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Today on the site, Brian Nicholson reviews the latest from Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët, Satania.

The standard progression of horror stories, in which events become worse and worse, is often described as “a descent into hell.” Such a descent is the literal plot of Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët’s Satania. Kerascoët, a pseudonym for a married couple working collaboratively, have a style that betrays no surface ugliness, and so does not hint at the horror to come. They recently illustrated a children’s book written by Malala. Their work is friendly and welcoming, bright with color. Through the lens they provide, it is easy enough to interpret what is happening as a fantasy narrative, a story of exploration, in which dangers might bring harm to peripheral characters, but will not make too caustic an impression upon the psyche of the reader.

Readers of Vehlmann and Kerascoët’s previous collaboration Beautiful Darkness might be more prepared. There were a number of them; that book was a hit. Kerascoët’s work is, as the book’s title stated, beautiful. It functions typically, with cartooned characters moving inside of more realistic backgrounds. However, the linework on the figures remains lively, sketched out and improvisational, in a way found more often in the energy of storyboards than the labored-over end result most cartoonists working in an animation-derived style employ. The watercolors they employ then adds to the texture that defines the backgrounds’ detail and keeps up with the spontaneity of the characters’ acting. The cumulative effect grants a sense of depth to these worlds, and the darker aspects of Vehlmann’s scripting do not subvert Kerascoët’s skill set so much as excavate it. Beyond the foregrounded elements, another form of life is breathing, and there is a deeper meaning in play beyond the surface pleasures.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. Gabriele di Fazio talks to Conor Stechschulte.

At the risk of over-explaining and squeezing out better and more interesting interpretations, I’d say that The Amateurs is an attempt to lampoon, ridicule and take apart (literally, haha) the idea of self-reliant, non-relational masculinity – the man who has all the answers. This is the character that Jim and Winston try to perform for the women in the book.

A huge influence on The Amateurs was the book Flesh of my Flesh by Kaja Silverman. She argues for replacing the Oedipus myth with the Orpheus myth with regards to gender – a story based on mortality rather than castration. She says our mortality allows us to relate to one another analogously, through our resemblances rather than metaphorically which always presumes a hierarchy. I was trying for a lot of these ideas and borrowed imagery from the Orpheus myth (i.e. the head washed up on the shore).

The most recent guest on RiYL is Trina Robbins.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ernie Bushmiller skeptic Thad Komorowski gives Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden’s How to Read Nancy a positive review.

How to Read Nancy will inevitably be an important college text: its writing is engaging but never fannish, and breaks down the concepts of visual storytelling in a manner that will not turn off the average reader or student. I can easily see this becoming an alternative to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics in many curriculums. That book has its virtues and will always be valuable, but I always thought it an awful idea for McCloud to do it as an actual comic book. Newgarden and Karasik lavishly illustrate the history and their thesis, and also understand that concepts need to be explained in words without distracting the reader with the authors’ own creative concept.

Caleb Orecchio revisits some of the coloring work Françoise Mouly did for Marvel in the ’70s.

What a pleasant surprise to find her in the pages of some of my favorite, dumb back-issues. This is half the reason I love old newsprint comics, you never know what combination of creators you will find, and what the results will be. Françoise Mouly colors?! What a treat.

I like how she considered tone and value. Something that wasn’t necessarily regarded often within the machine of newsprint boy’s-adventure comics. I assume this was merely a “job” to her on a freelance basis; and the years that she worked being ’78 and ’79, I can’t help but muse that the capital for publishing RAW (first published in 1980) was acquired through Marvel paychecks. Though this may not (probably not) be strictly true, I emit an evil laugh when I consider this. Water into wine. Mwahahaha!

Finally, TCJ’s own Joe McCulloch and Tucker Stone discuss CAB and comics with Tucker’s four-year-old daughter.


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