Every Comic I Read in 2013: March

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Month three of this project and I’m getting better at taking time for the some of the webcomics I come across (though not the large number that go by in Tumblr, I’ll try better next month). I also seemed to have read more comics this month. Am I being too flip with these comments? Maybe.

The Life Problem: Two Stories by Austin English (Drippybone, 2013)

-The tension between art and story?

-The unity between art and story?

-On one hand as Austin’s art gets ever more abstract, less traditionally representational, his stories are also simplifying. The two short stories in this comic are more minimal than his earlier work (Christina & Charles, the comics in Windy Corner 1-3). In this sense there is a unity in the move away from certain methods.

-On the other hand, he is telling these simple stories with chaotic art, art that could never convey the story as it is found in the words, without those words. The words and the images are almost at odds, throwing away traditional comics obsession with clarity.

-Rooms and interiors seem really important to Austin’s work. Living situations. Strange friendships. People on the margins.

-I find myself reading the text first. It anchors the images in some respects. It’s like I need that context to make sense of what I’m looking at, mostly because I know that there IS a story and that the art IS representative of something. I think I would read it differently if I my expectations were different (i.e. if I thought this was non-narrative work).

-The stories are not realism: a sense of irrationality suffuses them.

-This is the first comic I’ve seen from Drippybone. Their name does not inspire, but I love the cover.

Lettres au maire de V. by Alex Barbier (Fréon, 1998)

-I got this from the Frémok table at BCGF this past year, one of the many books I bought from them. It’s an older book, from when it was just Fréon, before Fréon and Amok merged. Interestingly, this was originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Maybe this is one of those comics made when they were getting a lot of western artists to make work for them (like Paul Pope and Edmond Baudoin did)… though this is decidedly not manga-like. Not even slightly close.

-Two watercolored panels per page with epistolary text in the form of short letters to the mayor of a town called “V.” (hence the title “Letters to the Mayor of V.”).

-At first the author of the letters is unclear, inconsistent. I started out thinking it was one person, then thinking it was multiple people. The ambiguity is part of the narrative (resolved by the end).

-It is a violent comic. The primary figure is the loup-garou, the werewolf, a killer and the author of letters to the mayor.

-Barbier’s watercolors are often really beautiful, even with the disturbing content. At time though his figures, especially when he delineates the faces too much, become cartoony and a little goofy looking.

-There is an interesting appearance of little red arrows and ‘X’s on the panels. They sit on top of the representational content of the image, and, if nothing else, serve to recall to the reader that the images are, diegetically, created images. The letter writer is sending the watercolors to the mayor (it is explicitly referenced at least once). They are not an objective view of the world accompanied by narration, rather they are part of the letter writer’s narration. Which then brings in to question the reality of the whole of the comic, that is, the reality of the narration within the narrative. The whole comic could be the narration of a crazy person, not a werewolf at all, just someone spinning out a tale.

The 3 Snake Leaves by Emily Carroll (online, 2013)

-This is a very pretty comic.

-It’s also a fairy tale adaption, so it has that against it.

-Still, it’s nice to look at, stylistically: rich colors, sharp line work, subtle textures.

-It’s got a bit of hypertext interaction where the narrative bifurcates. At first you think the two options are the same and then they turn out to be two sides of the story.

Voyager by Jed McGowan (online, 2013)

-A long scroll of a comic following the Voyager 1 explorer into space.

-I like how the opening panel shows a map of where Voyager (and thus the comic) is going.

-Great sense of flow and movement throughout.

-The early drawings of Jupiter are really beautiful. There’s a sequence that is almost completely abstract.

-I find some of the images of Voyager itself to be a little flat and oddly textured, though.

Outside 1 (of 3) by Marc Geddes and Warren Craghead (Oily, 2013)

-This is a small (quarter letter size) 12 page mini. Very lo-fi.

-A surfer goes into the ocean and catches a wave. That’s the narrative, but Geddes’ words make the narrative itself more of a poem.

