Tuesday, July 26, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #17 (Phineas and Ferb by Jim Bernstein, Scott Peterson, John Green and Eric Jones)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

To get all of my bias out in the open, I’m a tremendously large Phineas and Ferb fan, so much so that I may (read: definitely do) own a Perry the Platypus t-shirt. To give some context to those unfamiliar with the TV show, this probably sounds nonsensical. The conceit of Phineas and Ferb is a chronicling of the titular step-brothers who spend each day of their summer holiday creating or doing something extraordinary, be that building a backyard beach or becoming one-hit wonders. Deliberately skewing the perspective of what is possible and embracing the ridiculousness of the situation, it leads to crazy hijinks and adventures that create some genuine laughs on screen. Oh, and their pet platypus, Perry, is a secret agent.

Perry the Platypus, or Agent P as he’s known, is, without a doubt, my favourite part of the original series, making me ecstatic that they chose to utilise him so heavily in this comic. In this single issue, you receive three short stories that all show off a different aspect of the TV show and a different adventure. Perry takes centre stage in two of the three, incidentally playing to my sensibilities making it, in my opinion, far more suited to an all-ages audience in the context of this column's definition. While the adventures of the children are what motivates the action each week, it’s Perry’s journey that always contains an extra layer of, for lack of a better word, maturity.

There’s a meta-contextual layer to all of Perry’s missions to foil his nemesis, Heinz Doofenshmirtz, that makes each confrontation feel very self-aware. The pair discuss the practicality of arranging to build a new giant death ray every week and regularly discuss the responsibility that he feels to demonstrate his showmanship at the same time. While children can tune in to see a brand new silly device get created and played with each week, the stereotypical and yet very subversive approach to the storytelling keeps it all fresh. Luckily, this is a detail which is carried over very effectively into this comic.

Doofenshmirtz, along with every other character, has a very distinctive voice. Translating audio into the written word and retaining the same essence can be a very difficult thing to do, but Bernstein and Peterson have it down to a fine art. It’s difficult to read the dialogue in anything with anything but the inflection of the original actors. If you’re coming into this comic as a fan of the original TV show, then you can be assured that the quality of the speech translates perfectly into the written form.

There’s a very definitive structure that a regular episode takes, even if they do often choose to subvert it. Although it’s clear that these creators know the tropes that we’ve come to expect from the series, this first issue does tend to feel like they’re trying to tick all of those boxes at once. Isabella mentions getting a girl-scout badge, Buford needlessly bullies Ranjit and then Ferb slides in at the end with a witty one-liner. While these are components of the show that I usually adore and look for, there was a stiffness created from reading them in a static context that made them grate ever so slightly.

There’s a humour to the TV show that I’ve come to appreciate that translates very well into this series. As previously mentioned, the writers know that all of these situations are incredulous and infeasible, but that that is part of the fun. Deciding to not explicitly explain every little detail, they regularly point out that something doesn’t make sense, then immediately move on with the rest of the story. By doing this, you remove the need for patronising scenes of explanation that can be found throughout lots of children’s cartoons, just in case you didn’t quite understand what’s going on.

With each issue containing shorter stories, you do lack that depth and the chance to fully explore some of the concepts that you get from a longer form narrative. Characters come in for a little demonstration of their base characteristics and then immediately drop out again. While I do appreciate the ability to flit through little stories, which maybe this medium is more suited to, this comic lacks a lot of the depth that you can find on the screen. If this paragraph sounds indecisive, it’s because it is; I can’t quite identify whether or not this is a negative or a positive quality of the series. Both sides have merit and only further exposure to this form itself will push the decision either way.

I really wanted to get to the end of this article and be able to say that I pushed past all of my bias and was able to mark this comic as Small-Ages. Unfortunately, as you might have been thinking all along, this is a property that I can’t objectively say whether or not this adaptation is high quality, but I don't know if I really want to. It’s smart, it’s funny and every story in this issue feels fresh. The way that the creators so adeptly make the same old concepts feel new and exciting each time, with a few exceptions, is astounding. I do believe that you should be buying this series on its own but, at the very least, go and watch the TV show.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at mark@thegreengorcrow.com or head over to thegreengorcrow.com for a daily dose of comic reviews, interviews and more!

