It’s a day late (through no fault of his own), but Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics!, highlighting the best-sounding comics new to stores, including new books by Dame Darcy and Jules Feiffer. He also writes a little on Queen Emereldas.
Kodansha’s recent hardcover publication of Queen Emeraldas leans hard on artist Leiji Matsumoto’s fame in the greater media world — of the three pull quotes on the back cover, one is from Daft Punk, and another is from Pitchfork referring to Daft Punk — but actually reading 400 pages’ worth of these comics quickly highlights the severely martial aspect of this space opera’s idea of gallantry. Emeraldas herself does star in some of these stories, but in many she functions like Sergio Corbucci’s Django as the galaxy’s coolest big sister to young Hiroshi, a floppy-haired Matsumoto youth with a hot-blooded desire to live free in the sea of stars.
The reason for the brief delay is that we asked Joe to review Kramers Ergot 9, and that piece went up on the site yesterday.
It must be stated up front that Kramers Ergot has made life far too easy for critics. Anthologies are often difficult to analyze, because most of them wear the pragmatic limits of their creation like flimsy invisible dust jackets. It is not uncommon, I think, for editors to surrender to chance when putting these things together; you can hook up with however many contributors you want, and coordinate as best you can with those contributors you want to pursue, and reject, in the face of plenty, those submissions you can’t use, but to an extent you are at the mercy of what you are given. And indeed, there are anthologies most succinctly described as ‘what was given.’
Kramers, however, has long offered a pillowy slipstream on which the featherweight may drift behind; in this group I include myself. Who could forget the technological acuity of Kramers Ergot 4 (Avodah Books, 2003): production so sharp that you were bade not only to read stories-as-stories or factor drawing-as-drawing, but to consider textural components and the play of media – and, implicitly, the character of reproduction itself in art primed for mass distribution?
And finally today, Philip Nel has joined us with another tribute to Richard Thompson, which he titles “Dancing on the Manhole Cover”.
Cul de Sac is powerful stuff. In the panels of each strip, Thompson manages to capture the narrative chaos of daily life. As he told R.C. Harvey in a 2011 article, “I’ve always had a feeling that life is a series of non-sequiturs, and that we’re all untrustworthy narrators.” Nowhere is that feeling more palpable than in the scenes at Blisshaven Academy, the preschool attended by Alice, Dil, Beni, Nara, Marcus, Kevin (“Buckethead”), and, later, Sophie. In the fourth nationally syndicated Cul de Sac strip (13 September 2007), one of the students (Dill is my guess) asks “Miss Bliss, what kind of egg was Humpty Dumpty?” Storytime now derailed, the students start tossing out guesses. Nara: “A duck egg!” Marcus: “A GOOSE EGG!” Next, Alice ventures into preschool literary criticism, placing the nursery rhyme in a larger context: “I’ll bet he was the egg of that chicken who crossed the road,” she says. “’Cause they’re both thrill-seekers with dangerous hobbies.” Marcus responds, “Good point.” Changing the subject completely, Dill concludes the strip by saying, “Whew! I think I’ve learned enough for today. Miss Bliss, can I go home?” In the first week of strips, his characters already have distinct lives of their own.
—GG talks to kuš! about creating her story, “Lapse”.
I work mostly digital these days. Again, it goes back to keeping things minimal. My earlier comics were done with pencil and paper but I didn’t like how after I finished a story and scanned it in, I would have all this paper to store somewhere. It also seemed like an extra step to have to scan and then have to clean up the scans when I could just draw directly on the computer. One thing I’m always trying to figure out is how to make comics more efficiently because they are already so time-consuming for me. Sometimes pen and paper is unavoidable because I’ll want a certain look or effect so I haven’t totally gotten rid of all my art supplies yet.
—This isn’t comics, exactly, but Nadja Spiegelman has released a memoir about her mother, Françoise Mouly, reviewed today in the New York Times.
Nadja longed to understand her mother, and when she had achieved a measure of independence, she hit upon the idea of interviewing her. (It didn’t escape Nadja that she was following in her father’s footsteps: “Maus” was based on Art Spiegelman’s interviews of his own father.) Surprisingly, Françoise threw herself into the project with energy and candor. But candor is only the impulse to tell the truth: Truth-telling itself is rarer. Nadja sympathetically accepts the broad outlines of her mother’s narrative of her French childhood — Francoise’s brutal rejection by her own mother, Josée; the multiple infidelities of her plastic-surgeon playboy father, Paul; her admirable decision to escape her mother’s influence and begin again in New York. But she also notes some credulity-stretching inconsistencies. Here she picks up on a theme that threads through the memoir, the indeterminacy of memory. Nobody, neurological science tells us, really has a claim to the truth.
—Finally, Tim Lane has created a Patreon to help him with his latest project, a book on Steve McQueen.
I’m currently working on an interpretive biographical graphic novel about the actor, Steve McQueen. I say “interpretive,” for many reasons, but mainly because I’m using the life of Steve McQueen as a conduit to construct a picture of American culture that both shaped Steve McQueen, and was partly shaped by his influence. This book is artistically inclined – heavily influenced by works such as Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter, and David Clewell’s Jack Ruby’s America. In other words, it is not a traditional biography. Rather, it is an experiment in what the potentialities are in writing about the life of a real person, and a more subjective consideration of how that person’s influence touched the life of the “biographer.”