the graphic novel EPILEPTIC (PANTHEON, 2005) is a harrowing account of the psychological horror that comes with growing up and watching your family IMPOTENTLY confront the routine seizures of one of its own. celebrated FRENCH cartoonist DAVID B through this recollected memoir of his early development provides incredible insight into the DEBILITATING EMOTIONAL ABYSS of watching his older brother effectively lose his own sense of AGENCY and ability to live a normal life.
the effects of such a trauma on DAVID B are devastating, cartoons and invented realities become a shield of sorts from the harsh reality of the outside world. similar can be said about the efforts of his mother, who seeks out a revolving carousel of ESOTERIC and NONTRADITIONAL medical practices from various global traditions (SHAMANS, ALCHEMISTS, DIETICIANS, MAGNETIZERS, ACUPUNCTURISTS, MASSAGERS, etc.) out of love but all are ultimately in VAIN. nothing works. and what makes EPILEPTIC such a compelling read in my opinion is how effectively it showcases that projection and transference of stunted emotional development onto the family, who as a unit despite all possible efforts, finds themselves imprisoned by this unrelenting foe.
back when i took an introductory psychology course in college, i remember their being much discussion about the profound effects of one person's chronic condition (i.e. DEPRESSION, PTSD, EATING DISORDER, PERSONALITY DISORDER, etc.) on their family. that sense of helplessness that comes with being unable to ease a loved one's trauma, which over time wears one down. a version of this narrative can be seen in the doomed efforts of the late imperial ROMANOV family (TSAR NICHOLAS II and ALEXANDRA) when attempting to seek assistance for their son's HEMOPHILIA. this desperation led them to seek out nontraditional practitioners, and mercenaries, like GREGORIO RASPUTIN. i point you to ROBERT K MASSIE's NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (review linked HERE) for further information. for me, this book is less about the often competing and complex emotions DAVID B felt towards his older brother, as well as the intense GUILT involved in that process, and more about the toll of said condition on the family. a family whose efforts were done out of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
the other work this graphic novel with all of its PHANTASMAGORICAL, MYTHOLOGICAL and stark FANTASY-inspired imagery recalled for me was SPIKE JONZE's film adaptation of the children's book WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (review linked HERE). the chaotic, seemingly unraveling imagery that DAVID B produces gives us a sense of a child's perspective who is unable to verbalize and process feelings of deep TRAUMA. much like how the temper tantrums of MAX in the film are his way of expressing that which is OVERWHELMING and inherently INEXPRESSIBLE, DAVID B has similarly provided a visual analogue to that same phenomena. the visuals in this manner do not clarify or elucidate meaning, more they are there as emotional markers of ANGER, CONFUSION, DESPAIR and REMORSE projected at a cruel adult world with no innate sense of fairness or moral center.
EPILEPTIC is a deeply fascinating graphic novel that asks more than it answers and leaves one contemplating their own TENUOUS relationship with REALITY and how we as individuals construct an internal MYTHOLOGY to deal with our own STRUGGLES and SHORTCOMINGS. highly recommended.
thing that struck me about HOUSE OF WOMEN (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2017) by SOPHIE GOLDSTEIN was how beautifully illustrated it was. if i had to pinpoint a style, it would be informed by the likes of AUBREY BEARDSLEY, traditional JAPANESE UKIYO-E woodblock prints, GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM and a hint of HINDU ICONOGRAPHY and MUGHAL ARCHITECTURE thrown in the mix. i found myself looking repeatedly at the panels and just basking in the potency of the visuals which were just stunning throughout.
the narrative itself follows four women that on a fact-finding mission from an intergalactic empire that seeks to learn about the far limits of its reach and the inhabitants therein. the more involved these four women become with the local inhabitants and the CULTURE therein, the more they become drawn into a PSYCHODRAMA that they have little control over. plot-wise it reminds me of a short story (whose author i forget) i read in college about a man that starts dating a woman out of pity, only to get sucked into the relationship and ultimately become discarded in the process. the short story and this graphic novel both play with notions of POWER, CONTROL and ROMANTIC DOMINANCE. its always interesting when those who feel they are in control of a situation learn that it is them that are being manipulated.
i feel like the pure artistry of the panels themselves leaves the reader in a similar position whereby we are being sucked into a narrative that we have little control over as well, but very much enjoy the seduction nonetheless. i highly recommend HOUSE OF WOMEN to anyone interested in theory surrounding ORIENTALISM, POST-COLONIALISM or FEMINIST theory. it is a graphic novel most definitely worth seeking out and exploring and coming to your own conclusions about.
relationships are complicated. ive always felt that there is something intrinsically narcissistic about ROMANTIC LOVE in general given that you pursue someone because of how they make you feel. when i started reading about BUDDHISM years ago before i moved to JAPAN this point was brought up again and again in different texts and it has long stayed with me.
