Soft City. Pushwagner (New York Review/Inculte)

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)”

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Frederick Luis Aldama: the “Multicultural/Latino Comics” interview

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”

Kindred. Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy, John Jennings (Abrams)

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)”

La Casa, Les gris colorés, Les spectateurs. Victor Hussenot (Warum, La 5ème Couche, Gallimard)

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)”

Spinning. Tillie Walden (First Second)

Throughout pages tinted in distant, icy and chilly blues, Tillie Walden holds our hands and takes us through a journey on adolescence and all the difficult tasks and choices that it entails. This is an autobiographical book, and it adheres to the consolidated rules of the genre within comics. While it does not rewrite the expectations we may have on graphic memoirs, it accomplishes a moving, skilled and engrossing narrative, that perfectly mirrors the feelings of a young girl growing up.  Continue reading “Spinning. Tillie Walden (First Second)”

José Alaniz: the “Komiks” interview

This short interview dates back to early 2011, when I reviewed José Alaniz’ Komiks. Comic Art in Russia (University Press of Mississippi), along with Fredrik Strömberg’s Swedish Comics History (The Swedish Comics Association) and the anthology Compendium of Romanian Comic Art. The Book of George (Hard Comics), in attempt, perhaps failed, of writing a comparative review of how to be introduced to comics traditions fairly unknown and underexposed outside their own countries and communities (once again, in Portuguese only). Continue reading “José Alaniz: the “Komiks” interview”

Paysage après la bataille. Éric Lambé et Philippe de Pierpont (Actes Sud/Frémok)

What are words good for when considering war?

A woman visits a museum, where she seems lost in her own thoughts: the museum guard has to wake her up from the reverie and ask her to leave. She is looking at a diorama staging a brutal battlefield. (The book does not state it explicitly, but one surmises it to be the Waterloo diorama, found at the Mémorial 1815, a favourite spot for school visits in Belgium) We see lying corpses, severed limbs, falling horses and their falling riders, spoils of war. The woman is carrying a travelling bag, she seems alone. She leaves the museum, grabs a taxi and heads to an isolated trailer park where she rents a place to stay for a while. Questions start to form in the reader’s mind. Is she travelling? Where is she going? Or is she running from somewhere? Who is the child in the picture she props on the shelf above her bed? What is its function: a little personal touch in the bleak trailer? An object of solace? Spoils of war?

Continue reading “Paysage après la bataille. Éric Lambé et Philippe de Pierpont (Actes Sud/Frémok)”

Le Collectionneur de Briques. Pedro Burgos (6 pieds sous terre)

Pedro Burgos’ short whimsical novella, Le collectioneur de briques, is about a middle-age architect going down the rabbit hole of his own obsessions, after both a professional crash and a personal trauma. Valerio used to be a busy architect back in the day, but after the financial crisis hit Portugal, his studio went bankrupt. He had at least a pet project: rehabilitating a small building he owns. However, Valerio must deal with two significant obstacles. On the one hand, his son-in-law is pressuring him to sell the building for people who want to flip it into an airbnb-style business, most likely, as Lisbon is becoming increasingly gentrified and commodified for global tourism. On the other hand, he is slowly trying to recover from an amnesia provoked after he was assaulted, accidentally, by homeless people that were living in the building. Continue reading “Le Collectionneur de Briques. Pedro Burgos (6 pieds sous terre)”

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