Archive for ‘Graphic Novels’

Spain Part Two!

Yes I know I was only in Barcelona a few months ago, but it’s back to Spain again this week, with Ivy, for Viñetas Desde O Atlántico.

As usual, updates may be spotty while I’m on the road, but we can hopefully offer some cool pictures and memories before we’re done.

While you’re waiting, be sure to check out Ng Suat Tong’s lengthy round-up of peoples’ reactions to Asterios Polyp, my favorite GN of the year (in case you hadn’t already guessed from my relentless plugging).

A Study in Contrast: Lisa Hanawalt and Laurie Sandell

I got a TON of books at San Diego. It would take me half a day just to list and show them all, much less review them, but a couple which caught my eye toward the end of the day on Sunday offered some interesting contrasts I thought worth noting here.

I Want You by Lisa Hanawalt is a 32-page black and white pamphlet with color covers from Buenaventura Press. It’s filled with weird, sexually-charged or scatological short subjects. Some are funny, some are disturbing, many are both. It would look at home in Kramers Ergot.

The Imposter’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell is a 245-page full color graphic novel from Hachette Book Group. It’s an autobiographical account of the author’s relationship with her father, an Argentine immigrant whom she gradually discovers is a fraud who’s taken advantage of everyone around him for years, including his own family. The art is simplistic and straightforward.

The number of comics readers in San Diego’s mammoth exhibit hall who’d be likely to bring home and enjoy both comics could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, but I’m apparently one of them. I liked both for different reasons.

Hanawalt’s pages are aggressively experimental. She takes her art seriously, even when the subject matter seems tossed-off. Her line-work crackles with energy. The details almost overwhelm her jumbled compositions, but bold contours always step in just in time to make sure the form isn’t lost. There’s no pretense of a “story,” but there is content; an echo chamber of fleshy obsessions and violently upturned social mores.

Meanwhile, Sandell’s graphic novel is a mainstream book in nearly every sense. The (presumably) true story is told as literally as possible. Sandell is no virtuoso artist, but her layouts are sensible and the drawings get the job done. Cars look like cars, bottles look like bottles, and hands have five fingers. Every line and color choice serve the story, and the story is an engaging one, filled with mystery, sex, addiction, and the parade of celebrities Sandell encountered as a reporter and contributing editor at Glamour. It’s a beach read.

Whereas Hanawalt was showing her wares in person at Buenaventura’s table—a venue so lovably alternative that you might expect denizens to refer to Fantagraphics as “The Man”—Sandell’s book was being offered in a tidy, cookie-cutter Hachette booth that looked like it hopped directly over from Book Expo, and being given away, perhaps on the assumption that everyone is a retailer (and thanks to a great cover designed by Julianna Lee it had no trouble finding takers).

I can imagine each of these books rubbing someone the wrong way. In some respects, Sandell’s glamour-sprinkled tell-all is a hard-core comics lover’s worst nightmare; a book deal fueled by celebrity, completely bypassing comics history and craft, ready to leapfrog more serious or well-crafted graphic novels onto The Today Show or even Oprah. Meanwhile, Hanawalt’s work is the type often dismissed by artists I know as “pretentious” or “self-indulgent.”

I like Sandell’s book though, because it was a fun read. It can gently coax new readers into comics who would have never cracked open an Asterios Polyp much less a Blankets, and because a healthy mainstream has never precluded a healthy alternative. And I like Hanawalt’s work because it creates sensations I’ve never seen comics achieve and opened my eyes to radical possibilities.

It’s a good sign that 2009′s comics scene can accommodate both. I hope neither feels squeezed out in coming years.

Some Thoughts on Asterios Polyp

First of all, if you haven’t read David Mazzucchelli’s fantastic graphic novel Asterios Polyp, I strongly recommend getting yourself a copy. And stop reading this post now until after you’ve read the book.

If you’ve read Asterios Polyp once…

Read it again.

Seriously, Mazzucchelli’s book is a great re-reading experience. There are things you’re only likely to notice the second or third time around, and at least a few locked doorways in early sections that only open with keys from later chapters. And they’re much more fun if you find them on your own, so again you might want to ignore the rest of these ramblings if you haven’t plunged back in yet.

If you’ve read Asterios Polyp more than once…

Okay, NOW we can talk.


Stop Reading the Reviews –

– start reading the book!

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is finally in bookstores everywhere.

I’ll have more to say after I’ve read it a second and maybe third time, but I can tell you already that if you buy one graphic novel this year, this should be it.


Congratulations to Jason Little who recently finished his online serialization of the latest Bee story “Motel Art Improvement Service.” It’s available from Jason’s comics page, a treasure trove of inventive wonders.

Reading the story over again, I was reminded of what a unique, uncategorizable gem Bee is. It’s cute, sexy (NSFW in fact), brainy, slapsticky, and subtle, all at once. Definitely worth sitting down with to read the whole thing.

A Freebie from Harper

Barry Deutsch notes that HarperCollins is now offering the first 100 pages of our recent 576 page Zot! Collection for free online. This is a good thing.

There was a time, not that long ago, when publishers were reluctant to offer any significant amount of published work online for free. Clearly though, it can help spread the word about good stories and art. Check out the comments from yesterday’s post regarding Carol Tyler’s 10-page preview for a demonstration. 

I remember when Understanding Comics was first published in 1993 and Kitchen Sink sent me to a trade show to promote it. We’d sent out mailings, we’d taken out ads, but the best promotion for the book we ever did was simply handing out a thousand copies to retailers.

Covers sell comics. Ads sell comics. But nothing sells comics better than the comics themselves.

Carol Tyler Excerpt

Fantagraphics is offering a 10-Page PDF excerpt and slideshow of Carol Tyler’s first full-length graphic novel You’ll Never Know Book 1: A Good and Decent Man. Tyler’s short comics include some true classics, so this book is generating a lot of well-earned anticipation.

Found via Spurge in the middle of one of those depressing “women in comics” arguments which always seem to bury the headline of the remarkable flood of great new comics by women in favor of rehashed 20th Century grudge-matches and signpost tugs-of-war.

Whatever your opinion of the history of women in comics, there’s enough comics in this woman to last a lifetime.