the graphic novel SHORTCOMINGS (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 2007) by ADRIAN TOMINE is an extended meditation on the nature of a crumbling relationship and the undergirding reasons / desires / projections / obsessions that make breaking up so difficult. in essence there is that shared IDENTITY and sublimated EGO in that of another that is shattered and discarded. to some extent reading about the protagonist BEN TANAKA and his self-obsession felt like the dialogue in a WOODY ALLEN or INGMAR BERGMAN film where you know this clinging nature is only pushing the object of his desire away. he is so self-concerned and incapable of addressing the needs of his partner MIKO that he is basically manufacturing a self-fulfilling prophecy for his own alienation.
i think one particularly interesting aspect of SHORTCOMINGS is how it examines inter-racial relationships from a CONSERVATIVE ASIAN perspective. specifically the ingrained CHAUVINIST notion that how somehow dating an ASIAN woman is seen as less exciting or revered than that of a CAUCASIAN woman for an ASIAN man. this idea of a "white prize." that somehow if a CAUCASIAN male dates an ASIAN female that something is amiss but not the other way around. the graphic novel definitely dives deep into notions of TOKENISM, ORIENTALISM and POST-COLONIALIST thought in a very organic manner.
TOMINE is a deft writer who has a profound ability to subtly expose uncomfortable truths in an organic, unforced manner. i am looking forward to become more acquainted with his writings moving forward and highly suggest SHORTCOMINGS to anyone interested in thought-provoking writing, irrespective of an interest in comics or graphic novels. it is that good.
oh my god, I WANT YOU (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 2020) by LISA HANAWALT is absolutely insane.
this graphic novel is very much in touch with a level of DADA-esque absurdity that i was not prepared for. it ranges from lovingly-detailed drawings (that would make ALBRECHT DURER proud) of HIPSTER ANTHROPOMORPHIC animals hanging out at clubs, parties and the like, to crudely drawn sexual and FECAL-OBSESSED observations. and then there are random drawings of animals with ever more outlandish hats.
what i take from it all is that I WANT YOU is essentially a 20-something taking in her lived experiences and manifesting them through an absolutely feverish sense of unbounded creativity to the point of ABSTRACTION and SURREALISM. utilizing ANIMAL HEADS with HUMAN BODIES (complete with fashionable HIPSTER attire) seems as apt a vehicle as any for describing the SURREAL experience of experiencing real AUTONOMY for the first time as a young adult. those SOCIAL NEGOTIATIONS of learning what your boundaries are and how odd and difficult it is when you make mistakes regarding such. it is at that stage when you learn what your limits are and what your actual preferences are with regards to friends and romantic partners. so why not have a HUMANOID CAT date a HUMANOID DEER and witness the chaos ensue. doesnt feel that much difference than my experience in my early 20s.
if you are a fan of TRANSGRESSIVE art and a DADA-esque comedic sensibility than definitely check out I WANT YOU and the work of HANAWALT in general. but then you probably already knew that given her day job as the production designer and producer of BOJACK HORESMAN on NETFLIX. this graphic novel is definitely something i will revisit in the future and attempt to grasp in better detail, because i am so lost i dont know where to begin.
or maybe that was the point all along.
it feels like during the pandemic a fair amount of us garnered a new hard-earned appreciation for the daily rituals of public life. those mundane daily events like going to a grocery store or talking with your neighbors or even going to a movie or concert. the loss of that sense of INTERACTION with society since the pandemic began has been on my mind throughout, leading me to realize how ISOLATED i felt.
reading SEEK YOU: A JOURNEY THROUGH LONELINESS (PANTHEON, 2021) BY KRISTEN RADTKE was quite an affecting experience. the graphic novel is an extended meditation on the PHYSIOLOGICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, TECHNOLOGICAL and CULTURAL phenomena that make AMERICAN life such a uniquely isolating experience. it really is a deep dive into how LONELINESS works and the myriad ways it affects our MENTAL HEALTH and PHYSICAL WELL-BEING. i could go down the list of all the studies cited and heart-wrenching anecdotes shared throughout the book, but instead i will just make a general statement: everything comes down to EMPATHY. the idea of sharing and having reciprocated our values, aspirations, disappointments, obstacles and successes in the eyes of others is essentially to our sense of identity with a communal context. corrosive POLITICAL DEBATES, SOCIAL MEDIA ALGORITHMS, MORTGAGE PAYMENTS, FAMILIAL RESPONSIBILITIES, NORMATIVE GENDER PRESCRIPTIONS, etc. all rope is into an intense INTERIORITY that is difficult to break free from. in essence our personal SUFFERING gets in the way of our ability to see through the bullshit and EMPATHIZE with one another.