Friday, July 22, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for 7/21/2016-- SDCC Dreaming On Such a Winters Day

** The Review of all of the panels we've pattered about lately

** The San Diego Comicon is currently going on and that means that Friday night is the Eisner awards ceremony.  So let's take a look at the nominees and try to take a stab at who's going to walk away with comics' own version of the Oscars.  I've bolded my choices in the nominee lists.

Best Short Story
  • “Black Death in America,” by Tom King and John Paul Leon, in Vertigo Quarterly: Black(Vertigo/DC)
  • “Hand Me Down,” by Kristyna Baczynski, in 24 x 7 (Fanfare Presents)
  • “It’s Going to Be Okay,” by Matthew Inman, in The Oatmeal, theoatmeal.com/comics/plane
  • “Killing and Dying,” by Adrian Tomine, in Optic Nerve #14 (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • “Lion and Mouse,” by R. Sikoryak, in Fable Comics (First Second)

Let's just go with "Killing and Dying" here.  I'll admit that every year the Best Short Story category is one of the hardest ones for me because it's full of a lot of great sounding comics that I just haven't been able to track down.

Best Single Issue/One-Shot
  • A Blanket of Butterflies, by Richard Van Camp and Scott B. Henderson (HighWater Press)
  • I Love This Part, by Tillie Walden (Avery Hill)
  • Mowgli’s Mirror, by Olivier Schrauwen (Retrofit/Big Planet)
  • Pope Hats #4, by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse)
  • Silver Surfer #11: “Never After,” by Dan Slott and Michael Allred (Marvel)

Pope Hats was really good but I'd have to go with that Silver Surfer comic.  Slott and Allred are both doing some of the best work of their career and this moebius looped comic was quite a feat.  

Best Continuing Series
  • Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain)
  • Giant Days, by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Max Sarin (BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box)
  • Invincible, by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Cliff Rathburn (Image/Skybound)
  • Silver Surfer, by Dan Slott and Michael Allred (Marvel)
  • Southern Bastards, by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour (Image)
This is another strong category.  This could go between Bandette, Silver Surfer and Southern Bastards. Let's go with Silver Surfer again here but there's 4 out of 5 books here that would all be the right pick for this year.

Best Limited Series
  • Chrononauts, by Mark Millar and Sean Murphy (Image)
  • The Fade Out, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)
  • Lady Killer, by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich (Dark Horse)
  • Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions, by Bob Fingerman (Image)
  • The Spire, by Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely (BOOM! Studios)
From an accomplishment viewpoint, it would be nice to see Bob Fingerman get this one.  From the gut, my personal favorite here was Brubaker and Phillips' The Fade Out.

Best New Series
  • Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (Image)
  • Harrow County, by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook (Dark Horse)
  • Kaijumax, by Zander Cannon (Oni)
  • Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image)
  • Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang (Image)
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (Marvel)
So far, the nominees in all of the categories have been strong.  I feel like the winner is either Paper Girls or The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl but my fingers are crossed for Bunn and Crook to take it home for Harrow County.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion, by Dominque Roques and Alexis Dormal (First Second)
  • Little Robot, by Ben Hatke (First Second)
  • The Only Child, by Guojing (Schwartz & Wade)
  • SheHeWe, by Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch (Lerner Graphic Universe)
  • Written and Drawn by Henrietta, by Liniers (TOON Books)
Sadly, I haven't read any of these so I'm going to abstain from this one but I like Ben Hatke's stuff so that may count for something.   

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)
  • Baba Yaga’s Assistant, by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll (Candlewick)
  • Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, by Jessica Dee Humphreys, Michel Chikwanine, and Claudia Devila (Kids Can Press)
  • Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor, by Nathan Hale (Abrams Amulet)
  • Over the Garden Wall, by Pat McHale, Amalia Levari, and Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios/KaBOOM!)
  • Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson (Dial Books)
  • Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm (Scholastic Graphix)
Ditto here.  If pushed, I guess I'd go for Over the Garden Wall because I liked the cartoon. 

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press)
  • Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)
  • Moose, by Max de Radiguès (Conundrum)
  • Oyster War, by Ben Towle (Oni)
  • SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)
March: Book Two was one of the best comics of last year.  It's got to be Lewis, Aydin and Powell.

