Archive for February, 2011

The Revolution Was Streamed and Tweeted

Monday, February 28th, 2011

As she works on her next book, Stumbling Toward Damascus, Sarah Glidden has continued to stay abreast of current events in the Middle East, which means that like many of us, she was riveted by the news coming out of Egypt. And like a lot of us in the United States, she experienced it primarily through online video feeds, and Twitter. Unlike a lot of us, though, she and studio partner Domitille Collardey have created a comic talking about their reactions, titled “Egypt from 5,000 Miles Away.”

Stumbling Toward Damascus will be an adaptation of a visit Glidden took with several journalists as they traveled through Eastern Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Damascus in Syria, and will show “how they work together to make the news.” She’s been posting some artwork and sketches in her blog.

(via Robot 6)

A Post-War Postcard

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Despite not being as long or as seminal as other epic works such as Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert is probably the longest I’ve ever taken in reading a graphic novel. It’s just so rich and dense, with so much information packed into every page and panel, that you can’t just breeze through it. Nor should you—this is the story of a man’s life, and what a life it was.

Alan’s War is the story of Alan Cope, a young man from California in the ’40s who like many young men his age back then, found himself drafted into the army and sent overseas to fight in World War II. “Fight” being a very loose term in his case, as he was drafted late into the war, and by the time he finally got sent to France, the war was mostly over. So he finds himself moving from place to place, performing mostly administrative and cleanup work, learning a lot about Europe (and life) in the process. He ended up living there after the war, which is how he met Emmanuel Guibert, the comic artist who took their conversations and transcribed them into this beautiful book. Guibert is not a speaking presence in this graphic novel; Guibert was the audience then as the reader is now.

Guibert chose to keep his dialog and pacing as true to Alan’s original delivery as possible. As such it is very comfortable, measured, and occasionally contradictory. Guibert notes these contradictions in the introduction, but they do not detract from the story one bit. I found it very easy to follow, even when Alan’s account gets sidetracked as he tries to sneak in smaller anecdotes and bits of information into the narrative, and even with all the people Alan met it was relatively easy to keep them straight, though I found myself at times flipping back to try and remember who he was talking about.

The book is actually a collection, as the novel was originally published in three volumes back in France. The first volume or chapter, covers Alan’s training and stateside experiences, while the second chapter is his travels through Europe. The final chapter is more of an epilogue, as Alan basically goes through a laundry list of what happened to him and all his friends: some moved away and he lost touch, some he was reunited with, and others died. As a resident of the 21st Century it’s fascinating to see how Alan was able to track down people without the Internet, using only letters and phone calls and coming up pretty successful most of the time. He even wrote to Henry Miller at one point and got an answer regarding the whereabouts of a couple of dear friends.

The narrative shines in this graphic novel, but the art is also beautiful to behold. Many panels may seem empty, but what few elements Guibert does put in them convey so much information. His facial expressions are charming, but the real standouts are his landscapes. Some are almost indistinguishable from photographs, the detail being so rich.

I really enjoyed this book; it was funny and charming, and provided a look at military life that was more humble and less violent than the portrayals we’re used to getting. Guibert is right in that Alan Cope was a natural storyteller, though he sells himself short: Guibert is excellent as well.

Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope
by Emmanuel Guibert
translation by Kathryn Pulver
lettering by Céline Merrien
published by First Second (New York, 2008)
ISBN 978-1-59643-096-9

The Vampires of New York

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

New York City has an abundance of bogeymen for New Yorkers to scorn or fear, but there are few that engender as much hysteria as the common bedbug. Apartments, hotels, subway stations, Abercrombie & Fitch—there seems to be no location, no social stratum that these pesky bloodsuckers haven’t penetrated in recent years.

Gabrielle Bell is no stranger to the bedbug menace, having been their victim four times in the past. When she found herself scratching and scratching once more, she realized that her old enemies were back and this time, documented the entire nerve-racking process of discovery, clean up/preparation, extermination, and eventual success/relief/lingering paranoia in her blog. It’s funny, creepy, and even educational, and you might find yourself a little more paranoid by the end.

(via The Beat)

This is Not David Bowie

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I was in my preteens when Nirvana became big, and while I understood the influence they had on popular music at the time, I never really liked them much. I didn’t like Pearl Jam much, either. I guess I was more of a Soundgarden kid.