i have had the pleasure of working abroad in the developing world and i have long been struck by the strong communal ties therein. specifically in NIGERIA and MYANMAR there was a sense of being a valued member of a community (usually tribal) that went beyond one's INTELLECT, WEALTH or POLITICAL POWER. i often wonder being back stateside how much one's ECONOMIC STANDING plays into our sense of identity and ability to EMPATHIZE with one another. my instinct is that such is paramount. reading SEEK YOU: A JOURNEY THROUGH LONELINESS i was interested in hearing about that aspect but it never came up.
i feel this graphic novel is a transformative achievement and something i will be revisiting and referencing from here on out. this review most definitely did not do justice to the length and breadth of the ideas presented therein, but it showcases where my head is at relative to it at this moment in time. i cannot advocate for this book strongly enough. it is PROVOCATIVE and deeply AFFECTING as it touches a subject nobody wants to acknowledge in AMERICAN society: the fact that we celebrate our ALIENATION and ISOLATION from each other and pay the price on the other end with devastating consequences.
in my opinion SEEK YOU: A JOURNEY THROUGH LONELINESS is required reading. definitely wort checking out.
the graphic novel HERE (PANTHEON, 2014) by RICHARD MCGUIRE presents the narrative of a living room. it sis a unique narrative in that it is told visually from a fixed viewpoint over TIME. overlapping panels from varying points in TIME, from the prehistoric and precambrian through the future rising tides brought on by CLIMATE CHANGE to a future technologically advanced society.
what is created is an experiential PALIMPSEST. a PALIMPSEST is a painting in which an artist creates on top of an existing object or previous incarnation of the painting itself. what results are layers of meaning and interesting juxtapositions that require the viewer to make sense of these new connections. in HERE, MCGUIRE is essentially playing with concepts of IDENTITY and MEMORY as told through TIME. dinosaurs, sharks, native americans, modern families and the like have all LIVED, FOUGHT, LOVED, DIED and experienced full lives in this PHYSICAL SPACE.
what shines through in this graphic novel is the concept of IMPERMANENCE and how our MORTALITY repeatedly inculcates in us a sense of stewardship over our surroundings. or at least it should. in BUDDHISM there is a mindset that everything and anything is in a constant state of TRANSFORMATION, of BECOMING. as humans we are only temporarily utilizing the molecules and atoms that make up our physical being and long after we pass on, much like the stars that created this matter, there will be further physical objects and manifestations utilizing said atoms ad infinitum. its a humbling concept and put the blip that is your lifespan and lived experience in proper PERSPECTIVE, against what your mind and body tell you otherwise.
it also makes you consider the true implications of your individual CHOICES and how such will impact future generations. HERE is a deeply affecting graphic novel that has a MINIMALIST AESTHETIC with a deep impact. it effectively translates how our collective experiences over TIME unite us all and bind us. i found this book to be a deep meditation on the physical world and our place within it. HERE is definitely worth seeking out.
its interesting, the life narrative of legendary COMIC BOOK artist JACK KIRBY is not all that dissimilar from early BLUES and ROCK N ROLL musicians: that being the story of EXPLOITATION. in KIRBY you have an artists who basically created the vocabulary of modern COMICS and was shafted every step of the way by those (i.e. DC and especially MARVEL) who profited mightily from his talent and labor. it is almost tragic in a sense that he wasn't worthy of respect by his employers, before you stop to consider that he is probably the most beloved figure in the history of COMICS. more so than even his former collaborator STAN LEE.
the documentary JACK KIRBY: STORY TELLER (SPARKHILL, 2007) really gets at the man behind the pencil, as lovingly recounted by his family, assistants, close friends and admirers. what emerges is a touching portrait of a scrappy son of ORTHODOX JEWISH immigrants from AUSTRIA who used his untrained talent to claw himself out of both the GREAT DEPRESSION and a life barely above subsistence in LOWER EAST SIDE tenement housing that he was hellishly raised in. the man had drive and a work ethic bar none. during his peak in the 1960s he would often work 14 hours a day. every day. weekends. holidays. the man did not quit and was determined not to have his growing family have to suffer the difficulties he did in his youth. it was also the ethic that made him susceptible to taking on bad contracts and being paid below his worth.
and just so we are clear, his worth was immeasurable not only to MARVEL but to COMICS as an industry.
its not a happy story outside of the fact that he was able to meek out a living and had a close, loving family. and the respect of not only writer and artists who came after him, but interestingly as the film points out, those also who came before. the film recounts how he was generous to a fault, giving away quick drawings to fans and admirers alike. MARVEL was not the same way. KIRBY worked until his passing in 1994 and was never allowed access to his original drawings from MARVEL, who have gone on to franchise his creations into movies as well as license such in countless merchandising efforts.
but that is CAPITALISM i suppose. all's fair in LOVE, WAR and COMICS. the dude deserved better and at least there is some hope in the fact that in the 1990s through IMAGE COMICS the industry was permanently shifted. much like those players that played before collective bargaining was established in BASEBALL, KIRBY was not able to benefit from such progress, but at least he lived to witness such change.