Best Humor Publication
  • Cyanide & Happiness: Stab Factory, by Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, and Dave McElfatrick (BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box)
  • Deep Dark Fears, by Fran Krause (Ten Speed Press)
  • Sexcastle, by Kyle Starks (Image)
  • Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection, by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • UR, by Eric Haven (AdHouse)
Kate Beaton.  Kate Beaton.  Kate Beaton.  Kate Beaton.  

Yeah, I really liked Step Aside, Pops.

Best Digital/Webcomic
  • Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain/comiXology)
  • Fresh Romance, edited by Janelle Asselin (Rosy Press/comiXology)
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman, by Renae De Liz (DC Digital)
  • Lighten Up, by Ronald Wimberly (The Nib), thenib.com/lighten-up-4f7f96ca8a7e#.u45ffr3l1
  • These Memories Won’t Last, by Stu Campbell, memories.sutueatsflies.com/
Wimberly's Lighten Up was one of the most important comics of 2015.  Sadly the link at thenib.com doesn't seem to be working anymore but I'm sure you can Google that comic and find it.

Best Anthology
  • Drawn & Quarterly, Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary, Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels, edited by Tom Devlin (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Eat More Comics: The Best of the Nib, edited by Matt Bors (The Nib)
  • 24 x 7, edited by Dan Berry (Fanfare Presents)
  • Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, vol. 3, edited by David Petersen and Rebecca Taylor (BOOM! Studios/Archaia)
  • Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz, edited by Shannon Watters (BOOM! Studios/KaBOOM!)
The Drawn & Quarterly book was quite a feat.  As well as being a wonderful retrospective of the publisher, the amount of talent and great comics makes it pound for pound the winner here.

Best Reality-Based Work
  • The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978–1984, by Riad Sattouf (Metropolitan Books)
  • Displacement: A Travelogue, by Lucy Knisley (Fantagraphics)
  • Hip Hop Family Tree, Book 3: 1983–1984, by Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
  • Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist, by Bill Griffith (Fantagraphics)
  • March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)
  • The Story of My Tits, by Jennifer Hayden (Top Shelf/IDW)
Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree continues to be quite an astonishment.  Reading this comic, I know how a non-superhero fan feels reading a Marvel comic but Piskor's cartooning continues to create a wonderful reality where rappers are the new superheroes.

Best Graphic Album—New
  • Long Walk to Valhalla, by Adam Smith and Matthew Fox (BOOM! Studios/Archaia)
  • Nanjing: The Burning City, by Ethan Young (Dark Horse)
  • Ruins, by Peter Kuper (SelfMadeHero)
  • Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen, by Dylan Horrocks (Fantagraphics)
  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua (Pantheon)
Another category where I've somehow missed all of the books. Off the top of my head, let's go with Dylan Horrocks here.

Best Graphic Album—Reprint
  • Angry Youth Comics, by Johnny Ryan (Fantagraphics)
  • Roses in December: A Story of Love and Alzheimer’s, by Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers (Kent State University Press)
  • The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal Omnibus, by E. K. Weaver (Iron Circus Comics)
  • Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson (Harper Teen)
  • Soldier’s Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father, by Carol Tyler (Fantagraphics)
Noelle Stevenson's Nimona seems like the powerhouse nominee here.

Best Adaptation from Another Medium
  • Captive of Friendly Cove: Based on the Secret Journals of John Jewitt, by Rebecca Goldfield, Mike Short, and Matt Dembicki (Fulcrum)
  • City of Clowns, by Daniel Alarcón and Sheila Alvarado (Riverhead Books)
  • Ghetto Clown, by John Leguizamo, Christa Cassano, and Shamus Beyale (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Lafcadio Hearn’s “The Faceless Ghost” and Other Macabre Tales from Japan, adapted by Sean Michael Wilson and Michiru Morikawa (Shambhala)
  • Two Brothers, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
Going with Two Brothers feels like a kind of mainstream pick here but this was a powerful story about family and war.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • Alpha . . . Directions, by Jens Harder (Knockabout/Fanfare)
  • The Eternaut, by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano Lòpez (Fantagraphics)
  • A Glance Backward by Pierre Paquet and Tony Sandoval (Magnetic Press)
  • The March of the Crabs, by Arthur de Pins (BOOM! Studios/Archaia)
  • The Realist, by Asaf Hanuka (BOOM! Studios/Archaia)
Asaf Hanuka's The Realist was a great book that showed of Hanuka's storytelling. 

