Archive for January, 2011

The Glorious Struggle

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Communism has been on a lot of people’s minds lately, though perhaps for the wrong reasons, with many people equaling socialism to communism, the better to make villains out of those who promote socialist policies by associating them with the big bogeyman of the 20th Century.

George Rigakos is also creating heroes and villains, but from the opposite side of things. He’s adapting the Communist Manifesto into a series of graphic novels from Red Quill Books, in order to teach his students political economy at Carleton University. According to him, “The original work of Marx and Engels focused on the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and their heroes – the Communists.”

The adaptation will be broken up into four parts, each focusing on a different group. The first book, “Historical Materialism” is available now in English for under $20. The books are also set for release in French, German, and Spanish.

Check out some interior art in the book trailer:

(via Bleeding Cool)

Drops of the Gods Fall on US Shores

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Well, that certainly took long enough. Drops of the Gods, the wine manga that’s spurred wine culture in the Far East and been spotlighted in various major news outlets like the Japan Times, the Daily Mail, the New York Times and this very blog, is finally coming to the United States.

Vertical announced the news this morning on the ANNcast (part of Anime News Network). They also announced that they’ve acquired the rights to Osamu Tezuka’s Princess Knight, one of the very first shōjo manga in history. This too is a big deal, though not as relevant to nonfiction comics.

Each English Vertical volume of Drops of the Gods will carry the equivalent of two Japanese volumes, for a total of about 400 pages, selling for $14.95 each.

(via Robot 6 and Anime News Network)

Cablegate Chronicles Comix

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

With thousands of diplomatic cables to be released courtesy of WikiLeaks, most people rely on their favorite news sources to sort through it all, usually spotlighting the ones with the most political impact. Which is a shame, because the leaks reveal so much about the daily lives of diplomats and politicians, sometimes revealing thoughts and events that wouldn’t be out of place on a cable reality show.

To explore that potential, Joe Alterio of HiLobrow has been illustrating selected cables in a series of “Cablegate Comix” that reprint cables with illustrations to accompany each line. So when they mention Karim Massimov, the prime minister of Kazakhstan, dancing at a trendy nightclub, you get a drawing of Prime Minister Karim Massimov dancing at a trendy nightclub.

The biggest problem with some of these comics is that they might not go far enough with the illustrations, letting the text do most of the work. Eight comics have been released so far; hopefully in future installments Alterio will feel freer to add his artistic interpretations.

(via Comics Alliance)

As Seen Through the Eyes of a New New Yorker

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

One of my favorite columns in the New York Times is the Metropolitan Diary, where readers send in their stories about life in the big city, things they saw or overheard in the course of their daily lives as New Yorkers. Though coming from a wide spectrum of people, the stories tend to follow the same general themes of dry humor, whimsy, and naïveté (the latter not from the contributors, but rather those they encounter).

Kate Beaton has constructed her own “Metropolitan Diary” of a sort, though for a different reason than those Times contributors: she misplaced her latest Hark, a Vagrant! strip at some point during a shopping trip in SoHo, and so decided to run a series of short vignettes about her new life in New York City.

As a New Yorker, a lot of these made me go, “Ha, that is so true!” Because they are.

(via Robot 6)

Draw an Angry Comic

Monday, January 24th, 2011

People living in cities are accustomed to experiencing all manner of unpleasant sights and sounds as they traverse through their daily lives, but there are few that are as aggressively disgusting as the Foetus-Mobile, a truck that drives through Calgary plastered with images of dismembered fetuses as part of an ongoing abortion protest by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Regardless of how you stand on abortion, showing images of this nature in public is inappropriate and disrespectful (I won’t even link you to their website, since they do the same thing on their front page). People in Calgary are getting tired of seeing this not-so-little truck of horrors drive down their streets, so the the Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition has chosen to fight back using images of their own: a comic.

In it, they explain that abortion is legal and supported by the majority of Canadians, that pro-life organizations use scare tactics and disinformation to pressure women against having abortions, and most importantly, what the citizens of Calgary can do to fight back against the Foetus-Mobile.

Though the comic does dip into the “women have a right to choose” argument that many pro-life advocates are likely to ignore, most of the comic stays on target, focusing on getting rid of the truck: a target that both sides can agree is offensive.

(via Bleeding Cool)

A Story in Black and White About Things That Are Grey

Friday, January 21st, 2011

There’s an American Express commercial you may have seen last year, spotlighting the Harlem Children’s Zone, an organization that follows children from birth to college, ensuring that they have the tools to succeed academically. The man featured in that commercial is Geoffrey Canada, the organization’s president and chief executive officer. You may have also seen him on The Colbert Report or in the documentary film Waiting for Superman. He’s the author of the memoir Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America, which was just adapted into a graphic novel by Jamar Nicholas and published by Beacon Press.

The graphic novel presents a series of 10 short vignettes, short stories each illustrating a “lesson” learned growing up on the streets of the South Bronx in the ’50s and ’60s. The stories are for the most part unconnected from one another, sharing little but their protagonists and setting, with the occasional recurring cast. This makes it a fairly easy read, something that can be picked up and put down as the reader feels comfortable, and also ideal for using this book as a teaching tool in class. The downside is that it lacks a sense of urgency, lacking the build up promised by the title. Though there is a moment where Mr. Canada definitively turns his back from a violent solution, it’s disconnected from the previous chapters and functions more as an epilogue than as a integral piece of the working story, which mostly takes place on Union Avenue.

Though I did not grow up in the South Bronx, nor was my childhood as violently fraught as Mr. Canada’s, it did get me thinking back to my own experiences with what most people would term “bullying.” I remember how frightening it could be sometimes, and the shame that comes when you don’t fight back. While I was able to simply disengage myself from my bullies, avoiding those who made my life hell, not everyone has that luxury, and when you have to live like that all the time, it’s no wonder things get so screwed up. Reading the book was admittedly depressing, because it comes from a very harsh place, where even the bits of kindness come from a need for communal protection. It gives meaning to the phrase “cruel to be kind” when he explains that the other kids forced him to fight so he could hold his own again outsiders, or even in the very first story, when his mother chews his brothers out for letting another kid take one of their jackets.

A lot of the heavy lifting in this graphic novel is done by the words and not the illustrations; what the adaptation did was condense the memoir down to a more digestible form. The art is very heavy on faces and figures displayed on blank backgrounds, using some establishing shots and sparse lines to suggest the setting but for the most part relying on the text to give you a sense of place. The figure work isn’t exceptionally fluid; it’s the jagged nature of it that suggests movement and violence.

Ultimately, the subject matter is an excellent choice for a graphic novel adaptation, and the book itself makes for a quick, enlightening read. Few outside that world will ever know exactly what goes on in there, but this graphic novel does a good job of helping us understand.

Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence: A True Story in Black and White
adapted by Jamar Nicholas
from the memoir by Geoffrey Canada
published by Beacon Press (Boston, 2010)
ISBN 978-0-8070-4449-0

A complimentary copy of the book was provided to me via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.