THE MINDSCAPE OF ALAN MOORE (SHADOWSNAKE, 2005) is an unconventional documentary in that it is essentially an extended monologue by which the legendary BRITISH COMIC BOOK writer (of V FOR VENDETTA, THE WATCHMEN and FROM HELL fame) recounts his beliefs and philosophies regarding the sacred and transformative power of the written word.
raised in the dreary MIDLANDS factory town of NORTHAMPTON, MOORE presents a bleak picture of a dreary landscape where his childhood ambitions and imagination went decidedly internal and eventually provided the key to his physical, external escape from an arduous life of hard labor like those of his parents and neighbors. in his worldview, external structures and organizations like schools, governments and religions are tools of mental and emotional indoctrination with their own aims and agendas, often ECONOMIC, leading the way.
interestingly, MOORE brings up this notion that SPIRITUALITY through western PAGANISM promotes an outlook that takes into account the complexity of the NATURAL WORLD and our interconnected and interdependent position within it. this is in direct confrontation with that of stewardship model often promoted through CHRISTIANITY, which entails a sense of hierarchy and ultimately disconnect from our surroundings and our effects upon it. its an interesting take and very reminiscent of traditional HINDU belief systems ive come across over the years.
i think this documentary serves as a decent primer into the world of his writings, which often feature dystopian landscapes and oppressive, autocratic political systems that serve to squash human CREATIVITY and VITALITY. you get the sense from listening to MOORE that the written word is something sacred and eternal that cannot be dismantled unless we consent to it. for language and communication is an internal process and it is only when we consent to altering our self-image through manipulations in language that we give away our personal and collective sense of IDENTITY and INDIVIDUALITY.
it makes even more sense when you consider the current stateside political climate and the lengths to which the right will attempt to attack SYMBOLS, WORDS and CULTURAL MARKERS. they arent dumb. they well know that these vehicles each communicate ideas and ideas are dangerous to an authoritarian.
would be so interested in listening to him talk about TRUMP and the modern radio/podcast/television echo chambers and their assault on language and how such corrupts our very sense of self-perception.
i was most definitely not raised on COMICS. as a young child i read CALVIN & HOBBES but that was about it. in fact, its only been in the past few years since returning stateside that ive really dived in headfirst into the weirder world of the genre and all roads seemed to point at SCOTTISH writer GRANT MORRISON. specifically his more personal work in THE INVISIBLES, ANIMAL MAN and DOOM PATROL series.
GRANT MORRISON: TALKING WITH GODS (RESPECT FILMS, 2010) is essentially a documentary made up of several sit-down interviews with the writer discussing his upbringing and influences. essentially he was raised as a child of the cold war with palpable fears of nuclear annihilation that COMICS helped him escape from, specifically those with super powers that had the capacity to neutralize such massive threats. his father was an political agitator who was very much against SCOTLAND's role in NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION and its harboring of the TRIDENT MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM. so that sense of existential dread and loss of agency was part of his nascent sense of identity. fast forward to attending a GLASWEGIAN all-boys school for his teen years and his sense of isolation only furthered his relationship with reading and creating his own narratives in regular school published COMIC STRIPS.
what interested me about his life's narrative is after he became established with the BATMAN vehicle ARKHAN ASYLUM, which allowed him the economic freedom to eventually pursue his THE INVISIBLES series. in essence, once he was financially independent he decided to travel and experience as much as possible. those excursions abroad allowed him to experience various modes of existence in terms of chemical, spiritual and gender manipulations that were beyond what his SCOTTISH identity would allow back home. it is that exploration that he threw into his work. as someone who spent the better part of a decade living abroad on five continents, i understand completely the sense of not being able to escape yourself and the sense of being connected to many, but essentially alone. i get understand that intimately and that sentiment very much resonated with me. i find it interesting that upon meeting his partner he now resides and works comfortably back in SCOTLAND. that sense of leaving only to return but with a new appreciation.
what i found less interesting was all the talk of magical thinking from MORRISON himself as well as those of his numerous peers that are interviewed in the film. MORRISON is not the first or the last person to sprinkle in autobiographical nuggets into his elaborate fictional worlds. maybe the everything ALEISTER CROWLEY and MAGIK related is a BRITISH obsession that doesnt translate to an AMERICAN audience. it just came off like tedious nonsense, like running into "ghost hunters" from STATEN ISLAND. you just nod and keep walking, preferably fast.
i thoroughly recommend this documentary to anyone interested in TRANSGRESSIVE and thought-provoking art or literature. MORRISON is most definitely worth the effort of further investigation, especially THE INVISIBLES which is a personal favorite of mine. no wonder THE MATRIX ripped it off.