-Warren makes use of a great variety of line weight and texture: thick, thin, dark, light, dense, airy. His line is dynamic and swift as it expresses the movement of the ocean, the waves and splashes.

-My only complaint: it’s only 12 pages, part 1 of 3. I wonder if the experience will be improved or damaged by a serialization over 3 months (I think it’s monthly).

Comics as Poetry (New Modern Press, 2012)

-Another anthology I’m in, so bias alert. It’s compiled by Franklin Einspruch.

-You should buy a copy, I think anyone who is bothering to read this site would like at least a few of the comics collected here.

-The introduction by William Corbett, who is some kind of poet and professor, is awful. He clearly has not seen any of the work in the book. He doesn’t mention any of it, or anyone contemporary, but he does manage to work in the obligatory superhero reference and alludes to the “comics aren’t just for kids” motif, if rather obliquely. He also seems to be positive on Dave Morice, which in itself makes him suspect. The text is basically a string of references, as if Corbett just mentioned every comic or comics related thing he could think of, one after the other, and then stopped. There’s also an internet reference at the end that sounds like it was written by someone who’s never used the internet. I’m not sure if the inclusion of Corbett is supposed to offer some kind of poetry street cred, but it doesn’t offer any… well anything of value. So much for any context to the actual work.

-I had to vent about that.

-Thankfully, it’s only one column of text on one page.

-And then you get to the comics, and things are better, so much better.

-Alphabetical order: Kimball Anderson, me, Warren Craghead, Julie Delporte, Oliver East, Franklin Einspruch, Jason Overby, Paul K. Tunis.

-If you’ve read recent work by any of these people, you probably won’t be surprised by their contributions. And I don’t think anyone offered lesser work here. There are samples (big ones!) at the site for the book.

-I feel weird talking about this one too much.

-I think I just really needed to vent about that introduction.

-And I wanted an excuse to mention the book again to tell you to buy a copy.

-Just start on page 5.

Vagabond #34 By Takehiko Inoue (Viz, 2013)

-Inoue took a break from making Vagabond for quite awhile, the previous volume having come out in mid/late 2010.

-Maybe Inoue was just bored with his story, because after all this time, in this volume, the series feels stuck in stasis. Not much happens and even less that gives us any added insight into the characters or moves the plot much. (Often Vagabond does slow down considerably, but it is usually for the purposes of building depth, in this case, I feel like it was an unnecessary dragging of feet.)

-This is still one of my favorite manga series, another volume is forthcoming in Japan, so maybe we’ll see that within the year and the story will move along. It’s gotta be moving towards an ending soon.

The Half Men by Kevin Huizenga (2013)

-This is a minicomic containing three short stories. Two of them are “redraws” of some old comic book stories (one from the last Kramers Ergot issue, one that Huizenga has been posting online). I don’t think he is transforming them enough to make them interesting beyond the concept of the exercise itself. They seem to primarily just be straight redraws in Huizenga’s style.

-The other story, “Second Attempt”, is a strange little mythic story, that combines Huizenga’s use of science, abstraction, and simplified design. It is reminiscent visually of some of his video game imagery, though not at all, as far as I can tell, explicitly related, though implicitly it makes some sense.

The Greatest of Marlys by Lynda Barry (Sasquatch Books, 2000)

-After enjoying The Freddie Stories last month I decided to get a copy of this collection of Barry’s strips. It covers some number of strips from 1986 through 2000. They are only dated by year (and not all of them) so it’s hard to say what percentage of strips are included or how they all fit together (the years skip around a bit, so it’s not a strict temporal ordering). I’m not totally clear where The Freddie Stories fit in here, I don’t think any of them are included in this volume, though they definitely fit somewhere into that time period (and use the same characters).

-There are basically three kinds of strips here.

1) The “show and tell” where one of the characters (primarily Marlys, but often Freddie) talks to the reader/audience more directly, explaining (usually with a good deal of imagination) something or other.

