Archive for July, 2011

The Sketchbook Project 2012

Someday, I will go to Brooklyn:

And now, The Sketchbook Project sponsored by the Arthouse Coop. This is exactly the kick in the ass that I need to get drawing again. Maybe you should do the same!

Check it out; choose a theme for your sketchbook and order a copy ($25) before October 31, 2011. Sketch your heart out and send it back to the coop before Jan. 31, 2012. For an extra $20 your sketches will be digitized and made freely available on the Web. The physical sketchbooks will tour various cities, including Vancouver, BC, and will then be permanently housed in the Brooklyn Art Library.

How cool is that?

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Ticket to “Palomar” by Gilbert Hernandez

Palomar (Fantagraphics Books, 2003) collects the stories found in the original Heartbreak Soup comics. They have been identified as the comics equivalent to the magical realism genre initially spearheaded by Gabriel Marquez in literature, eventually also finding its way into film. Palomar’s strengths lie especially in the strong women and three-dimensional characterization present in the stories overall. A complex narrative web ties characters together from one comic to the next. The town lives and breathes history. We see time unfold before our eyes as we watch the characters mature. Continue reading ‘Ticket to “Palomar” by Gilbert Hernandez’

Buddy Was There: “Buddy Does Seattle” by Peter Bagge

Buddy sure is coming into his own in these comics, compared with the earlier Bradley family strips. As I’m sure is the case with so many readers of their antics, it’s easy to identify the early twenties slacker lifestyle typified by Buddy, Stinky, Lisa, George and Val. The raging hormones of early adulthood, the low-paying jobs with promise of a nowhere future, and a revolving series of roommates are all part of what makes Buddy’s existence so lovable—from a distance.

The seething arguments and erratic behaviour displayed in these stories are powerful because of the transparency and access that we are granted into the emotional landscape of each character. The loose and expressive style in Buddy Does Seattle (Fantagraphics Books, 2005) is quintessentially Peter Bagge. It brings home the drama with a uniqueness that cannot be imitated. Continue reading ‘Buddy Was There: “Buddy Does Seattle” by Peter Bagge’

Going Back in Time with “Walt and Skeezix: 1921 and 1922”

I was totally engrossed by Jeet Heer’s introduction to Walt and Skeezix: 1921 and 1922 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2010), and then spent the next three weeks trying to actually get into reading the cartoons themselves. Finally, it clicked. Maybe I was identifying with Frank King’s own struggle to build narrative momentum in the early days of the strip—but whatever the case, once over the hump, the ride was well worth it.

How little has changed in ninety years! Who knew that there were alarm clocks in 1921, that houses had thermostats even back when coal-fired furnaces were being used, or that roads were roughly patched over just as they are today, once natural gas lines to the houses were installed? These are but some of the small gifts that Walt & Skeezix inadvertently offers, simply as a lens into the past. Continue reading ‘Going Back in Time with “Walt and Skeezix: 1921 and 1922”’

Return of the Book Bus: “The Night Bookmobile” by Audrey Niffenegger

Basically, I can’t remember the last time a book fucked me up as much as The Night Bookmobile by the time I finished reading it. (Abrams ComicArts, 2010). I was a casual tourist along for the ride when I began reading this seemingly innocent fable. By page three, I was spinning off with my own early childhood memories of visiting the “book bus,” which serviced our neighbourhood in Vancouver prior to the local library branch being built. I remember picking out Dr. Suess books and having my Dad read them to me—probably some of my earliest book-related memories. I hadn’t thought about that in a long time, and the connection made me hungry to continue reading. Continue reading ‘Return of the Book Bus: “The Night Bookmobile” by Audrey Niffenegger’

A Mostly Glowing Review of “Radioactive” by Lauren Redniss

Radioactive (!t Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2011) by Lauren Redniss lies on the fringes of the “graphic novel” continuum—it is a storybook for grownups, a stunning combination of words and pictures depicting the lives of Marie & Pierre Curie (as well as Curie’s later lover Paul Langevin) and their scientific legacy. The book does not employ comics grammar and syntax (e.g. panels, word balloons, caption boxes), but rather openly manipulates and juxtaposes text with what might best be described as eerily primitive drawings.

Redniss’ drawings are infused with a kind of right-brained quality. There is a dreamy, ethereal style to Redniss’ work that reminds me equally of David B. and Modigliani.

The New York edition of The Huffington Post has a remarkable article describing an exhibition of Lauren Redniss’ work, as well as artifacts from the library that influenced her research. The author explains that she desired to make a “…visual book about invisible forces,” hence the Radioactive’s byline, “A Tale of Love and Fallout.” Continue reading ‘A Mostly Glowing Review of “Radioactive” by Lauren Redniss’

Reading “Reading Comics” by Douglas Wolk

In Reading Comics (Da Capo Press, 2007) Douglas Wolk speaks convincingly of comics readers and artists alike as secretly aspiring towards some sort of acknowledgment, respect and legitimacy from “highbrow” culture, from whence the origins of the word “graphic novel” arise. This is evidenced most directly by Bruce Eric Kaplan’s New Yorker cartoon, “Now I have to start pretending I like graphic novels too?

Wolk equally exposes mainstream comics for the boy’s club that they manifest, with their undertones of soft porn and adolescent gender politics. He speaks of the wall of solitude that comics readers may build between themselves and the non-comics reading world, and the fidelity that comics readers may have to particular publishers, artists and mythologies. Continue reading ‘Reading “Reading Comics” by Douglas Wolk’


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