Imagine walking down a street in Paris one morning, stumbling upon a rubbish heap, plucking out a cardboard box from the debris, and finding pages of song lyrics, a war medal and a diary written 100 years ago inside the box. This really happened to French artist Barroux, and his tribute to the unknown man behind the diary is the graphic novel, Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914).
Through charcoal drawings, Barroux illustrates the diary's entries from early August, 1914 until the writing abruptly ends one month later. The haunting, dark sketches show the full range of emotions and experiences of this anonymous French soldier just days into the start of the Great War. Renderings depicting fear, sadness, lonesomeness, and hope accompany the brief diary entries. Pages with the soldier's handwriting are also sprinkled throughout the book. Although the name of this soldier remains a mystery, he was a real man that had to say goodbye to a real family and walk into the forests not knowing what lay ahead. Line of Fire is a way to remember that this brave man existed.
Further information about clues from the diary, the multi-media adaptation of Line of Fire and the background of the artist Barroux can be found here. – Carole Rosner
Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914)
by Unknown (author), Barroux (illustrator) and Sarah Ardizzone (translator)
Phoenix Yard Books
2014, 96 pages, 7.2 x 9.8 x 0.5 inches (paperback)
$13 Buy one on Amazon
Olympians Zeus, Athena, Hera, Poseidon, Hades and Aphrodite are each featured in this beautiful 6-volume boxed set
When I was a teen, I really wanted to like Greek mythology, but the complexity of the pantheon and some of the absurdities of the stories lost me rather than sucked me in. I quickly became confused and bored. Over the years, I've gained a greater appreciation and understanding of classical mythology, but I haven't gone back to try and relearn everything I couldn't retain in school. Until now, thanks to George O'Conner's impressive Olympians box set.
The set contains six volumes, Zeus (King of the Gods), Athena (Warrior Goddess), Hera (Goddess of the Air, Sky, and Heavens), Poseidon (God of the Sea), Hades (Lord of the Dead), and Aphrodite (Goddess of Love). Each one runs 85 pages, and besides the origin story (and a few other key tales) for each god, there are also author notes, a summary of the key characters in each book, a recommended reading list, and even a series of discussion questions. The author and publisher definitely designed these books to be taught to young people and I would definitely recommend them to teachers, home schoolers, and students who want to learn of the “august residents of Mount Olympus” (as the back cover puts it) in a fun and resonant way. These books are really beautifully illustrated and produced. Most of the book covers include spot foil stamping. The Zeus cover is seriously cool, with the silver lightning in his hands actually flashing dramatically as you move the cover to catch the light. I dare you to hold this book in your hands and not want to move it around and make thunder sounds like a ten year old (OK, maybe that's just me).
The six volumes come in a handsome slipcase, which also includes a large full-color poster of the pantheon on one side and an extensive Olympian family tree on the other. Although these books are in comic book form, with spare dialog, they still manage to pack in a lot of story and paint a fairly complete portrait of each god. I wish I'd had these books when I was a kid.
Olympians Boxed Set
by George O'Connor
2014, 480 pages, 7.6 x 10.2 x 1.6 inches (paperback)
$36 Buy one on Amazon
Here's an exclusive excerpt of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a new graphic novel adapted by Troy Little and published by Top Shelf Productions. Available in October. Meet Troy Little, at both Top Shelf booth #1721 and IDW booth #2743, throughout Comic-Con.
A dark noir rendering of the classic Italian children's novel, this tripped-out reimagining of Pinocchio comes from the fevered mind and hand of Winshluss. Pen name for Vincent Parannaud, Winshluss is the award-winning French artist and filmmaker perhaps best known for the animated feature, Persepolis, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes and was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Cannes' Palm d'Or, among others.
It's hard to express just how beautiful Pinocchio is. And how dark. Using pen and ink, watercolor and paint, and brilliantly style-checking Georges Méliès, Windsor McCay, Walt Kelly, Walt Disney, Zap! and decades of underground comic artists, Winshluss uses the basic tropes of Pinocchio (artificial boy, characters inside a whale, and Jiminy, here a cockroach) to frame and interweave several dark, often disturbing, tales. As the moods and motives of the narrative shift, so do the styles and colors of the art. Throughout, everything feels overcast, bone-damp, sooty, and rusted shut. This is a world overwhelmed with desperation and decay, death and naked human immorality.