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • Assassination Classroom, vols. 2–7, by Yusei Matsui (VIZ)
  • A Bride’s Story, vol. 7, by Kaoru Mori (Yen Press)
  • Master Keaton, vols. 2–4, by Naoki Urasawa, Hokusei Katsushika, and Takashi Nagasaki (VIZ)
  • Showa, 1953–1989: A History of Japan, by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • A Silent Voice, by Yoshitoki Oima (Kodansha)
  • Sunny, vol. 5, by Taiyo Matsumoto (VIZ)
Taiyo Matsumoto's Sunny has been one of the most emotionally powerful comics I've read in a long, long time.  Love this series. and have to go with that as my pick.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
  • Beyond Mars, by Jack Williamson and Lee Elias, edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW/LOAC)
  • Cartoons for Victory, by Warren Bernard (Fantagraphics)
  • The Complete Funky Winkerbean, vol. 4, by Tom Batiuk, edited by Mary Young (Black Squirrel Books)
  • The Eternaut, by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano Lòpez, edited by Gary Groth and Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)
  • Kremos: The Lost Art of Niso Ramponi, vols. 1 and 2, edited by Joseph V. Procopio (Picture This Press/Lost Art Books)
  • White Boy in Skull Valley, by Garrett Price, edited by Peter Maresca (Sunday Press)
Let's go with Funky Winkerbean.  Tom Batiuk for the win.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books
  • Frank Miller’s Ronin Gallery Edition, edited by Bob Chapman (Graphitti Designs/DC)
  • P. Craig Russell’s Murder Mystery and Other Stories Gallery Edition, edited by Daniel Chabon (Dark Horse)
  • The Puma Blues: The Complete Saga, by Stephen Murphy, Alan Moore, Michael Zulli, Stephen R. Bissette, and Dave Sim, edited by Drew Ford (Dover)
  • Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library, vols. 3–4, edited by David Gerstein (Fantagraphics)
  • Walt Kelly’s Fairy Tales, edited by Craig Yoe (IDW)
At C2E2 this year, I got to look through the Ronin Gallery Edition.  If I was the type to spend money on those original art editions of books, I would have walked out of the convetion with it.  Such a fantastic look at that comic.

Best Writer
  • Jason Aaron, Southern Bastards (Image), Men of Wrath (Marvel Icon), Doctor Strange, Star Wars, Thor (Marvel)
  • John Allison, Giant Days (BOOM Studios!/BOOM! Box)
  • Ed Brubaker, The Fade Out, Velvet, Criminal Special Edition (Image)
  • Marjorie Liu, Monstress (Image)
  • G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel (Marvel)
Ms. Marvel is the book it is because of G. Willow Wilson.  

Best Writer/Artist
  • Bill Griffith, Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist (Fantagraphics)
  • Nathan Hale, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor (Abrams)
  • Sydney Padua, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (Pantheon)
  • Ed Piskor, Hip-Hop Family Tree, vol. 3 (Fantagraphics)
  • Noah Van Sciver, Fante Bukowski, Saint Cole (Fantagraphics)
Flip a coin between Piskor and Van Sciver here.  There's no way to go wrong with either of those choices.

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
  • Michael Allred, Silver Surfer (Marvel); Art Ops (Vertigo/DC)
  • Cliff Chiang, Paper Girls (Image)
  • Erica Henderson, Jughead (Archie), Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Marvel)
  • Joëlle Jones, Lady Killer (Dark Horse), Brides of Helheim (Oni)
  • Nate Powell, March, Book Two (Top Shelf/IDW)
Allred is doing some of his best non-Madman artwork in Silver Surfer but Powell's images in March really brought Congressman Lewis's actions and struggles to life.  

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist
  • Federico Bertolucci, Love: The Tiger and Love: The Fox (Magnetic Press)
  • Colleen Coover, Bandette (Monkeybrain)
  • Carita Lupattelli, Izuna (Humanoids)
  • Dustin Nguyen, Descender (Image)
  • Tony Sandoval, A Glance Backward (Magnetic Press)
Coover's artwork is such a great blend of Toth, Batman: The Animated Show, and 1950s caper films.  There's so much to see in her drawings and so much to just linger on and enjoy.