SEXUAL POLITICS is probably the most brutal aspect of being human. the ability or inability to attract a mate or companion and navigate the EMOTIONS, EXPECTATIONS and CULTURAL BAGGAGE that comes with the territory. as awkward as the subject matter can be, cartoonist JOE MATT practically revels in it with unflinching gusto in his autobiographical graphic novel THE POOR BASTARD (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 1997), a repackaging of parts of his highly idiosyncratic PEEPSHOW series.
in essence this graphic novel proves the point that sometimes there really is such a thing as too much information.
MATT presents himself as a shallow, sex-crazed egotist who is constantly seeking his embodiment of "perfect" woman that is obviously a figment of imagination. for all of his SELF-OBSESSION, STUNTED ADOLESCENCE and rampant IMMATURITY, there is a real pathos to all the insecurity he projects on womankind. this expectation of his of their physical perfection doesnt mirror in his own appearance or SELF-IMAGE, even in a comic that he controls. it is as if he wants us to know how pathetic his life is.
reading his comics is highly uncomfortable yet instructive in that it makes the reader question his/her own motivations in the relationships her/he pursues. is MATT really that bad or are well all like him, seeking in others what is not in ourselves. is ROMANTIC LOVE inherently selfish? maybe.
i cant say id recommend THE POOR BASTARD but if anything it is highly interesting. makes me want to red the comic from the perspective of his attempted conquests. itd be interesting to see these women see him. itd be interesting to see what EMOTIONS, EXPECTATIONS and CULTURAL BAGGAGE they project onto other potential love interests and what that says about them.
maybe we are all similar? or maybe MATT is a true degenerate.
i am sad to admit that my introduction, like many AMERICANS, to the world of legendary underground BRITISH comic imprint 2000 AD, was that dreadful SYLVESTER STALLONE JUDGE DREDD (HOLLYWOOD, 1995) film. needless to say i didnt pursue the comic at the time. i dont think i was alone in that.
a few years ago when i rediscovered comics, and by that i mean mostly ALTERNATIVE COMICS, i finally came around to learning about the long-running BRITISH magazine which led me to the excellent recent documentary FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD (DEVIANT, 2014). this film definitely felt like a labor of love, with notable participating interviewees including past artists like CARLOS EZQUERRA, BRIAN BOLLAND, DAVE GIBBONS, GARY ERSKINE, HENRY FLINT, LEE GARBETT and STEVE YOEWELL, writers such as JOHN WAGNER, ALAN GRANT, NEIL GAIMAN, IAN EDGINTON and GRANT MORRISON, EMMA BEEBY and editors including PAT MILLS, DAVID BISHOP and ANDY DIGGLE. and that is the truncated list of interviewees. it really is quite overwhelming.
what i found most interesting were the roots of the magazine, which grew out of a milieu of genre specific cartoon magazines written for young boys. founding editor PAT MILLS found his original ACTION comic censored for its violence so he ingeniously reimagined and rebranded such as a SCIENCE FICTION magazine, and importantly kept the violence, and thus 2000 AD was born. its pretty funny that such worked, given that it was somehow palatable and morally passable for the censors to see MUTANTS and ROBOTS being mangled, trampled, dismembered, tortured, drowned, and blown to bits. so long as it wasnt humans.
i also found it interesting the convergence between the magazine and the BRITISH PUNK ROCK movement of the late 1970s, with the JUDGE DREDD character both a reaction and a commentary on such at the time. in essence he was the ultimate authoritarian figure crushing the perceived opposition, of which the PUNKS were an implicit target. it was ultra-violent and tone perfect for an era and generation questioning authority figures and the relationship between the governed and the government.
and in essence that sense of questioning boundary lines in society and culture is what makes the magazine still relevant, and arguably very BRITISH. that subtext is also what differentiates it from its AMERICAN brethren and readership, who often expect clearly righteous figures and dont appreciate moral ambiguity. an interesting point made is how the 2000 AD model has over time found its way into AMERICAN popular culture with former fans writing, directing and acting in films more aligned with the later's outlook rather than the former. even musicians such as GEOFF BARROW of PORTISHEAD and SCOTT IAN of ANTHRAX are interviewed about how this active questioning of the status quo was what he got out of their fandom as kids. thats pretty cool that their readership included a legion of active, and not passive, creatives.
