Everyone’s A Critic
Profile: Paul Gravett looks at the work of British cartoonist Simone Lia, whose comic Fluffy chronicles the relationship that grows between a man and a rabbit on a tour through Sicily. Gravett writes:
Lia spins together realistic emotional situations with fanciful, cartoonish playfulness, using diagrams of the thoughts cramming a character’s head, guest narrators like a cheery dust particle and a grouchy piece of dandruff, or “footage” of a little brain cell.
Theory: Shaun Huston discusses comics based on movie and television properties, and how they fit—or don’t fit—with the franchises they are based on:
For both writers and artists working on adaptations of movies and TV shows the challenge is to find a working space wherein one’s own sensibilities can be effectively meshed with the look and feel of the original text and into a book that works for readers. As [Douglas] Wolk implies, this may not be the highest or best expression of art and craft in comics, but doing it well is, in its own way, still an achievement, perhaps even more so because of the mixed reputation of such books.
Review: Kate Dacey writes a mixed review of the first volume of Library Wars: Love and War, a manga about “hot guys who hate censorship but like books, libraries, and butt-kicking women.”
Review: David Brothers has four reasons why he likes Heralds #1—and you should, too!
Advocacy: Ben Morse feels that Young Justice: Sins of Youth has been sadly underrated and unjustly overlooked, so he takes the opportunity to discuss just why it’s so great.
Review: Oliver Ho reads Taiyo Matsumoto’s GoGo Monster, a coming-of-age story that takes a walk on the weird side.
Review: I know that reviews of Daniel Clowes’s Wilson are a dime a dozen, but Michael Buntag’s review sums it all up nicely, so if you don’t have time to read them all, read his.
Review: Richard Bruton on Windell’s Superhero Showcase, which “mercilessly takes the superhero ideal out the back and kicks it in the face a few times.”
Advice: Erica Friedman discusses condescending comics, using Tantric Stripfighter Trina and Executive Assistant Iris as exhibits A and B:
It can be argued that publishers only publish what sells, which is exactly why I chose these two specific series. I can pretty much *guarantee* than neither of them sold all that well, if at all. And, instead of investing in something groundbreaking, or heck, something marginally less sad, the publisher said that they approved of this utter crap. I’m all for having comic company execs walk around with signs that say, “Why yes, we ARE condescending assholes.”
She has plenty to say about fans and creators as well. When Erica gets on a roll, she takes no prisoners.
Art critique: Frank Santoro shows some panels from Jonah Hex to demonstrate how photo-referencing is killing comics art.
Review: How do I love thee, Wally Gropius? Ken Parille counts the ways.
Contrast: Sean Kleefeld reviews Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s Underground, and he notes that this very (visually) dark book is drawn with a wide-open format, where Lieber’s earlier Whiteout, which is set in Antarctica, has much smaller panels (the opposite of what one might expect). Bonus reading: Kleefeld is temporarily thrown by some curvy women in Dynagirl.
Review: Matthew J. Brady finds Curio Cabinet utterly incomprehensible, and he’s not afraid to say so.
Reality check: Bob Temuka points out that punching people in the head and knocking them out is really quite dangerous. Why haven’t they done a Law & Order about this?
Review: Kristy Valenti takes a dim view of the graphic-novel adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Philosophy: Ed Sizemore writes about the deeper meaning of Keiko Takemiya’s classic sci-fi manga To Terra:
Takemiya’s real concern is the same as the ancient Greek playwrights. She is writing to combat hubris, or extreme arrogance. It’s a belief there are no limits to one’s actions and a failure to recognize there are boundaries to life, which if violated will result in one’s destruction. In the old Greek tragedies, hubris was the downfall of the protagonist. The gods swiftly punished those that dared violated divine law or dared to imagine themselves as equal to the gods. Takemiya isn’t worried about divine law, but natural law. She is writing to warn us against the belief that we can become masters of nature and ourselves.
Review: Christopher Allen reviews Tim Hensley’s Wally Gropius, which mimics the style of Harvey comics and relies on a lot of sight gags: “I think the way to approach the book is as a lavish, frequently funny, if superficial, joke.”
