Posts Tagged 'Seth'

The beauty that is Inkstuds

It didn’t take me this long to read Inkstuds (Conundrum Press, 2010) because I found it tedious; on the contrary, I wanted to savour these interviews and read them in small doses, interspersed with the ongoing consumption of comics—many created by artists featured on the radio show. Kudos to McConnell: with all of the interviews he’s conducted, I don’t know how he decided which ones to put in this volume. I suspect that’s why there’s a “1” on the spine of the book!

In the introduction to Inkstuds, comics scholar Jeet Heer remarks, “McConnell takes a deceptively casual tack, winging his way like a student at an oral exam who is willing to make up for in gusto what he lacks in preparation (6).” This may be especially true when listening to McConnell’s show, but one feature of reading the interviews that I found interesting was how once transcribed on the page, these conversations take on a new life. Now edited, gone are the traces of improvisational filler, instead leaving only a fluid path of ideas. Continue reading ‘The beauty that is Inkstuds’

The Art of Difficult Art

Keeping the Story Alive

Today’s National Post had an interesting article with artist Adam Matak. “Over the past few years, this young Toronto artist has made a name for himself by applying a cartoon style to classy gallery settings.” Matak explains that he began drawing at the age of three, and that when he was young he drew in a style inspired by Disney.

Later, I trained as a printmaker, so when I started getting into painting I brought in that graphic element, too. And I’ve always been interested in trying to create connections between disparate things. I started off doing Greek busts and combining them with graffiti -trying to meld ancient and contemporary art (The National Post, April 4, 2011).

Check out the photo of the Thames Art Gallery space above, with Matak’s cardboard cutout figures, whom he describes as “museum patrons.” Very cool. More examples can be seen on the “Sculptures” tab on Matak’s website. Matak’s “Museum Series” of paintings equally explores the public experience of art, poking fun at how disengaged many viewers may at times appear. But the deeper message concerns what an audience may be missing by not reflecting on the lineage from which art springs, and what we may have to learn from it about ourselves. Continue reading ‘The Art of Difficult Art’

A Thousand Words per Page: the Wordless Novel

Close Cousins or Distant Family?

In the Afterword to George Walker’s Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels by Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri, Laurence Hyde (Firefly Books, 2007), Seth suggests that although the wordless novels which began to gain notoriety at the beginning of the 20th century are now being hailed as close cousins to the graphic novel, there are important fundamental differences between the two forms.

Seth maintains that the wordless novel pays homage more to silent film than to the comic strip. In spite of their widespread popularity, many readers would have considered comic strips of the day simplistic—as is still the case today. Silent film, however, was in its heyday as an emerging and sophisticated art form. If the artists creating wordless novels had felt that comic strips were an elevated art form, why would they not have included speech balloons and more than one image per page in their works? Continue reading ‘A Thousand Words per Page: the Wordless Novel’

Kramers Ergot 7 Table of Contents (Linear Version)

For all you concrete-sequential owners of Kramers Ergot 7, here is the (better late than never) moment you’ve been waiting for! A fully-functional, hyperlinked Kramers TOC, ordered in a singular trajectory by page number! Continue reading ‘Kramers Ergot 7 Table of Contents (Linear Version)’

Graphic Transformation: Stories to Change Your Life

Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life by Paul Gravett

I first encountered comics historian Paul Gravett being interviewed for the DVD The Mindscape of Alan Moore. That led me to investigating his two compendia, Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life (Aurum Press, 2005), and Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics (2004, Laurence King Publishing Ltd.). Oddly, in the US the book’s byline is “Everything You Need to Know,” while in the UK it’s “Stories to Change Your Life.”  In addition to these two works, Gravett has edited numerous other books and has an extensive website that includes reviews, various media interviews with Gravett, and links to other sites. Gravett’s site is tagged extensively, making it very user friendly, with the exception of a search field. This post is concerned solely with Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life.


Happily, Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life begins with the first two pages reprinting an absurdist cartoon initially published in the New York Times Magazine, authored by Chester Brown. In it, a New York Times Magazine staff member is interviewing Brown. Much to the featured talent’s indignation, the interviewer turns into a duck halfway through the interview. For a respected art form, Brown informs us, this is all too much!

Subsequently, Gravett includes a section entitled “Things to Hate About Comics,” a kind of FAQ for the absolute beginner who may challenge the medium by resorting to selected blanket statements such as “Comics are just funnybooks”; “They take no time to read”; “Comics leave nothing for the imagination”; “They’re so depressing”; etc. For each of these criticisms, a detailed response is provided, designed to dismantle the arguments. Continue reading ‘Graphic Transformation: Stories to Change Your Life’

The Way of the Juggler

The Juggler of Our Lady and Talking Lines by R.O. Blechman

The Juggler of Our Lady (published in 1953) was a signpost on the way to the “graphic novel,” like Freeman’s It Shouldn’t Happen, Dunn’s East of Fifth, and Gropper’s Alley Oop. All of these books were “graphic novel” anomalies done long before any one ever dreamed up that awful term.

–“Introduction by Seth,” Talking Lines: The Graphic Stories of R.O. Blechman.

Awful indeed. And now, the ubiquitous “graphic novel” is being used to refer back to earlier works, in the process broadening its historical reach. But Seth is right—The Juggler of Our Lady is unique as an early example of extended graphic narrative, and as the predecessor for great things to come by R.O. Blechman, now hailed as one of the greats of cartoon storytelling.

Talking Lines (Drawn & Quarterly, 2010) is a selected retrospective of Blechman’s work, dated from a series of one-page “silent cartoons” published in the magazine Humbug in 1957-58, up to the two-page “The Birth of the Croissant and the Bagel” published in the New York Times in 2009—though the stories are not included in chronological order. At least as interesting as the works themselves is Blechman’s commentary included at the beginning of each selection, which provides additional context for the stories in their republished format. Continue reading ‘The Way of the Juggler’

“Teaching” Graphic Novels

Last year, I was invited to attend a one-day workshop in Vancouver on the subject of graphic novels. The workshop was sponsored by the Educational Resources Acquisition Consortium (ERAC), an organization which, up until recently, was fully funded by the provincial government. ERAC serves as a one-stop shop where teachers from across British Columbia can search for educational software, video and print resources that have been vetted for classroom use, and which may be purchased by teachers at a discount through the organization.

I was fortunate enough to have been referred by my supervisor to attend this session. She knew that I am passionate about comics, since I had been granted permission by Chris Olivieros (the publisher of Drawn & Quarterly) to include excerpts from Chester Brown’s Louis Riel) in a BC First Nations Studies 12 course being developed in both print and online formats for high school distance education students.

The reason that the ERAC executive had chosen to invite me and two other participants to their offices concerned a general lack of familiarity with graphic novels amongst the staff. This was a chance for us to educate them about the range of forms that graphic novels can assume, toward the end of the group’s establishing criteria that could apply towards determining which graphic novels might be suitable for classroom use.

On the one hand, the day served as a great excuse to share knowledge and bring samples of a variety of works to show to a genuinely attentive audience. But what does it mean to “teach” a graphic novel? Obviously some teachers are doing it. And in spite of the constraints of the classroom, I am certain that some teachers are doing it well. I have also seen how a teacher can bastardize even Catcher in the Rye–I’ve done it myself, not knowing how else to go about the task of “teaching” the novel. And the last thing that I would wish on any student is for a teacher to suck the life out of everything good and true about graphic novels, through treating the subject poorly in the classroom. Continue reading ‘“Teaching” Graphic Novels’

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