• List:The Browser's Roland Chambers talks to comics scholar and junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows Hillary Chute about her top five graphic narratives, including Aline Kominsky-Crumb's Love That Bunch: "To me, Aline is one of the most important figures in comics, which isn’t to say that she’s one of the most well-known. She’s not. But her comics have inspired a legion of cartoonists working in comics autobiography: specifically women cartoonists, because Aline published the first ever autobiographical comic from a woman’s point of view."
• Review: "King has long been a figure so ubiquitous in American culture that little of his true self remains in his frequently invoked image and words. Anderson does the man a favor by taking a spiky, fractured approach to his subject and refusing to plant a halo on his troubled head. ... Though all the great moments of his civil rights battle are here (from the March on Washington to his less-successful housing campaign in Chicago), Anderson doesn't resort to the cheap cinematic trick of success and fadeout. There is more disappointment here than celebration, suffused with the sorrowful sense of a long, long battle just barely begun. A crowning achievement, like the man it portrays." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "...Columbia's most disturbing material yet. ... he remains one of the finest horrorists (if such a word exists and I may be allowed to use it) working in comics today, far exceeding what is generally held to be the standard of excellence in the genre, via his ability to convey a terrible sense of dread and foreboding. ... As disjointed and narratively frustrating as Pim and Francie can be at times, it remains a stunning and haunting work that preys on your mind long after you've finished it. The successive wave upon wave of unsettling imagery builds upon subsequent page to suggest a world of constant pain and surreal terror, where hiding places are few and far between. ... The sheer level of craftsmanship and imagination on display makes this a book well worth reading for those who can bear its mordant message." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
World War I, that awful, gaping wound in the history of Europe, has long been an obsession of Jacques Tardi’s. (His very first — rejected — comics story dealt with the subject, as does his most recent work, the two-volume Putain de Guerre.) But It Was the War of the trenches is Tardi’s defining, masterful statement on the subject, a graphic novel that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
Tardi is not interested in the national politics, the strategies, or the battles. Like Remarque, he focuses on the day to day of the grunts in the trenches, and, with icy, controlled fury and disgust, with sardonic yet deeply sympathetic narration, he brings that existence alive as no one has before or since. Yet he also delves deeply into the underlying causes of the war, the madness, the cynical political exploitation of patriotism. And in a final, heartbreaking coda, Tardi grimly itemizes the ghastly human cost of the war, and lays out the future 20th century conflicts, all of which seem to spring from this global burst of insanity.
Trenches features some of Tardi’s most stunning artwork. Rendered in an inhabitually lush illustrative style, inspired both by abundant photographic documentation and classic American war comics, augmented by a sophisticated, gorgeous use of Craftint tones, Trenches is somehow simultaneously atypical and a perfect encapsulation of Tardi’s mature style. It is the indisputable centerpiece of Tardi’s oeuvre.
It Was the War of the Trenches has been an object of fascination for North American publishers: RAW published a chapter in the early 1980s, and Drawn and Quarterly magazine serialized a few more in the 1990s. But only a small fraction of Trenches has ever been made available to the English speaking public (in now out of print publications); the Fantagraphics edition, the third in an ongoing collection of the works of this great master, finally remedies this situation.
“‘The war to end all wars’ has become a magisterial comic book to end all comic books. I seldom give blurbs, but this book is an essential classic. Among all of Jacques Tardi's towering achievements as a comics artist, nothing looms larger than this devastating crater of a work. It’s a compulsively readable wail of Existential despair, a kaleidoscope of war’s dehumanizing brutality and of Everyman’s suffering, as well as a deadpan masterpiece of the darkest black humor. The richly composed and obsessively researched drawings — perfectly poised between cartoon and illustration — march to the relentless beats of Tardi’s three horizontal panels per page to dig a hole deep inside your brain. This is one Hell of a book.” —Art Spiegelman
"Tardi’s depiction of the First World War is so impassioned and visceral that it can be compared to the work of the artists who actually served in the trenches." – Joe Sacco
Presidents Day does not stop the Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "In Hernandez’s hands, [The Troublemakers] unspools on the page like a Russ Meyer production, from the in-your-face nudity, right down to the cartoony violence played for laughs. ...[I]t sure is fun." — Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Even if I finally accepted that [Sublife Vol. 2] did not answer any of my questions from the first volume... I still admired the growth in Pham’s work on display between the two volumes. Volume 2 shows a terrific range, beginning a Clowes-like opening series of strips about a murderous blogger with an under-read blog that shows a biting wit not on display in the first volume. The tour de force of the volume is the second piece, which picks up (for those paying incredibly scrupulous attention) on a deep space adventure from the inside covers of Volume 1. Here Pham lets his instincts for architectural design sense take off in a trippy sequence that is pure pleasure to look at. ... In some ways — in many ways actually — the first two volumes of Sublife evoke memories of the early volumes of Acme Novelty Warehouse [sic]. And that could be a very good thing." – Jared Gardner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...I am delighted to report that The Great Anti-War Cartoons offers an impressive showcase of political cartooning. Many of its contributors have never had their work reprinted with as much care. Even the most well-informed reader will stumble across pieces they have never seen or names they have never heard of." – Kent Worcester, The Comics Journal
• Review: "[There are] ...a number of strong stories to be found here [in Mome Vol. 17], and a number of rewards to be gained by those who were following serials like Paul Hornschemeier’s 'Life With Mr. Dangerous' or the second chapters of the stories done by Renee French and Ted Stearn." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Interview:Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s editor Michael Dowers talks to Robot 6's Tim O'Shea: "I want people to see that if you believe in something hard enough and never give up that you can get somewhere in life. Here is a group of creative types who couldn’t take no for an answer and made their own world of comics."
