Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Read Some Comics!

Earlier I mentioned that I borrowed a load of graphic novels from the local library. I thought it might be helpful to post some thoughts on a few of those that I've read in the last few days. Besides the initial sense of silliness that many newcomers experience as adult readers of comics, another obstacle to a wider readership is all the confusion about what to sample. I realize that even getting people to read this blog entry is a bit of a hard sell. You're no doubt thinking, "Feh. I'm not really interested in all that stuff." But let me use one of the favorite sayings of an old friend of mine- get over yourself. You are only limiting your own experience. Why would you do that? Sure... reading comics is not going to get you hot chicks (although I've gotten my own hot chick to become a bit of an addict), but if you can get over your own self-consciousness... an entirely new dimension of art and literature will be open for exploration. So here we go...

Daniel Clowes, Pussey! - This is early work from a master of the form, and the creator of the legendary comic Eightball. You might have heard of the artist... he wrote the screenplays for the films Ghost World and Art School Confidential (both based on his later work). This specific work collects the adventures of Dan Pussey... comicbook penciller extraordinaire. It's a good read if you ever bought the superhero variety of comics when you were a kid. It pokes fun at the dominant comics culture of the twentieth century- a culture that's an extremely vulnerable and deserving target. But you might want to start out with Ghost World or an Eightball collection instead of this. It's pretty addictive stuf, and you'll probably want to return to Pussey! at a later date.

Matt Madden, Odds Off - Lesser work by a minor artist. This concerns the relationships between a group of college students. It's crudely drawn, but fairly well written. It has typically prosaic content, but there are a few moments of wierdness that suggest better work to come in the future. It's a mildly enaging story, if easily forgettable.

James Kochalka, Tiny Bubbles - Kochalka is a prolific artist. He actually does a daily four-panel comic about his life, called American Elf. It's available on the web HERE. Tiny Bubbles gives you a hint of the type of vaguely autobiographical work that typifies his best work. His cute style can be cloying at times, but it's good stuff to share with your sweetheart. I definitely recommend his American Elf print collections.

James Kochalka, Fancy Froglin's Sexy Forest - While Kochalka is always cute, that doesn't mean that he can't be extremely crude at times. This book looks like it's for children, which is why you have to hide it from your kids. It's about a cartoon frog and his big-assed boner. That's it. I did laugh.

Jeff LeVine, Watching Days Become Years - To be honest, I really didn't care for this much. There are hints of the superior talent of young star Kevin Huizenga, but LeVine's work is nowhere near as well articulated or mature. This is a collection of odds and ends though, so it's not entirely fair of me to make a final judgment. It's mildly poetic.

Nick Bertozzi, The Masochists - Contained herein are three short stories evincing humiliation and frustration. Bertozzi has a loose and inconsistent style, suggesting an artist still struggling for his identity. It's not all sadism... the middle story ends on a hopeful and transcendent note. I'd probably take a look at another of his works.

John Porcellion, Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man - This collection contains Porcellino's entire run of comics detailing his experiences in an unconventional career path. As he explains in his introduction, he began drawing these when he was just a kid, and you can clearly trace his development as an artist. His style is extremely minimalistic, and may put some people off at first... but his stories are grounded in the realist tradition and they are a peak at the more hidden spaces of our world that we pass without ever noticing.

Alex Robinson, Tricked - This is an epic story about the interweaving lives of six characters with varying backgrounds and circumstances. There is a hint of Robert Altman's Short Cuts at play here. I found the interactions of the stars and the people surrounding them to be emotionally complex and compelling. Robinson's strength lies in his ability to flesh out the lives of many of his creations in a limited amount of space. There are a multitude of subtle hints that work to inform us about the personality traits of these fictional people. It is a weighty and substantial book that rings true in a lot of ways. I found it engaging to track the slow evolution of a story that brought all six principals together in a single wrenching climax. It only suffered slightly through an unlikely, yet cheaply satisfying, ending. I definitely recommend it.

6 Comments:

Blogger Dagrims said...

That sense of silliness regarding adults reading comics is the same type of feeling I get when I explain to people that I'm reading Raymond Feist or George R.R. Martin.

I'll have to check out some of those titles that you mention.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

I gotta say that I don't even recognize the names of those authors.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

They're a couple of the best fantasy writers.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Yeah. I really haven't read much fantasy lit. I did read a Terry Pratchet book once (didn't really like it). And I read Gaiman's "Neverwhere" (it was ok).

Jonathan Carroll and Haruki Murakami strike close to some suggestion of modern day fantasy... I like that stuff, but I don't think it sits properly within any genre.

When it comes down to it, I don't think it's right to discount any genre of writing, film or music.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous marc v. said...

hey merge,
do you remember the specific author/artist you mentioned to me last weekend around a fire? I can't, but perhaps it's one of these you've listed in the post....

2:08 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Marc,

It was the Alex Robinson graphic novel that I wrote about in this post. Definitely recommended.

10:00 PM  

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