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GENIUS: beautiful graphic novel about inspiration, Einstein, and self-doubt


Genius is a new graphic novel written by Steven T Seagle and drawn by Teddy Kristiansen and it's not really like any other graphic novels I've read. In a very good way.

Ted Marx is a physicist, and he's a genius. That's what he's been told all his life, ever since he started skipping grades in elementary school. It's only natural that he'd be recruited directly out of grad school and into a world-famous physics institute, but once he reaches it, he flames out. Ted Marx appears to have had all his significant physics insights while he was still an adolescent, and whatever well he visited for those insights has run dry. He's terrified of losing his job. He needs the money to shelter and feed his two adolescent children, his dying and terminally grumpy father-in-law, and his wife, whose persistent headaches are about to take a turn for the worse.

Ted worships Einstein, and frequently holds imaginary conversations with him, so imagine his surprise when he learns that his hateful, spiteful, senile father-in-law was once military guard to Einstein, part spy, part confessor. And what's more, the old man says that Einstein entrusted him with an idea that he never told anyone else, an idea that he's kept secret, true to his oath, for all these years. And if there's one thing that Ted really needs, it's an idea.

Genius is a remarkable book about some very difficult-to-illustrate subjects: creativity, inspiration, and yes, genius. Kristiansen's moody, impressionistic watercolor illustrations -- not usually my kind of thing -- perfect for the material. There's a full-blown, multi-page spread of pure abstraction that is so right and fitting that it made me wonder why we bother with words at all.

I'm not familiar with either of these creators' work (though apparently Seagle co-founded the studio that created the kids' megafranchise Ben-10). But based on this, I'm adding them to my "buy-everything-they-do" list.

Don't take my word for it -- click through below for the prolog and first couple pages of chapter one, courtesy of our pals at FirstSecond.

Genius

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Symbolia: new tablet zine for comics journalism

Illustrator-journalist Susie Cagle shares news about a new tablet magazine of comics journalism, Symbolia, that launches Monday, Dec. 3, and includes some of Cagle's own excellent work. Symbolia editor Erin Polgreen explains,

Graphic novel-style investigative journalism now has a home and its name is Symbolia. This Mon. 12/3, the premier, double-length edition of Symbolia will be available for the iPad in the App Store. The first edition includes work by Susie Cagle, Sarah Glidden, Andy Warner, and more, and will be available next week for free. Symbolia subscriptions cost $11.99 for a six editions over the next year, or $2.99 for a single issue. Each issue of Symbolia is packed with ground-breaking, insightful stories by world-class illustrators and journalists, plus stunning info-graphics, video reports, exclusive audio, and more.
Check 'em out. There's a PDF edition too.

Down in Smoke: through comics, Susie Cagle chronicles the DEA raids on medical marijuana facilities in California

At Cartoon Movement, "graphic journalist" Susie Cagle (Twitter) surveys the impact of recent DEA raids of medical marijuana centers, and legal attacks against Harborside and the like, in 'Down In Smoke'. The work includes sound clips, which is brilliant.

Oakland, California. Ground zero for a medical marijuana fight between states and the federal government that has only been heating up. Incorporating real audio from activists, Cagle portrays what "feels like class war" as local growers, patients and city officials fight against losing their jobs, medicine, and tax revenue.

The whole thing is here, and it's fantastic. Susie has done some of the best reporting I've seen of the Occupy movement and related protests in America—she's been jailed and injured for it. The fact that her reporting is focused through the medium of comics is just so innovative and cool. She takes true risks for her reporting, and what comes out of it is insightful, informative, and funny. I just love her work.

Interview with Owen Brozman, illustrator of new graphic novel by author of Go the F**k to Sleep

[Video Link] A fine short interview with the talented Owen Brozman, who illustrated Nature of the Beast, a graphic novel written by Adam Mansbach, who also wrote the mega-hit faux-kids' book Go the F**k to Sleep.

I have not yet read Nature of the Beast, but the description is intriguing:

An alien race of religious extremists plan to honor their deity through the ritualistic annihilation of our planet. The only man who knows this is Milan Marlowe, an unstoppable media baron who sees opportunity everywhere.