Review: Tucker Stone, on the other hand, immerses himself in Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft, which he finds anything but superficial.
Review: It’s good news for readers when Chris Sims hates a book, because it gives him an excuse to perform one of his trademark vivisections, as with this takedown of Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #3.
Auteurs: You know, there’s something awesome about reading a critique of The Wizard of Id in French. Loleck analyzes the humor of the long-running strip at du9.
Indy comics: Johanna Draper Carlson reviews a handful of self-published comics at Comics Worth Reading.
History: Jason Thompson takes a look at the early days of manga publishing and the creator Ippongi Bang, who drew rebel manga and liked a good party, too.
Quickies: Top Shelf recently brought over not one but four Swedish graphic novels. Not sure where to start? Rick Marshall has quick looks at all four, ranked in his order of preference.
Art comix: Charles Hatfield is pleasantly mystified by Blaise Larmee’s Young Lions, a wispily drawn story about conceptual artists.
Previews: The reader is the winner every time when Paul Gravett plays the Previews game.
Review: Greg McElhatton reads the graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and concludes that you can stretch a joke too thin.
Politics: I don’t follow DC’s non-manga lines closely enough to be able to intelligently evaluate Rob McMonigal’s claim that the company is regressing into a white-male bastion, and I won’t go there with the Tea Party logic, but I’m including this link for discussion purposes. One could argue the opposite, that they kept CMX going long after they probably should have killed it, but I think that CMX, like Minx, could have been a success if anyone outside the immediate circle of editors had acted like they cared.
Criticism: Domingos Isabelinho launches his new column at The Hooded Utilitarian with some musings on criticsm, wondering, “What twisted mind picks up the scalpel after love?” and then puts Pierre Duba’s Racines under the microscope. Also at HU: Noah Berlatsky, ever the contrarian, turns in a rare negative review of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster.
Review: David Welsh analyzes the first volume of Satsuma Gishiden, which combines extreme violence, political maneuvering, and public works projects to good effect.
Review: Rob Vollmar on all seven volumes of Oishinbo, which is not your typical shonen-battle cooking manga:
Often, Yamaoka and crew will help a struggling business turn around by showing them the error of mishandling a vital ingredient to their menu. Even if only patiently explaining how minor differences in procedure or food quality can effect a given dish, Oishinbo reveals its most important function; namely, holding a sustained and very personal dialogue between writer and audience about the nature of food and our relationship to it.
Review: Tom Ewing discusses the Image series Phonogram:
For one of the friends I lent Phonogram to, the phonomancy parts crystallized “the indie-teen conviction that indie people are magically better at feeling music than other people are.” What would it be like, Phonogram asks, if listening to your special music actually did make you special?
The answer, Ewing concludes, is “It would suck,” but how he gets there makes interesting reading.
Review: The latest CLAMP manga to make it to the U.S., Kobato, struck me as unbearably sweet, but Kate Dacey theorizes that it’s really a clever parody of the entire moe genre.
Nomenclature: Helen McCarthy recounts the attempt of manga creator Shotaro Ishinomori to change the way the word “manga” is written in Japanese by changing the first character from one that means “random” or “involuntary” to one that means “a large number,” suggesting the infinite possibilities of manga. The change never took.
Ass-kickin’: Chuck Norris, eat your heart out. Ty Templeton lists seven comics creators with serious testosterone cred, through strength, courage, or just plain size (oh yes, and talent). (Via Blog@Newsarama.)
Fanzines: Ken Meyer, Jr., has another lengthy and fascinating post about an obscure fanzine up at Comic Attack; this time he looks at Graphic Illusions, which had exactly one issue—but what an issue!
Review: R.C. Harvey takes a look at IDW’s reprint of the classic Life With Father newspaper strip.
Review: Guest reviewer month continues at Trouble with Comics with Tom Spurgeon‘s look at The Early Morning Milk Train.
Capes and tights: Wow, here are two posts in one weekend about what’s wrong with superhero comics! Charles Hatfield picks up Blackest Night but just gets tired thinking of all that continuity, while PC Weenies creator Krishna Sadasivam picks up three new comics and finds none of them is accessible to new readers.