Best Cover Artist
  • David Aja, Hawkeye, Karnak, Scarlet Witch (Marvel)
  • Rafael Albuquerque, Ei8ht (Dark Horse), Huck (Image)
  • Amanda Conner, Harley Quinn (DC)
  • Joëlle Jones, Lady Killer (Dark Horse), Brides of Helheim (Oni)
  • Ed Piskor, Hip-Hop Family Tree (Fantagraphics)
Let's go Piskor here again. The Hop-Hop Family Tree covers help make the connection between rappers and superheroes even stronger as Piskor homages everyone from Gil Kane to Wally Wood in these covers.

Best Coloring
  • Laura Allred, Lady Killer (Dark Horse); Silver Surfer (Marvel); Art OPS (Vertigo/DC)
  • Jordie Bellaire, The Autumnlands, Injection, Plutona, Pretty Deadly, The Surface, They’re Not Like Us, Zero (Image); The X-Files (IDW); The Massive (Dark Horse); Magneto, Vision (Marvel)
  • Elizabeth Breitwiser, The Fade Out, Criminal Magazine, Outcast, Velvet (Image)
  • John Rauch, The Beauty (Image); Batman: Arkham Knight, Earth 2: Society (DC); Runaways (Marvel)
  • Dave Stewart, Abe Sapien, BPRD Hell on Earth, Fight Club 2Frankenstein Underground, Hellboy in Hell, Hellboy and the BPRD, (Dark Horse); Sandman: Overture, Twilight Children (Vertigo/DC), Captain America: White (Marvel), Space Dumplins(Scholastic Graphix)
It could be Allred.  It will probably (and deservedly) be Bellaire but I'm going to go with Breitwiser.  The way that she creates light with her colors is just mesmerizing.  I've never seen anyone who colors with the strength and subtlety that she does.

Best Lettering
  • Derf Backderf, Trashed (Abrams)
  • Steve Dutro, Blood-C, Midnight Society, Plants vs Zombies (Dark Horse)
  • Lucy Knisley, Displacement (Fantagraphics)
  • Troy Little, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Top Shelf/IDW)
  • Kevin McCloskey, We Dig Worms! (TOON Books)
Such a different list of letterers.  Knisley has a lettering style that perfectly compliments her artwork and her storytelling that makes it all one composition and work.  

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
  • Alter Ego, edited by Roy Thomas (TwoMorrows)
  • Back Issue, edited by Michael Eury (TwoMorrows)
  • Comic Riffs blog by Michael Cavna, washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/
  • Hogan’s Alley, edited by Tom Heintjes (Hogan’s Alley)
  • Jack Kirby Collector, edited by John Morrow (TwoMorrows)
Maybe some year, the Eisners will recognize podcasts but Comic Riffs is a fantastic site that really has a holistic view of comics.  We need more of that.

Best Comics-Related Book
  • Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America, by Bill Schelly (Fantagraphics)
  • King of the Comics: One Hundred Years of King Features Syndicate, edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW/LOAC)
  • Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts, by Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Out of Line: The Art of Jules Feiffer, by Martha Fay (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel, by Paul Levitz (Abrams ComicArts)
Another category that I'm abstaining from.  I really wanted to read that Kurtzman book but never got a chance to.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work
  • The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art, edited by  Frances Gateward and John Jennings (Rutgers)
  • Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan, edited by Mark McLelland et al. (University Press of Mississippi)
  • Graphic Medicine Manifesto, by M. K. Czerwiec et al. (Penn State University Press)
  • Superheroes on World Screens, edited by Rayna Denison and Rachel Mizsei-Ward (University Press of Mississippi)
  • Unflattening, by Nick Sousanis (Harvard University Press)
Another category that I wish I could have an opinion on.  The Graphic Medicine Manifesto sounds interesting.

