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Mysterious Universe

Huh, this is odd. Somehow my blog entry from Monday seems to have disappeared entirely, so I’ll re-link to Monday’s story. It featured the debut of new TCJ contributor Alex Wong, who interviewed the French cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu about her latest graphic novel, its subject (Cass Elliot), and the Smurfette Syndrome.

The neglect and disrespect Elliot dealt with throughout her career is something that Bagieu can tangentially relate to. Bagieu, who was born in Paris and now resides in Brooklyn, New York, remembers a decade ago when she, along with a fellow writer, pitched a female superhero story idea to a major publisher. Bagieu remembers the male publisher suggesting that their superheroes could have superpowers that would allow them to get the cheapest clothing at sale time, and to always have the perfect shoe even if there was one size left. “I really wanted to slap him in the face,” Bagieu says. “I was so humiliated.”

The comic book industry has presented its own sets of challenges for Bagieu. “For female cartoonists, you have to be quiet,” Bagieu says. “You have to either do girl stuff. In France, we call it the The Smurfette Syndrome. You’re a token. It’s not neutral, we don’t make up half of the cartoonists. You’re just the girl. You have science fiction comic book writers, action comic book writers, and, oh, here’s the girl.”

And then today, we have Chris Mautner’s review of Joe Ollmann’s graphic biography, The Abominable Mr. Seabrook.

I was completely unaware (as I suspect most of you were) of Seabrook’s existence before reading this biography, but it’s easy to see why Ollmann was drawn to him. He not only traveled the world and wrote about non-Western cultures with (for the times) measured respect and appreciation, he also dabbled in the occult, hobnobbed with famous folk like Man Ray, was a horrible alcoholic, had a predilection for BDSM, committed himself to an asylum, and wrote about all of this in a confessional manner that would make the most shameless autobiographical cartoonist squirm with envy. Oh, and he once ate human flesh.

More to the point, he’s also, as I noted earlier, largely forgotten, at best a footnote for introducing the word “zombie” into the American lexicon. Ollmann seems fascinated by how such a unique literary figure as Seabrook, who at one time was quite well-known and well-regarded, could sink into obscurity. And if Seabrook’s descent into irrelevance should conjure any thoughts of the myriad number of worthwhile cartoonists that have been forgotten or discarded by the passage of time, well, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Gloria Rivera reviews Zhang Leping’s manhua The Wandering Life of Sanmao.

The drawing of the original black and white comic is superb, and though never published in the US is completely readable through images alone. Except for signage and a handful of panels, the bulk of the comic is pantomime. Even the dialogue expressed between characters is drawn and not written! Although the relationship between words and pictures in comics should never be debased (as it may be in the show-don’t-tell school of comics) the silence experienced in this comic is unbreakable, and this is a comic that keeps you within its timing, only refraining for pauses of humor, a softness. Leping’s work is noble, leaving his reader in awe of how a man who has experienced so much can describe innocence as he does. This particular collection of comics has been adapted into color comics, animation, film and even live theater productions over the span of 80 years.

—The always strong Doug Wright Awards have announced their finalists.

—The Chester Brown/Dave Sim debate on prostitution continues, though Sim seems to have retired his side.

My March 28th post about Dave Sim’s body-camera proposal has been put up on A Moment Of Cerebus. Dave has been having computer problems and so has been unable to respond. (Perhaps he hasn’t even read the post.) But other A-M-O-C readers have commented. I notice that NONE of them defended Dave’s body-cam idea.


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