In this telling of the tale, Pinocchio is not a puppet who becomes a boy, but a toy soldier built by Geppetto for servitude. And war. He and the book (with some exception) are speechless, and like a hapless Mr. Bill or Chauncey Gardner in Being There, Pinocchio becomes a sort of dumb foil for the dramas and characters interwoven throughout the book, at once comical and tragic. And unlike the original novel by Carlo Collodi, the main characters basically never interact, although Jiminy Cockroach lives inside of Pinocchio's hollow head and their interweaving stories impact each other (e.g. when Pinocchio gets “fired” from an assembly-line job for not producing enough toys and thrown into a furnace, Jiminy feels the heat). Perverse takes on Snow White, the Seven Dwarves, Bambi, and other Disney staples also make appearances.
I have reviewed several very post-modern comics on Wink, like Big Questions and Beautiful Darkness, that employ similar thematic and artist strategies (dark noir, referencing/coopting different artists, stories, and styles, exploring social issues through surreal, often wordless storytelling). But Winshluss' Pinocchio feels the most cinematic and affecting of them all. And have I mentioned how ridiculously beautiful this book is? One reviewer likened the “performance” of it to high opera. I can't think of a better allusion. Or bigger artistic compliment.
A very dark, sumptuous, tripped-out take on the classic tale of Pinocchio
2011, 192 pages, 10 x 12 x 1.2 inches
$31 Buy a copy on Amazon
Tara Shultz, 20, of Yucaipa, CA along with her parents and friends are protesting the inclusion of four award-winning graphic novels that are taught in an English class at Crafton Hills College because they feel they are too violent and pornographic to be read by college students. On Thursday they assembled outside the campus administration building to express their outrage. The four graphic novels are Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1 by Brian Vaughan; The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman; and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography,” Shultz told the Redland Daily Facts Newspaper. But Shultz was provided with complete information about which books would be covered in the class. Because Shultz did not pay attention to the syllabus, she and her parents and their friends now want to prohibit everyone from reading the books at the college.
From the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:
Shultz, who is working towards an Associate of Arts in English at the public community college, signed up for English 250: Fiction because it fulfills one part of her degree requirements. She was apparently aware that the specific focus of the class was graphic novels, but she told the newspaper that “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.” Shultz says that Associate Professor Ryan Bartlett, who has taught the course for three terms without any other complaints, failed to adequately warn students about the books’ content. Her father Greg Shultz said that “if they (had) put a disclaimer on this, we wouldn’t have taken the course.” Tara Shultz agreed, saying that Bartlett “should have stood up the first day of class and warned us.”
Of course, Shultz and her parents did have complete information about which books would be covered in the class – the school requires instructors (p. 20) to distribute a detailed syllabus on the first day of the term – and ample time to withdraw with no effect on her grade. Fourteen other courses offered at Crafton Hills fulfill the same degree requirement as English 250. The college’s online calendar shows that the Spring semester began on January 12, and the last date to drop a course with no grade penalty was January 30. Shultz apparently brought up her objections to four out of ten books covered in the class after that date, when her only options were to complete the assigned work or withdraw with a 0.
Bonus stupidity: Tara Shultz' father wants these books yanked from the college bookstore, because “there are under-aged kids here at this campus.”
Comics legend Scott McCloud returns to fiction with The Sculptor, the exceptional story of a struggling sculptor who makes a deal with Death for incredible artistic ability at the cost of his life in 200 days. The story is long and sprawling and details those last days as David tries to leave his mark on the art world. It’s epic and heartbreaking and sure to leave a lasting impression when you’re done.