Best Publication Design
  • Beyond the Surface, designed by Nicolas André, Sam Arthur, Alex Spiro, and Camille Pichon (Nobrow)
  • The Eternaut, designed by Tony Ong (Fantagraphics)
  • Eventually Everything Connects, designed by Loris Lora, Sam Arthur, Alex Spiro, and Camille Pichon (Nobrow)
  • King of the Comics: One Hundred Years of King Features Syndicate, designed by Dean Mullaney (IDW/LOAC)
  • Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts, designed by Chip Kidd (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Sandman Gallery Edition, designed by Josh Beatman/Brainchild Studios (Graphitti Designs/DC)
The Eternaut was a handsome looking  ook.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

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America's Landlord-- On Garry Trudeau and Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump

Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump
Written and Drawn by Garry B. Trudeau
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing

Already back in 1987, Gary Trudeau was already trying to tell us who Donald Trump really was. Of course, back then Trump was a real estate mogul whose worldview appeared to be summed up as “bigger is better.” The first words we see Trump say in the new retrospective of Garry Trudeau’s comic is “I’m Donald Trump. And I’m not running for President.” That strip ran on September 16, 1987, and it’s just continued to be a wild ride ever since then. Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump showcases 30 years of Trudeau’s comics on Trump. 30 years of ridiculousness from Trudeau’s Trump character now feels like an ominous but unheeded warning as we watch the Republican party become a freakish cult of Trump.

September 16, 1987

There have been so many reasons over the past three decades for why Trump would show up in the panels of Doonesbury. While it started with him declaring that he wasn’t going to run for President (at least not in 1988,) Trudeau’s first prolonged comedic attack on Trump zeroed in on Trump’s preposterous yacht and its newest captain, Raoul Duke, Trudeau’s barely disguised homage to one Hunter S. Thompson. From sailing into New Orleans for the 1988 Republican National Convention to finding one very much alive Elvis Presley hiding out in the bowels of the yacht and hiring him to perform at a casino in Atlantic City, Trudeau already knew back then that there was no extravagance that was too gaudy or showy for Trump.’’

The antics would continue through the 1990s and the 2000s. Every now and then, Trump would surface and Trudeau would take his shots. Even when the Donald wasn’t in the national spotlight for some outrageousness, Trudeau would still get in a jab or two. The May 1, 1994, Sunday strip was about the idea of celebrity. “For example, what would you do if you woke up one morning and discovered you were, say, Donald Trump or Marla Maples?” Without skipping a beat, Mike Doonesbury answers “Well, I imagine I’d have to kill myself.” It’s a cheap shot but it speaks about a culture of celebrity that Trump has cultivated for most of his public life.

What’s really scary about Yuge! is just how timeless Trudeau’s take on Trump is. A lot of times, diving into the archives of Doonesbury is like stepping into a time machine where you have to refamiliarize with the zeitgeist of the day. Maybe it’s because Trump is so much a major figure of 2016 but Trudeau captures the essence of the man in all ages. For a lot of the historical figures that Trudeau poked at, he provides signposts that easily separate his version of the person from the real ones. Just look at his incorporeal versions of both President Bushes. But there’s none of that visual distancing of the strip Trump from the real Trump. So the words that Trudeau satirizes from years past feel so current because they’re words we’ve heard repeated from Trump over the past couple of years during his Presidential run. 

October 4, 2015

As the collection catches up with the events from the past year, Trudeau’s comics become all the more damning because there’s no way to make the cartoon character spew more ugliness and vitriol than the man himself has done. It’s so bad that some of the strips are even direct quotes from Trump. It’s like Trudeau can’t go far enough in his own humor to skewer Trump any more than his own words can. The only joke and exaggeration that Trudeau can make are Trump’s medusa-like hair that hides the suggested baldness of the character.

Over the last 30 years, Donald Trump has been many things; entrepreneur, entertainer, political operative, serial spouse and many other things. Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump shows us just how Donald Trump has been really just one thing. He has been and continues to be Donald Trump. For all of the good and bad of that statement, Trump has really been the one constant in the American landscape since the 1980s. Trudeau’s new collection of strips focusing on Trump shows how Trump maybe hasn’t changed but how he’s changed the country. 30 years ago, he was a man with a huge and outrageous yacht. That was kind of funny. Now he probably still has a huge and outrageous yacht but he’s now a serious contender to be President of the United States. If he isn’t the one that changed, then Trudeau is pointing an accusing finger at the rest of us and saying that maybe we’re the ones who have.  And not for the better.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

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2D Cloud Needs Seed Money to Keep Raining Good Books

2D Cloud is a great indie publisher and one of the homes for Panel Pal Mari Naomi. They've grown in so many ways since their "Little Heart" anthology, and have worked hard to bring books both big and small to a dedicated reader base, recently using Kickstarter to help provide they money they need to publish before getting retail funds on the back end.

