Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

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.

A Refuge for Graphic Journalism

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Political cartoons have been around for hundreds of years, and as such, are pretty familiar to anyone who has ever picked up a newspaper. Graphic journalism presents more long-form reports and observations about the world we live in, and it’s been picking up steam over the past decade or two. The Cartoon Movement seeks to be a portal for these two forms of nonfiction comics, publishing new material at least four times a week.

The site got a major push last Wednesday with the publication of Sarah Glidden’s The Waiting Room, a 21-page comic about the struggles of Iraqi refugees in Syria. The research for this one-shot comic came from her travels with the Common Language Project, which will be more fully covered in her upcoming book Stumbling Toward Damascus.

For those interested in graphic journalism, it’s also worth looking at this piece by Erin Polgreen over at The Hooded Utilitarian. She talks about the different formats and styles that graphic journalism can take, like travelogues and portraiture. The ideas presented are only a small part of a panel she presented at The National Conference for Media Reform earlier this month, and you can listen to the entirety of that panel on the NCMR site.

How to Understand Israel… in 208 Pages or Less

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Comic artist Sarah Glidden has somewhat divided loyalties when it comes to the topic of Israel. As an American Jew, she is aware of the complicated history of the Holy Land, the Jewish people, and the desire/need for a Jewish state, but as a self-proclaimed progressive she is disgusted by the treatment of the Palestinians. In an effort to justify her opinions and finally put the matter to rest, she decided to take a Birthright trip to Israel, to “discover the truth behind this whole mess once and for all,” chronicling the experience in her graphic memoir, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.

For those unfamiliar, Birthright Israel is a program where young Jewish adults (ages 18–26) are taken on all-expenses-paid, 10-day tours of Israel. The general purpose of the program is to strengthen Jewish identity and engender positive feelings about Israel, wherein lies the flaw in Sarah’s plan, and perhaps the book. She goes on this trip knowing that they are probably going to put some spin on many of the hot-button political issues, so she treats everything with a dollop of cynicism and waits for those “gotcha” moments where she can be right and they can be wrong. It can come across as irritating, especially when you consider that the trip is a free perk and some of her fellow travelers, like her friend Melissa, are just trying to have a good time. Melissa provides a good counterbalance to Sarah because she was raised in a pretty secular household and this trip represents a chance to reconnect with her Jewish roots.

With Sarah and Melissa as travel companions, the book provides an interesting look at Israel outside the usual tourist hot spots of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Those cities are included on the Birthright trip, but we also visit the Golan Heights, the city of Holon, the Negev desert, several kibbutzim, and the Dead Sea. Each section is accompanied by a map, and of course, the entire book is done in simple (but lovely) pencil drawings with watercolor. Though Glidden’s drawings are not overly realistic, they are detailed and colorful enough to give you a good sense of place and her people have just the right amount of expression to convey feeling.

Yet as a travel memoir the book can be frustrating. As a carefully scripted trip, Sarah can only see and experience so much, and it feels like her Birthright group spends a lot more time in and out of centers and lectures than it does actually exploring the country. Their trip to Jerusalem seemed so brief, as it took them to the Western Wall, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum), and a mall. We don’t really get a “feel” for the city until the Birthright trip is over, and Sarah and Melissa take an extra day to explore the city on their own.

The highlight of the trip might be the group’s trip to Masada, where the Birthright participants climb to the top of the plateau and visit the remains of the fortress on top, where they are told a story of the “brave defenders” who held out against a Roman incursion for years, before eventually choosing to take their own lives in defiance. Sarah comes prepared for this, reading the original account in order to pick out the falsehoods in the account that Birthright feeds her. It stands out as one of the few instances where Sarah’s cynicism works to her, and the reader’s, advantage.