Earth’s only move is to engage the invaders according to their holy law and issue The Challenge of the Heretic—a winner-take-all gladiator battle for our right to exist. Marlowe launches Beast Wars, a televised interspecies tournament designed to select Earth’s mightiest champion. On a decadent private island, sharks, lions, gorillas, and polar bears square off to the delight of screaming fans oblivious to the sky-high stakes.

Enter Bruno Bolo—single father, blues belter, and alligator wrestler from the swamps of Florida. Beset by personal demons, corporatized killer sharks, Yeats-quoting pit fighters, and looming alien eradicators, Bruno will emerge as our desperate planet’s final hope.

Buy Nature of the Beast on Amazon

Brian Wood's DMZ, vol 11: a long tale nears its worthy conclusion

Free States Rising is the 11th (and penultimate) collection of Brian Wood’s masterful (anti-)war comic, DMZ. Wood has spent the past half-decade spinning this tightly plotted, gripping, and sardonic adventure story about a second American civil war fought in Manhattan, told from the point-of-view of Matty Roth, a reporter who becomes part of the story.

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Tom Gauld's Goliath: exclusive excerpt

Goliath-CoverAs reviewed in Gweek - Tom Gauld's tragic, darkly funny retelling of David and Goliath from Goliath's perspective. Gauld's work is always quietly powerful and emotionally grabbing. Here's a seven-page taste of the new graphic novel, which is presented in a beautiful hardcover format from Drawn & Quarterly

Buy Goliath on Amazon


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Excerpt of One Model Nation, a graphic novel by Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols

Screen Shot 2012-02-13 At 11.00.36 AmDonovan Leitch and I were together during the holidays of the year 2000, I think it was. We had been discussing the Hip-Hop movie trend where musicians were having shoot-outs with cops and/or other Hip-Hoppers, drug dealers, gangs and whatnot. We thought it would be interesting to invent a story where this was happening to a rock band. As the night progressed we discovered that we had both been into the Krautrock/German art scene as teenagers, so it evolved into a German electronic band. Well, one that dresses like Laibach. We discussed what scenes would be "awesome" and "rad" and that maybe they should all dress alike and be incredibly resourceful computer and electronic geeks. Then at some point during the night we dropped it and that was that.

Several months later Donno had run across the Baader-Meinhof gang on the internet and began sending me pictures and stories of their exploits of the late '60s and the '70s. It got us interested in the story again so we began putting together an outline, employing the classic Greek "hero's journey" as our narrative structure. Pretty much every story you've read, or movie and TV show you've seen, uses this structure because it just makes sense to the human condition. We began plugging in events from German history as well as inventing drug lords and rival bands and developing the world in which our band would play out their thing.

I was touring with my band at the time so it gave me an opportunity to be in Germany and interview and research those people who were living back then and in that actual world. While in Hamburg (I think), I met with Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk, and he was the one who suggested that the Germany in which the story played out should be fictionalized into a hyper-reality and that it would help make it more interesting than it really was.

We had very nearly finished our first draft when we began pitching it to writers and filmmakers whom we knew and without really being told so, we began to realize that it pretty much sucked. One very successful director/producer whom I was friends with hasn't called me back since. Really.

Well, Donno became a husband and a father and so had absolutely no time for anything else and the whole thing got dropped. It was a couple of years later that I started it up from scratch again in the wee hours of my regularly jet-lagged mornings. I incorporated stories from my own band's experiences and based the four members of One Model Nation on real people with whom I was very familiar and the idiosyncrasies which make them odd and interesting. It took me a few years but eventually I had a full blown tale which fit nicely into a classic structure and was apparently exciting and satisfyingly epic to the people whom I gave it to read.

Buy One Model Nation on Amazon

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Derek Kirk Kim's Same Difference: slacker Korean-American kids come of age in the Bay Area

FirstSecond has just re-released Derek Kirk Kim’s Same Difference, his Ignatz, Harvey and Eisner award-winning indie comic from his early career.

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Habibi: graphic novel is blends Islamic legend, science fiction dystopia, love and loss

Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel Habibi is an enormous and genre-busting graphic novel that blends Islamic mysticism, slave/liberation narratives and post-apocalyptic science fiction, creating a story that is erotic, grotesque, and profoundly moving.

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Zahra's Paradise: graphic novel about Iranian uprising is a story and a history

Zahra’s Paradise, a new book from FirstSecond, collects in one volume the serialized (and brilliant) webcomic, written by two pseudonymous Iranian dissidents.

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