They've got another Kickstarter ending soon, and as of this writing, they're a little short. I know that it's hard, because there are so man damned good comic Kickstarters right now, and it's impossible to back them all. But if you have some funds available right now, I'm going to ask you to put some money towards this one, which features 4 full-size books, a zine relating to comics, and even an audio story told in installments, a new concept I think is pretty nifty.

So what's in this particular batch? The highlight for me personally is Mari's "Turning Japanese," her memoir about being bi-racial and how it impacted on her early adulthood. Here's the book's brief description from 2D Cloud:

In 1995, 22-year-old Mari has just exited a long-term relationship, moving from Mill Valley to San Jose, California. Soon enough she falls in love, then finds employment at a hostess bar for Japanese expats, where she is determined to learn the Japanese language and culture.Turning Japanese is a story about otherness, culture clashes, generation gaps and youthful impetuosity.

I absolutely loved "Dragon's Breath and Other Stories" and have been a fan of Mari's work since I was first introduced to it several years ago. Her work continues to evolve and mature, and Mari is definitely one of the premiere memoir-writers working in comics today, most notably because she's never afraid to give you the unvarnished truth. Opening yourself up to the reader is a key part of graphic autobiography, and Mari understands that. Her minimalist depictions always get right to the heart of her story, and this book should be no exception.

I'm unfamiliar with the work of Gina Wynbrandt, but if the title of her book is any indication, she, too, understands the need to be frank with the reader. "Someone Please Have Sex with Me" is another memoir, this one somewhat fictionalized, if the description is any indication:

Someone Please Have Sex With Me is a refreshing and wry look at sexual frustration from our young heroine and author. From failed erotic photo shoots and late-onset teen popstar obsessions to fairy Kardashians and pokemon-inspired future-sex, Wynbrandt isn't one to hold back. SPHSWM finds its footing at the surreal and hilarious juncture between autobiography and fantasy.

2D Cloud's third offering takes us to South America, as Powerpaola's "Virus Tropical" features the Columbia we in America didn't ever hear about in the 1980s/1990s. I took a little time to look at some examples from the book online, and there's definitely a back of the weekly, alt-comix feel to the linework and use of heavy blacks and extremely blocky body shapes. It's described thusly:

In Virus Tropical, Powerpaola uses a series of vignettes to transform the simplicity of middle-class family life into a thought-provoking narrative that would have been inconceivable prior to Colombia's sexual revolution. Focusing on the lives of a family of women in the 80's-90's, Powerpaola's tale highlights the excitement, danger, and struggles of a country in the midst of radical change.

Last up is a new book from Will Dinski, whose name sounded familiar to me....and it turns out that back in the earlier dates of this site, I wrote up a review of "Fingerprints" which I liked quite a bit. (You can read my review here.) It's exciting to see another book from him, and I can't wait to read it once this KS is funded and books are distributed. The new books is featured as follows:

Will Dinski’s long-awaited return to long-form comics following 2010’s Finger Prints sees not only a dramatic shift in style, but approach to storytelling as well. Focusing on the meteoric rise of a stand-up comedian as told by the people in his orbit, Dinski’s ability to create a layered, nuanced narrative is in top form with Trying Not to Notice.
I can basically tell you without reservation that you're in for two amazing books, and if you back the Kickstarter at the book level, you're basically getting the other two for next to nothing, compared to retail price. Given that they both look interesting, in both content and visuals, I feel very confident that this edition of the 2D Cloud line is going to be one of their best ever.

The pledge levels are pretty standard. A few dollars gets you the serial story--delivered to your voice mail, no less!--while $19 nets you digital copies of all 4 books, plus the zine and voice message. For $39, you can get the physical copies, and at higher tiers, you can get a tote bag, a t-shirt, prior books, and even original art.