It’s nice to know I was not alone, as Sally Madden created a comic titled “Grandma Take Me Home,” where the point is pretty clear at the top, written in red text on yellow: “I did not like Nirvana.” She relates the story of how her mother really dug them, and years later, a close friend started talking about how she finally ‘got’ them. From there it gets a bit weird, as all the discussion of Nirvana leads to one very strange dream, and with it the entire comic came to a sudden halt. I searched for a link to take me to the next page, and left disappointed because it doesn’t feel like she answered the question raised by the comic: what does she think of Nirvana now?

You can read this comic over at If You Make It, along with more music-related comics by Liz Prince, Jim Kettner, and others.

(via Robot 6)

Citation Needed

Monday, February 14th, 2011

I just finished reading Scott Westerfeld‘s novel Extras, the fourth book in the Uglies Trilogy. Putting aside discussion of the proper definition of “trilogy” for now, the book was interesting to me partly because the characters in it operated in a “reputation economy.” A reputation economy is one where a person’s worth is defined not by their material wealth, but by the deeds they do and how well-known they are. Extras is not the first work to explore such a concept, as Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom also runs on a reputation economy, and it has real-world applications on the Internet: Twitter calculates a reputation score for each user, and many sites like Digg allow you to vote on comments left by other users.

In order for a reputation economy to work, people have to receive credit for the things they do. Online, this usually means linking back to the source with proper attribution. Easy enough with articles, but images can be a tricky matter. Cool images often find themselves linked, e-mailed, uploaded to new sites, watermarks added, downloaded and uploaded again, and so on. Many artists don’t receive credit for the cool things they make.

Sick of this misappropriation, H. Caldwell Tanner and Rosscott have prepared a helpful flowchart to assist the average Internet user in crediting things properly. But this is no dry flow chart of text and funny shapes. This flowchart has illustrations. This flowchart is a comic! A very cool comic, indeed, one that you  might actually feel the need to share with others. With proper credit to the original creator, of course.

(via Boing Boing)

Eat, Draw, Love

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

There’s a thin line between comics and illustration, and They Draw and Cook mostly falls on the side of illustration, but their art sure is gorgeous and worth a look.

The site was created by the team of Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell, who got the idea for an illustrated cookbook while on a family vacation. Eventually the project morphed into a blog, with way more entries than a mere paper cookbook could hold.

Recipes are organized into thirteen categories, including drinks, side dishes, and a massive holiday section. The art styles for each recipe range from the more simple and abstract to things that are more detailed and realistic, using a variety of techniques and media. A few even skirt the line into a more comic-like style. Regardless of their style or recipe, most of the pieces are simply gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see the book when it comes out.

Manifested Destiny

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Last week the popular computer game The Oregon Trail made its way to Facebook, courtesy of The Learning Company and Blue Fang Games. For those too old or young to have experienced it, The Oregon Trail was a computer game created in 1974 where the player assumed the role of a settler in 1848 traveling on the historic Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City. The game was well-known among students as it seemed to be installed on every single school computer (which were usually Apples) and teachers often had students play it during computer class instead of actually teaching them anything. I suppose it had the virtue of making it so that kids learned a handful of basic computer skills with some American history on the side, but what people really remember is dying of dysentery and writing funny things on their headstones.

I’ve been playing the Facebook conversion and it’s not bad. Because this is Facebook, it’s had some of the mandatory social elements tacked on—you can use your friends as members of your party (and subsequently watch them suffer from scurvy) and you can assist friends who are playing the game by fixing their wagon or hunting for them. Hunting, by far the most popular gameplay element of the original, is no longer limited by how many bullets you have (bullets are actually unlimited), but by how much energy you have. Energy refills over real time, so you can log off and come back to a full energy bar. Because time stands still in the game when you log out, it’s actually far easier than the original computer versions. So far no one’s died of dysentery or cholera, my wagon only turned over once in a river, and I only actually lost the game once, when I failed to reach Oregon before winter came. The game stacks, so items and money earned in a previous attempt carry over when you restart in Missouri, and it’s actually easier as you level up.

There’s also a real life monetary element to the Facebook version, where you can use your real money to purchase “Trail Notes,” which are used to buy really useful items and favors in the game. However, the game is easy enough you’ll never really need these extra perks.

The Oregon Trail is one way to make westward settlement come alive for today’s youth, another recent interpretation is Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel adaptation of the journey of Lewis and Clark. The book is set for release next week (February 15), but right now you can take a look at his overall creative process on the First Second Blog. He goes through five overall steps: writing, layout, penciling, inking, and digital manipulation. It’s really interesting to see a page go from a rough layout to a finished page, and it will be even more exciting to see the entire work when it’s released.