As the trip wears on so does it wear down on Sarah, and she begins to doubt herself and her beliefs, realizing that the issues of Israel are more complicated than she probably thought, and that there are no easy or obvious answers. She leaves the country knowing more and less as the same time, feeling confused and perhaps even a little empty. The book ends like the trip does, with notes of doubt and uncertainty, conflicting ideals and an overwhelming sense of “it’s complicated.” It’s a real downer after a book that is at times funny, charming, thought-provoking, and rarely ever boring.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
by Sarah Glidden
published by Vertigo (New York, 2010)
ISBN 978-1-4012-2233-8

Leave Home

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Being a motorcyclist is often pictured as an exciting, sexy proposition—living on the road, experiencing one adventure after another. Well, this comic-style ad for Royal Enfield motorcycles does nothing to dissuade that notion, showing in fact, a rider on a Royal Enfield bike meeting a monk, going camping, dancing in a club, and getting thrown in jail, among other things.

I love the look of this comic by Daniel Berkowitz and Nirmal Pulickal (working for Wieden + Kennedy), as well as its ability to tell an entire story (and sell a product) without saying a word.

(via The Ephemerist)

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)

Limey on the Left Coast

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Moresukine gave us the perspective of a German living in Tokyo; now LA Limey will show you LA from an English perspective.

Each week Limey posts a new installment, roughly the equivalent of three printed pages. He starts off with getting his preconceived notions out of the way—like the fact that not all Americans are fat, especially Los Angelinos—but never shelves the snark; in fact, it seems to only intensify as he becomes more comfortable in his surroundings. Still, he finds things to appreciate, and hopefully we’ll also get a look into the creative process as he starts work on a comic he started in London, as well as his completed travelogue (which might be sold at Skylight Books).

The Longest Weekend

Monday, October 18th, 2010

With all this talk about New York Comic Con (now a week over and done) let’s not forget that Gabrielle Bell’s Comic-Con “Comicumentary” was still in progress, detailing her various experiences during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

She’s finally posted the conclusion, wherein Tom and her are witness to some MTV shenanigans and have a nice drink at the Hilton Suites.

Catch up on all ten parts using the links below:

(via The Beat)

Always Whole, Never Skim

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Comics are a good format for travel writing because by their nature they are about taking motion (and emotion) and capturing its essence on the page. Words and images combine; the creator can both tell and show their readers what they saw, and what they experienced.

That is precisely what Lucy Knisley does in her work French Milk. In December 2006 Lucy and her mother Georgia lived in Paris for about five weeks, from Christmas Day until the end of January. French Milk is her drawn journal from that time, possibly with some editing and interspersed with photos taken on  her new digital camera.

Because the pages are taken straight from her journal, the book isn’t expressly designed as a comic; most of the pages are Knisley describing things in text, accompanied by a few lovely drawings to liven up the page or illustrate her point. On top of that, the photographs aren’t fully integrated into the story. Most are presented without captions, and a few without context. Some are even blurry, and the black-and-white printing doesn’t help distinguish one Parisian building from another.

The art is fine; Kinsley chooses to use a simple cartoony style for most of her drawings but there is the occasional delving into more detailed, realistic styles. I particularly enjoyed the drawing of her mother looking at a map, displayed on the same spread as photo of her mother looking at a map in front of an ad for a skin magazine.

The strongest part of the book is the food. Knisley is fastidious in documenting everything her and her mother ate, accompanying most mentions with a drawing of the food item in question. She also names the restaurants they eat in, so aspiring tourists can give them a try on their next trip to Paris. She does the same thing with some of the shopping trips they took as well.

When Knisley isn’t talking about food or shopping she’s talking about her personal life, and that’s where my problems with this book arise. She spends a good deal of the first half of the book being homesick, and it’s absolutely no fun to read a travel comic where the author gives the very strong impression that they’d rather not be traveling. Sure, everyone gets a little homesick at times, but this isn’t the appropriate venue for it. And when that angst subsides, we get a glimpse into her other insecurities: she’s going to graduate college in a few months, but has no idea what to do with her life, how to be a “grownup,” what or she’s going to do for money. These concerns are normally relatable, except that the particular context in which they’re expressed is damning. She and her mother can afford to live in Paris for six weeks. I think that she’ll be just fine.

Given that I am reviewing her book, an honest-to-god paperback published by an actual publisher, she is doing just fine. The book is fine too, I just wish that it was better.

