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Today on the site, we have a review of Super Late Bloomer, a new comics memoir by Julia Kaye.

The comics industry has seen a surge of trans-centric comics within the past few years, particularly works inspired by the real-world experiences of transgender individuals. Some examples include Dylan Edwards’ Transposes and German cartoonist Sarah Barczyk’s Nenn mich Kai. One of the more recent installments in this trend is Julia Kaye’s comic diary Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition, published by Andrews McMeel.

As readers of The Comics Journal may already know, Andrews McMeel is a standard publisher for bound collections of newspaper strips, such as Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, and Non Sequitur. In this respect, Super Late Bloomer’s publication with Andrews McMeel speaks volumes. Kaye’s first and only book-length publication to date, it is a bound collection of select strips from her acclaimed web comic Up and Out. Though the web comic began as a run-of-the-mill gag strip, Up and Out transformed alongside Kaye herself into an autobiographical comic documenting her personal life as a transgender woman. Super Late Bloomer is a selection of these daily autobiographical strips covering less than one year that document Kaye’s first months of hormone transition. It operates as a comic diary of sorts, brimming with all the emotional poignancy and self-expression typical of any diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Robert Boyd reviews the excellent-looking new Tardi book, I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB.

Jacques Tardi encouraged his father, René Tardi, to write down his memories of being a POW in a Nazi prison camp during World War II in the early 80s. Some 30 years later, Jacques drew it as a two part graphic novel. I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner Of War In Stalag IIB part 1 has just been published in English.

Not surprisingly, given the ongoing excellence of Jacques Tardi, it's superb. Tardi draws it as a dialogue between himself and his father--drawing himself as a boy in shorts and his father as a young man. But aside from the narrative structure (a father telling his son about what happened to him during the war), it is drawn as a narrative of the war and the camp, Stalag IIB. So while René Tardi engages in a tank battle or starves in a barracks in Pomerania, Jacques, depicted as a boy, is always standing nearby, as if he were there. This surreal touch made me think of David B, a much younger cartoonist but one who has had a fairly profound effect on French Comics.

Charles Hatfield reviews a book that is must-reading for old-school TCJ readers, Sparring with Gil Kane.

Sparring with Gil Kane is a book of conversations, but its title suggests a contest or bout, as if intellectual disputation were a knuckle-bruising donnybrook or prizefight—or perhaps the equivalent of a few rounds among friendly but formidable partners. That sounds about right, because it seems that the late Gil Kane (1926-2000), a voluble critic of comics as well as a great comics artist, became a self-taught intellectual partly for competitive reasons, that is, to avoid being outfaced and humiliated by those he worked for. By his own admission, Kane’s early efforts at serious self-education were spurred by masculine oneupmanship. Sparring is the brainchild of Fantagraphics publisher and longtime Comics Journal editor Gary Groth, who seems to have shared in that sense of argument as competitive sport (oh the debates that Kane, Groth, and the late Burne Hogarth, another fierce and fluent conversationalist, must have had—theirs is a legendary circle of talk). Indeed Sparring comes across as a semi-autobiographical book for Groth, even though he was not involved in all of the conversations captured within it.

—Interviews & Profiles. At Hazlitt, Chris Randle talks to Sloane Leong.

It is funny that Prism Stalker started as a novel, because the story most reminds me of this species of psychosomatic ’70s science fiction—I was thinking of writers like Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler. Was that in the back of your mind?

Oh, totally. I think the most apparent inspiration is Sailor Moon, magical girls shouting out moves, and I wanted to take that and—not dissect it, but elaborate on it, instead of just being like “this is my water attack.” There’s one move, I think in the fifth issue that I just drew, it’s this frog alien and her move is forcing someone to experience what it’s like to give birth to hatchlings from their back [laughs]. That’s like her psychic move and it’s very traumatizing if you’re not a frog alien. I just try to take that idea of transmitting an experience and go really weird with it.

That made me think of—Dan O’Bannon, who wrote the screenplay for Alien and came up with the basic concept and everything, he had Crohn’s disease, and I think he understandably had a lot of frustration and trauma surrounding that. So he was like, my idea for this horror story is, what if men got impregnated?

Because that’s what it feels like, yeah. Body horror is a big thing for me. I have chronic [gastrointestinal] disease, so every time I eat I get nauseous and sick, it’s been happening since I was a tween. So I have this disgust and—not complete fear, but a dread-filled fascination with my body, because I’m not in control of it, and I’ve had cancer scares and stuff. Asthma. The body is so crazy, in how it can turn on itself. That’s a big inspiration for the entire world [of Prism Stalker].

The most recent guests on RiYL are Matt Groening and Michael Kupperman.

—Misc. Comics scholar and TCJ columnist R.C. Harvey is crowdfunding Hand Drawn Life, a documentary on the history of newspaper strips.

Unlike other works on this subject, Hand Drawn Life traces the history of the newspaper comic strip by detailing its effects on the readers and its impact on society. The film explores not just the timeline of their creation but the emotional connections these drawings have had, and are still having, on the reader.

These strips are arguably the first form of American pop culture. Unlike the books, sheet music and traveling side shows of the late 19th and early 20th century, newspaper comics were syndicated to papers across the country, thanks to William Randolph Hearst. This meant for the first time, people in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere could read the same cartoon at the same time. These cartoons united the country in a common entertainment experience like never before. And they continue to connect readers to this day.

With interviews from 20 of the greatest names in the comic strip world, both creators and historians, the story unfolds without a narrator. The people that know best weave history and personal experience into a tale of modern American culture.


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