2) The strips that are made like replications of drawing (crude) and writing (less consistently lettered, less narrative) by one of the characters.

3) The narrative strips. Barry frequently switches narrators (Marlys, Freddie, Arna, Maybonne, etc.), so you often have to tell from context who is speaking. These strips are most like the majority of The Freddie Stories (excepting the outtakes that are at the end of the D&Q edition) and One Hundred Demons.

-I really only enjoy that third type of strip, which means, after I realized this, I started skipping a lot of the strips. There are some quality moments in here (a sequence near the end where Arna moves into the trailer park with Marlys and family, for instance), but I didn’t as often feel the same sense of emotion and appreciation that came from reading The Freddie Stories or One Hundred Demons.

-Read those other two first. I think I’m going to go reread One Hundred Demons.

Comics Workbook, edited by Frank Santoro

-“An online magazine for comic book makers.”

-It’s a mixed bag, but definitely worth following. It’s a ridiculous amount of content. Some of it is pretty immature, but there is a lot of beautiful and/or innovative work.

-A huge downside of Tumblr is being able to browse for specific content. The Comics Workbook site doesn’t seem to have any metadata I can use to just, for instance, see all Oliver East’s strips in a row, so you have to scroll through the archive page which goes on and on and on.

-Oliver East’s “Rolling Stock” series is at #96 as I write this at the end of the month. Oliver has been cranking out these pages, nearly daily for a few months (since November). It’s great to see this kind of (nearly) live production of work. I don’t see that much from comic artists I admire. With that output there are hits and misses, but Oliver’s been hitting more than missing. At lot of these pages have a more minimal/abstract quality to them that I really love (for instance #93 is a great recent example). I wish there were some easy way to page through all these so I could more easily try to ascertain the connection from one to the next. #83 adds in a great visual element with the ripples in the thin paper created from the applied medium. You rarely see that type of dimensionality introduced into a comic page.

-Warren Craghead is pretty new to contributing to the site. His “Colonialism” series is reminiscent of his work in the Comics as Poetry book (inspired by Stuart Davis, it turns out), and it more traditionally comic-esque than a lot of his work, as far as panel structure, yet so untraditional in the use of collaged elements. He’s also been doing some political work with a series of drawings from the 700 Club television series.

-Andrew White has made a ridiculous number of comics for the site since July. They are often sketchy or rough, it’s like reading Andrew’s sketch book, except not sketches of life, but sketches of comics ideas. They don’t always work for me, I think partially because I’m not a fan of the real loose pencil drawing Andrew frequently uses. It hovers somewhere between refined, full drawing and purposefully minimal drawing, in a way that is unsatisfyingly neither. But that is the nature of sketches. For something more refined (and successful) by him recently, check out this short comic or this one. After all this, I am excited to see what Andrew does with his new comic from Retrofit that is out this month.

-Aidan Koch has consistently produced lovely, short strips for the site, often in series (Artists’ Studio, Color Study, The Elements of Painting). There is always a lovely simplicity to her drawing, and a assured sense of composition to her panels. The series has all been non-narrative in a conventional sense. The 19 strips in Artists’ Studio seems to build up a location rather than a story, less a narrative breakdown of panels than a locative breakdown.

-I love this one: Elements of Painting No.14

-If you go back far enough you can find Alyssa Berg’s The Great comic, which I really love.

-I wish Frank posted more of his own work on the site.

http://0o0o000.tumblr.com/ by Dunja Jankovic

-Wow. Woah. Yowza. Damn.

-A mix of hand-drawn, collaged, digital, animated imagery.

-I like how some of the images are time delayed. You have to wait a bit to see the animation. Once you notice that it forces you to linger on each panel.

-Love the line fields and the geometric overlays. (Not as big a fan of the weird organic creatures.)

-Really really love that last panel.


Still reading daily Peanuts and Krazy Kat. I also reread Extra Time #1 and #2 and parts of Tusen Hjartan Stark #1 for the February post.