Friday, May 20, 2016

License Request: Key Moments in Comics History

One of the greatest joys while book-hunting is making valued finds in out-of-the-way locations in second-hand bookstores.  I once found some old Pogo books that were available for their cover price of $1.00 each.  (Some of which I've posted before) Then there's printed collections of stuff no longer available online, such as Jesse Reklaw's DreamToons (people's dreams retold as humourous comics), and a Harry Potter fanbook with amusing comics by Johane "Horus" Matte and Katie Shanahan & "Shagster".  Among these finds was the discovery of a minicomic; Key Moments from the History of Comics.

This illusionary thin square book consists of a single image and a description on each page.  There were only a thousand printed copies for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 2009, so stumbling onto this was somewhat of a stroke of luck.  The English translation is actually a compilation of two books, 28 Moments Clés de l'Histoire de la Bande Dessinée and Nouveaux Moments Clés de l'Histoire de la Bande Dessinée, both by Francois Aryoles, but published by different publishers.  (Le 9eme Monde [2004] and Alain Beaulet [2008])

For the most part, with little prompting, several names are easy enough to link to their prospective field alone, but others aren't quite as obvious.  Gustave Verbeck isn't instantly recognizable as a household name, but The Upside Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo would sound more familiar.

If there was a scientific equivalent, it would be along the likes of "Nikola Tesla strokes his cat."  By itself, this sentence would seem unremarkable, until you realize that Tesla's obsession with electricity started with being fascinated by the sparks flying off his cat's fur.  Unless you have knowledge of the cartoonist's background history and their achievements, most of the subliminal context is lost.

In fact, the one stumbling block would be that there's a high number of European artists that would be unknown to typical American audiences unfamiliar with exploring outside their comfort zone, most of the artists originating from Pilote Magazine.  The only woman mentioned, Claire Bretécher, is a famous feminist along the likes of Cathy, but with more biting political points.  Another comic history of cartoonists, Masterful Marks: Cartoonists who Changed the World was notably absent in any mention of influential women in it's pages, focusing more on middle-aged white men.  Surely there must've been other people worldwide who had just as much of an impact, but I suppose it's easier to look up historical facts regarding men.

From the wiki, it's well-established that Maurice Tillieux was all set out to do contribution to the war effort via his tour of South America, until a plane bombed ahead, forcing his ship to turn around and go home.  While this incident might have saved his life, there's no way to tell.  But his passion for telling stories centered around docks or the sea certainly made a lasting impression.

When I did a tally, I found there were about 8 artists missing from the first book, and more than a dozen from the second.  An expanded and complete version with reference notes in the back detailing who each cartoonist was, and their known history would help in explaining some of the more obscure references for those of us not fully versed in European Comics.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Birth of Nick

Nick of the Adam Family (not to be confused with The Addams Family) has been a staple for so long it's hard to remember a time when he wasn't part of their household.  A quick purvey through some old newspaper archives should rectify that.

When preparing for the upcoming pregnancy, Adam did trial runs to make sure the process would run smoothly.  They went as well as could be expected, and probably weren't repeated.  Given what happens next, they needed more practice.
The next update involving the expectant mother happened to occur on October 4th, during the Football season at the most crucial cliffhanger moment.

This football plot thread was quickly abandoned two days after the Sunday comic in favor of more intriguing drama.

During the labor process, Adam tries to be as helpful as possible.  The key word here is "possible".

For the uninitiated, Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry are Football coaches, clumsily shoehorning the Football subplot back in.  These comics were left out of the book collection, which goes to show that not everything left out is solid gold material.


I was unable to find the throwaway panels for this one, so you'll have to fill in your own jokes here.

Sometimes when padding out a storyline to fill a week, you wind up with clunkers, and this is certainly one of them.

Up until this point, the gender of the baby was still unknown.  There was also dispute over what the unnamed infant-to-be should be called.  Katy & Clayton's suggestions of Vanna, Mad Dog and Cobra were rightfully ignored.

Friday, May 6, 2016

She He We

One of the worst-kept secrets of literature is that children's books are just as viable sources of comics as any other Graphic Novel.  (Or as only I call them, Comic Paperbacks)

Maurice Sendak's Some Swell Pup has a higher concentration of comic panels than his other commercially known works.  Raymond Brigg's The Snowman and Father Christmas books are venerable classics, but aren't looked upon (or accepted) as comics, simply because they're classified in the British children's book category.  It was only recently that his more ambitious works such as When the Wind Blows and Gentleman Jim began to garner more respect among sophisticated circles, when they'd been readily acceptable for ages to their intended youthful audience.

