... merges Deitch's ease in cross-cutting between embedded and overlapping realities with a dirty, seam-bursting cartoon style reminiscent of Tony Mil... merges Deitch's ease in cross-cutting between embedded and overlapping realities with a dirty, seam-bursting cartoon style reminiscent of Tony Millionaire and Milt Gross. Pinocchio won me with its furious page-to-page and panel-to-panel momentum, its perfect comedic timing, and its repeated backpedalling to pick up previous story threads and sew them into one surprising pair of pants. Geppetto is a profit-minded inventor; Pinocchio is a robot with potential military applications and no motive; and Jiminy Cockroach becomes a stand-in for both reader and author as a self-doubting, unemployed, down-on-his-luck would-be novelist who's taken up residence in Pinocchio's hollow skull, rent-free. Pinocchio's and Jiminy's narratives run parallel (and are distinguished by colour and black-and-white pictures, respectively) but intersect at several critical points, leading to Pinocchio's apocalyptic stand-off with the human military. Winshluss assembles bits of the original fairy tale and perverts them to his own aims. He contaminates Disneyesque human values such as romantic love, familial acceptance, home, and following one's dream; and then reaffirms the same values while suggesting that their comforts leave us hungry for some unnamed other. It probably isn't God. It definitely isn't religion, as is made clear in a subplot involving faith-based terrorism. By inserting Disney characters (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs appear in a subplot) into a sex-, violence-, and greed-fueled milieu, Winshluss risks slipping into simple political satire; but the despair coursing through his panel gutters nullifies moral advice; and the link between Pinocchio's colourful, power-mad outer world and Jiminy's black-and-white, alcoholic inner world is infused with complex magickal potential -- a prayer for amplification of the individual imagination to world-transforming, giant-robot size. Where one political tyranny is in continual danger of being replaced by another political tyranny, Winshluss makes creative storytelling and black comedy its own kind of tyrant. Pinocchio for dictator-for-life....more
Listen, this is shitty in exactly the way all the shitty parts of Frank Miller's non-shitty comix (e.g., Elektra: Assassin, Ronin, Batman: Year OneListen, this is shitty in exactly the way all the shitty parts of Frank Miller's non-shitty comix (e.g., Elektra: Assassin, Ronin, Batman: Year One) are shitty -- retarded telegraphic speech, lack of attention to details of human behaviour, video game villains, and a heavy dose of nerd sex that will help impressionable boys dry girls' vaginas for years to come -- but I'm not here to shoot barrel fish. Miller's simpleminded politics and psychology aside, the book's a rip-off -- ultra-thin storytelling for 100 pages in which nearly every page is a minimalist splash page. You get some familiar dynamic silhouetted poses from Batman and Catwoman; some drawings that are sketchy to the point of not knowing quite what you're looking at; limited, specific use of solid red and green (Catwoman's shoes and eyes, respectively); and a lot of textural flourishes such as dripped ink and what looks like streaks of watery white-out. None of these things are bad per se, and I'm actually a fan of Miller's post-Sin City minimalism as a look; but these drawings leave nothing to become attached to. Nothing funny or weird, no faces that suggest a whole history of feeling, not even a reliably ordinary everyman upon which a chaotic world may imprint its confusing messages. There's no real chaos, only page after page of bare-bones figure drawing backlit by explosions. If all of this was intended as anti-terrorist propaganda, it falls unathletically short: nobody wants to jump from roof to roof with these two aerobics instructors....more
Thirty-nine drawings of one lady on all fours with her ass pointed heavenward ... vulgar, crammed with detail, full of life and the promise of infinitThirty-nine drawings of one lady on all fours with her ass pointed heavenward ... vulgar, crammed with detail, full of life and the promise of infinite sexual variety ... Is this the artist's subliminal comment on marriage? The lady looks pretty wifey to me....more