Meta: Jeet Heer gives his candidate for worst comics criticism of the 21st century. It’s short so go, read, laugh.
Commentary: Shaenon Garrity mulls over the question of why comics creators and publishers can’t make money selling porn. (Worth a click for the Phil Foglio side trip alone.)
And even though Penny and Aggie is supposed to represent something akin to a real high school, it still exists in a fantasy universe. It’s a Joss Whedon version of high school, sans the vampires: everything is a little brighter, the dialogue is sharper, and just about everyone is redeemable, if not actually redeemed.
History: Ryan Holmberg writes about the origins of the Japanese underground comics magazine Garo, which actually was a children’s magazine in its early days:
To celebrate Women’s History Month, the Flashlight Worthy blog asked ten bloggers (male and female) to nominate their favorite comics by and about women. The range and quality of the list is a reminder that talent knows no gender—or genre: the nominations include Jessica Abel’s La Perdida, Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting, Alison Bechdel’s The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, and Fumi Yoshinaga’s All My Darling Daughters.
If you’re reading this column, you’re probably hip enough to know that all manga does not feature big, sparkly eyes, but in case you missed that memot, Paul Gravett has an explanation and lists six worthy series that don’t have a sparkly eye in the bunch.
Sean Gordon Murphy sets snobbery aside to look at the good points of house styles.
Suzette Chan explains how Faith Erin Hicks tweaks the tropes of boarding-school stories in The War at Ellesmere.
Kate Dacey mulls over the dilemma of being a feminist and a yaoi fan in her review of Hinako Takanaga’s Little Butterfly.
Carlo Santos takes the second volume of Alice in the Country of Hearts as seriously as anybody is going to, and he does some nice analysis of how the book relates to its inspiration, Alice in Wonderland.
Peter Richardson discusses why World War I did not capture creators’ imaginations the way other wars have, and he accompanies his discussion with a beautiful counterexample, a sample from Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches, upcoming from Fantagraphics next month. (via Journalista)
Craig Fischer has a decidedly mixed review of The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion, but then halfway through he goes roaring off into a digression on one of Hal Foster’s possible influences, Olive Beaupre Miller’s series of children’s books titled My Bookhouse. For good measure, someone just sent Ben Towle a set. (I had these as a kid, and they are lovely.) For more about Foster, see Ng Suat Tong’s recent post at The Hooded Utilitarian.
Tom Crippen, who is no Sarah Palin fan, cries foul nonetheless on Oliphant’s cartoon showing her postcoital encounter with a moose, pointing out that it probably reveals more about Oliphant than Palin.
Vom Marlowe reviews vol. 1 of Song of the Hanging Sky, a lovely manga with a quirky plot and a few perplexing translation problems.
Brian Heater thinks Jason’s Almost Silent is a good choice for graphic novel newbies.
Frank Santoro reviews Gipi’s Garage Band at Comics Comics.
Also at Comics Comics: Jeet Heer posts some loosely related notes on John Stanley.
Larry Cruz explains why video game webcomics are a good thing at The Webcomic Overlook.
Sean Gaffney reviews D&Q’s latest Yoshihio Tatsumi release, Black Blizzard.
Biochemist/manga adaptor Lianne Sentar looks at three manga series that get the science right (well mostly) and are still entertaining.
Noah Berlatsky thinks he has settled the question of what is and isn’t a comic once and for all, and he makes a pretty good case, but the commenters manage to have a lively argument anyway.
Librarians Eva Volin and Robin Brenner discuss all 10 volumes of Emma, and they jump right in with a discussion of full frontal nudity.
Jog takes a look at the many forms and uses of the thought balloon, which, despite an editor’s admonition to Stephen King, is far from dead. Scott McCloud adds his two cents as well. Related: Chris Sims explains exactly what’s wrong with the lettering in the Twilight graphic novel.
