... 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
... dark little book ... lots of adultery and loneliness ... My main reference point for this style of manga (gekiga) is Yoshihiro Tatsumi -- Katsumat... dark little book ... lots of adultery and loneliness ... My main reference point for this style of manga (gekiga) is Yoshihiro Tatsumi -- Katsumata's comix contain a weird sexual mood similar to Tatsumi's, a combination of desperation and resignation that leads to odd pairings. The big difference here is setting: Katsumata features the rural poor, who are more alien to my experience than Tatsumi's urban misfits. In a rural, prewar Japan that is further defamiliarized by the existence of anthropomorphic amphibians whose lives overlap the human sphere, Katsumata finds and sustains a melancholy note that translates clearly across time, geography, and culture. His farmers, brewers, street vendors, and prostitutes suffer harsh weather, slow business, mischief of supernatural origin, and domestic violence, and there's a sense that if something bad's not happening, just wait another minute or two. Katsumata's humour, when it surfaces -- a village of abandoned women sharing the sexual services of a monk they keep tied up in a sack? -- comes attached to a wave of brutality. He's not hilarious or demented like Tatsumi. The shyness of his writing and his delicate drawings prevent the stories from escaping their own melancholic gravity. The way that poor people can't escape being poor, Katsumata's stories begin with sadness and disconnection and always return to them.
The interview and other contextualizing material at the end of the book were helpful to understanding Katsumata's worldview -- he lost his mother at a young age and never knew his father, and it seems his number one wish in life was to have a blood relative. Reading Red Snow as an inevitable form of ongoing therapy for the author is a good way of letting some light in the room....more
great but sad because I've been looking forward to this for a long time w/o realizing it's a reprint of material I've read before in Or Else.
This is Hgreat but sad because I've been looking forward to this for a long time w/o realizing it's a reprint of material I've read before in Or Else.
This is Huizenga at his least restrained -- rapid-fire bursts of cartooning that cohere around a handful of themes: 21st-century marketing strategies, the mysteries of the natural world, and the helplessness of critters in the face of forces too big for them to perceive. There's a lot of humour in the book, though it is undercut by a persistent melancholia. Huizenga's sequencing of panels/pages/chapters seems guided more by intuition than logic, and I reckon that it must be read in a similar spirit. Straight-ahead domestic narratives are interrupted by mysterious charts and diagrams, unidentified talking heads, and fanciful drawings of mutant birds; this method seems to mirror the passage of thought rather than the passage of time. The cartoonist's clean, energetic, minimal mark-making conveys ideas and emotions that are colossal and complex. The Wild Kingdom's cataclysmic final pages might seem bleak; but with the proper attitude, one might read them as a breathless presentation of the latest and most exciting scientific discovery....more
This 1975 Doonesbury compilation -- selected from the strip's first years (1970-75) -- took me 16 months to read because I couldn't get excited abouThis 1975 Doonesbury compilation -- selected from the strip's first years (1970-75) -- took me 16 months to read because I couldn't get excited about it as entertainment or as anthropological time travel. Trudeau's jokes and voice haven't aged well in the same way that I imagine the voices and jokes of the friends on Friends won't age well -- something too cute and self-ritualizing about the way they talk and formulate sarcasm, something monolithic about their back-and-forths that disrupts the illusion that all of these people aren't one person talking to himself. Trudeau's drawings here are less slick than they would later become, as you'd expect, but they suffer from the same timidity and lack of variation that make his current work fit in so well on the modern newspaper comix page. Every now and then in this book, usually in an outdoors scene in a Sunday color strip, he draws something that catches my eye -- a car or a tree -- but for the most part he gives us page after page of people from the waist up, talking, standing still.
That's not necessarily a bad thing in a strip whose conversations are the main event, and Doonesbury's rapid response to current events provides a steady stream of dialogues that are interesting even when they aren't funny. Tom Spurgeon has rightly pointed out that Trudeau's big advantage over more traditional one-panel editorial cartoonists is how he can call upon any one of a large cast of fully-developed characters to react to the news in ways that reveal truths about both the character and the news. In this book, we see Trudeau developing that strategy with Joanie Caucus and the rise of feminism; Mark Slackmeyer and Watergate; B.D. and the Vietnam War; and Mike Doonesbury/Zonker Harris/Joanie/Mark and communal living. It's a good demonstration of the virtues of fictional treatment of non-fictional phenomena: when political narratives are poured into human shapes, we are encouraged to suspend judgment and perceive complexity.