... like a Jim Woodring story in which the characters are, instead of enigmas, normal people who have normal conversations, except they look like defe... like a Jim Woodring story in which the characters are, instead of enigmas, normal people who have normal conversations, except they look like defective animals -- tossed into a cruel, toxic, ugly, apocalyptic industrial landscape by the same God who won't give Manhog a break ... If Manhog could speak and had a meaningless paper-pushing job (and were uglier), he might be the dickless divorcé in the main story here. Cartoonists are always writing about ineffectual men who are destroyed flesh-shells at the mercy of indifferent women. Is it because it's HILARIOUS? Michael DeForge is funny with this shtick, anyhow, and his cartooning is rhythmic & relentless & circular like a krautrock jam. Give the band more shrooms, DeForge, keep this song going....more
The great game of reading anything for the first time -- by reading I will also include watching and listening to -- is to pass from disorientation inThe great game of reading anything for the first time -- by reading I will also include watching and listening to -- is to pass from disorientation into intimacy, familiarity, or, at least, a condition of not bumping blind into every wall or furnishing. I learned this game first in 1977 from Star Wars, which was the first work of art to drop me off in the middle of the proceedings without explaining itself (I couldn't read the scrolling yellow text.), letting me collect my bearings from a catalogue of unprecedented metal objects and the strange-looking, strangely-dressed humanoids who wielded or rode in them; and I continued to practice the game throughout my childhood with superhero comix, whose tradition of serializing characters' lives monthly over years and decades meant I was never beginning in the beginning, at an age when my lack of independent income and transportation meant I was also missing a lot of endings and middles. Under such barbaric conditions, a child has no choice but to compensate, not only to fill in blanks using good detective work, but also to cultivate the fan-fictional lobes of the brain, to imagine beginnings, middles, and endings as he would wish them to be. Anyone who has experienced being a reader in this way can attest to the mental savagery it engenders -- the hunger like the wolf for more story; the deaf, dumb lust for what lies around the corner of a certain doorframe; the sense of betrayal over a narrative cop-out; the oath of revenge by murder. On a more submerged level, the reader might begin to perceive the pleasure in his own frustrations with the game, and the potential for another game existing within the confines of the first, in which incompleteness is not a condition to solve but its own virtue, a game in which the thing you want more of is the feeling of wanting more. I swear that reading has never gotten more intense than it was when I was 12.
I was 12 or 13 when I bought a reprint of Love & Rockets #1, and it confused me in the usual comforting way, but also in a way that suggested I was not grown-up enough to talk back to it, lacking the resources to know what blanks needed filling. Here was a #1, a beginning, but it acted not only as if I'd missed the first hundred issues, but also as if I'd been raised in the wrong country, watching the wrong movies, listening to the wrong music, speaking the wrong English. Luba, dressed up in war paint, proud IMMENSE tits swangin', yelling an obscenity up at a HUMONGOUS caterpillar who must have escaped from a Godzilla sequel. Maggie sitting in bed in her panties, possibly nursing a hangover, having a casual conversation with Hopey, her lover (!) -- who's also half-dressed and cool-looking and somehow not acting like she's the coolest girl in the world -- before riding to work on a hovering scooter. These were new things. There was the mystery and magick of sex, of course, but this and other mysteries (punk, time travel, love, technology) were encompassed by an utter normality of presentation that made the whole project seem less like a cultural and aesthetic revolution than a documentary eavesdrop on a universe next door.
Twenty-five years after I met them (thirty after their creation), these characters (and/or ones closely related to them) still star in new stories, and still bedevil me with a distinctive cocktail of the familiar and weird. I grew old, the characters grew old, and familiar/weird grew old and succumbed to a synthesis into the new familiar. Both Gilbert and Jaime ditched the sci-fi and superheroic ornamentation of their early work and concentrated on what detractors have called soap opera -- a regular cast of characters' friendships, love lives, and personal adventures -- and then reintroduced elements of sci-fi, superheroes, and other generic forms in various stories in the last decade. Gilbert of late has abandoned Luba in favour of short narrative experiments that aren't bound by history, character, or the laws of physics. I like but for the most part don't love them. Jaime, on the other hand, has handcuffed himself and us to Maggie, daring anybody to lose interest in a woman whose life sometimes seems barely to progress in any direction.
