Archive for ‘Graphic Novels’

Reasons to Smile

Raina Telgemeier’s graphic memoir for young readers Smile is set to drop a week from today. There’s a short excerpt here and you can even watch a youtube trailer for the book here.

Smile is a classic all-ages comic of a kind we don’t see nearly enough. Honest, funny, moving, and personal. And Telgemeier’s clear, smart storytelling rocks as always.

The potential for this sort of comic shouldn’t be underestimated. I’d wager that if you put copies of Smile in any orthodontist’s office in the country, they’d be read to pieces by that (admittedly captive) audience.

There are so many subjects that could benefit from this treatment. Of all the pleasures that fiction offers, few have had such a consistent track record of building reader loyalty as a sense of personal connection. It was one of the key ingredients in Manga’s meteoric rise in the late 20th Century. There were manga series targeted at virtually any job, sport, game, social situation, or personal trauma you could name. “Hey, there’s a comic about me!” is one hell of a selling point.

When I look at a class filled with would-be comics artists, I know that most if not all of them want to break into the market we have now. But not every new comic has to fit into a shelf that’s already there. Some have the potential to create a new shelves out of thin air. And we need new shelves.

In Praise of Mr. Steinberg

Comics critic Domingos Isabelinho recently took the comics blogosphere gently to task for not noticing a central influence on Mazzucchelli’s landmark Asterios Polyp: the art of Saul Steinberg.

It’s true. I failed to mention Steinberg in my own review of AP, but now that Isabelinho has pointed it out, it’s hard not to see.

I always loved Saul Steinberg’s work and was influenced by him myself at an early age, though it might be harder to spot in my work. Of all the cartoonists whose work I’ve enjoyed, no one else was as comfortable to wander the big triangle in search of a visual idea.

It was liberating for a draftsman with limited gifts (that would be me) to understand that art could communicate the way written language does, while simultaneously flirting with both resemblance and abstraction.

Steinberg’s art made the possibilities of the picture plane look near and accessible to anyone in the mood to pick up a pen. And so they are.

Climbing up the Picture Plane

My old pal Larry Marder just sent me images from the upcoming Beanworld Book 3—the first all-new Beanworld stories in fifteen years—and I was struck by how beautiful they were; even moreso than in the original series, which remains one of my favorite comics of all time.

Larry uses spot blacks, bold geometry, rhythm, negative space, repetition, and variation like no other cartoonist I know.

Beanworld accomplishes something very rare. To use my own goofy terminology, Larry manages to use pure cartoony abstraction from the lower right vertex of the big triangle but because of the pure graphic ingenuity on display, his pages are a riot of abstraction reaching up toward the picture plane vertex at the same time.

Look at any given element. Is it a symbol? A picture? A pure shape? It’s everything all at once!

Click on the thumbnails below to get a closer look at 6 out of the 186 pages hitting store shelves in early December. This one’s going to be a classic.

Water Discovered on Earth

Last week London, this week Portland. Two damp and wonderful cities (note Portland’s actual 10-day forecast as of Sunday night at left).

Saw some great old friends in London (while briefly in town for a session with the good folks at Skype) including “The Man at the Crossroads” Paul Gravett, webcomics innovator Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, and my old pal Ted Dewan, and had the privilege of meeting Pat Mills, Sarah McIntyre and Woodrow Phoenix among others. Sarah got a great shot of Paul, Woodrow, and me on her blog.

Woodrow’s 2008 book Rumble Strip made for some intriguing plane reading. It’s all “word specific” (i.e., without pictures, the words would still form a coherent text), and uses only images of inanimate objects to make its points as it mounts an all-out assault on car culture. An unusual and interesting book.

Here in rainy Portland I’ll be doing an in-class workshop at Reed College (not open to the public—sorry!) and will probably see about one in ten of the hundreds of talented cartoonists living in this lovable soggy city, but I’m sure I’ll be back before long.

After these two back-to-back trips, it’s non-stop drawing from here to February as I wrap up layouts on the graphic novel. Always fun to visit two of my favorite cities, but looking forward to getting back to work.

Aaaah! New Beanworld!

Larry checks in on his blog (and in yesterday’s comments) to report that he’s received advance copies of Beanworld Book 3, with the all-new stories we’ve been waiting 15 years for!