There are a few "We've come a long way, baby" moments: Joanie worries that law school will reject her because she's a woman. A Black Panther appears as a guest speaker in a college class where the professor presents him as an exotic show'n'tell. Mike's decision to live on an experimental commune is treated casually, as if it is something normal college graduates do. None of these signs of the times deliver the gleeful shock of Mad Men's best WTF moments because Doonesbury's gentle, liberal attitudes are now the air that American popular entertainment breathes, and its sarcasm is the language we all speak. For me, the familiarity of Trudeau's approach invites disengagement. I want to know what it's like to live on a commune. I want to know how hard it is. I want to know how hard it was for Joanie to leave her daughters behind, too, when she left her husband. Trudeau goes only halfway in describing his world, relying on context to take care of the rest. He has an opinion, but he smooths it over with jokes that say, in a nutshell, "These people are good, even if they act silly most of the time." The nonchalance of his humour may or may not have been fresh at the time, but it's certainly stale now. If we're lucky, the fact that the past 40 years have not given us another Doonesbury-style strip, one that tackles the political world as it happens but still stays true to its own peculiar narrative, will make a lightbulb turn on for an ambitious young cartoonist who can do it, but do it better....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 t... 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
Occasionally I forget that comix are to be read, not only looked at and interpreted -- that reading, whatever else it might entail, requires putting oOccasionally I forget that comix are to be read, not only looked at and interpreted -- that reading, whatever else it might entail, requires putting one foot in front of the other, or pushing the pedal down, or otherwise exerting oneself to cover a certain distance, taking note of landmarks ...
A lot of what I want out of comix has to do with freezing time, stretching or condensing time, or seeing time as it actually is -- impossible, a solid object with more than three dimensions. As unreasonable as this itch might be, comix has come closer to satisfying it than pretty much anything else I have tried. In the same way that a gifted magician might use language to convey a power that is outside of language, so a gifted cartoonist might use time ... sequence ... one thing after another ... to step outside of time ... to perceive or at least to simulate the eternal.
In some ways, reading a great story is anti-all-of-that. Certainly, to read a great story is to get lost, and to get lost is to be receptive to the weirdness of time. But a great story's gravitational pull will tend to act in the direction of what happens next ... one foot in front of the other ... the next page ... where conventional time reigns.
As a great story, Finder: Sin-Eater understands and exploits the virtues of mundane time even as its protagonist -- Jaeger Ayers, an aboriginal detective ("Finder") possessed of supernatural senses -- spends most of the story time-travelling through various flashbacks, dream sequences, meditational trances, and virtual realities. McNeil demonstrates a total mastery of world-building, dramatic structure, conversation, and catharsis. She puts flesh on her characters, drops them into a fully-realized city with its own architecture, technology, biology, and social rules, and makes it all look ... not easy ... but natural.
There's a plot involving an estranged father who has been released from prison and is in the process of stalking his ex-wife and their three children. The escalation of this scenario as we gradually get to know these characters would be absorbing even if it took place in a familiar suburban vacuum. That McNeil has placed them in a mysterious, vaguely post-apocalyptic society populated by genetically-homogeneous clans of human beings, outcast half-breeds and indigenous people, anthropomorphic talking animals, artificial intelligences, and centaurs who drive cabs somehow manages only to deepen and diffract, not dilute, the story's emotional energy.
Never been a fan of identity politics, so it was shocking to me how much I liked McNeil's conception of a world in which gender fluidity is more than a dull, predictable conversation you had with a drunk NYU student. It reminded me fondly of Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, but I haven't read that since I was an undergrad my own self, so I reckon I'll shut up about that.