When I call something soap operatic, I mean no ill. Whoever gives himself to a soap opera is in it for the long haul. He means to follow a character until that character dies, or he dies. Remember when ____ died in The Wire? Remember when ______ lost his fool mind in Season 4 of Mad Men? Remember how you talked to your wife about the people in these shows as if they were people in the world, not on a show? That is how it is for me and Maggie and Love & Rockets, except these people have been in my world for a quarter of a century.
For many years, I've wondered if Ray and Maggie would be boyfriend girlfriend for real, or end up husband and wife, and when I think about the two of them, I don't think about how Jaime draws (like a boss) or what (genius) storytelling techniques he uses to get his points across. I think about two people who might be in love in a parallel universe and about what they might have to do to be happy in this world. I think about every couple who have had bad luck and had to go their separate ways or who never got together in the first place, and I think about if love is even real or if it is real mostly in stories, and even then only real on a story's horizon -- next issue, next corner, next panel, not this panel. Why am I caring for imaginary friends feeling imaginary feelings?
You can't write a review of that feeling. You can't write a review of multiple universes branching off from a single deciding point. In one review, I give it one star. In a parallel review, I give it four stars -- that's quite good! In this other parallel review, I give it a paralyzed no stars. What I hope happened to Maggie and Ray in this book and what I think happened to Maggie and Ray in this book are the least important things. The most important thing is admitting that whatever happened, it's not going to end. Not once, not never. No way....more
... probably the easiest comix series going right now -- two to six panels per strip; one strip per page; loose, confident drawings; gentle jokes; and... probably the easiest comix series going right now -- two to six panels per strip; one strip per page; loose, confident drawings; gentle jokes; and watercolours that pop into the air above the book. Their ease is what makes me take these strips for granted and what made me pick this book first from a high stack of unread comix. Trondheim draws himself as a white parakeet-looking bird who often wears the ungainly brown sandals European tourists favour. There is nothing cool about the way he presents himself, and there are no attempts at poetry in his word balloons and caption boxes (though my comments are limited to the English translation). His self-deprecating manner will be familiar to anyone who has watched a Woody Allen movie, though he is more gentle with himself than any Allen protagonist would be. In these strips, neurotic moments are only a normal part of life, not the building blocks toward an identity, nor the whips with which to flog himself further, nor opportunities to rant on mortality or a greater meaninglessness, nor anything to hide and strategically reveal. When Trondheim has a minor health problem in this book, he filters the situation through his four-panel punchline generator because that's his job as an artist -- to pay attention, to be funny, to record one day and then the next, and to make a beautiful drawing. He sees a doctor, he has surgery, he draws about it. He stays in a hotel, he struggles with an unfamiliar faucet handle, he draws about it. Naming the series Little Nothings frees him not to wring extra meaning from every neurotic episode. The name describes a strategy for reducing the big somethings that constitute human neuroticism....more
Ungenerous hypothesis: Mario's text is denser than what Gilbert would have written on his own because Mario can't draw as vividly. His words have furtUngenerous hypothesis: Mario's text is denser than what Gilbert would have written on his own because Mario can't draw as vividly. His words have further to go to complete the scene. When Mario's writing and Gilbert's drawings team up, as they do here, the text ends up weighing too much. Page 63, on which crime boss Mambo's super eye accidentally melts off half of a business associate's head, stands out -- the characters' speech is clipped, and their acting (faces + gestures) does the heavy lifting. I'm sure the book would have been at least twice as long if it had pursued this method throughout. What we get instead is expository voiceover and expository dialogue on top of Gilbert's signature soap operatic action. Unapologetic B-movie corn and offhand techno-mysticism from Los Bros don't surprise me, but I always expect them to go further than paying homage to their boyhood inspirations. The civil rights subplot here doesn't have much more depth or breadth than what Stan Lee would have come up with in the 1960s; but it could have, if the story had been stretched to a more natural length. The sense of claustrophobia I got from navigating Citizen Rex's large ensemble cast and the collision of their various political aims will stay with me after I've forgotten what those political aims are....more
