Author Archive

Survival stories

Monday, December 3rd, 2012


Graphic journalism continues to make headway into the field of “serious” comics, and this time it’s available on the format/medium of our times, the iPad. Symbolia is a bi-monthly digital magazine featuring long-form journalism in the form of sequential art, for the (relatively) low price of $11.99 for six issues, or $2.99 for individual issues. The iPad app features audio, animation, and interactive graphics. Don’t have an iPad? Well, for desktop users (and Android, a platform they seem to have forgotten exists) they also sell Symbolia in a PDF edition, same price.

What do you get for your dollars? You can check out the free preview on their site, which features stories by Susie Cagle, Sarah Glidden, Chris A. Smith and Damien Scogin, Kat Fajardo and Audrey Quinn, and Andy Warner and Lauren Sommer. We’ve previously covered Glidden here in the blog, and her piece comes from her trip with the Common Language Project, which will be expanded upon in her upcoming book Stumbling Toward Damascus. “The Rollerbladers of Sulaymaniyah” is up to her usual standards and is pretty interesting, but perhaps my favorite piece in the preview was “Sea Change”, about the environmental troubles facing the Salton Sea in California.

Happiness is a well-done tribute

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Sure, it’s Cyber Monday, but if you’re into comics at all, today is a far more momentous occasion. Today would have been Charles Schulz’s 90th birthday. The creator of Peanuts… well, I don’t need to say much more than that, do I? But for your edification John Kovalic of Dork Tower fame did a lovely strip talking about the influence that Schulz had on his own work.

There’s a Peanuts movie due in 2015. I was feeling pretty good about this until I saw it was probably going to be CG. I wonder what Schulz would have thought of seeing his work in computer-generated 3D.

An Artist, Who Escapes

Friday, May 18th, 2012

The Holocaust is a subject that’s been covered in comics before, most notably in Art Spiegelman’s Maus, but Lily Renée, Escape Artist is a graphic novel takes a lighter approach, mostly due to the fact that its subject was lucky enough to never be in a concentration camp, though she did suffer her own trials and travails as a result of being Jewish during the time of the Nazi regime.

Lily Renée Wilheim was a teenager when the Nazis invaded Vienna, which meant she was old enough to recall the events clearly, but also young enough to be shipped out as part of Kindertransport, which means the bulk of the biography focuses on events that aren’t often talked about in the greater narrative of Jewish oppression and the Holocaust. We follow Lily’s struggles as a Jewish refugee in England, being classified as an “enemy alien,” and finally her immigrant experience in America, which leads her to her ultimate status as a pioneer in women’s comics.

The book focuses on smaller details and anecdotes in Lily’s journey, like eating too much food on a train or working as a mother’s helper. This makes it easier for younger readers to relate to Lily, but it also leaves the book feeling a bit shallow since it barely touches upon the larger war narrative going on. Lily herself may not have been too concerned with the bigger picture, as she was doing her best to survive, but the book is very much written toward an educational bent, so more historical context would have been helpful in imparting a history lesson to its readers. Most of the heavy-lifting is left to the appendix in the back, which explains some of the finer historical details. In this manner, it reminds me of the American Girl books, except that those novels are definitely intended to focus on their storytelling first and foremost, better to relate to their audience of 10-year-old girls (and sell more dolls). They aren’t sold as educational materials.

The copy on the front and back covers of Lily Renée, Escape Artist seems to be aimed toward promoting a strong female role model, except that the aspect of her they promote—her comics work—is barely touched upon in the book. She doesn’t reach that point until the last few pages of the last chapter, and it really feels like they’re name-checking the titles she worked on. I would have liked to see sample pages from her work, or maybe more audience reactions, or some further indications of how this work changed her life, beyond that it paid for her mother’s operation and that one of the characters “was a fantasy” for her. If her work in comics is being used as a hook to get people to read this book, it should have gotten a lot of more page time. While I enjoyed the book, it ultimately felt unsatisfying.

Lily Renée, Escape Artist
story by Trina Robbins
pencils by Anne Timmons
inks by Mo Oh
published by Graphic Universe (New York, 2011)
ISBN 978-0-7613-8114-3

 

That is Your Childhood Self

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Yesterday Maurice Sendak died. He was the author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, and many other iconic and iconoclastic children’s books. He was 83. The New York Times has a good write-up on his career.

Today, in response to a request from Neil Gaiman, the New Yorker has unlocked a comic by Art Spiegelman, recounting a conversation Maurice and Art had, way back in 1993. It’s quite lovely and funny, and you can check it out over at their website.

By Art Spiegelman and Maurice Sendak

(via Neil Gaiman)

Out and About: Brooklyn Book Festival 2011

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

It should be noted that the Brooklyn Book Festival is going on right now over at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The event runs through 6pm, with vendors, panels, and performances. Vendors include Drawn & QuarterlyMcSweeney’s, and Keith Knight.

If you missed the “Sequential Non-fiction” or “Building a Book” panels at MoCCA Fest this past spring,  both Dean Haspiel and Lauren Redniss will be on a panel later today titled “Drawing a Life” with GB Tran. The panel starts at 4pm, so there’s still plenty of time to head over there and check it out.

