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This Sunday is Bloomsday, that special time of year when people around the world draw together to celebrate one of the finest works of English literature, Ulysses by James Joyce. Or they try to, anyway.
If you haven’t attempted to read Joyce’s magnum opus before, it can be a little rough going. In honor of the literary holiday, I thought I’d list six Joyce-themed comics you can read on Sunday in addition to (or, if you must, in place of) Ulysses. You wouldn’t think there could possibly be that many Joycean comics available to the casual reader but I assure it’s so. Steady on, stately, plump Buck Mulligan!
1. Boom Boom #2 by David Lasky: Lasky has done enough Joyce-themed comics to fill at least a thick-sized pamphlet if not an actual book (and really, at some point I need to devote a “Collect This Now!” column to those works). But if you’re looking for just one comic to read this Bloomsday, I would strongly recommend starting here, with the second issue of Lasky’s ’90s-era one-man anthology. In Issue 2, Lasky tells various anecdotes about Joyce during his time writing Ulysses, but his method is both inspired and unique. He apes specific, iconic Lee/Kirby comics, especially Fantastic Four #1, imbuing Joyce’s comparatively mundane life with grandeur and heroism. Even after all these years, it’s still a pretty boss idea. Once you’re done with that comic, consider picking up Lasky’s “Ulysses” minicomic adaptation as well.
Digital | Retailer Brian Hibbs responds to recent comments around the price of digital comics, commenting on how “channel migration” could effect comic retailers: “The concern of the comics retailer isn’t that there IS digital — fuck, I’m totally all for a mechanism to drive a potentially wide segment of customers to the medium of comics itself. How can that NOT help me? But, rather, that enough customers will ‘change channels’ (of purchase), so as to make segments of work unprofitible to carry. I’ve been pretty straight with you — most periodicals are but marginally profitible; most books are largely unprofitible. That we have stellar, break out, oh-my-god-it’s-like-printing-money successes like WALKING DEAD or BONE or SANDMAN doesn’t mean that this is the way all books can follow. Quite the opposite in fact! So what this means is that even losing a TINY portion of the readership through Channel Migration could potentially have dire effects. Seriously, if I lost just 10% of my customers, I’m done. And what we also know is that when physical stores close, most of that readership for comics UTTERLY VANISHES. The gist of this is that losing 10% of sales to migration could mean that the other 80% of that stores’ sales are COMPLETELY LOST.” [The Savage Critics]
Bloomsday is just around the corner, and that reminds us that work is continuing on Rob Berry’s Ulysses Seen, a graphic adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses, luminously illustrated by Berry and Josh Levitas. The adaptation is going in chronological order of Leopold Bloom’s doings on June 16, 1904, rather than in the order of the book, so the fourth chapter of the book, “Calypso,” is the second chapter of the comic. Berry and Levitas follow Bloom around his kitchen and the streets of Dublin as he fixes breakfast, daydreams, picks up a kidney, brings his wife Molly tea and toast … it’s very atmospheric, and captures the visuals of the prose book in a nice way.
An extra bonus is Mike Barsanti and Janine Utell’s Reader’s Guide, which explains the more arcane references and points out the inspirations for the art. Rob tells me that there is new material about to debut on the webcomic site, and the Calypso chapter will be up on the iPad in time for Bloomsday. (You may remember there was a bit of controversy about the first chapter, Telemachus; Apple has since rethought its policy, and Ulysses Seen will make it to the iPad intact.)