Haunted World

Chris Mautner is here with a review of Ulli Lust's most recently translated book, Voices in the Dark.

Ulli Lust’s North American debut, Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, was a harrowing, heartbreaking and incredibly powerful work. Her 2013 graphic novel, Voices in the Dark, released recently in the U.S. by New York Review Comics, strives to be just as ambitious and emotionally wrenching. It unfortunately isn’t, but it's not for lack of trying, and it does prove that Lust is more than a flash-in-the-pan cartoonist.

An adaptation of a novel by German author Marcel Beyer, Voices in the Dark tells the story of two people during the second world war: Helga Goebbels, the eldest daughter of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Karnau, a fictional sound engineer who ends up working for the Nazis and finds himself in the Führerbunker, alongside Helga and her siblings, during the final days of the Third Reich.

One of the biggest problems with Voices lies in the character of Karnau. I have no problem with an unsympathetic or unlikeable protagonist, but Karnau is: a) clearly designed to be a surrogate for the reader; b) really boring.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The biggest news in comics began on Friday with the publication of a lengthy, well-reported BuzzFeed story detailing accusations of sexual harassment leveled against the longtime DC editor Eddie Berganza.

Among the women who reported Berganza to human resources, none still work for DC. None are even working at mainstream comics publishers anymore; they’ve largely put superheroes behind them.

“We all left, and he’s still there,” said Janelle Asselin, a former DC editor who spearheaded the multi-employee HR complaint against Berganza in 2010. “That, to me, tells me what DC Comics’ priority is.”

Berganza did not respond to requests for comment for this story. A representative for DC Comics said DC and WB were “committed” to a harassment-free workplace. Unlike cases in other industries, the people who spoke to BuzzFeed News did not know of settlements, payouts, or nondisclosure agreements with women who say Berganza harassed them. Instead, what has kept many of these stories confined to gossip, blogs, and occasional social media posts is the small size of the comics industry, and fear of being blacklisted by the biggest publishers in comics.

Later in the weekend, DC announced that Berganza had been suspended pending review:

DC Entertainment has immediately suspended Mr. Berganza and has removed him from performing his duties as Group Editor at DC Comics. There will be a prompt and yet careful review into next steps as it relates to the allegations against him, and the concerns our talent, employees and fans have shared. DC continues to be extremely committed to creating a safe and secure working environment for our employees and everyone involved in the creation of our comic books.

This is the most prominent story involving sexual misconduct in comics, but not the only one, as accusations have been made against at least two cartoonists involved in small-press comics. After we gain more information, we will report on those.

—Interviews. At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nathan Goldman interviewed Eli Valley.

Speaking of that, you get a lot of shit from the Jewish right: Commentary’s John Podhoretz called you a kapo, meaning a Jew who cooperated with Nazis; The New York Times’s Bret Stephens called your work “grotesque” and “wretched.” How do you feel about those kinds of remarks?

I think they’re despicable, but they’re entitled to their views. “Grotesque” and “wretched” is fine, actually. “Kapo” is inexcusable — although I’ve been using it lately. However, I think when I’ve been using it, talking about people who are normalizing Nazism in the United Staes, it has much more relevance and accuracy than calling me a kapo for doing a comic that was a cry of anguish after a Palestinian boy was burnt alive. That’s literally why Podhoretz called me a kapo.

The most recent guest on RiYL is Anders Nilsen.

—Reviews & Commentary. Jason Shiga has written a guest post for the science fiction magazine Locus about the final volume of Demon.

Science fiction has always been my favorite genre, especially when the story takes the form of scientific discovery itself. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the classic scientific method of observing, imagining, testing and finally getting a clear answer from the universe about some fundamental way it’s structured. I feel the human mind has a science shaped keyhole in it and hearing a good story or joke or cleverly designed experiment all satisfy that same part of the brain. It could be Sherlock Holmes figuring out that what everyone else thought was a ghost was just a (spoiler for 100 year old story) dog covered in luminescent paint. In a way, I think all great fiction is science fiction of a sort.

Paul Gravett has assembled a panel of critics and writers from Brazil, Denmark (our own Matthias Wivel), Finland, New Zealand, Serbia, and Singapore to choose the best comics of 2016 from those countries.

Ytournel is the brightest and probably funniest newspaper cartoonist in Denmark. At their best, his strips break the old, long-established boundaries in terms of format, medium and — most importantly — humour, demonstrating that editorial cartooning can be different and creative, in spite of prescriptive tradition. And he is just plain funny, blending political with keenly observed, social satire. He has an eye for the absurdity and vanity in the banal details of diction and posture that other cartoonists either don’t notice or find too shallow to mine for commentary. This book collects his best work from more than a decade’s worth of work at the daily newspaper Politiken, including his brilliant 2013 comics inset on Søren Kierkegaard, written and drawn on the occasion of the world-famous Danish philosopher’s bicentenary. In it, he not only provides an ‘Existentialism for Beginners-type intro, but also comments hilariously on recent reception history and attendant controversy, and most poignantly situates Kierkegaard’s relevance to the average life of an average person wanting to be a football coach.