From the catalog description:

Fifteen years in the making, Remember Here When You Are There! completes the “Springtime” cycle of stories, in which the perfect harmony of the Beanworld is interrupted for the first time.

The official pub date isn’t until December 23, but DH says it’s available for pre-order here.

Can the completion of Big Numbers be far behind?

(Yes. Yes it can.)

Alex Fellows: Spain and Morocco

Alex Fellows checks in to let us know that his new comic Spain and Morocco has begun its online serialization. If anyone wants to get in on the ground floor, now’s your chance.

Looks like a good start to me, and the cover is pretty cool too.

General Update: Drawing, Typing, and Talking

In the next few weeks, I’ll be finishing the first draft of the layouts for my graphic novel (working title, The Sculptor). Then on to revisions through February and production of the actual artwork over the course of two more years (it’s about 400 pages). It’ll be done in early 2012 (and yeah, 3 years for a GN may be a long time but hey, at least it’s still quicker than Habibi).

I’m not talking about The Sculptor much on this forum yet because it’s too early, but I’ve been more consumed by this project than anything I’ve ever done, so it’s definitely on my mind night and day. If First Second and I decide to share any of its progress visually next year, you’ll read about it here first. For now though, enjoy all the other great GNs on the market and know that I’m working seven days a week, eleven hours a day on this book when not answering email or traveling.

Speaking of which: My email inbox remains an ongoing avalanche, so please forgive me if my responses have been sluggish. I really am trying to answer all those various requests and urgent messages as fast as I can, there are just so many of them. Seriously, picture Ringo Starr in that Simpson’s episode where he gets around to Marge’s fan mail. That’s me.

I’ll be updating the travel sidebar soon, with upcoming engagements in Portland, Pennsylvania, Indiana (again) and London (twice). Not all are public, but I’ll try to give you fair warning if I’m coming to your city or school.

Back to the tablet!

Visualizing Religion

Today is the release date for R. Crumb’s massive, fleshy, and strangely literal adaptation of the book of Genesis. It will make some people happy, other people mad, and still other people shrug, but from a purely comics perspective, all you really need to know is that it’s 224 pages of new Crumb artwork (Hell, I’d buy it if it was the official R. Crumb adaptation of the Boise, Idaho Yellow Pages).

Coincidentally, on NPR this morning, I heard this depressing story about “feuding” Atheists. Apparently, even though I’m a sometimes “angry” atheist myself, I would actually be classified as “old school” according to this story. The idea of going out of one’s way to offend believers seems pointless and self-defeating to me—a resounding demonstration of how religion can dominate a person’s life instead of a good case for a compelling alternative.

I don’t know about you, but I always thought the alternative to blind faith was knowledge. If some people insist on ignoring scientific evidence (150 years of research on evolution for example) maybe it’s because we’ve done such a bad job of teaching that science. There are no quick fixes, but I can’t help thinking that simply getting knowledge out the door by any means necessary is our only way out of the swamp.

In a way, Crumb’s Genesis is a step in that direction, because it makes visible a document that even the faithful are sometimes a bit sketchy on as they cherry-pick the lessons that sound warm and fuzzy and conveniently forget all that weird, crazy, ancient gibberish. I can think of one instance where actually reading the Bible finally convinced one Catholic to give it all up.

Note that I have no idea if that was Crumb’s intent or not.  All I know is that I’d be much happier if everybody had a fuller understanding of all religions and all sciences and could simply make up their minds based on information instead of merely taking sides among warring tribes of fanatics.

I’ve said it about art, but I guess it applies here too:

We can’t define ourselves by what we’re not.

Professor Jenkins Suggests…

Henry Jenkins is a long-time friend of the comics medium (and many other historically marginalized art forms). Recently he tapped up a list of graphic novel recommendations along the lines of DC’s recent “After Watchmen” campaign, except in this case, it was an “After Zot!” list for a friend who had enjoyed the recent collection. On the assumption that a few of you might benefit from the same list, you can read the full entry here.

Two Down, Two to Go

I wrote about four upcoming graphic novels a while back, and since I let you know when the first one came out, I might as well mention the others as they’re released. Check out David Small’s terrific, creepy graphic novel debut here (and, one hopes, in bookstores everywhere).