Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? It’s an abbreviated edition this week — maybe everyone’s doing their taxes, like I am today — so let’s just get to it …
- Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama
- Leela Corman’s Unterzakhn
- Sammy Harkham’s Everything Together: Collected Stories
- Spain Rodriguez’s Cruisin’ With the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Toote
- Chris Ware’s Building Stories
The winner will be announced April 19. This is the fourth year that graphic novels have been included, and not surprisingly, given that this is a book award, the selections generally have an artistic/literary bent.
Unlike the Eisners, the LA Times awards do not accept nominations from the field; the three judges in each category are responsible for making the selections. Unlike the Eisners and other comics awards, the LA Times doesn’t make a big deal over who the judges are; I couldn’t find a list anywhere, although past judges get a mention here and there.
Anyway, given that any set of awards nominations is really just a starting point for discussion, feel free to comment on what books should — and shouldn’t — have made the shortlist.
Are You My Mother is one tough nut of a book. Dense, analytical, filled with allusions to classic literature and psychoanalysis, it consciously resists easy interpretation or tried and true conventions. It’s an adventurous, thoughtful and fascinating book — I have no qualms about recommending it — but it’s chilly and distancing, and I suspect it will frustrate many readers, even those who cherished author Alison Bechdel’s previous book Fun Home.
Mother is in many ways a direct sequel to Fun Home, Bechdel’s highly touted and incredibly successful (at least in comic book terms) memoir of her father. It’s not impossible to come to Mother never having read any of Bechdel’s previous work, but the book refers directly to issues raised in Fun Home, so being acquainted will undoubtedly help.
The Best of the Three Stooges Comicbooks, Vol. 1 (Papercutz) Well, here’s at least one good thing to come out of the Farrelly Brothers’ new feature film: Its production company C3 Entertainment teamed with Papercutz/NBM to produce this handsome hardcover, which collects chunks of Stooges comics from two different eras.
The best of these are from defunct publisher St. John’s early-1950s Three Stooges comic (issues 1, 4 and 5, to be precise), and were drawn by Norman Mauer, a gifted comics artist who married the real Moe’s daughter, Joan (who provides the introduction to the volume).
Mauer edited the original book (along with partner Joe Kubert), and delivered action- and gag-packed pages featuring Moe, Larry and Shemp. His designs of the central characters are incredibly strong, with Shemp and Moe much more distinctly defined than they often were in their black-and-white short films.
The pair of them are short, roundish figures who favor clown-like garb, including baggy pants and ill-fitting coats and ties. Mauer’s Larry is more elongated in appearance, and, unlike the others, has a more placid, emotionless look in his eyes.
There’s a fourth character, swindler and conman Benedict Bogus, who constantly tries to put one over on our heroes, but his schemes always end up hurting him more than them. These stories can prove rather wild and formless, as if Mauer were plotting them while drawing them, and resolving them only when he was running out of pages left to fill, but the cartooning is super-sharp, and many of the panels are a joy simply to look at.
The back half of the collection includes the first three issues of the Dell comics, by Pete Alvarado, whose artwork has a coloring-book simplicity to it, as he was aping the style of the Three Stooges cartoons of the time. For these stories, Shemp is out and Curly’s in.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d first snap up a book I’ve been trying to track down for years: Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky (Marvel, $4.99). This 1986 lost classic features Bernie Wrightson drawing a webhead story featuring monsters and alternate worlds – looks like a real gem. Now to convince Marvel to republish John Paul Leon’s Logan: Path of the Warlord… Next up would be Secret Service #1 (Marvel/Icon, $2.99). I’ll buy pretty much anything Dave Gibbons puts out these days, and seeing him with Mark Millar is bound to be a unique experience. Next up is Saga #2 (Image, $2.99); Brian K. Vaughn is really setting up a world – like a sci-fi sitcom here, with loads of direction to go in. Lastly I’d get Conan the Barbarian #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50). Can I admit I might like this more than Northlanders? Brian Wood’s definitely expanding how people think of him with this story, and Becky Cloonan is making a lot of editors look foolish for not putting her on these kinds of books sooner.
