a way that feels redundant or unnecessary.
-It’s crazy there hasn’t been a decent, complete translation of this (Fantagraphics did a few of the earliest stories as pamphlets awhile back), as I’d think the combo of off-kilter genre tale with the expressive art would appeal to a lot of contemporary comics readers.
Aria v.6-12 by Kozue Amano
-Reread some of these (in scanlated form) over vacation too. I’ve probably written enough about this series here.
Pumpkin and Mayonaise by Kiriko Nananan
-This is a 1 volume manga I read in scanlation. Since I enjoyed Nananan’s Blue so much, I searched out some of her other work. I found this one years back, but I don’t think I read it before.
-It lacks the subtlety or interesting/unusual visuals (harsh cropping, sparseness) of Blue. Narratively, the story is pretty generic and kind of annoying… it’s not even worth talking about.
-I deleted it after I read it.
Grand Gestures by Simon Moreton (Retrofit, 2013)
-When this first showed up in the mail, I just flipped through it, and was really impressed by its sparseness. The white of the page is the prominent color that comes through.
-Thematically, this feels in a line with some of Simon’s other works, like the Escapologist issues and his short in the Kus art anthology. All showcase a character escaping from daily life. The former even showcase a similar floating ghost-like figure as in this issue.
-These are in contrast with the straight autobiographical shorts in his Smoo issues.
-Simon has really been refining his rendering for a lot of his comics (not all of them, some have a denser tonality). He has perhaps not totally reached the limit of reducing his panels to a minimal number of lines–so that something is communicated, an object or scene or person is represented, without filling in details, leaving the reader-viewer to their own devices–though some panels in this comic consist of only 1 or 2 lines, which is probably the limit.
-There are some awesome abstract geese in here. Weird ovular, shapes with a curved line coming out of one end. Out of context they would be purely abstract shapes, in context… geese.
-This type of refined, spare drawing is quite difficult if you want to maintain any sense of representational imagery. At one end you leave out too much information to communicate anything, on the other, you have a drawing that looks incomplete or unbalanced. This is hardest, I think, with people, and how much you want to make them individualized (especially in narratives that have characters) or generic. For the most part, Simon succeeds quite well at this.
-I’m not sure if its purposeful that the ghost-like floating figures that seem to evoke a certain freedom of movement/escape are mostly identical to a number of the figures in the background of other panels. Is this a limitation of the drawing style, or are we to read this thematically… the protagonist (who seems to be consistent across the first two sections of the comic) sees other people as freer than he is, or it’s not what he sees, but how we, the reader-viewers, should see them in comparison with the protagonist.
-Definitely one of the best of the Retrofit releases.
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.