Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Meanwhile, Between Two Eternities of Darkness

Meanwhile, Between Two Eternities of Darkness
Translated by David Colmer

De Harmonie, 2010

I should start with the fact that it is insanely funny book. You may not be a fan of comics, but if you are a connoisseur of good jokes, this Gummbah’s book will become a pleasure for long couple of hundred pages. On every page here there are two panels more often, and not funny ones among them can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
However, after this it is worth noting another fact - humor here is very politically incorrect, sometimes openly rude, and more - all the jokes are very strict.

Everything is under attack: unsuccessful writers and pedophiles, homosexuals, and dildos, religion and sex. It can only be confusing at first, until you start to delve into the image of the world created by the author. Despite the fact that all the panels are completed on its own, however, each of them belongs to the same world. People in it are ugly and not attractive. There are no children (nominally there are children, but they are all drawn in the form of adults). They just do nothing but fuck, laugh at other people's shortcomings, insult each other, go to the doctor, rape animals. Gummbah, however, created the world that does not look real: seemingly so, almost everywhere it is drawn: families, conversations between friends, picnics, trips by transport, in general, everything that is natural, what people are and do all the time but you feel that it is rather dark fantasy, not in vain here often appear gnomes (from the comics Smurfs), Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck. By introducing these characters into the narrative, Gummbah, firstly, shows the grotesqueness of the world: even where there is no Mickey Mouse there, we see that the world upon Gummbah exists under other laws. Secondly, Smurfs and Mickey Mouse show that the author sees a connection between his own work and the European and American comics.

Gummbah’s art is grotesque – grotesque-realistic: the artist often draws in color, but sometimes there are black and white panels, and sometimes the author has resorted to a collage, which is funny too, but they drop out of the aligned series of characters. Focusing on people and relationships between them, the artist neglected backs, often drawing the characters on a background of bare walls or solid color fills. It is difficult to attribute to the flaws, still Gummbah does not aim at full representation of the world, he is just joking.

In two words: an impressive book.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Solipsistic Pop #3

Solipsistic Pop #3
Edited by Tom Humberstone

«Solipsistic Pop» is an anthology of British comics, published twice a year. The theme of this issue is wonder. There are a lot of wonders indeed. Part of the comics is made for younger readers, some for grown-ups, but even those comics who seem to be quite childish in style and art, will please fans of comics of all ages.

The first thing that catches your eye when you start flipping «Solipsistic Pop» is this is a colorful book. There is no black and white works, and among all the colors red predominates. Already a saturation of only red staggers and prepares for a heap of wonders.

«A Joke» by Tom Smith is accompanied by a poetic text. Poems here are as a voice-over to the surreal story: a young man goes to drink at the bar, and there he is met by the animals. The reader knows in advance that the entire story is a joke, but here's a young man about it yet to learn. Darryl Cunningham is represented in the book with three single-page stories, in each of which he exploits the same technique: the main character, which is easier to describe in two words «unknown animal», finds application to intangible objects in the picture, making them tangible. This animal uses the cloud and the so-called bubbles with words and thoughts. Cunningham comics are very simply painted, very funny, but jokes apart they still have genuine feelings of sadness, joy, and loneliness.

«The Torturer's Garden» by Rob Davis is a much more sophisticated. Davis experiments with the framework panels, alternating black humor with cruelty, and in the end uses postmodern trick. Philippa Rice in her «Interdimensional Treehouse Party» uses the most unusual artistic means. Two bored hero, like everything else in this comic, are not just painted, but carved out of paper, thus Rice makes something middle between a traditional animated film and a comic book. On the one hand, it narrows the artistic possibilities (too much static), on the other - the opposite of expanding. At least this reads very funny.

Octavia Raitt in «Molly vs. The Wondertaker» united in her short work two styles: the usual manner with a realistic three-dimensional on the description of the monster, the Wondertaker. In fiction narrative about a bored little girl, the author also put in pseudodocumental story about a monster. Fiction-like part often looks more organic, but the whole story together is a pleasure. Andrew Waugh in his «Teething Problems» uses the minimum number of words, but the picture conveys subtle humor stories. At the heart of comics is the relationship between suffering from excessive love for the master robot and a man. The story is full of gags, it has a very funny ending, but the author conveys to the reader one simple truth: we have a responsibility to those we have tamed, even if it's a robot.

«The Elephant of Surprise» by Faz Choudhury is like an illustrated story by Edgar Allan Poe with the elements of weird. Art of Choudhury is full of dark colors, details. «Sardines» by Becky Barnicout is drawn in indie-style, a style recalling Robert Crumb and co. This is a story of indifference, where in each panel, we look at abomination. Very strong work.