And now, we've got She He We from the team of Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch from the Graphic Universe publisher.  I haven't seen their previous works of Three Story books, such as Bird Cat Dog or Fish Fish Fish, but there's little doubt that they follow a similar format as this one.  In it, a boy and a girl are playing in a park with their imaginations getting away with them.

The top row has a child engaging a fancy tea party as a fluffy pink bunny...

The middle row has a kid fantasizing as various flying creatures in a dark fantasy world...

...And the last row shows the reality they're actively engaging in.  Apart from the introductory and concluding pages that shows how the book can be read, each page is equally silent.  Either row can be read across for their individual storylines alone, but it's only by reading the full page that you get the full effect of the story.

Taken individually or altogether, you have the same scenarios - a goose flying around in the sky until said bird spies somebody having a picnic, and plops right in the middle of the blanket.  The situations are similar, but the circumstances are different.  The bunny attempts to resolve this interruption by giving a peace offering.  However, through fowl eyes, a cup of welcoming tea turns into a brew of poisonous sludge unsuitable for drinking.

The book is reasonably short at just 32 pages, with minimal re-readability of the children hijacking each other's fantasies at various intervals, just ruining their playtime.  The constant interruptions forces them to work around these obstacles and hopefully, try to reconcile the opposing viewpoints without ever acknowledging or knowing what the other's thinking.

Some people might take offence to the children playing to certain stereotypical gender roles, but that's purely up to the reader's opinion, who shouldn't have to feel guilty about conforming to social norms.  If they feel comfortable in the roles they've chosen for themselves, who are we to dissuade them of what they're more used to?  If they want to play with dolls, let them.  If they want to play with trucks, let them.

Normally, it would be against my nature to post potential spoilers for a new piece of work, but since children's books are generally looked down upon even among comic newssites, chances are most aren't even aware of the title in the first place.  For the sake of driving interest in this graphic field, I'm willing to make an exception in order to further drive my point home, It's necessary to show the two penultimate pages to garner further interest in making my point.

As I've been saying all along, perfectly normal.  It's not as ambitious, as David Macaulay's Black & White, which had four individual stories that were actually differing viewpoints of the same story, with a stripped burglar playing a presence through all four stories.  But it's still enjoyable enough on its own.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Paralyzed Snake's Revenge

The snake from BC always seems to get the short end of the stick.  When he's not being unfairly marginalized or associated with apples, he's being specifically targeted and beaten into submission.  And when he's not being marginalized or getting himself tangled up into pretzels, he's being used as test subjects for pre-ASPCA means.  Then again, so is every other animal, but most especially the Snake in particular.

After years of being persecuted, it wouldn't be unusual for him to try to get a little payback.  But these instances usually wind up being unfairly lopsided in the Fat Broad's favor.

Even when he has the advantage of high ground, it doesn't take long for the tables to turn.

Occasionally, the Snake teams up with Peter to prank on her, but those likewise turn out with unfavorable results, and Peter always winds up scot-free of any consequences, leaving the Snake high and dry to pay the price for his misdeeds.

On other times, the Snake gets trapped on the ice and is unable to move any further from his current position.  This dilemma winds up with... various results.  Interestingly enough, the Snake only unsheaths his fangs under this situation, when they'd be multi-purposeful in any other circumstance.

Incidentally, this is the only time the Snake names the Fat Broad as something else, the Great Wide Hunter, which makes sense - animals aren't likely to recognize humans by their names, but their sounds, shapes and smells.  And any names they'd give us would be far removed from what we call ourselves.  I don't know any other instances of what the rest of the BC cast would've been called, but it would be interesting to find out.

On rare instances, the Snake ingests large amounts of inanimate objects as a way to get back at his eternal tormentor, even if it winds up harming himself in the process.

These repeat encounters begs the question: why is the Fat Broad so heavily against the Snake?  Could it be a deep-seated irrational bias from years of human evolution to distance themselves from outside unfamiliar species?  Could it be a dislike of all things green and slimy?  A dislike of snakes in general?

Or is she just irrationally jealous?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Secret of the Nymph

Hey!! You missed a spot!

Looking for something?
Yes... a clover.
Found it over here!
Now we can continue.
I fold.
For the uninitiated, 'Clover' is a 'Club' in French.
"Garage sale"
Every year, it's always so emotional, seeing the first flower of the season.
It's so meaningful and poetic at the same time!
...So small and fragile, the essence of pure truth!
Too bad their life is so fleeting!