Posts Tagged ‘Graphic novels’

Arne Bellstorf

Published June 4, 2010 by Molly


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Arne Bellstorf may be a wizard of graphic novels and illustration, but he’s no lone wolf. Bellstorf also happens to have a natural instinct for collaboration and community-building, graphically speaking. Among the artist’s many projects are the annual magazine Orang, which he co-edits, and the small collective and independent publishing house Kiki Post, which puts out a variety of neat comics.

He also contributed to the 2wBOX collection with the above mini silk-screened comic, published by B.ü.L.B. comix from Switzerland. Explore the archives and parse continual updates at Bellstorf’s website.

Binky Brown

Published April 26, 2010 by Molly

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“Justin Green—he’s out of his mind,” said R. Crumb.

“I could see that the work came from a permanently damaged brain,” said Kurt Vonnegut.

“Comics wouldn’t be what they are today without this book, and this new edition places it in its proper place in the comics literary canon. Thank God for Binky Brown. And thank God for Justin Green,” said Chris Ware.

If that’s not a triptych of compelling blurbs, we don’t know what is. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary is Justin Green’s groundbreaking 1972 graphic novel, newly released in a 9″ x 12″ deluxe hardcover edition by McSweeney’s. Regarded as the first cartoonist to pen highly personal autobiographical comics, Green produced a book as tortured and loony as anything you’ve ever seen. Kudos to the publisher for greenlighting this extra-large edition, which brings Green’s work to life in a new way. Don’t skip the introduction by Art Spiegelman, either: it’s a keeper.

Vanessa Davis

Published March 30, 2010 by Molly

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Anyone with an ideologically confusing adolescence won’t want to miss Vanessa Davis’“Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”, a coming-of-age bat mitzvah tale rendered in comics (sample line: “My party didn’t have a theme, but we did have kind of a mean-spirited caricaturist.”)

Vanessa inked, colored and captioned a comics column for Tablet magazine for a little over a year, gathering a loyal base of fans along the way. In an interview with Jim Linderman she discusses that column as well as Archie comics, the influences of female cartoonists on her work, and her desires to decorate pots, design wallpaper, and more!

Keep yourself updated on Vanessa’s adventures and work here. We can’t wait to see where she’ll go next.


Published March 2, 2010 by Molly

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Graphic novel and memoir are two genres that, if fused right, can harmonize as beautifully as Brian and Carl Wilson. Marjane Satrapi, Harvey Pekar, Joe Sacco, Phoebe Gloeckner…the list of successes goes on. There’s something about combining the expressiveness of words, images, and narrative that can tell the story of a life like nothing else.

A recent addition to the canon is David Small’s memoir Stitches (W.W. Norton), which tells the story of the author’s youth in images as lucid as they are dreamlike. We begin with the author as a young boy, often sick, living with a distant, unhappy radiologist father and a depressed, pathologically stingy mother. When a possibly-cancerous cyst is discovered on David’s neck, he undergoes an operation leaves him literally unable to speak for nearly a decade.

What follows is a dark chronicle of the family’s dissolution rendered in images that can only be described as lovely. Lovely? It’s hard to explain how a young man’s notions of invisibility and rage can resonate so deeply when portrayed as Small portrays them, but that’s the mystery of the medium.

The melding of memoir and graphic novel is one of those alchemical developments which we can point to, gratefully, as a recent beacon of hope for the printed word. Paging through Stitches, a reader is certain that there is no other way that Small’s story might have been told.

