The Graphic Canon, vol 1, edited by Russ Kick

Here’s one thing I’ve been pouring over for …ah, three months now. Good thing Columbus Library lets me renew ten times. Heh!

The Graphic Canon: from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons, edited by Russ Kick.

This is a collection of Illustrated adaptations of literature spanning the human experience. Gilgamesh–really!– Dante’s Inferno, Beowulf and Apu Ollantay, an Incan play. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Lucretius’ On The Nature of Things, The Book of Esther, The Letters of Heloise and Abelard, The Tale of Genji… It goes on and on and this is just the first half of the first volume.

Russ Kick collected a crap ton of these, and commissioned more, into a three volume set. The first volume which I’ve pilfered from the library was published in 2012, and the third volume just came out.

Editor Russ Kick tells us a little about each selection. Why he chose this piece to feature, where it was published, a brief history of the original novel, poem, legend, play, religious treatise, collection of letters, etc., which he calls the source.

I really like that he includes a paragraph or two on the style of the artist, gives me information about what it is that I’m looking at on the following pages. He explains what is unique about the artist, and how the artist’s adaptation of the source expresses the intent of the source in a modern rhetoric.

For example: “Chicago artist and writer Caroline Picard creates highly inventive comics. Pushing the form forward, she arranges and integrates images and words to create a unique, sinuous flow. Panels as such don’t exist. Everything blends seamlessly, and each page seems like a single work of art even though it contains a sequential narrative.”

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The variety of artists is stunning, how each artist reinterprets the classic work for today’s reader. One of the best examples of this is “The Woman with two Coyntes”, a tale from the 1001 Arabian Nights which did not pass the Victorian sanitation guards and is often left out of abridged versions. Here, it has been illustrated by Vicki Nerino.

In this panel, she says, “I’m back! Kay, so like my mom has bequeathed to me something totes weird. Wanna know what it is?”

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Heh! Elsewhere, Nerino uses “OMG!” And “WTF?” And “whatevs”. Kick states, “This is perfectly in order, since this is a folktale, which will always be told in the language of the folk.”

One of the most interesting ones is the rendition of Poems by Rumi, by Michael Green. It surprised me a little because Green doesn’t use his own drawings here. He chooses to interpret these mystical poems with, ah, doctored photographs, I guess. One photo for you, but understand that every page of Rumi’s poems interpreted by Green has a different layout, dominant color scheme, format. I especially like this one because he makes the poem part of the bottle:

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I’m currently finding the graphic novels where Kick has featured an excerpt for this collection. I’ve found Beowulf by Gareth Hinds. That’s a nice one. Another is Trickster, Native American folktales, edited by Matt Dembicki.

But enough of my yammering. I’m telling you, find yourself a copy of this book. It has rekindled my interest in Classic literature.

P.S.! Just because it’s illustrated doesn’t mean it’s for children! Lysistrata, illustrated by Valerie Schrag

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Adele Blanc-Sec

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, vol. 1: Pterror over Paris!

Jaques Tardi

I tend to like non-superhero comics and graphic novels so this cover piqued my interest:

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The premise of the first volume of Adele Blanc-Sec is promising. A woman engages in a life of crime and high stakes adventure in Victorian-era Paris riddled with mad scientists, steam machines and large punctuation marks.

A female protagonist? Dinosaurs in Paris? How can this be bad?

a pterodactyl hatches from a fossilized egg in Paris’ Natural History Museum. Oh noes!
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mustachioed men discuss the problem! O god!
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very large punctuation marks occur! Holy crap!
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While high on the sensationalism, the story of the plot left me totally confused. Who double-crossed whom?? Why are these people standing around? Who is in the coach?

Mostly I’m confused about the purpose for the main character. I understand that I can’t expect a great range of depth in characterization when the story is conveyed through serialized comic format, but this one was particularly lame. She gets dragged along and pushed and pulled thither and fro. She doesn’t make any decisions or take any actions. She’s double or triple crossed by absolutely everyone, and exhibits a starling lack of authority over her crime syndicate.

Meh.

the quest for interesting graphic novels continues!

will this avid reader find well drawn comics with a story worth reading?

Talisman by Carla Speed Mc Neil

Tell me you can’t identify with this:
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First, I want to remind you that Fantasy Book Cafe is running a month long feature of Women In Science Fiction and Fantasy. The list of books to read is absolutely monumental. Go. Read that Awesome Sauce over there. http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/

To tangentially add to Fantasy Cafe’s month long celebration of Women in SF&F, I wanted to share a serendipitous find from the library.

I’ve been idly picking up and flipping through graphic novels lately, thanks to encouragement from Chuck Parker and also a barrage postcards from Kathleen in addition to her post last month.
This one! This one is the One For Me!

Carla Speed McNeil writes a comic strip called Finder. It has been going since the ’90s (!). To boot, it’s a science fiction! How much more delicious could this get?