so yeah, this was definitely a worthwhile film and will serve as the basis for my further investigation into the world of comics, even those i'd hitherto not considered, like JUDGE DREDD. pretty cool. most definitely worth investigating if you are interested in the intersection of ART, WRITING and even MUSIC in modern BRITISH culture.
legendary FRENCH illustrator JEAN GIRAUD, a.k.a MOEBIUS, is universally renowned for his singular mind-bending, often metaphysical visual work that has resulted in iconic work in BLUEBERRY, HEAVY METAL, ARZACH and THE INCAL as well as set/production design for HOLLYWOOD films such as ALIEN (BRANDYWINE, 1979), TRON (DISNEY, 1982) and THE FIFTH ELEMENT (GAUMONT, 1997). MOEBIUS REDUX: A LIFE IN PICTURES (ARTE, 2007) was filmed a few years before his passing and includes interviews with notable past collaborators such as ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY, DAN O'BANNON, STAN LEE, H.R. GIGER and PHILIPPE DRUILLET as well as acolytes such as MIKE MIGNOLA and JIM LEE.
i feel a bit under-equipped using only words in an absolutely vain attempt to describe the sublime work of MOEBIUS, which often depicts figures dominated by their landscape, whether impossibly dense or oppressively empty. his visuals have a metaphysical element that seamlessly invites the viewer to imagine themselves as being an active participant in the narrative. the scale and scope as well as the attention-to-detail is unlike anything ive witnessed reading GRAPHIC NOVELS in the past. its a singular experience.
i think what made this documentary interesting was how it presented this industry giant as a soft-spoken recluse, even amidst the recollections of his celebrated, and arguably more famous, past collaborators. this is said to be rooted in his youth, where he drew feverishly alone as his mother was often away working as a single parent. this solitary work he pursued was a behavior that MOEBIUS fully admits resulted in the hurt feelings among friends and family over a lifetime. it makes you think of the time spent away by past WRITERS, ARTISTS and POETS alike.
obviously this documentary is well worth investigating if you have any interest in GRAPHIC NOVELS or TRANSGRESSIVE ART in general. i think it is also worth your time if you are interested in the nature of genius and the art of collaboration. it is an interesting dynamic that MOEBIUS' most celebrated work are those projects for which he collaborated so effectively at, given his solitary nature.
should also mention that the evocative score for this film was composed by KARL BARTOS of KRAFTWERK.
who wouldnt want to relive their high school years? maybe take chances you wish you had or perhaps avoid those you did?
that is the basic premise of TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN (TOP SHELF, 2008) by ALEX ROBINSON which follows a middle-aged protagonist, ANDY WICKS, who is transported back to his awkward high school days while under hypnosis for a longstanding, seemingly unbreakable SMOKING HABIT. what makes this narrative interesting is not the premise, which is well-trodden at this point, but rather the idea that what our MEMORY isolates and presents to us as crucial, identity-forming events in our past is not always the case. yes, we are the end product of our past decisions (which makes the idea of being transported back as a youth with the experiences of an adult confusing and a bit cumbersome), but as individuals we are constantly evolving and our changing PERCEPTION of our own past is a reflection of such identity-shifting.
not sure about you, but i can look to my past actions and pick out a whole slew of events that either point to me being CHARITABLE, HONEST and EMPATHETIC or CRUEL, LETHARGIC and ENVIOUS. its more a reflection of my emotional state that anything objective, because in essence i am all those things and even others i havent considered. it is a part of being HUMAN.
following WICKS' journey through his past is interesting because it shows that even with EXPERIENCE, PERSPECTIVE and EMOTIONAL MATURITY, the limited agency of being an adolescent relegates one to a strict set of options. the adult community basically serves to disempower you of your ability to express yourself, as you are considered a work-in-progress of sorts. as a former teacher, that whole sub-narrative surrounding AGENCY is always fascinating to consider and explore.
ROBINSON's graphic novel is provocatively themed with beautiful, quirky illustrations that showcase the discomforting, often brutal SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS of youth. some of which we never grow out of. great read. highly recommended.
BURMA CHRONICLES (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 2008) is an autobiographical memoir by FRENCH cartoonist GUY DELISLE that depicts his yearlong tenure in MYANMAR while his wife was stationed there as part of her work with the international NGO DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS. to state the obvious, this era in the history of MYANMAR predated the military junta's experimental flirtation with democracy and the release, political rise and swift downfall of AUNG SAN SUU KYI. it also predates the genocide currently taking place against the MUSLIM ROHINGYA population in the southwest of the country.
