Archive for January, 2010

Because I’m not: Skim

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Skim (Groundwood Books, 2008), written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by her cousin Jillian Tamaki, is a gentle and unparalleled exploration of one fictional teenager’s inner life.

The splash page for Part I of Skim introduces us to the story’s protagonist, Kimberly Keiko Cameron (aka “Skim”), a half-Japanese student attending an all-girls’ private high school in Ontario. Why the nickname Skim? In her own words, ”Because I’m not.” Though the story does not concentrate on Kimberly’s weight issues, in a world of highly self-conscious teenage girls, we can only guess that this is one of many reasons that Skim is perceived as an outcast.

As readers, we are provided access to Skim’s diary, which indicates her favourite colour as “black red.” The uncertainty communicated through this initial journal entry is a poignant and provocative indication that all may not be as it seems with Skim. To introduce corrections throughout Skim’s diary is also to realistically portray how a teenage diary, or for that matter any diary, might look—unless its author were to erase or white out any errors. The jazz pianist Thelonius Monk insisted on never re-recording tracks when he was in recording sessions, believing that if musicians made errors during these events, they ought to be duly noted as such for all to hear. In Skim, we can assume that Kimberley’s errors are an intentional vehicle used to portray the diarist’s doubleness, her doubts and insecurities. But their inclusion at all is testament to the author’s depth and perceptiveness into teen neurosis. Continue reading ‘Because I’m not: Skim’

Dead Fly Funnies

I don’t know who created these but — you are a genius. Thank to Brian Glover and his friend Bree for passing them along!

Comic Books Go to War – The Passionate Eye

I watched this interesting documentary last night, including interviews with Marjane Satrapi, Joe Kubert, Joe Sacco, Chappatte, Emmaneul Guibert, and Ted Rall. Worth watching if it ever repeats:

Comic Books Go to War – The Passionate Eye | CBC News Network.

And while we’re on the subject of CBC, I’ve been listening to some interviews found on the website for The Book Club that cover a broad range of topics (too numerous to list here) related to comics, and include several interviews with Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, creators of Skim (post forthcoming shortly).

CBC archives also includes a wealth of material on the history of the comics industry in Canada. Lots to explore!

The Hole of Humanity

Discovering Inkstuds. Rediscovering Colin Upton

Weird. This weekend I went to Vancouver with my family. We were driving up Main Street and passed by Heritage Hall. I mentioned to my kids that this was the locale where many years ago I sold off much of my comic collection, during comic conventions that were organized by Leonard S. Wong. As we drove by, I mentioned, “I wonder if conventions are still running here…” and lo! There was a sign on the front of the building announcing that a Vancouver Comicon taking place that very same day.

I did a Web search for the convention once we got home, in order to find out what artists were attending the event. I never made it to reading information about the convention, because I spun off and experienced full-on rapture upon discovering the Inkstuds website, where over a hundred (!) interviews with comic artists have been uploaded to the Web for your listening pleasure. And of all the places where this website could have been from, it is hosted as part of CITR radio from the University of British Columbia. Man, my high school years were consecrated to listening to that radio station, from hardcore, to reggae, to jazz, to blues, to world music, and beyond…and now I find out that CITR also has a radio program on comics! Continue reading ‘The Hole of Humanity’

Tales of an Ageing Baby-boomer Love Child

Aline Kominsky Crumb’s Need More Love

Recently, I have been inexorably drawn to the work of Bill Griffith, Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky Crumb, Justin Green and Art Spiegelman, among others. Part of the fascination has something to do with all of these people having lived in San Francisco when the city was first becoming a freak magnet. What will do when all of our aging hippies have disappeared? Sure, there will remain a younger generation of patchouli-scented love children with dreadlocks and Bohemian skirts, paired with their dope-smoking radical-subversive boyfriends who play the bongos. But it’s not the same. They won’t have been there when it all began.

This week, I finished reading Need More Love (MQ Publications, 2007) by Aline Kominsky Crumb. This is a memoirist’s memoir—Kominsky Crumb didn’t just decide to look back on her life once reaching a certain age of maturity (you should go to a local Writer’s Society meeting! You’ll understand what I mean), she diligently documented her life as it was unfolding before her eyes. The comics included in the volume date back as early as 1976. Continue reading ‘Tales of an Ageing Baby-boomer Love Child’

One Man’s Collapse—In the Shadow of No Towers

9-11 Comics: Part One of Three

If the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York was good for nothing else, at least it got Art Spiegelman to return to creating comics full-time. So the creator of In the Shadow of No Towers (Pantheon, 2004) explains in the book’s introduction, entitled “The Sky is Falling!” This is an intensely personal glimpse into one man’s neurosis, fuelled by the author’s parents’ having survived Auschwitz, and now this—what was seemingly the end of the world. Spiegelman’s reaction to the event was to recoil into the past, poring through the innocent pages of a world now long passed by, that of early cartoon supplements. The cartoons of yesteryear selected for inclusion in In the Shadow of No Towers are a brief snapshot into the state of cartooning at the turn of the century—they are also, however, much more than this.

For me, In the Shadow of No Towers serves not best to entertain, nor to admonish, but to educate. In the span of two concise pages, Spiegelman explains the origins of the cartoon supplement, in so doing bringing home the central role of New York’s early newspaper publishing industry to the birth of comics. Spiegelman’s nostalgia for turn of the century America is seamlessly intertwined with the post 9-11 traumatic present. Continue reading ‘One Man’s Collapse—In the Shadow of No Towers’

Reliability, Authority and Authenticity

Confessional Comics: Part 4 of 4

The real mystery is this strange need. Why can’t we just hide it and shut up? Why do we have to blab? Why do human beings need to confess? Maybe, if you don’t have that secret confession, you don’t have a poem—don’t even have a story. Don’t have a writer (quoted in Gill, p. 67).

—‘Ted Hughes: The Art of Poetry’, The Paris Review 134: 54-94.

To situate the term “confessional comics,” let us examine a working definition of “confessional poetry,” a term generally applied to a group of poets working in the 1950s and 1960s who were experimenting with a hitherto unfamiliar poetic form, deeply personal in character. Elizabeth Gregory (2006, p. 34) assigns the following characteristics to confessional poetry:

  • It is derived from the poet’s autobiographical context, and is usually written in the first person.
  • The work assumes an authorial stance, insisting that the events and emotions being described are the narrator’s own.
  • The confessional poem generally expresses ideas that are antithetical to conventional social mores; mental illness, familial tensions, acrimony between family members, childhood trauma and abuse (sexual and/or psychological), and a preoccupation with one’s body are topics that are often present.
  • Where subjects generally considered forbidden to discuss are named and even explored in depth, the term “confession” may be applied. From within generally accepted religious, psychoanalytic, and legal frameworks, the events being described are considered sinful, neurotic and/or psychotic, or illicit: in short, the subjects being discussed are usually considered taboo. Continue reading ‘Reliability, Authority and Authenticity’

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