I was initially resistant to the idea of buying what are essentially hardcover, single issues of a comic book series, but Charles Burns’ X’ed Out ultimately wore me down. Though it was $20 for only 56 pages, that was trumped a little by the over-sized design and obvious Tintin influences, and a lot by the numerous recommendations from people I respect. I’m so glad I changed my mind.
One of the sucky things about the single-issue format (regardless of how handsomely it’s packaged) is waiting for the next issue and it’s been two years since X’ed Out. Fortunately, that wait is coming to a close this Oct. 9 with the release of The Hive. It’s $22 now and still only 56 pages, but the second volume of Burns’ untitled trilogy promises to be as unmissable as the first. The publisher describes it this way:
Written and Illustrated by Charles Burns
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
I’m sure I’ve used that quote before when talking about serialized comics. One nice thing about trade-waiting is that you tend to get complete stories and I’ve grown used to that. And like being used to it. To the point that when Pantheon sent me a copy of Charles Burns’ X’ed Out, I didn’t read it right away because I knew it was only the first chapter in a continuing saga. The instinct to hold off until it was done kicked in right away and I put it on my shelf unread. And then all the accolades started pouring out of my computer screen.
When Chris Mautner told me it was his favorite comic of the year, I finally caved. Chris and I don’t have exactly the same tastes, but they cross over enough that when I realized I had his #1 pick for 2010 just sitting there unread – and it’s pretty short – I figured I’d end the year with it. What could it hurt?
Little did I know. The bastards.
Aboard the CBR mothership, Alex Dueben talks to Black Hole author Charles Burns about his new book X’ed Out, in stores this week from Pantheon. And by the sound of it, the book — the first in a trilogy — is thoroughly indebted to Belgian comics master Hergé’s timeless Tintin tales, from the cover to the coloring to the format itself:
There’s certainly a very strong Herge influence. If you just think of the Franco-Belgian style of creating comic albums in that format, the way those European make them which is the 64 pages, 48 pages. A hardbound albums with continuing characters. I was one of those rare kids of my generation who grew up reading Tintin and it had a very profound effect on me, so this is the way that I can kind of reflect on that and play with some of those ideas.
“Black Hole” was always conceived of as being a book that would be all collected together. I’m not conceiving of this as, “Here’s three books that will eventually be collected into one book.” When I get interviewed by the French and Belgian press, I won’t be answering this question, because it’s a different tradition. I’m kind of emulating that tradition by doing a series of books in this manner. For example, when I was doing a signing in Southern France, there was someone who came up to me and who explained that he was really hesitant to buy “Black Hole” for a long time because it just seemed too foreign to him, this idea of this big volume. He wasn’t used to that idea of the graphic novel format, whereas now, it’s really been assimilated over there and popular over there as well. Here, the questions I get asked are, “Gee, this seems like a really slender volume for a graphic novel.” It’s not trying to pass itself off as a big graphic novel. It’s a different style of storytelling.
Unfortunately, Hergé passed away before he could ever release a graphic album in which he processed the influence of Charles Burns. Too bad — I would have liked to have seen Captain Haddock grow a small but strangely erotic vestigial tail.