French Milk
written and drawn by Lucy Knisley
Touchstone (New York, 2007)
ISBN 978-1-4165-7534-4

(thanks to Anna)

Dispatches from Tokyo

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Living in a foreign country can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t speak the language. You might miss out on a lot, especially if you’re only there for a short period of time. Which might be why, back in 2006, German artist Dirk Schwieger proposed the following to his readers while living in Tokyo: send him suggestions for places to go, people to meet, or just interesting topics to investigate, and he will go out and do it. No questions asked, and he doesn’t have to like it. Then he chronicled each “assignment” in the form of a webcomic on his blog.

In 2008 these comics were collected into a book, Moresukine: Uploaded Weekly From Tokyo. The name “Moresukine” comes from the Japanese method of pronouncing “Moleskine,” the brand of notebook the original comics were created in, which the printed book sought to emulate in its design. The book is the size and cut of a Moleskine notebook, and if not for the illustration on the blue band wrapped around the cover, it could easily be mistaken for one.

The book consists of a brief introduction and story, followed by the stories of each assignment, from fashion to fugu. He covers topics as diverse as the Studio Ghibli Museum, love hotels, and Japanese slang. Each story is short but sweet; few overstay their welcome, while some, like the entry on religion, might not be long enough. He plays with the passage of time on a few assignments; the rooftop roller coaster entry tells the story of riding the roller coaster while simultaneously recounting the events leading up to that ride. The gender entry is actually a fold-out page; a series of random, yet interconnected thoughts are spread across a sheet two pages wide and two pages tall. It can be confusing, but greatly satisfying once all the pieces fall into place.

As all of the main Moresukine strips have previously appeared on the web, Schwieger attempts to sweeten the pot by offering bonus material in the published book.  The last section consists of a series of strips created by other artists, chronicling their responses to a challenge issued by Schweiger: talk to a Japanese person and write a strip about it. The selection of artists is mostly European, with a few from Canada and the United States. Some of the choices are rather… interesting, including Steve Havelka of Pokey the Penguin! and Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics. These two are not what you think of when you talk about “artistic” or “worldly” comics, but they produce interesting and entertaining results nonetheless. My favorite was the story by Monsieur le Chien, who took the time out to draw a strip chronicling not only his search for and encounter with a Japanese person, but also his previous thoughts on the Japanese (and also stereotypes of Frenchmen driving through the countryside in a Citroen Chevaux 2).

Moresukine is a quick read that can be confusing at times, but it provides an interesting and non-judgmental look at the culture of Japan through the eyes of a foreigner, all while not being afraid to experiment with the layout of a traditional comic.

Moresukine: Uploaded Weekly From Tokyo
written and illustrated by Dirk Schwieger
published by NBM Publishing (New York, 2008)
ISBN 978-1-56163-537-5

He Has a PHD at Attending Comic-Con

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Going with the Comic-Con theme one more time, we turn to Jorge Cham and PHD Comics, his thrice-weekly web comic all about life in grad school. Last year, Jorge had the pleasure of attending San Diego Comic-Con for the first time, both as an artist and as a student. To honor this year’s SDCC, Jorge decided to chronicle his experience at last year’s show as a comic.

Through this three part comic, readers get to learn more about Comic-Con, and some of the panels that make up its scheduling block.  For instance, I had no idea that the Comics Arts Conference portion of the con even existed, and I’ve been there twice.  The CAC is meant for students and educators to present lectures and sessions based around comics—comic art, characters, readers and so on.  Of course, it’s open to comic book professionals as well, so that they can share their experiences and stories only they could pass along.

At Comic-Con, Jorge learned that there are plenty of students and educators that attend Comic-Con, not only for the CAC, but also as a way to interact with their peers and to escape college, work, and life for a while. Even as SDCC gets bigger and bigger, it is still a way for comic fans to socialize with friends and strangers that share common interests, and maybe even start some lifelong relationships to be rekindled each year at the next convention.

And yes, even at an academic panel, geeks remain geeks. I mean come on, it’s Nerd Prom! Get your cosplay on and your notebook in hand and take some notes, and make the con your own. If you’re more of an academic, do the academic thing. You like movies? Do movies (don’t stab anybody over a seat, though)! TV, comics, video games? Covered. If you need help figuring out how a convention works for you, take this and the other comics as examples, and roll with it.