One of my favorite books I've received lately is this handsome, considered little tome from Spain's Blur Ediciones, Rotulando in Spanish • Lettering en Español, collecting something that on the face of it might sound a bit loopy: lettering by the cartoonist Nono Kadáver created for the Spanish editions of work by American greats R. Crumb, Daniel Clowes, Joe Sacco, Johnny Ryan, Peter Bagge and Gilbert Shelton.
Nono worked throughout most of the 1990s at Barcelona's Ediciones La Cúpula, one of Spain's leading comics publishers, and was one of the last of an era when book production was done largely by hand, not computers. Nowadays, most publishers get fonts created for an artist, but thru the 1990s, Nono spent many of his days mimic-ing the lettering styles of Bagge, Crumb, etc. the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper (and maybe a lightbox). He was a real master at trying to maintain the integrity of the original artwork, putting his ego aside in an effort to seamlessly blend the Spanish text into the artist's page compositions as unnoticeably as possible. Kind of like the old saw that the best movie soundtrack is the one you don't notice, Nono's work could probably make you forget that Daniel Clowes wasn't Spanish when you're reading Bola Ocho.
I am a lettering nerd and it makes me a bit sad that hand-lettering like this is becoming a dying craft, because it can make or break a translated foreign book and typeset fonts are rarely as effective. Kadáver likens his work to a forger in the excellent introductory text:
"I feel a great admiration and respect for counterfeiters... I think that even falsifying, we leave our mark... What you have to do is forget your personal style and adapt to the artist's. This is accomplished by reading a lot, dissecting his work, and learning from it; in the end the only thing that matters is as close a possible resemblance to the author's style."
• Review: "Anderson’s King is most definitely NOT your feel-good, sanctifying version of King’s life that most readers are probably used to. ...[T]he MLK presented here is a multi-dimensional, gifted man … but still very much a man, nevertheless, filled with doubt, frustration, anger, arrogance, and even deceit. ... While Anderson starkly presents King’s less-than-saintly episodes... the final reaction is a fuller understanding of a great man, with inspiring ideals, and an unshakeable dedication to equality through nonviolent, loving means. ... MLK’s legacy undeniably lives on in Anderson’s King." – Terry Hong, Bookdragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "Dash Shaw was praised to the skies for his hefty 2008 graphic novel Bottomless Belly Button, but the 26-year-old cartoonist’s real strength so far in his career has been his short strips, which have displayed a diversity of subject matter and style that make each piece feel like something wholly new. The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.... does reveal a future master in his formative stages, working to find a balance between his interest in subtle adult relationships—teacher/pupil, flirter/flirtee, etc.—and his yen to try out new approaches to drawing and coloring. Shaw may be the cartoonist of the rising generation most capable of delivering a long-form work with the formal daring and humanity of a David Mazzucchelli or an Art Spiegelman. Consider The Unclothed Man a document of his baby steps… B+" – The A.V. Club
• Plug: "The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 comes out in March, meaning we'll be halfway through this amazing, historical publication. I can't say enough about these collections. It's not only remarkable in its simple, truthful capturing of the human condition, but a beautiful historical document of the second half of the 20th Century." – Rob Kozlowski
• Interview: On the Inkstuds radio programme, Jordan Crane and Sammy Harkham have a feisty conversation with host Robin McConnell about their webcomics concern, What Things Do
• Commentary:NPR 's Glen Weldon, surveying some of the connections between comics and pop music, says "Love and Rockets, by Los Bros Hernandez, wasn't just about a punk band, it was a book steeped in an anarchic punk sensibility that even today, 30 years later, still seems bracing and unapologetic."
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