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The first book by which I discovered this artist was Talisman. I spent a long time reading and digesting this relatively short graphic novel, figuring out who this author/artist is, getting my bearings in this Finder Universe. It was so cool to …read isn’t the right word… to be a tourist in this book, to generate a mental map of McNeil’s universe and bibliography. I’ve since read Voice and have found a copy of the doorstopper Finder Library Vol 1.
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Talisman

When Marcella was very young, a friend of the family read a story to her over and over again from a book he gifted to her.

The book is later lost, but she can’t let go of the magical transcendence of that story. It becomes an obsession for her, a Palace of Memories.

Her bi- or maybe trans-gender brother/sister Lynn is her guide and wise-one in this quest to find her lost book.

Turns out that she’s going to have to write her lost story, and she has to re-connect somehow with her childhood magic to do so, not unlike the science fictional element of hooking-in to view a movie or other entertainment.

In Marcella and Lynn’s world, paper and handwriting are a relic of the past, and thus the very tools with which she must reconstruct her story are parts of the Palace of Memories.

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I like McNeil’s clear drawings, her consistent and relentless references to other works of science fiction and fantasy, and her way of telling a story through both comic-style panels and large, full page …ech, I dunno what they’re properly called…illustrations, collages? Anyway, they’re cool.

I love, too, McNeil’s notes in the back. Here, she reveals insider info about her own train of thought when composing a sequence, details about this futuristic universe she’s created in Finder, and citations for the quotes throughout.

Graphic novels are not Books With Pictures, and this Finder series by Carla Speed McNeil really takes storytelling to a whole other level, making the art part of the language of the story.

“Eee! No hook-up!”
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Where does one start with comic books?

Where does one start with comic books?

There are a lot of them, for sure. It’s mind boggling. There are tons of them for different characters, different story arcs, different artists, different writers….let’s not even get into how many spin offs there are and how many different publishers there are!
The two big ones are Marvel and DC. Marvel=X Men, Spiderman, Avengers, Fantastic Four, etc. DC has Batman, Superman, Justice League, etc. Darkhorse is a favorite of mine too, for Hellboy.

My advice to the comic novice is to pick a character/villain you are interested in. Everybody has one, right? Pick a character and/or a specific reference to go on. Did you like the movie? Did a friend or blog turn you onto something? Did you see a rad illustration? The good news is that comics aren’t only available in single issues anymore. There are tons of graphic novels and collections to browse. These are my personal favorites because often and entire story is in one book, or a couple volumes. I don’t have to collect 50 issues, they’re all in one. Plus, it’s easy to find the character you are looking for, regardless of the publisher, as most places have everything alphabetized by characters or teams.

Here are some contenders you might have heard of before:
Archie
Arkham Asylum
Aquaman
Batman
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Captain America
Catwoman
Flash
Green Lantern
Grimm Fairy Tales
Harley Quinn
Hellboy
Incredible Hulk
Iron Man
Joker
Lady Death
The Sandman
Spawn
Spiderman
Superman
Thor
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Walking Dead
etc etc etc

Did you know many authors of traditional books also have comics? Hello, Neil Gaiman. Oh, and Joss. Can’t leave you out.

And those are only some american and popular title I thought of off hand; there are oodles of manga to discover!
Bleach
Death Note
Dragonball Z
Inuyasha
Lone Wolf and Cub
Naruto
Pokemon
Ranma 1/2
Rurouni Kenshin
Sailor Moon
Totoro
(anything Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki)
etc etc etc
Chances are if you’ve seen a good anime, there is a comic for it. Reading a bunch of comics can be easier than watching 200+ episodes too.

And! And! You probably have a favorite web comic, too, right? A lot of them have physical books with collections and new story lines. Find them. Put them on order. A lot of LCS will stock new items just because someone asked for it, they order one for the customer and one for the shelf.

Go to your local comic shop (where available). If you are lucky enough to have a LCS, just go right in and tell the employee, “I am new to comics, but I like so-and-so, especially this movie/story/rumor/whatever, can you help me find that?”
OR “I’m new to comics but I heard about this story arc with so-and-so doing that thing with the guy and do you know what I’m talking about? Can I read about that?” They would be happy to point you in the right direction!

When you find one, slow down. Read, but look at the art too. Don’t just zoom through the words- really pay attention to the action or the faces or the backgrounds. Comics are about both art and story. Take the time to appreciate both. You know how awesome the cover is? Just wait for what lies inside!

Many if not most LCS will buy back books and do trades. You can get a decent amount for the book (rarely cover price though) but the best is in store credit. My LCS will give me cover prices in store credit sometimes! woohoo! You can keep your favorites ad trade the rest. I like to donate some to the library too.