If I had $30, I’d start out with Secret #1 (Image, $3.50). Manhattan Projects seems more up my alley than this story, but Jonathan Hickman’s built up some credit in me to try anything new he puts out even if I’m not too interested. Next up would be Northlanders #50 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), which I’m sad to see go. I think this will be one of those series that achieves more popularity after it’s over, and it’s a shame DC can’t find a way to continue it. After that it would be Glory #25 (Image, $2.99). I was a bit shaky on the story after Joe Keatinge’s first issue, but everything after has really put the pieces into place and Ross Campbell seems to be finding his footing to really land the superheroics of this story. Last up would be Secret Avengers #25 (Marvel, $3.99); Rick Remender’s clearly put his own spin to this series, so much I’m surprised Marvel didn’t use this as a chance to renumber the series… but I’m glad they didn’t.
If I could splurge, I’d throw money at my comic retailer for Pete and Miriam (Boom!, $14.99). Big fan of Rich Tommaso, and he seems to be honing his craft like a knife, creating more pointed and poignant stories here. And Miriam, she’s a real gem.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Alex Dueben, who you probably know from his interviews for the main site, Comic Book Resources, as well as for sites like Suicide Girls.
To see what Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Cartoonists Tom Hart (Hutch Owen) and Leela Corman (Queen’s Day) have experienced a terrible, devastating loss with the unexpected death of their young daughter, Rosalie Lightning. Vineyland creator Lauren Weinstein has set up a memorial fund via PayPal to help Hart and Corman in their time of need. Please consider giving if you have the time and financial ability to do so. Weinstein also says that anyone seeking information on where to send condolences should email email@example.com.
I’m sure I speak for everyone here at Robot 6 when I say we wish Tom and Leela our deepest condolences and hope they find the strength to carry on in the face of such a heart-rending, inexplicable tragedy.
Okay, now I’m picturing the authors of Alec and Subway Series standing shoulder to shoulder, swords in hand, fending off the critical Ringwraiths as Craig Thompson cowers Frodo-style in the background. So yeah, the headline’s a bit dramatic. But in light of critic and scholar Nadim Damluji’s thoughtful and widely linked critique of Thompson’s massive new book Habibi, I thought it worthwhile to direct you to a pair of acclaimed cartoonists’ responses.
Damluji argued that in treating the Orientalist art and literature of the past as just another genre to play with, Thompson ended up perpetuating some of the very stereotypes he presumably set out to subvert when he decided to set his near-future fantasy in a fictional but still recognizably Arab/Islamic culture — particularly where sexuality and male-female relationships, often used by Western nations as a pretext for action against Middle Eastern ones, are concerned. Eddie Campbell responds that Thompson’s interest in these topics, or more generally Love, are consistent; the Middle Eastern trappings of the tale are just the vehicle Thompson selected to get where he’s going:
Something tells me that sunny Gainesville, Florida, is about to see an influx of aspiring comics creators: Cartoonists Tom Hart (Hutch Owen), Leela Corman (Subway Series), and John Porcellino (King-Cat) have announced the opening of The Sequential Artists Workshop [UPDATED: link added], a new non-profit educational institution “dedicated to the prosperity and promotion of comic art and artists.” The school will offer a two-year program with its inaugural class to begin in 2012, while a “Spring Break Intensive” will be offered from March 6-12, 2011. The SAW will also feature a residency program for practicing cartoonists, online classes, gallery and performance spaces, a house anthology called The Seen in which cartoonists will do “cover versions” of pages from other artists’ creator-owned works, and the proverbial “much more.”
If you’re thinking the SAW sounds a bit like James Sturm’s Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, you’re not alone. According to the new school’s FAQ:
Isn’t this just like CCS?
Yes, a little, and maybe no. James Sturm, who founded Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) has done a great thing in White River Junction, VT and we are in constant awe of his gumption and smarts. James has been friendly with us and he has helped us enormously by offering advice in the forming of this school. We too offer a two-year program in comic art, and will require students to publish their own work at the end of the program. Our school is new and we don’t know how it will evolve. Right now, our goals may be similar, but the places and personalities are different enough that soon the differences between the schools will become evident.
The more the merrier if you ask me.
In addition to the announced faculty of Corman, Porcellino, and founder/executive director Hart — himself a longtime School of the Visual Arts instructor — SAW’s boards of directors and advisors feature an all-star line-up that includes Lauren Weinstein, Brendan Burford, Vanessa Davis, Shaenon Garrity, Bill Kartalopoulos, Donald Ault, Matt Madden, Joey Manley, Chris Staros, Phil Yeh, and William Ayers. School’s in!