Archive for ‘Graphic Novels’

I Remember this Comic!

When I was reviewing small press and mini-comics in the late ’80s, I was excited by what I saw as the closest thing (pre-Internet) to absolute freedom in comics.

By going completely outside any traditional markets, and often sold only through the mail and at local cons, these photocopied comics could go in any direction their artists wanted them to, not just what the market would allow.

None of the artists expected to get rich, but we readers knew that whatever showed up in our mailbox was going to be exactly what the artist really wanted to it to be.

Some artists stuck with light gag comics. Some produced one or two minis and vanished. Some went on to mainstream(?) success like Chester Brown. Some like Matt Feazell, John Porcellino, and Steve Willis became mini-comics legends and inspired others to make their own homemade comics.

And then there was Armageddonquest by Ronald Russell Roach.

Warren Ellis said it best:

ARMAGEDDONQUEST squirms and thrashes in a crawlspace it dug out with its bare talons, partway between the early graphic novel and classic “outsider” art. It’s the comics version of the demon-haunted work of the young Daniel Johnston, raw, passionate, demented, electric.

I really enjoyed Ron Roach’s crazy, wonderful comic when it came out, but I never expected to see it again. 900 pages is a massive hurdle for something as idiosyncratic as this. But then along came Kickstarter.

I was delighted to be the first donor. This is a worthwhile project. Please consider joining in the effort.


…to Dylan Meconis on the recent release of her gorgeous Family Man collection. (Buy here).

…to Larry Marder on becoming the new president of the CBLDF. (Donate here).

…to California on at least temporarily overturning Prop 8. (Marry here).

Are there Any Comics Left that Haven’t Become Movies?

Well, okay, there are lots left I suppose (including Zot!, for that matter, though that’s just ’cause I’ve been picky).

Funny thing is, Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds, while it may seem like it came out of left field, is actually a perfect choice for the screen.

Simmonds’ graphic novel (originally serialized in the Guardian) is a sheer delight, and with a terrific cast and crew on board, I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie is just as much fun.

If you haven’t read the book, get it now. Then you can pretend that you read it long before you even heard about the movie, and brag about it at cocktail parties.

Though, you may have to insist more than once that “Yes. Yes it really was a comic first!

Athens, Georgia and Mr. Weing

One of the comics I read on my way home was Drew Weing’s Set to Sea. I’d been seeing pages of it on Drew’s website for awhile but reading it in book form was a delight. Highly recommended.

If you’re in Athens, Georgia tonight (Friday), you can get a copy from the author himself at the release party from 5-8pm.

Funny thing is, when I thought to make a remark on how Athens is landlocked and checked Google maps to see if Athens was indeed landlocked, I discovered that there is no label in Google Maps for Athens!

See for yourself.

WTF, Google Maps??

[UPDATE: There actually is an explanation—and it’s not what you might expect.]

Art and the Marketplace

I read three books on the plane back from London: Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft, Dan Clowes’ Wilson, and James Sturm’s Market Day (thanks to Gosh! and Forbidden Planet for having them in stock).

I strongly recommend the Woodring and Clowes books. Weathercraft is a perfectly-crafted hallucination from a brilliant cartoonist at the top of his game. Wilson, while uneven, has a ton of dark, funny moments, and is far more than the sum of its parts.

But, of the three, Sturm’s Market Day made the strongest impression on me. I talked to James Sturm recently and told him that he went toe-to-toe with Woodring and Clowes and won, but I want to make it official here so he knows (provided someone tells him) that I wasn’t just blowing smoke up his ass. Market Day is the best comic I’ve read all year.

Sturm’s story follows a rug merchant in a distant time and place, but if you make art of any kind and have ever questioned your relevance in a changing world (show of hands?) this book will speak to you. It might not cheer you up, but you’ll know you aren’t alone.

I’d say more, but John Martz seems to have beat me to it, so I’ll just recommend that while all three books are worth reading, if you read just one graphic novel from the year so far, I hope it will be Market Day.

“95% True”

Been reading and enjoying two very different autobiographical comics; Tracy White’s memoir GN How I Made It to Eighteen and Lea Hernadez’s Near-Life Experience entries at LJ.

White’s book delivers literally on the title, detailing her recovery from mid-teen traumas, and how treatment helped her to not die before becoming the successful and accomplished adult she is today. And like her webcomics at traced.com, How I Made It to Eighteen is “guaranteed 95% true.” She’s changed names and details, but you know you’re getting the facts that matter.

Hernandez’s NLEx also struggles with those 5% quandries, in her case because she’s not writing about events and friends from decades ago, she’s writing about stuff that happened Tuesday, and about a family that might be in the next room. You can feel the inner struggle as she writes about how much she’s willing to write about her son’s ongoing struggles to fit in to society’s limited expectations of him.

It’s a real open question whether any autobiography can ever be more than 95% true. Mark Twain stipulated that his memoir not be published until 100 years after his death (this year!), presumably so that he could be 100% honest—a full implementation of the Mystery Quote—but from what I’ve heard, the old guy doesn’t come across as particularly objective while ranting about his many late-in-life grudges.

Emotional honesty and factual accuracy aren’t the same thing after all. Twain may have thought he was hitting 100%, but maybe nobody can ever get past 95%. And maybe saying so upfront, as White and Hernandez both do in their own fashion, is the most honest way to start.

Three Down, One to Go

It’s been almost a year since I wrote about four upcoming books I was looking forward to after seeing sneak previews.

Two of them, David Mazzuccelli’s Asterios Polyp and David Small’s Stitches have already dropped to widespread acclaim. Now Hope Larson’s Mercury is finally hitting the stands. I highly recommend it; a riveting all-ages, multi-generational mystery.

Just one to go now: Vera Brosgol’s delightful Kristyna’s Anya’s Ghost. Like my own GN, Brosgol’s book is still in progress and could take a while, but I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.

“3,856 Story Possibilities”

This book is going to be so, so, cool!

Many of us cartoonists already own Jason Shiga‘s original hand-printed version of this insane choose-own-adventure masterpiece (he even has a quote from me), but the idea of a full-out professionally printed version with tabs. Ah, be still my heart…

Best of all is the absolute certainty that whenever we see the number “3,856” used to describe the many branching possibilities, it was Shiga himself that came up with the number and the number’s gonna be correct.

Learn more here and here.


Now this is what previews for comics should look like!

Jen Wang‘s Koko Be Good is a book I’ve been waiting for for a while.

I’ll get details soon on where and when you can do this trick at home.

[Edit to Add: Jen has more details here.]

Sarah Oleksyk’s Ivy

Just got the fifth and last installment of Sarah Oleksyk’s Ivy in the mail. Ivy sports confident storytelling and accomplished artwork that’s been getting better throughout the series. (Also gotta love the title, since it happens to be the name of the woman I love, but that’s neither here nor there).

I’ve been studying it for Oleksyk’s use of a middle tone with black and white artwork since I’ve been toying with similar approaches for my graphic novel. There’s something very warm and solid about the approach that I like. Seth does something similar in a lot of his books, though Oleksyk goes for more naturalistic contours to nice effect.

Each chapter of Ivy is available as a thick self-published “mini” (actually 8.5″ x 7″, folded-over legal sheets). You can contact the artist to buy the whole set of five books for $20 here. As a self-printed story clocking in at close to 200 pages, it’s a pretty good deal. You can also read an excerpt from the first volume here.

Oleksyk’s been at it for a while, but may be a relatively new name for many out there. Based on her continuing growth as an artist, I look forward to hearing the name with increasing frequency in the future.