... filled to capacity with allusions I got and, I'm sure, ones I didn't ... 1969 seems to have aims similar to those of Mad Men -- demystifying the... filled to capacity with allusions I got and, I'm sure, ones I didn't ... 1969 seems to have aims similar to those of Mad Men -- demystifying the 1960s and remystifying them w/ a new kind of magick. Unfortunately, Mina Murray's story is only about a tenth as emotional as Don Draper's ...... The ostensible optimism of hippie psych rock is shown to be a stupid colourful mask for the nihilism punk would shove in our face eight years later, but Moore doesn't connect these dots in a way that will make anyone feel much tragedy. There's a devil who keeps switching bodies to stay alive: not scary. Our heroes chase the devil: not dangerous. These drawings refuse to come alive -- it's like your high friend telling you something bad that happened to his friend you never met, and he's laughing, but ...... I guess you had to be there....more
Having enjoyed some of Mr Hornschemeier's previous comix, I was unpleasantly surprised by this timid show'n'tell concerning several weeks in the lifeHaving enjoyed some of Mr Hornschemeier's previous comix, I was unpleasantly surprised by this timid show'n'tell concerning several weeks in the life of a depressed slacker. Amy, 26, lives with her cat in a one-bedroom apartment in an unnamed city (in the Midwest, says the book's back cover); works in a retail clothing shop in a mall; has broken up with a boyfriend who just wasn't that into her; spends Friday nights watching an Adult Swim-esque cartoon called Mr Dangerous; and is inconveniently in love with her long-distance best friend, with whom she communicates via landline. That primitive communication device, alongside Amy's college-rock wardrobe and her TV (not Internet) addiction, suggests a 1990s setting; it's also a physical manifestation of the inconvenience that plagues Amy every day. The people on the bus get on her nerves. The boy she loves, who sends handmade art to her in the mail, lives in San Francisco. The local prospects for romance are uninspiring. One guy she ends up having a one-night-stand with has never even heard of Mr Dangerous. Her mother, who also works retail full time, gives her a crappy birthday gift. Customers at work are assholes. Her cat has been known to hurl on her stuff. Up until near the book's end, Amy reacts to all of these little trials with a consistent passivity. She makes sarcastic comments. She mopes. She dreams allegorical dramas that take place inside the candy-coloured Mr Dangerous universe.
If it's hard to work up any passion for any of this, it's not because everyday life is boring, but because our sympathy for Amy is assumed, not earned. She's moping from Chapter 1, Scene 1, and doesn't quit until love comes a-knockin' in Chapter 10. Not all good stories have sympathetic protagonists, and not all good stories require their tellers to judge their protagonists good or bad, but if I'm to feel uplifted by the ending of this love story, I'm going to have to feel bad about love's absence in the beginning.
In the movies, it is sometimes enough to show a lonely female character on the screen, to win an audience over. Emotional intimacy works differently in the movies -- we see an actor's actual face. Not so in the comix, where the abstraction of the human body causes all sorts of magickal effects. I might project my own consciousness into a drawing of a female body; or the drawing might make me say, "You're my friend, little drawing"; or I might have strong urges to fuck the drawing. Hornschemeier's drawings of Amy are at the exact level of abstraction and cartooniness that repels my usual attempts at psychic identification. I suppose that is an achievement in itself, but I couldn't escape the notion that the author himself -- with all of his sensitive-guy neuroses -- was trapped inside this depressed, lazy, stupid girl.