Following artists and writers are just as fun in comics as they are in novels. Anything written by Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, Bruce Timm, Jeph Leob, Alan Moore, Roger Stern, Paul Dini, Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola or brought to life by Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, Brain Bolland, Alex Ross, and Jack Kirby are well worth your time. Those are only a few of the incredible people who make comics.
I hope that can get you out and reading at least one comic book, and enjoying it. My personal faces are anything Batman, Joker, Arkham Asylum, and Hellboy. I have many (so many) favorites but to save space in my house, and time, I try to stick with those.

Happy hunting!

Indie Comix Fair

Ever since Chuck Parker tuned me into comics, and especially indie Comics, I’ve been….well, more tuned into this stuff.

Turns out, Columbus is pretty huge on the indie comix scene. Huh. There are not just a few comic convention type events throughout the city every year, but several. The Columbus Museum of Art hosts a scholarship thingy for a guest comic artist to have a paid retreat at the local historic home of James Thurbur. Among others, Jeff Smith of Boneville is a local commodity.

I found this at my local coffee shop:
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Ah! Cool! About a dozen local comic artists camped out in a bar, exhibiting their talents. Neat!

www.backporchcomics.com will be hosting SPACE 2013 in mid-April. This will be its 20-somethingth year. (!)
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(No website) Canada Keck discovered she was a comic artist by accident. She is part of a collaborative guild-style effort for local artists to support one another.

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Something…Zombies…something… I’ll take one. Asking for a friend. http://creephousecomics.com/

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Mail Call, A Dog’s Life Comic

Chuck Parker offered to buy for Yours Truly a copy of No Shenanigans, an omnibus of the web comic A Dog’s Life by Chris Otto, while at the VAComicCon.

THEN! Chris Otto chimed in, offering to autograph the book and draw a caricature of my old buddy, Jambolaya. To do this, he wanted a photo and to know a little bit about Jums. So I complied, and later I received THIS in the mail!

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One of Jambolaya’s traits is that he likes to shred paper, so sometimes I’ll let him play with a piece of junk mail. Here, this reads “OK, In my defense, I can’t read, and all mail looks like junk mail to me. Can I get skritches now?” He’s chawing down on a $6000 tax refund check.

This was really a neat and generous thing, thanks guys!

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Guy Delisle

I picked this one up because it was the heftiest hardback graphic novel I have ever seen.

Guy Delisle is a comics artist whose story is his own travels. He apparently is often in places of conflict as his significant other is affiliated with Doctors Without Borders. Delisle sketches and writes about his experiences.

The book I have now is Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, most recently published in 2011.

The drawings are clear and poignant: it’s not difficult to follow what he wants you to notice in the sketches, especially as he adds helpful hints like this:

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which to a comics newbie is especially appreciated.

I also like how he visually represents sounds, for example in this scene where his kid is yammering, but it’s background noise to his own thoughts:

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He’s a noob to these places, and so he asks the dumb questions so that I don’t have to, such as “What is the Gaza Strip?” and “Why are all these checkpoints here?” and so on.

His commentary and observations are more objective than “lecturey” but he doesn’t apologise for his opinions, either. He offers a nice balance of horrifying current events and humor at himself.

The little tales are just events that he runs into, such as being abandoned on the wrong side of a checkpoint and trying to get home, or dealing with trying to dump the trash.

It’s a graphic novel so I get to regale you with images, ok? So here’s a few more.

This one was especially striking. All of these people have vast, schisms, canyons of differences in their world-view. To Delisle, *ahem* they all look the same. He’s able to portray both the small differences in dress and the styles of the crosses and so forth, but also able to show how they are all so similar to his outsider eye:

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Delisle is an atheist so he is often out of the loop when it comes to religious culture in this land of very charges religious sentiments:

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Here, he’s pretty scared, evident in the gloom of these panels:

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I paid $25 for this 2-pounder, and I recommend that you get one of your own, because I’m not lending you mine. This is published by Drawn and Quarterly. and I most def intend to read Delisles’ other graphic travelogues, Shenzen, Pyongyang, and Burma Chronicles.

Some Graphic Novels

Midnight’s Children is a long haul, so I’ve been exploring the world of Graphic Novels as I trudge through Midnight’s six-hundred pages.

I plan to do more in-depth reviews of some of these, but I needed an intro-post to get this new material sorted in my head.

I’ve read V, and Watchmen and other similar modern –very violent– GNs. Eh. I “get” them but they’re a little to squidgy for me to really enjoy. (Yea, yah, I’ll surrender my nerd-cred badge in a moment.) High school was tolerated with an obsession over The Sandman, every issue, repeatedly. Not growing up with The Superhero Suite, Marvel/DC, is a bit beyond my ken, tho I enjoy when I read there.

So what else is out there besides Alan Moore, Superheroes and Gaiman’s Sandman? Oh, lots it turns out.

20120909-124118.jpgParticularly, I’ve found a few that are historical fiction (Pirates!), re-telling of Classical Greek tales, journalism (really!), and illustrated Literature Classics–both re-written comic-book style and with original unabridged text. These are more my cuppa.

Oh, and Mouse Guards.

Anyone have any suggestions?

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