In this era of so many comics, it's really hard to keep a hand on everything being published. But it's notable to me that 2D Cloud is not only willing to take some publishing risks, they're looking to ensure that the next generation of alt comics creators aren't all white, nor are they always writing about America. That's something that is growing in importance to me, as I tire of reading yet another book about a sad sack white guy and his troubles. We need to ensure that the alt comics festivals of the future are a place for all of us, not just those who've been doing them since the 70s.

If you've got some budget room for great new comics by fresh voices and familiar names alike, check out the 2D Kickstarter today, before it ends. Let's get it over the finish line before San Diego Comic-Con!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #16 (Fetch: An Odyssey by Evie Dunn, Martin Dunn, Dee Fish et al.)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

Fetch: An Odyssey has all of the trappings of an all-ages classic. Beginning with the tragic passing of the family dog, it chronicles the adventures of the young Evie as she attempts to grapple with the consequences of death by, as only a child would, heading off on an epic adventure to get him back. However, as the title would suggest, the story is heavily grounded in Greek mythology. Through a spate of one-off supporting characters, that either oppose or help her along in her journey, we see an array of attempts at the young Evie finding closure. While Evie Dunn (the creator) and Martin Dunn make a valiant attempt at bringing all of these components together into a cohesive story, the creativity ultimately becomes the story's own undoing.

It’s clear from the offset that the entire creative team has a great love for Greek mythology. By pulling from all aspects of the culture, from the ancient gods to the mythical creatures, readers of any age are going to be able to point at these prominent aspects and say: “I recognise that”. However, as an older reader, every component remains at a very surface level description. While I understand that this is part one of only a two issue story and that there isn’t time to delve into the motivations of every single character and creature, it's a quality that actively prevents you from becoming fully invested in the story; when you start to get attached to a character, they disappear.

One character, aside from the protagonist, that remains constant from their first appearance is the broken chew toy, Crunchy. When you read this book with the perspective that age gives you, you can identify this as a toy that the young girl has stumbled across in the garden and is clutching onto tightly. It adds another level of tragedy to their adventure that extends beyond the inherent sadness of a girl unable to accept that her pet has moved on. The only criticism that I have of this plot point is that it’s not leaned on heavily enough; there’s far more opportunity for development here than he’s given time for.

The protagonist, Evie, has an undeniable zeal to her that immediately feels very realistic. With a recognisably childish and headstrong attitude, she innocently charges forward without any thought as to the consequences of her actions. You empathise with the character from the very beginning due in part to the enthusiastic speech, but mostly due to her portrayal in the art. Dee Fish has one of those bubbly and exaggerated styles that pushes smiles literally from ear to ear and cause the eyes to fill up at least half of the character’s face. It perfectly highlights the degree of the character's youth and complements the epically framed style of writing.

The layouts of this issue are both simplisitic and minimalistic. There are rarely more than five large panels on a single page, which makes the story far more suitable for its intended audience, but subsequently reduces the amount of story that can be told. It’s worth noting that a simplistic structure doesn’t inherently have a negative connotation, as the first issue of the recent Wander aptly demonstrated, as long as it serves the story being told. Unfortunately here, with all of the surface level information that we get, it’s difficult not to imagine a version of the issue that breaks those panels down further and gives a far greater look into the complexities of this adventure.

Another limiting factor of the story is the slightly clunky dialogue. Although the concept of the story sounds immensely compelling, especially as a reader who breaks down every time death has to be explained to an innocent character, there’s a stiffness in the initial conversation that prevents it from fully connecting. While the dialogue improves as the story goes on, Evie initially sounds like a strange mix between an adult and a child with a speech pattern that doesn’t fully become either. Missing the most important emotional beat of the story, the rest of it unfortunately falls reasonably flat.

Although there’s a lot of promise in the conception of this story, the execution doesn’t come close to meeting that bar. With cursory nods to the most famous and prominent parts of Greek mythology, it’s difficult to connect with any part of the story beyond the protagonist; it’s an idea that would have worked far more effectively in a longer miniseries. However, with awkward scripting at the beginning, that admittedly does eventually smooth out, it’s very difficult to become invested in the fate of these characters. None of these problems would jump out to a younger reader so, by all means, buy a copy to give to them. There’s an important message hiding behind all of this that’s worth spreading around; just don’t buy an extra copy for yourself.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at mark@thegreengorcrow.com or head over to thegreengorcrow.com for a daily dose of comic reviews, interviews and more!