West Coast Blues

Published October 5, 2009 by Molly

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The graphic novel, it turns out, is a form especially well-suited to the noir genre. Maybe this isn’t surprising––comics have always run the gamut of moods from goofy to autobiographical to just plain smutty. But it still gives a shiver of pleasure to stumble upon a graphic novel that captures the hardboiled tone of classic noir as perfectly as West Coast Blues, Jacques Tardi’s adaptation of a 1976 crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

The book is drawn in scratchy old-school high style, and the central story concerns a shiftless Parisian executive who finds himself pursued by a pair of assassins for something he may or may not have done. The plot includes bursts of bruality, dark realizations, alluring women and grizzled observations from its antihero––all the best conventions of noir, in other words, preserved and reborn in a fresh new medium. File it next to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

Books You Might Not Have Read Yet: The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book

Published September 30, 2009 by Molly

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Everyone loves a buddy comedy. The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book is a graphic novel by Joe Daly containing two stories, “The Leaking Cello Case” and “John Wesley Harding”, both set in Cape Town, South Africa. Each story takes the form of a rambling odyssey shared by best buds Dave and Paul, both laid-back and intermittently brilliant and willing to track capybaras, vaporize enemies, chill with Ozimandias and squeeze every last drop of animus out of the sponge, whatever that means, throughout the course of their escapades.

Daly is fond of sunbaked colors and intensely-detailed frames. His characters look funny, which is appropriate because they are funny. The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book makes for pleasant midday reading, maybe perched somewhere outdoors in the sun with a glass of ginger ale at your side. Read it in a lazy mood, identify with the slacker characters, and speculate on whether you could solve demented mysteries as well as they could. (Answer: probably not.)

The Nobody

Published September 4, 2009 by Molly

It’s a fine day in Large Mouth– population: 754–when a drifter in bandages, goggles and a baseball cap shows up. Thus begins Jeff Lemire’s loose remake of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man in graphic novel form. Taking its cues from the famous 1897 science fiction novel, Lemire’s The Nobody is a blistering account of disappearances, fear and strange friendships in small-town America.

As a kid Lemire consumed his fair share of DC Comics superheroes tales, and his rapid-fire style reveals the influence, along with nods to Jose Munoz and Alberto Breccia. The character of The Nobody is a cypher with ambiguous intentions and abilities– a fascinating individual and one that ultimately remains a mystery. Not surprisingly, Lemire designed it this way: “I always try to put character before plot,” he has said. “My books are about people, not high concepts.”

It’s the perfect attitude with which to approach a high-concept work like The Invisible Man, and the result is equal parts page-turner and artful cartoon genius.


Published September 2, 2009 by Molly

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In case you’re not sure what a “nonfiction picto-essay” is, the back cover of Syncopated spells it out for you: “a series of first-person reportage pieces, profiles, and historical essays–in the form of comics.”

Visual narratives are nothing new, of course–refer to the cave paintings at Lascaux– but we’re living right now in a golden age of comics, and there’s never before been such a trove of talent to mine for a collection like Syncopated. As you might expect, the variety of the essays is suitable for even the most ill-attentive of readers. There’s a personal history of father figures, a piece of Annie Dillard-worthy nature writing in pictorial form, illustrated prisoner accounts of Guantanamo, the Eight Stages of Identity Development and a mini-documentary of subway buskers. Plus others.

Aside from the blooming popularity of the genre, there’s something fundamentally rewarding about a narrative in comic form. “Comics offer a synesthetic experience through words and pictures that no other medium can,” writes editor Brendan Burford in his introduction to the book. Why yes––that’s it, exactly.

Books You Might Not Have Read Yet: Asterios Polyp

Published August 27, 2009 by Molly

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Some printed materials seem to defy their genre at the same time as they define it. Ulysses comes to mind as far as novels are concerned, and Spy magazine is surely an exemplar of that medium. These events are few and far between– no one said innovation was easy. It’s not insignificant, then, that the graphic novel canon has recently welcomed a similar opus into its midst with Asterios Polyp.

David Mazzuchelli’s epic tale is intelligent and funny and dense with references to everything from Hermann Hesse to Isamu Noguchi. There’s something for everyone on every page: double entendres cozy up to explorations of language theory; cosmic ponderings share space with pocket analyses of Italo Calvino.

Looks are as important as brains in a graphic novel, of course, and Mazzuchelli’s aesthetic is dizzyingly beautiful. Every stroke has meaning–really, every stroke–and you could easily isolate a random frame and find it good enough to mount on your wall.