what makes this book interesting, much like his other works cataloguing similar stints in NORTH KOREA, CHINA and ISRAEL, is deft manner in which DELISLE presents a culture through his personal experiences as an expatriate with everyday people. given his status as his wife's "plus one," he essentially uses this unique opportunity to critical examine his daily mundane interactions. this manifests in a narrative that is made up of intimate vignettes about dealing with issues ranging from the systematic (MEDIA CENSORSHIP, GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION, FOOD INSECURITY, INTERMTTENT ELECTRICITY and UNRELIABLE INTERNET CONNECTIONS) to the personal (LOCAL CUSTOMS/FASHION/CUSINE, RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS, GENDER ROLES and FILIAL PIETY). sure there are times when his observations come off a bit PATRONIZING and even PATERNALISTIC, but in my experience that is part of the process of acclimating to new surroundings and normative culture that differs from your own. so i dont fault him too much for that, in fact i think its a testament to his honesty to include such and gives this graphic novel a sense of authenticity.
as ive mentioned in this forum before, i formerly worked in MYANMAR in the northern city of MANDALAY, which is far from the metropolis that is YANGON where DELISLE resided more than a decade before. there were things i learned from BURMA CHRONICLES about my area, specifically KACHIN STATE which was to my north. i taught children of their military during my tenure and i really had no idea about the jade mines located there and the dismal, sub-human conditions endured there by local workers at the behest of foreign companies (mostly CHINESE). i did not know about the narcotics problem there and how it worked within a broader GEOPOLITICAL STRATEGY by the military junta. of cause looking back, who would have told me? i was literally surrounded by AMERICANS, some of the CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY persuasion so at the very least they were highly unreliable on most any subject.
having been a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA i worked in concert with some foreign NGOs so i found it interesting learning about the politics regarding the mission of DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS and the decision matrix they utilize to deem a situation beyond salvageable. in BURMA CHRONICLES DELISLE and his family leave because the organization determined that they were rendering services that should be provided by the government. in essence they were aiding in the lack of development and progress by the military junta. i find that sort of thing incredibly interesting. too often in ALBANIA i felt that PEACE CORPS was more interested in what we got our counterparts to produce rather than having them self-determine and work towards mutual goals. that over time all we provided was a crutch for the locals to rely upon instead of becoming more self-sufficient. it is nice to know in this instance that responsible NGOs take their mission seriously and are willing to depart if the conditions do not present themselves. of course, i admit that an NGO is different than PEACE CORPS, which is an extension of the STATE DEPARTMENT, so maybe those missions and their ethos dont match exactly, but all the same it is not in the AMERICAN interest to have developing countries rely on us for expertise. or maybe it is?
i thought DELISLE did a stellar job of elucidating the experience of adjusting to living in a developing by a WESTERN expatriate, worts and all. i highly recommend this graphic novel to anyone interested in learning about that experience or even a pre-"democratic" MYANMAR for that matter. cant wait to seek out his other publications.
the standalone graphic novel JUST SO HAPPENS (ABRAMS COMICARTS, 2015) authored and illustrated by FUMIO OBATA is an interesting examination of how one's sense of identity and rootedness is transformed when navigating two cultures. in this case the main protagonist is a young JAPANESE woman named YUMIKO who works for a LONDON design firm and is engage to a ENGLISHMAN when she returns to JAPAN for the funerary rights of her recently deceased father. being the daughter of divorced parents and a stridently independent mother who left to pursue her educational goals and a career as an literary intellectual, YUMIKO is caught between traditional JAPANESE cultural prescriptions of passive femininity and the empowered WESTERN model of the self-sufficient woman.
in a sense she sees the benefits of both. this appreciation is seen through the visual metaphor of classical NOH THEATER, which finds a masked actor following her in her dreams. this deeply traditional style of drama, much like other JAPANESE pursuits, is intensely formal to the point that all GESTURES, POSTURES and MOVEMENTS have been passed down for generations upon generations. in fact, the formal elements of these performances are so entrenched that they subsume any sense of ego or expression on behalf of the actor.
going through the motions of participating in the traditional JAPANESE BUDDHIST funerary rites regarding her father, there is an implied connection to this sense of extinguishing the ego. these rituals are not about satiating the needs of the living. they are about continuing a pattern, fulfilling an expectation. FUMIKO seems to learn that there is comfort in the formal procedures and rituals not only associated with death, but with life as well.
having worked in YOKOHAMA myself for a year teaching LITERATURE at a private secondary school, i think it is quite impressive how OBATA is able to identify and explore this point of tension between EASTERN and WESTERN culture. i remember how seemingly difficult it was to navigate a culture where everyone was so impeccably polite. they werent being INAUTHENTIC, but there always seemed to be this distance. that is until there wasnt. i got the sense that once my JAPANESE peers realized that i was respectful of their culture and embraced the formal elements of their behavior (which is an adjustment for a WESTERNER), it was only then that i found myself joking with people. it was an interesting experience and something i often think about.
