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Megan Kelso

Queen of the Black Black

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The earliest stories by “Girlhero” Megan Kelso.

Before her comics were serialized in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (“Watergate Sue,” 2007) or released by Fantagraphics Books (Artichoke Tales, 2010), Megan Kelso was a classic DIY cartoonist/publisher, who crafted and self-published her popular minicomic Girlhero from 1991 to 1996.

Queen of the Black Black, which collects these early Girlhero strips (as well as a few from other sources) and was originally published in a limited edition twelve years ago (now long out of print), provides an engrossing chronicle of an ambitious young cartoonist carefully developing her own unique style and approach.

In this volume, Kelso scrutinizes bicycle messengers, venereal diseases, infidelity, unwanted pregnancies, temporary work assignments, family reunions, and classroom daydreams in subtle and unexpected manners, setting herself technical challenges such as depicting music in comics (the virtuoso “The Daddy Mask,” with its sensuous gray swirls of sound on the page), integrating lettering into artwork in creative ways, and generally working her way toward what would become her mature style.

The title story, “Queen of the Black Black,” rendered in lush gray tones, explores the fraught relationship between the aging, demanding queen of a fairy-tale realm and a hornblower whom she takes under her wing.

There is even a vintage “Artichoke Tale,” predating kelso recently released graphic novel by a decade and a half. (“I am planning to do a whole book of artichoke tales in the future,” she wrote presciently in her original story notes.)

Queen of the Black Black shows the first flowering (or sprouting) of a major cartooning talent, and its return to print (fully redesigned by the author) is welcome news for the many readers delighted by Kelso’s subsequent graphic novels.

Praise

"Megan Kelso’s [comics] are smart, smart, smart. [Her artwork] is stately and deliberate, but also conveys a sense of urgency." — Ms. Magazine

"...[Megan Kelso] repeatedly turns up little rocks of human experience and chronicles what’s going on underneath, reintroducing us to feelings, sensations, and experiences we’d forgotten we’d had but recognize as if they happened this morning." — Sean T. Collins - The Comics Journal

"Kelso’s work radiates a warmth, poetry, sympathy, and simultaneously earthy and otherworldly essence that few comics creators have brought to the table with such quiet confidence and grace. The closest comic in recent memory to match Artichoke Tales, both in breadth and depth, is Jeff Smith’s Bone. [Grade] A." — The Onion A.V. Club

"Rather than a narrative arc, with ascensions and declines, Artichoke Tales feels like a series of expansions. The characters and their world grow to envelop the reader in a singular, charming way." — Paul Constant - The Stranger

"Anyone looking for a masterful example of the short story in comics would do well to give this a try. Beautifully written and well illustrated, this a wonderful portfolio of work from a creator showing a deep well of promise from the start." — Grovel

Specs

Pages
160
Format
Paperback / Softback
Color
160 pages of black-and-white comics
Dimensions
7.1" × 9.3"
ISBN-13
9781606994597
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