«Magic and the Man» by Kristyna Baczynski is a two-page comic drawn in a mirror manner: on one page we see the magician is at home, on the other - at work. That’s funny story, with impeccable design. «The Haunted Barb House» by Mark Oliver is a great example of how to paint a surreal story. The author not only invented a strange world filled with strange characters, he also added a few stylistic highlights: for example, answers of one of the two comic book heroes do not appear in the cloud, as it is customary, but directly on the face, making the man faceless. «The Egg» by Luke Pearson is another strange story about a boy and a girl. Power of Pearson in the first place is in his art: The picture is very realistic and at the same time it is something dreamy.

I was not very impressed with the plot of «Fruits Delamer» by Warwick Johnson Cadwell, but his artistic style charms. The author seems to admit negligence in the casting and working with color, but it works on the picture: art seems faded, lines are coarsening, and the picture begins to match the story, which is already several hundred years old.

«Solipsistic Pop» is 80 pages of continuous enjoyment. There is enough room for wonders for a year-old child and for one hundred years old.

Stripburger 54

Stripburger 54

If the previous issue of "Stripburger" was a disappointment for me - too many pictures and too little comics - that this, number 54, dedicated to Brazilian authors, is a delight.

In the issue there is an interview with one of the Brazilian artist Marcelo D`Salete. In this interview, D’Salete complains that nobody takes seriously comics in Brazil. Artists do not publish books because there are no comics publishers, readers do not read, because there are no comics and nowhere to learn about them, publishers do not want to hear about comics, making an exception for illustrated books for children. If you like to draw comics and be published - do comics for children. Such a situation recalled the situation in Russia, one to one similar to the Brazilian. If you do comics, just look for the opportunity to be published in the West, at home you could onlu get mockery. D’Salete in an interview remarked that comics in Brazil, made for adult audiences, have social background. His own strip in this issue is one of the strongest stories here. At the heart of D’Salete’s strip is a story about a girl who has lost her mobile phone. On the small number of pages of his work the artist tells us about the social life of Brazil more than we could learn from the Wikipedia articles or from news reports. Unsightly houses, barred windows, open spaces, the dark train, cowboy hats, petty criminals - the author doesn’t focus on this account, the reader himself notes the elements of urban life. D’Salete has lyric black and white art. Alternating panels on people and elements of landscape, the author demonstrates the inextricable link between the inner world of man and the place where he lives. Open ending does not contain harsh sentencing of Brazilian society, leaving hope for the best.

Allan Sieber, also from Brazil, is far less serious. Characters in his strip «Sorry, Olivia» are the couple drawn in the form of cats. The husband has a drinking problem and severe, the wife is tired of suffering. In brutal two-page comic «Car-Boy's Family» by Max Andersson from Sweden children's cruelty finds sometimes bizarre forms and it is aptly portrayed by Andersson.

In Rafael Sica’s works there are a lot of marginals. People in his comics are ugly, miserable, and full of despair. Sica often loops narrative in his short strips, thus speakingyou can not escape from your nature. In the comics of Laura Teixeira the time stops. Artist dispenses with plot, but her art is the story. Teixeira catches not a moment, but what happens between moments.

Art of Mateus Acioli in his comic strip «Prick» seems to have originated in North America, but the story is purely Brazilian, with elements of magical realism. Work of Acioli is about a moment, too, that moment almost doesn’t live and then die at once and it is impossible to capture.

It turns out that Brazil is full of excellent comic authors and «Stripburger» has done a great job to convey to the reader the best of Latin American artists.

Sharker, The Forgotten

Sam Spina
Sharker, The Forgotten

Self-published, 2010

This small comics book is a science fiction story about a man who turned into a shark. The beginning of the book is in the spirit of stories about monsters and wrong turns with pulp element: a man named Sean Kerr does not want to go fishing, but at the insistence of his girlfriend after all fitted out boat, and now three of them (the third one is girlfriend's father) has been in a boat sailing in search of a good bite. But the premonitions do not lie to Sean, the storm begins, and the boat is sinking. Girlfriend and her father get out on the beach, but Sean is swallowed by a shark, which strikes of lightning. After having fought for his life in already inside the shark stomach, Sean calms down. When he wakes up, then he discovers that he is alive and can breathe underwater. His companion soon becomes a shrimp, nicknamed Shrimper. Sean also because of the consonance gets his new name - Sharker.
Sharker still does not know who he is, and the time elapsed since the transformation has resulted not in a couple of hours but as much as four years.

This story at first seems not so original, then delirious, but due to a combination of old school elements of horror and black comedy this comics reads like a homage to good old-fashioned science fiction with non-obvious ending. «Sharker, The Forgotten» is primarily a story of a man ceases to be himself and not knowing what to do now.
Black and white art of Sam Spina organically looks with a story, it turns out, as if watching a series of old black and white tv series. The only thing that seems boring is the addition to Sharker a talking shrimp. The depth of relations between friends in adversity is not observed, the humor of shrimp is flat, so that the shrimp can not be avoided.