McCloud has been a frontrunner of online publishing since releasing Reinventing Comics in 2000. It’s interesting then that his newest work is something I feel has to be experienced in print. The book is THICK, and on some level almost feels sculpted; the design of the thing from jacket to cover to page is presented as a complete work of art. This has to be important when you name your book The Sculptor. The book is beautifully built, and I actually prefer the blue hardcover illustrations of David and Meg over the full color dust jacket. Pages are colored mostly in blue, which is unique and serves to make the drawings look almost like a blueprint or an artistic sketch at times, underscoring the sculpting/art element of the story in a cool way. McCloud’s drawing is top notch; he uses the full power of comics, sometimes going for pages without a word of dialogue, letting the pictures tell the story. On several occasions I paused to study pages for longer than I normally would, just because there is so much going on in each panel. There is not a wasted image among them, every little expression and detail is used to tell the story. It’s great to see an artist putting so much effort into every aspect of their work, and having the full weight of it in hand elevates the experience. – Alex Strine
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776 pages commemorating a quarter-century of Canada's outstanding, astounding indie comics press, including essays by Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem and Lemony Snicket, and featuring seminal stories from Jillian Tamaki, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, and Art Spiegelman.
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I haven't read a comic book this much fun in a quite a while. The Humans, written by Keenan Marshall Keller and drawn by Tom Neely is about a planet (Earth?) where apes rule supreme and humans are mute beasts. Sound familiar? Yes, it's Planet of the Apes, but without the time-traveling astronauts (at least not yet) and without a Lawgiver handing down a sacred "Ape Shall Not Kill" scroll.
One other difference: instead of riding horses, the apes ride choppers and behave like 1960s outlaw motorcycle gang members. They deal drugs, throw wild parties, encroach on rival gangs' turf, and engage in epic knife-and-chain rumbles. There's the Haterz (an "all-gorilla ape-power gang from Okland"), the Thrill Killers ("hippy-dippy druggies" who "run the acid trade in San Francisco"), Los Muertos from Las Vegas ("these dudes are strange and keep to themselves"), Satan'z Minions ("Satanist, viking monsters who live in the deserts"), and -- the stars of the series -- The Humans (who are apes but think The Humans is a good way to broadcast their violent, animalistic way of life).
The gangs use homo sapiens (they call them "skins") as work animals, and train them to fight each other for gambling and entertainment purposes. One of The Humans keeps human females as sex slaves, much to the disgust of the other members.
Artist Tom Neely (Henry & Glenn Forever) is perfect for this series. It's detailed, slightly-cartoonish, and old school enough to convey the era of underground comics. The coloring by Kristina Collantes is superb.
Image has collected the first four issues into a trade paperback that includes bonus art and an issue of The Humans' motorcycle club newsletter.
Seconds - a humorous graphic novel about a mushroom that allows a young chef to “revise” her mistakes with unexpected consequences
If you had the power to erase your mistakes, what would you do? Would you change big things, little things? How about every single seemingly insignificant thing you did today? That’s the question in Seconds, when Katie, a young chef aspiring to own her own restaurant, discovers a magical mushroom that allows her to “revise” her mistakes. Immediately she uses the power to course correct every aspect of her life, from arguments with friends to bad business decisions. As you’ve probably guessed, things quickly spiral out of control, often in humorous ways.
The book itself is pretty; the full-color artwork is drawn in a style similar to the Scott Pilgrim cartoony-ness that made author Bryan Lee O’Malley famous. The pages have a painted quality and the panels are bordered with a ton of white space on the top and bottom so you can never forget that you’re reading a book. This design feels thematically important to the story, as Katie is constantly forced to question her reality and we are constantly reminded that the story isn’t “real.” A handful of full page illustrations creep in to surprise you with how awesome they look: the two-pager of the Seconds basement is something I would hang on a wall. The book has a cool hardcover design with a dust jacket that interestingly does not cover the entire book, making this a great addition to any bookshelf. – Alex Strine
There is no way around it. Habibi is a strange graphic novel. Not strange as in surreal, or ugly, or weird, but strange as in stranger, different. It is beautifully drawn. The writing is poetic. But the story is… odd. It takes place in an indefinite time in a place where Islam and Christianity meet. It wrestles with myth, status, slavery, love and transcendence.There’s horrific sin and redeeming grace. There’s an exotic multi-generational saga. It also serves a tutorial on how arabic calligraphy works. See, strange like that. This big fat book is a true work of art.