Marino Neri presents us with a, at one time, laconic and loquacious book. This is the story of a young boy named Cosimo, whose interest in stars grant him the nickname Cosmo. The book starts with Cosimo running away from a social services building, and entering a dangerous, night-time journey across the country. It is not clear if he has a specific place to reach, but his purpose seems to be to be as distant as possible from the place he ran away from, in order to be closer to something else.
Twelve-cent Archie is the first volume of Rutgers University Press’ “Comics Culture” series, edited by Corey Creekmur, which in its first 5 volumes has already, unsurprisingly, carved an important niche within English-language comics scholarship. Bart Beaty’s volume, however, is a very peculiar case, not only for the continuous brilliance of Beaty’s individual contributions but the frisky freshness of the style in this book.
To a certain extent, one may read this volume not only as a project on Archie comics, specifically the ones around the gang of the red-haired all-American character – the publisher and its editorial practices and policies, the artfulness (or lack thereof) of the involved artists, the paradoxical simple-complex diegesis of its characters, and the way it bungled through the social themes of its time – but also as a comment on the state of comics scholarship itself. As the author writes right off the bat, “auteurism has been the key to the cultural legitimacy of comic books, and it is no surprise that scholars trained in a literary tradition that is so strongly structured around an auteurist canon would transpose that tradition onto comics,” an attitude that leads to a particular “cultural cherry-picking” among an incredibly varied and immense field that “has left enormous gaps in both the history and cultural analysis of comics” (pg. 5). Archie comics, then, with their “low cultural cachet,” may provide a different take on its social portrait.
The first surprising thing that comes to mind when holding this volume is how it presents itself as a “graphic novel,” which goes a long way to show how the word “comics” has been almost entirely substituted for specific social and educational purposes. After all, not only Dinosaur Empire! is much closer to an encyclopedic discourse (an impulse towards the exhaustive, the sum, the absolute), as its “story structure” is rather flimsy, just enough to make the ball roll in terms of organizing the contents that the author wishes to convey to her young readers. Continue reading “Dinosaur Empire! Abby Howard (Amulet Books)”
This large format solo book by the French artist Hugues Micol is, for all ends and purposes, an account of the life of John Glanton, the infamous settler, soldier, Texas Ranger and bloody mercenary that contributed significantly to the overall idea of a violent, bloody and painful history in the birth of the United States. While not a book with a conventional pedagogical slant, Scalp could be thought anyway of as a tool for reconsidering the conceptual and even emotional schism between history and heritage. Delving mostly into the history of the American Southwest just during and after the Mexican-American war, and its aftermath (Glanton was born in 1819 and was killed in 1850) this a look into the pre-cowboy era that would be so romantically depicted throught the history of early American popular culture. Continue reading “Scalp, la funèbre chevauchée de John Glanton et de ses compagnons de voyage. Hugues Micol (Futuropolis)”
This small Italian horror art comics boutique has been regularly publishing some of the most intringuing and beautiful limited editions of books east of Dis. Also known by the name or perhaps genre-manifesting tag “Under Dark Weird Fantasy Grounds,” or U.D.W.F.G., not only it has been publishing a wonderful anthology series as also deluxe monographs by artists from all over the world, showing a truly wonderfully global perspective on comics as few publishers. And always in quite limited editions, such as the present one, of only 500 copies. They’ve put out new material by Spanish cute-cum-mayhem Miguel Ángel Martin and the disgusting Japanese bio-/mecha horror of Shintaro Kago, and from the French grandmaster of macabre theatrics Gabriel Delmas to Fort Thunder powerhouse Mat Brinkman. Now it’s Jesse Jacobs’ turn. Continue reading “They Live in Me. Jesse Jacobs (Hollow Press)”
Once in a while there comes a book that seems to push a little further the porous territories between comics and visual arts. Pushwagner’s Soft City seems to be one of those objects. Of course, this only happens because the artist is imbued with the cultural cachet afforded to him by the artworld and because he created an object that is blantantly and formally close to the general ideas we have about comics. Very rarely do books created by comics artists – no matter how experimental, groundbreaking, dense with intertextuality, intelligent in their formal approach or challenging in their conceptual dimensions they are – break into the artworld per se. And I don’t mean solely being presented in an art gallery or even museum, more often than not just another extension of the ongoing commodification of everything. I mean actually engaging with the conceptual history of art. Being considered as part of the structuring of formal ideas, of imaginaries, whether popular or intellectual. Sure, you can say that “everyone” loves Moebius and Kirby, but we know that’s not the point. Bart Beaty has explored carefully these issues in Comics Versus Art, especially the “processes of institutional legitimization” that created an assymetrical consideration of these two territories (seen as two diferent social worlds). Continue reading “Soft City. Pushwagner (New York Review/Inculte)”
In early August 2011 I reviewed [in Portuguese] two book projects that were helmed by Frederick Luis Aldama, being the first his own monograph Your Brain on Latino Comics. From Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez and the collection of essays Multicultural Comics. From Zap to Blue Beetle (both from the University of Texas Press, the former from 2009 and the latter from 2010). While both have very distinct case studies, cultural contextualizations and, of course, voices and agencies, I do not think I am doing a gross generalization by saying that both address an expanding view upon how different ethnicities contribute to the emergence of a complicated, integrated and multifaceted “cultural identity” of a country (or even of a particular medium in a country), counteracting a certain homogeneous and hegemonic view of the same (sorely needed today, still). So while one may point out the “Latino experience” as the departure here, topicalities such as homossexual, Afro-American, Asian-American, Native American identities are at stake, whether from the point of view of representation as darstellen or of vorstellen, following Spivak’s unpacking of the English word through the German terms. Black nationalism and graphic stereotyping, mixed-race tensions and cross-national dialogue, and many other subjects, are explored, in many cases brilliantly, by the people writing these pages. The author and editor was kind enough to respond to the questions I sent him. Here they are, for the first time, in English. Continue reading “Frederick Luis Aldama: the “Multicultural/Latino Comics” interview”
What is the point of comics adaptations? A quicker, clearer, easier read than the original? A way to establish a dialog between one artist’s view upon the vision of one other? An homage that builds upon the source and that by bringing in visuals opens up new interpretations? This is not the place to start a theorization about adaptations of literary works into comics, as there are a number of articles and chapters about the subject, more or less centering on conventional pedagogical “Cliff notes” approaches, as the older Classics Illustrated series, or rather experimental takes on literary material whose aim is rather to open up new, offbeat, radical directions, such as Karasik’s and Mazzucchelli’s take on Paul Auster’s The City of Glass, Olivier Deprez’ wood-engraved revision of Kafka’s Le Château, or Simon Grennan’s work-over of Trollope’s novel with Disposession. Or that thing R. Sikoryak does so well. Continue reading “Kindred. Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy, John Jennings (Abrams)”
In a streak of good luck, I came across French artist Victor Hussenot latest books all in one go. He has been publishing regularly in a number of anthologies and revues since the early 2010s, but in the last couple of years he had published the titles that put him definitely on the map of bande dessinée. He has also produced two children-oriented illustrated books, with no text, Au pays des lignes and Chemin des souvenirs (both through the Swiss La joie de lire), but which might as well be seen as inhabiting that no-man’s land between picture books and comics. The formal experience of these books, in any case, dovetail with Hussenot’s signature moves. Continue reading “La Casa, Les gris colorés, Les spectateurs. Victor Hussenot (Warum, La 5ème Couche, Gallimard)”