growing up as a THIRD CULTURE KID, you are perennially stuck between multiple worlds, multiple modes of being and understanding life. i'm still navigating it even when on "home" soil. its still an adjustment much like it is for YUMIKO when bridging ENGLISH and JAPANESE culture.
i thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel and recommend it immensely.
photo by nacrowe
LOVE IN VAIN: ROBERT JOHNSON 1911-1938 (FABER & FABER, 2016) is lovingly constructed graphic novel depicting the basic narrative of doomed legendary DELTA BLUES artist ROBERT JOHNSON from the perspective of the DEVIL.
in terms of narrative there seems to be a heavy focus on the sheer physicality of the era, especially with evocative visual depictions of the thankless task of laboring in the cotton fields and carousing in the juke joints. you get a sense of how far outside of society JOHNSON was for pursuing a career in music that was unsanctioned by the BLACK BAPTIST CHURCH. you also get a feel for how all modes of escapism, whether they were musical, sexual or chemical in nature, where all just diversions from the harsh draconian reality that was being an AFRICAN AMERICAN in the JIM CROW, post-reconstruction deep south.
as with all types of narrative telling, choices are made regarding the subject that reflect more on the author/artist than the subject perhaps. this is true in the case of LOVE IN VAIN which was created by R. CRUMB acolyte MEZZO and finds interest in the extremity of the subject matter. in my mind, what i find more interesting about JOHNSON and his art are the ways that his upbringing and background informed his art. how they contextualized his lyrics. how those lyrics and that sound connected with generations of artists.
the devil at the crossroads gimmick is overblown in my opinion. it also is highly misrepresented as conversing with god in order to gain insight or wisdom is a hallmark of the WEST AFRICAN storytelling and oral history tradition than anything else. what gets perpetuated in well-meaning texts like this is the idea of a man who deserved to die for his talent, which is bullshit. the man was poisoned by a jilted husband of woman he was pursuing. shit happens. he messed with the wrong guy and due to his status as a societal outside, JOHNSON was left for dead without a doctor. his death was inevitable or a sign of anything.
i was a little let down that the narrator was the devil, even if he questioned the motives of several characters in the process (which is a bit of a head-scratcher when the lord of darkness finds you a bit duplicitous). seemed exploring WEST AFRICAN culture of HOODOO beliefs would have been more interesting, but hey the pictures are amazing.
there is an interiority to SABRINA (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 2018) by NICK DRNASO that i really appreciated. the idea that in an increasingly digital world where all of human experience is reduced down to IMAGES, SOUNDS, WORDS and VIDEOS emanating from a screen, that all of reality is really what we choose it to be. in essence our senses have been hijacked and our ability to trust our perceptions has been compromised.
SABRINA presents narrative surrounding the abduction and murder of a CHICAGO woman and how such gets played out online when the video of such goes viral. illustrated efficiently yet plainly with muted colors and faces with seemingly no emotion, this graphic novel ingeniously utilizes LANGUAGE as the locus of tension and action. language here serves to deliver these plainly depicted figures into a surreal psychodrama. in essence digital media has the transformative ability to make us all question our sense of IDENTITY and our relationship to each other. with relatives, friends and significant others thrown in the mix in the public square that is the internet, disinformation and false narratives are proposed and take hold in the collective consciousness, some forwarded by unsympathetic actors with personal agendas and others by professional journalists. it is all the same racket an loved ones of the deceased are merely products to be analyzed, investigated and questioned with contempt.
their humanity is compromised at the behest of public intrigue.
this book is less about a murder victim and more about the collateral damage that has befallen the families of tragedies such as SANDY HOOK who have been the target of disinformation campaigns by the likes of ALEX JONES and other nefarious conmen leeching off the body politic with their conspiracy theories under a false flag of patriotic fervor and the limits of free speech and personal freedom. funny how concepts such as CIVIC DUTY, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY or even HUMAN DECENCY enters the picture with these bloodsuckers. but they are just a symptom of our collective appetite for tragedy from which we all vicariously experience at a distance. we are all vampires feeding off each other.
SABRINA even depicts the extended circle of the victim engaging in this sort of behavior, checking out conspiratorial blogs and websites, listening to right wing news in an effort to make sense or draw order from the nihilistic notion that there is no meaning or lesson to draw from such a senseless act of VIOLENCE. and for me that tension is the crux of this narrative and where DRNASO succeeds wildly in this subdued yet immensely affecting graphic novel. that very need to define what is undefinable rather than look truth in the face and realize that there is no greater intent or purpose for human suffering. anything else is a fabrication conceived out of existential pain. conspiracy theories, hope, religion are all symptoms of this nihilistic worldview. maybe the proliferation of information via the internet has only gotten us closer to that realization or distracted us from it with a renewed sense of creative abandon.
interesting book worth checking out.