Sam Spina has his own voice. It would be interesting to see what he can do in a larger form.

Death-Day (Part One)

Sam Hiti
Death-Day (Part One)

Laluz Comics, 2010

Since the first pages of this comic it is clear: we face something big. We see grandeur of sweep of the author at least in an increased size of the book and in panels on half a page. The choice of larger format allows the author to draw a giant canvas and the reader to closely examine the content of a page.

«Death-Day» is so pure sci-fi, where it is unclear whether action takes place in our world of future, or on another planet, or in a parallel universe, or all at once, because one does not negate the other. Already in the prologue (and the book besides the prologue made of four chapters - "episodes"), we see a huge battlefield where the army of people and army of orbs (six-fingered monsters, they seems stupid, but taking a number) prepare to attack. Each episode is a separate story line, but closer to the end of the book crossing between subplots becomes clear.

In the first episode, despite its seemingly large scale, the action is mainly concentrated in the headquarters of the Earth officers, who command the earth's army, following instructions of the Mother-0, the computer intelligence. Attempts of officers in different ways to stop the advance orbs lead to nothing, the army of the Earth suffers a defeat.

In the second episode, the central in the book, the main protagonist is a cyborg, one-armed man, scarred, with a mental disorder. He becomes the new captain for the squad of six men, whose previous captain died under mysterious circumstances. The new captain is not very ceremony with the soldiers, telling them to forget their names, and instead assigning soldiers to call signs, ranging from the X-1 to X-6. Under the leadership of the mad cyborg squad hunts for the Black Orb. In the third episode their adventures continue, and in the fourth again we are transported for a few years ago, where the battle between humans and orbs is at full blast.

Art style of Sam Hiti in some episodes becomes the main weapon of the author, in others - the main drawback. In large-scale battle scenes, when in the large panels we're looking at crowds of people and fight with the monsters, when scenes appall with their greatness, and fighting people and monsters are so mixed together that sometimes it is difficult to understand who is who in this battle, made in black and white, viscous, the style of art of Hiti is his main strength. Our eyes bury themselves in the battle, and it’s possible that you can look at a panel for a few minutes. This style makes a world three-dimensional. Such a world does not need color, it in itself is dim, this world of death, war, world of men. If there face are shown in large scale, they are either riddled with pain, or thirst for death.
But in other episodes, where the panel contains small number of characters with no special actions, such voluminous style sometimes interferes with focus on the moment. Art blurs the single episode, so do not even always clear what is depicted on the panel. This, for example, prevents in the second and third episode to get acquainted with members of the military detachment: a soldier sometimes is too similar to another one.

«Death-Day» is a multi-layered work, where the emphasis is in world building, not in some kind of hero in particular. Hiti apparently hid several cats in a sack for the subsequent books in the series, but just the first book tells us much about the scale of author’s creation.


Derek McCulloch (writer), Greg Espinoza (artist)

Image Comics, 2010

Writer Derek McCulloch and artist Greg Espinoza do not hide in their afterword that the creation of this graphic novel was influenced by their passion for old black and white noir films. The story of former boxer, who quit the sport and forced to make a living by helping the bad guys, actually originated in the 30's of last century, but what even until the plot is striking because is the art of the book.

«Pug», as a film noir, is drawn in an old-fashioned black and white style. By removing all unnecessary, the authors brought their work closer to reality. In the novel there are no beautiful scenes, no broken noses in public, no girls undress in front of a hero, it all remains outside the page.

Jake lost an important fight a few years ago. At the same time his wife with his son left him, and a former boxer now lives with a stripper named Kitten, surviving on a one time job, then another. Drinking in a bar, Jake meets with one guy who is offering Jake a permanent job almost for free. Already at the first working day Jake realizes that the work is not dusty, but not of his type: with a blad man in glasses they go from house to house, knock out debts from gamblers. The pug does not tell Kitty about it: he is ashamed that instead of the normal work he received a dubious job of a muscle at a loan shark. Desperate, but not lost his conscience, Jake comes into conflict with his weasel-employer.

«Pug» is a generally very chamber story, you can count the players here on fingers, and the main action takes place inside Jake: Does he break under the pressure of circumstances, or not? What looks flimsy here it's flashbacks, from which we learn how Jake lost the fight that put the cross on the pug and why he still suffers from the leaving of his wife and son. Past is shown too messy, it has more action, and it does not allow us to see what's going on in heart and mind of Jake.

The pug, if not to take the episodes from the past, until the very end does not even use force, main battle is in his head. And the entire novel, in fact, says one simple truth: if you can, avoid a fight to the last. But if the time has come, then fight to the last. Do not lose in second time, as has already happened once.