I’m still figuring out exactly what I’m doing here… 15 years of blogging and I still don’t really feel like I know.
I’m in progress on recreating the blog as a static site using Eleventy, so I can transition away from the extended bloat that is WordPress (and now I’m remembering when I migrated from MovableType to WordPress). The hardest part will be not breaking all the embedded images and galleries (will need to convert WordPress’s gallery shortcode for more recent posts). It’s really nice to get away from the awkwardness that is WordPress templating where the php awkwardly interacts with the html, and I’m also super happy to write posts in Markdown without having to worry about converting them before I paste them into an editor. (And it can be fun to do coding/web work that is not for my job.)
I’m trying to find the time and energy to prep my Stars Without Number campaign, which is now coincidentally starting on May the 4th (I’m going to work in a Star Wars reference). It turns out Pinterest is a hotbed of science fiction maps (most apparently for Star Wars games, but still usable for other worlds/systems), maybe I’ll share some boards when I’ve gathered more items.
And I’m in progress on a longer piece about the new Complete Crepax volume from Fantagraphics (volume 4 “Private Life” which came out last month). I’ve been really enjoying that series, but have seen very little written on it over the past few years, so I figured I should write something to bring some bit of attention to it.
On to a few recent reads…
Is This How You See Me? by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics, 2019)
The latest from Jaime is, of course, an excellent addition to the ongoing Locas stories. His level of craft both visually and narratively is impeccable, honed to such a degree that it’s almost impossible to say anything about it. It is the ne plus ultra of this style of cartoon realism, utilizing all the tools of the form in a restrained way to tell the story.
The book is subtitled “A Locas Story”, but there is no indication to tell a new reader that this book follows decades of previous books. I can see a certain logic from a marketing standpoint to not label this with some of kind of volume number, but selling this as a standalone narrative is a huge disservice to any new reader. There’s not even an “also by” page or anything. And I can’t imagine a new reader coming to this book and… well… making much of anything of it. Maggie and Hopey return to their old neighborhood of Hoppers to attend a punk rock show reunion. The whole book is nostalgia on so many levels. For the characters, the whole plot is about the past and the present, where they talk to other people (cameos by a number of characters unseen in years) about the past and in some cases relive/revive past mistakes and relations. The primary story is interspersed with shorter vignettes that take place in 1979 when the the two protagonists are first starting to spend time together, itself a narrative moment of nostalgia for both the reader and, one imagines, the artist by seeing/drawing these characters as they were decades ago. That whole element would be missing for any new reader, and for this book in particular that is a huge part of the impact of the story which does feel like it bookends some aspects of the Maggie/Hopey relationship.
So, of course, don’t miss this volume, but on the other hand, don’t start here.
This Woman’s Work by Julie Delporte (Drawn & Quarterly, 2019)
A collage of autobiography, biography, and essay this latest from Delporte is in comparison with 2013’s Journal a leap forward for her work. I can’t seem to find my copy of 2014’s Everywhere Antennas to page through, but I think the autobiographical element better invites comparison with Journal anyway. Visually her colored pencil (and some paint or washes) drawings have coalesced into a tighter style that really shines with its mix of cartoony abstraction, life drawings, and pure abstraction along side her unique use of colors, sometimes referential but often expressionistic and varied. The stylistic collage is abetted by a collage of materials on the page–journal pages, taped on edits, even one spread that looks like it includes needlepoint–which rhymes wonderfully with the collage of narrative elements: memory, dream, fantasy, travelogue, biography (primarily about the artist Tove Jansson), and personal essay.
Reading it, one feels Delporte struggling with her artistic identity, her place in the world, and her relationships primarily through the lens of gender and feminism. In the end, it felt very unresolved, especially the last page (which I won’t spoil), which in its content seems like… a cliffhanger, of all things. I’m not sure what to make of that.
In one page, Delporte asks, “What man would be able to live with a feminist?” It makes me sad to read such a statement, I would hope there are a lot of men that would be able, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt in that regard if more men read books like this. In particular I think of her discussing her relationships and how she would end up not working on her art, while her partner wouldn’t, as if her energies were sucked away to his benefit (not what she explicitly says, but my general impression). From a recent interview with her at the Los Angeles Review of Books (worth reading), she says:
For a long time, when I was with people, especially with lovers but really with anyone, I would adapt everything I’d do and think to their presence. I couldn’t find a mental space to think about my art, it would disappear from my desires and preoccupations, and I became a logistic or emotional worker, trying to make the relationship work, and ruminating on my angriness and worries about it not working.
One & Three by W.T. Frick (Ley Lines, 2019)
I’m still working my way through Ursula LeGuin’s Hainish Novels & Stories vol.2, so I was excited to see that the latest Ley Lines issue is inspired by her. I was less excited when I read the comic and couldn’t really figure out how. The reference point is to her novel The Lathe of Heaven which I have not read in a very long time, and my memory of it is nonexistent. This comic reads like a dialogue with a hypnotist (lots of second person pronouns and breathing and snapping) taking place in an imaginary art gallery. Frick’s style is kind of minimal photorealist, heavily referenced, and the text is all in a typewriterly font making it look like a script (which does work nice with the hypnotist element). One of the characters looks like a younger version of the portrait of LeGuin on the back of the comic, while the other looks like the author’s portrait. Visually it all comes together pretty well. Thematically, I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m familiar with some of her art references (like Joseph Kosuth’s chair piece, where this comic borrows its title) but not some of the others, which makes me wonder if there are subtexts I am missing. The Kosuth piece is an interestingly relevant reference because like a comic it is text, image, and an object all at once. Though the object in his piece (a chair) has a use function (sitting) that is denied it in the context of the artwork (you don’t sit down on that chair), while the object of the comic is one could argue it’s whole existence and without using it one can’t even ascertain the work.
You can order a copy of this from the Ley Lines store. While you are at it, get a subscription for 2019, as this year there will also be issues by Gloria Rivera and Alyssa Berg, two artists I quite admire. I’ve got a few Alyssa Berg pieces in my original art collection, one of them is at the framers right now (I’ll post a photo when I get it back and hung).
(Yes, I’ve been skimping on adding images to posts, sorry, it takes time.)
(Also, posting on Sunday instead of Monday because the auto-scheduling of posts is broken on my server right now. Probably a permissions issue I need to fix somewhere.)