Anyhow, Finder: Sin-Eater is my favourite book since Duncan the Wonder Dog, Carla Speed McNeil's a damn national treasure, Alan Moore wishes he wrote it, Gilbert Hernandez wishes he drew it, comix are the bomb, and how long've I been sitting here typing? Dunno, 300 years, I guess....more
If this were a movie (as Hudlin and McGruder originally intended), it'd be the most entertaining Hollywood movie I've seen since 1977; and maybe now sIf this were a movie (as Hudlin and McGruder originally intended), it'd be the most entertaining Hollywood movie I've seen since 1977; and maybe now someone will make a movie in which East St Louis secedes from the Union and renames itself Blackland and prints up currency featuring the likenesses of MLK, Malcolm X, James Brown, and Will Smith (!?) -- I didn't expect to elect a black president in '08, either. It's about time somebody made a "comic novel" -- they call it that on the cover, none of this "graphic novel" shit -- about poor people that is both truthful and not about losing. (Disclosure: I've never read The Autobiography of Malcolm X; but if anybody ever adapts it into comix, it ought to be these guys, and I'll be first in line to devour it.) Maybe something like this can work only in cartoon form, where dirt, crime, blood, and property destruction can be rendered into brightly-coloured abstraction, and where it is only right and natural to project our own consciousnesses into simplified avatars. Maybe if we see Denzel Washington playing Mayor Fred Fredericks, the illusion -- that a destroyed, forgotten chocolate city can take on the United States of America and win -- disintegrates. It'd be like expecting The Wire to have a happy ending: absurd. Birth of a Nation is absurd, but it carries us along anyhow because it acknowledges all of the human frailty and evil that make real-world revolution seem impossible, and introduces into the mix an element of good luck that falls just short of unbelievable. What if ...... the revolution were partially financed by a black billionaire? What if ........... a large-scale, viable alternative fuel source were developed by ... a good guy, somebody sympathetic to the cause? I reckon this is the sort of thinking that keeps people buying lottery tickets, but ... what if? People get lucky all the time, perfect storms happen all the time. What if this one time, everything lines up right for this one town that's been downtrodden and unlucky for its entire history?
The drawings are handled capably by Kyle Baker, who has a gift for distilling faces and body language into highly-concentrated emotional forms. And he's a funny guy. I'll complain about the limitations of his caption-below-panel M.O. -- it messes up the flow and gives his pages an unappealing storyboard-ness -- but he's worked in this style for decades, and it's hard to care too much when the final result is triumphant. Does he hate word balloons? Google only knows.
When I picked this book up, I expected to have a few laughs at the expense of The Man -- check! -- but didn't expect to be thrilled by the possibility of a new race- and class-driven Civil War, of bloodshed, of martyrdom, and of new beginnings. What if ... we had big luck ... and big courage?...more
Naive politics, sloppy-fitting magical realism, unearned sentimentality, poorly-drawn men's hair -- it's hard to say which of these was The Birthday RNaive politics, sloppy-fitting magical realism, unearned sentimentality, poorly-drawn men's hair -- it's hard to say which of these was The Birthday Riots' most irritating weakness. Perhaps the straight-outta-porn setup to an attempt at adultery trumps all of these. I've enjoyed Kanan's cartooning in the past. Even here, his sketchy, low-contrast (very white) pages have a primitive immediacy that satisfies my need for speed. The sketchiness of the story itself -- especially its threadbare moralizing -- is the dealbreaker. The same type of naive material was handled with a lot more punk charm by Morrison and Grist in St Swithin's Day. I'm going to go excavate that and Kanan's Exit and see if they hold up under my withering middle-aged scrutiny....more
There's a lot about this comix book that grosses me out. The way Malkasian draws human beings disgusts me. The way she overextends and mixes her metapThere's a lot about this comix book that grosses me out. The way Malkasian draws human beings disgusts me. The way she overextends and mixes her metaphors makes me say, "Hmm hmm hmm hmm." There's something Canadian and New Age about all this. However, the book does achieve a psychosexual creepiness that's Lynchian in intensity, if you're into that sort of thing. Malkasian has perfect control of her pencil, and her drawings are v. easy on the eyes if you skip the humans and look only at buildings and trees (both of which figure prominently in the story). The story is nearly unpredictable, its unpredictability doubly disorienting because Temperance is a fairy tale. The final panel is one of the best (most touching, most sumptuous) final panels ever made....more
... too high a ratio of BOOM BOOM (explosions, guys pummelling one another) to boom boom (surprises, cool ideas, sensual pleasures, emotional hooks) .... too high a ratio of BOOM BOOM (explosions, guys pummelling one another) to boom boom (surprises, cool ideas, sensual pleasures, emotional hooks) ... Makes me want to take a break from Hellboy for a bit, but I probably won't because he's still a rare embodiment of my longstanding wish for a chill superdude who loses his cool only long enough to prevent humankind's extinction, etc. The world's saved, but was it ever in danger? Can't tell from reading HB's posture.
It could be that Mignola's longer stories are less satisfying than his eight-page riffs on small chunks of folklore. We'll see. Reading the books out of order seems to be working out all right, but we'll see....more