4:00 P.M. Drawing a Life. How do you draw someone else’s memories? Eisner nominated Dean Haspiel (Cuba: My Revolution) illustrated the memoir of revolutionary turned refugee Inverna Lockpez. Pulitzer nominee Lauren Redniss (Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout) blends research and imagination in a haunting portrait of Marie Curie and rising star artist GB Tran (Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey) turns to his own family’s history to portray a war-torn, transnational generation. Moderated by Hillary Chute, author of Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics.

Telling a Story in 5 Panels with G+

Monday, August 15th, 2011

So Google+ is the new “hot” social network that everyone’s jumping aboard, though it’s not without its flaws—chief among them being that Google continues to insist that people use their “real” names, even when there are many good reasons why people might not want to. Putting that controversy aside, the site has many benefits, and some comics creators have even found the site’s “about” page to be yet another creative outlet.

A user’s about page on Google+ has a space to put up some pictures, presumably pictures of themselves, but instead Scott McCloud and Stephen Hitchen have used the slots as comic panels, telling (very) short stories.

Aside from being really informative about what they do (pictures really do speak louder than words), it just looks cool. Now I’m just staring at that empty slot on my own Google+ page, and pondering the possibilities.

(via The Ephemerist)

Laika Lives!

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Laika may have been the first animal to orbit the Earth, but there was no way to bring her back down safely, which also makes her the first to die in space—meaning that Nick Abadzis’ graphic novel account of her life doesn’t have a happy ending, upsetting a great deal of people. Some, including filmmakers, have questioned if the book needed to end that way, if there wasn’t some way to make the ending less depressing:

Filmmakers often get in touch, wondering whether there might be a way of presenting a version with a more positive spin to it. Well, of course there is, but then you’d be changing history, or at least blunting the truth of what took place that day in 1957, and unfortunately, you can’t change history, not one line.

Though history can’t be changed and the book will stay true to events, Abadzis is willing to play a game of “what if?” with Laika, honoring the 25th anniversary of Big Planet Comics in Washington, DC with a series of alternate endings dubbed “The Alternate Endings to Laika Show.”

So far two strips have been put up, both presenting stories that aren’t entirely implausible, but still vary widely from the truth in ensuring that little Laika survives.

(via The Beat)

You Are Cordially Invited

Friday, June 17th, 2011

I have no plans to get married any time soon, but the trials and travails chronicled in Adrian Tomine’s Scenes from an Impending Marriage make me think that simply eloping is a good idea. Guest lists, music, food, registries, party favors—all the little details that go into planning a “proper” wedding are detailed here in short comic vignettes starring Adrian and his fianceé as they attempt to plan their own real-life wedding.

The book is cute with simple and lively illustrations, arranged in a nine-panel configuration on most pages with the occasional Family Circus one-panel homage. It’s easy to sympathize with the couple—weddings can be a complicated minefield of familial politics, for one thing—but the book doesn’t go into any of these issues in detail, and is over so quickly. But we should be grateful to even have the opportunity to read this graphic memoir at all, as the book was originally created as a party favor for the wedding guests—a fact that is chronicled in the book, and the Drawn & Quarterly version of it includes an epilogue chronicling the aftermath of the reception, in all its tired and awestruck glory.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage
by Adrian Tomine
published by Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, 2011)
ISBN 978-770460-34-8

Being an Attractive Superheroine Isn’t Easy

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Last week, NBC held its upfronts, presentations where the network debuts their fall slate of programming to advertisers, and the rest of the world peeks in to find out what new delights/horrors television has in store for them come the new season. Completely surprising no one was the fact that David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman, starring Adrianne Palicki, was not on the schedule, mostly because reports of its demise had been flying fast and furious the week before that.

NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt said that they felt Wonder Woman wasn’t the right “fit” for their lineup, which is an interesting choice of words when you consider all the online hubbub surrounding her costume, which downplayed her patriotic (American) side and was ridiculously shiny and uncoordinated. The costume was later tweaked, but that didn’t stop people from tittering at unflattering photos of Adrienne Palicki in action.

Wonder Woman may not be saving the day now, but Empowered still came to her rescue after those photos were released, following up her comments on the script with new commentary about the trials and travails of being an attractive costumed heroine, as well as which female cast member of Friday Night Lights was hotter: Adrienne Palicki or Minka Kelly?

(via Bleeding Cool)

Donald Duck, Autograph Hound

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

BOOM! Studios just released The Walt Disney Treasury: Donald Duck vol. 1, a 160-page collection of classic Donald Duck stories by Don Rosa, who wrote comics about Donald and Scrooge McDuck in the ’80s and ’90s, such as The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (which has also been reprinted by BOOM). In addition to many classic Donald Duck stories, the treasury also includes a work-in-progress version of “The Starstruck Duck,” an uncompleted story commissioned to celebrate and promote the opening of Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) at Walt Disney World in Florida.

In this madcap adventure (as if Donald has any other kind) a lot of the main attractions are name-checked as Donald runs through them, all in search for an autograph from the most famous film star in the world…Mickey Mouse! As strange as it is to have a world where Mickey is famous but Donald is not, what really got me were the moments of recognition from my visits in 1993 and 2010. Of course, there are things that have changed since the park opened in 1989—I wonder how Donald would feel about the giant Sorcerer’s Hat, complete with Mickey ears?

You can read the entirety of “Starstruck Duck” over at Comics Alliance.