• Tim Holder offers an initial critique of the upcoming Art of Jaime Hernandez book, which results in a flurry of great comments from book designers, critics and the editor of said book. Easily one of the most informative and insightful comments threads in months, if not years. (Also: L&R fan Marc Sobel offers his thoughts.)
• Along the same lines, Jeet Heer offers an old review of Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz.
• Marc Singer talks about why he included Maus in his comics class, and how his students reacted to it.
• Responding to an earlier essay by Jeet Heer (there he is again) on cartoonists’ mid-life crises, Gary Groth offers his own thoughts and posts an essay he’d written on the topic several years ago. (part one, part two, and part three).
• Hey, Brian Chippendale is blogging again! And this time, he’s talking about manga-ka Taiyo Matsumoto! Does it get much more awesome than that?
Number 5 is a strange work that reflects both Tekkonkinkreet and GoGo Monster. A schizophrenic collision of vicious playfulness and loose introspective beauty. At some point in each of his stories Matsumoto begins to pull you through a series of seemingly unrelated hoops, usually at an intense climatic moment when the characters are at a psychological breaking point. What slightly deviates in Number 5 is that the narrative hardly ever relaxes into a rhythm of storytelling for long. The entire book is a challenging ride that you have to hold onto constantly to not get thrown off track. But there are many pages of easy flowing action.
• Derik Badman and Thought Balloonist Craig Fischer engage in a great, lengthy discussion on the recent Abstract Comics anthology. Fellow TBer Charles Hatfield offers his own thoughts on the book here.
• Jog reviews two recent maga: Biomega and All My Darling Daughters. It’s worth checking out just to read his synopsis of the former.
• Let’s kick off with Tim O’Neil’s look back at the previous decade, in an essay which he ominously titles “Mediocrity Triumphant”:
I would posit that even though there are far more comics being published now, there are no more truly great comics being produced now than there were at the beginning of the last decade. If you discount the constant stream of reprints and international offerings, new English-language comics are about as good as they’ve ever been, it’s just that there are more of them. In fact, because of the market’s rapid expansion, actual average quality has plummeted. It’s not a question of having abandoned critical standards in order to gain popular market share: comics never had critical standards. What we have done now is to adopt the standards of the larger book market.
• Andrei Molotiu has been blogging up a storm at the Abstract Comics site, examining how classic, mainstream comic book artists have incorporated abstract shapes and forms into their work. Here he is talking about Steve Ditko; and here he is talking about Frank Miller. You’ll want to read both pieces.
• Jeet Heer makes the case for Gahan Wilson: “For all their morbidity and ghoulishness, Wilson’s cartoons affirm the value of cherishing life.”
• While we’re on the subject, The San Francisco Chronicle’s Laurel Maury really likes that new Wilson collection as well.
• Neil Cohn looks at a type of visual shorthand in comics he calls “action stars.”
• Matthew Brady reviews The Squirrel Machine: ” It’s a compelling, fascinating journey through an often creepy and always striking world.”
• Cory Doctorow examines Goats II: The Corndog Imperitive: “Rosenberg continues to walk the razor-edged line between silly and dumb, and does not slip onto the dumb side.”
• Are we in danger of a Webcomics sensory overload? That’s the question Abhay Khosla asks in his own inimitable fashion. (Warning: this post is a bit of an image-heavy memory hog.)
• The Hooded Utilitarian folks are doing another roundtable discussion. This time it’s on Clamp’s xxxHolic series, with special guests Adam Stephanides and Katherine Dacey chiming in.
• The illustrious Marc Singer seems to have returned to blogging once again, with an essay on Scott McCloud’s Making Comics that originally ran in the International Journal of Comic Art.
• Dan Nadel looks at what made Alex Raymond special.
• My, what a big pocketbook you’ve got there Richie Rich!
• The AV Club does their monthly round-up of notable comics, including Daybreaker, Pim & Francie and The Talisman.
• Speaking of round-ups, let’s note that Tucker Stone’s Comics of the Weak feature is back and running full throttle.
• Shaenon Garrity gets all nostalgic for Wizard magazine’s hey day. OK, not really.
• Finally, John Seven enjoyed the first volume of The Unwritten more than I did.