On the plus side, we do get a strong sense of the architecture of her apartment....more
Either I'm a bit burnt out on Dungeon's cynicism, or Sfar and Trondheim are running low on fresh ways to spin their characters. In terms of humour anEither I'm a bit burnt out on Dungeon's cynicism, or Sfar and Trondheim are running low on fresh ways to spin their characters. In terms of humour and emotional range, the two adventure stories contained in this volume still fly miles above most of their counterparts in North American comix -- in America, Hellboy comes closest (but can't touch Dungeon's best) -- but the wonder and surprise of earlier installments are missing here, replaced by horror and magickal dei ex machina. Although Dungeon has always been bloody, violence has generally been subordinated to other themes -- friendship, lust, political chess, etc. In "Night of the Ladykiller" and "Ruckus at the Brewers", violent acts are both the main course and primary means of conflict resolution. Jean-Emmanuel Vermot-Desroches renders the gore in "Ladykiller" with the delicate, finely-hatched lines and earthy tones I've come to think of as the Christophe Blain Style, which fits Dungeon well because it can capture the series' darker moods while still being cartoony. Yoann's stiff, painted work on "Ruckus" fares less well -- his panels are murky, cluttered, and static. (The latter quality especially kills action comix.) (Has anyone done great painted comix?) Ultimately, though, Dungeon floats or sinks with Sfar's and Trondheim's imaginations. I like that their comix are explicitly about something, that a theme inevitably suggests itself through the boom-boom and the ha-ha -- familial disappointment for "Ladykiller", career ambition for "Ruckus" -- but their ideas work better when they're not treated as afterthoughts....more
As a cool lady and an expert on a topic -- media influence -- that comes up constantly on my feed and inspires waves of heated commentary, Brooke GladAs a cool lady and an expert on a topic -- media influence -- that comes up constantly on my feed and inspires waves of heated commentary, Brooke Gladstone seems like a natural candidate for Internet intellectual celebrity, but I never heard of her until this, her first foray into my field of special interest, comix. Following the Scott McCloud model -- in which a shape-shifting narrator speaks directly to the camera, bridging dramatic representations of important concepts -- Gladstone takes us through a history of journalism from the beginnings of written language to a speculative future of nanobots coursing through the human bloodstream. It's a pretty thrilling ride; comfortably paced; organized into 16 chapters, none of which seem superfluous; and thorough, at least from my perspective as a non-journalist and an enthusiastic consumer of American media, without crossing the line into nerdiness or pedantry. Josh Neufeld turns in his best work yet, interpreting Gladstone's ideas in a way that gives the pages a satisfying combination of density and readability. He's no R. Crumb -- his caricatures of well-known faces lack the desired instant recognizability -- but he's always moving the narrative forward, amplifying meanings, and finding fun visual twists for Gladstone's metaphors. Some of the book's hardest punches are purely textual, though:
"Humans run on emotion, assumption, and impulse. We can't function on logic alone. People who can't feel pleasure or preference because of damage to the orbital prefrontal cortex are paralyzed by the simple decisions most of us make effortlessly every day. The blue pen or the black pen? Mary or Sue? Any choice -- whether of a mate or a breakfast cereal -- engulfs them in a quicksand of pros and cons." (128)
Gladstone peppers sharp, provocative quotations throughout, from philosophers, politicians, artists, fellow journalists, etc., all of which are properly cited in the main text or in the book's endnotes. The effect of filtering these voices through Gladstone's narration and Neufeld's cartooning is as if many speakers across history have collaborated on a seamless lecture. In the words of one of those sources, author David Weinberger,
"Objectivity without transparency increasingly will look like arrogance ... Why should we trust what one person -- with the best of intentions -- insists is true when we instead could have a web of evidence, ideas, and argument?" (113)
It's like falling down the most orderly Wikipedia rabbit hole ever, and you don't feel tired and hopeless afterwards....more