Chatter: John Porcellino

Always with my comics, what I’m trying to do, is to put down the thing that’s in my head as straight as possible. When I draw a page of comics it doesn’t need any color. Color would mess it up. In the olden days if I drew a scene at night, I would take some ink and fill in the sky black or use cross-hatching, but at some that even became unnecessary. There’s context there probably that tells the reader that it’s night. The reader already knows the night sky is dark. I don’t have to draw the darkness. 
... 
I’m not trying to accurately render the world, I’m trying to transmit something from my head into another person’s head. You don’t necessarily need a lot to do that. When I talk to students I tell them cartooning is like writing. Even the drawings are writing. The letters CAT, they don’t mean anything. They’re abstract lines on paper. You learn through the process of reading that CAT is a symbol that represents the furry thing throwing up behind the couch. If I can drawn a car with three lines and the person can read it as a car, I’ll use three lines. 
Sometimes I still get that cliché, “My five-year-old could draw this.” I think to myself, “I’d like to see your five-year-old draw that!” I still get that. Reviewers will be looking at my comics and they’ll say, “But you can really draw right, can’t you? I mean, you could make this look good, right?”
via The Comics Journal

Wednesday's New Things: A Big 'Un

After last week's dearth of titles, this week is a big 'un. Here we go. 



The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino 

John Porcellino is one of the grand figures of comics who I've heard about but never actually had the pleasure of encountering.  I've been tempted to start reading King Cat, but I've never pulled the trigger; I couldn't tell you why, since its readily available from his website and, presumably, a few of the better shops around the country. I feel like I've been missing out. Hopefully The Hospital Suite, a story about a period of ill health and its aftermath, is a good place to start.


Loverboys by Gilbert Hernandez 

Two weeks, two new things from Gilbert Hernandez? What a world it is that we live in! From the solicitation, Loverboys sounds like a tale of Palomar, but without the boundaries of years of Heartbreak Soup stories limiting it to an already well trod path. Preview here, extensive interview with Hernandez here, including this excellent tidbit:
 When I did "Marble Season," I said, this is a Drawn & Quarterly book. I want this for all ages. Some of my stuff at Fantagraphics is pretty rough, visually, whether it's sex or violence, so I just didn't want to go to another publisher and do that. With Dark Horse, I think of the kinds of books they publish, so I went ahead and did this heavy, violent zombie story because they're more into that dark genre stories. Fantagraphics is more indie -- closer to the way of indie music -- than the other publishers. With each publisher, I try to focus and express myself in a different way. Sort of having a split personality with each publisher.


In a Glass Grotesquely by Richard Sala

The main attraction in this new book of stories from Richard Sala is the tale of Super-Enigmatix, the world's greatest super criminal, and his army of henchwomen. Sala initially published (and is continuing to publish) the strip on a tumblr, which is a relatively common method of low stress online self publishing. The art is bright and the story is by turns charming and violent, sometimes at the same moment; I liked that latter combination so much that I'm a little worried about myself. 


Southern Bastards Vol. 1: Here Was a Man, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Jason Latour

A Jason Aaron writer's credit is more or less a guarantee of quality. Southern Bastards is his follow up to Scalped, one of three or four best crime comics of the past little while. This new book fills a hole left by the end of the old one in 2012 and distinguishes itself with Latour's art, which gives it a design forward quality that might even launch it past its predecessor. I read Scalped in trade, it's the kind of book that rewards the rereadings facilitated by the collected editions, and, after purchasing the first issue, I'm doing the same with this one. Volume 1 collects the first four issues; I've been looking forward to this book for a while. 


The Fade Out, written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser 

Speaking of guarantees, anything from Brubaker and Phillips is sure to be worth a look. The first issue was great, this one is sure to be too. 


Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1, written by Ales Kot, drawn by Marco Rudy

This book's a weird one, and I'm ambivalent about it. The Winter Soldier iteration of the Bucky Barnes character was created by Ed Brubaker for his run of Captain America stories, now approaching their tenth anniversary. Those were the comics that got me into comics again after a three or four year break, and they're still some of my favorites. Although the whole of Brubaker's Captain America run is worthwhile, the later issues were often of slightly lesser quality, eroded by the needs of line wide crossovers, a transition from a superhero espionage comic hybrid into straight superhero comics and, I think, by a little bit of writer's malaise. At the end, Bucky Barnes's consolation prize for no longer getting to be Captain America was that he got his own comic book, and Brubaker's year plus on the Winter Soldier title stands up against that early stuff, in part because it phased out the superheroics entirely, and what we got were straight spy stories with the trappings of the Marvel universe. Brubaker left and the series languished; they final issues are supposed to be ok (I've never read them), but interest waned anyway. 

All of that means that I'm trepidatious about this book. Part of what's got me worried is that it's a weird combination of things; Barnes is now a sort of intergalactic clean up crew, a set up which emphasizes the espionage while restoring some of the fantastical elements. It's also drawn by Marco Rudy, who gives the book a painterly feel, a quality I often find ugly and difficult to read. Because Rudy's goal is to emphasize the weirdo quality of the sci-fi, though, it looks like it works. We'll have to see what happens when that art is subjected to the utilitarianism of comics text; I suspect there will be a certain amount of dissonance. 

Still, I think that the espionage story may be the most important mainstream comics genre of the last decade or so, and writer Ales Kot has recently set himself up as the most adept inheritor of that tradition; if anyone can pull off a book like this. Kot might be the man to do it. 





Coming Soon to a Spinner Rack Near You: Two from Olivier Schrauwen


I first became aware of Olivier Schrauwen while attending the final iteration of the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics fest in late 2012 (that festival has since been replaced by Comics Arts Brooklyn, which by all accounts sounds like an excellent show). Schrauwen was a special guest, and I was able both to hear him interviewed (by Bill Kartalopoulos) and to go see a gallery show of some of his work, but I never picked up any of his books afterwards. There's no real reason for that, except perhaps that I'm on a budget and that I've never come across any of it while browsing; it's intriguing stuff, often very beautiful, and it seems to run on an alt-comix weirdness that is happily free from grotesque excesses. 

Although translations of his work are available in English, I would have to go out and seek them if I wanted to read them, and my current purchasing habits and budgeting strategy privilege new releases over already available work. Luckily for me, then, Schrauwen has two new books incoming. The first, Arsene Schrauwen, is a bit of originally self-published family history done in one color printing, which will be out at the end of the year. Fantagraphics is calling it his first graphic novel, which I think is misleading, but the work seems to be well regarded however it's packaged. The second is Mowgli's Mirror, an all or mostly silent tale featuring Rudyard Kipling's character from The Jungle Book. which will be put out by Retrofit/Big Planet sometime next year. Zainab Akhtar at ComicsAlliance has a plot summary and some preview pages; it's a looker, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Wednesday's New Things: Paying For It


Barbarella by Jean-Claude Forest, translated by Kelly Sue Deconnick

Barbarella is one of those European comics I know only reputation, perhaps best euphemistically characterized as European, although I remember encountering the Jane Fonda movie version on the shelves at Blockbuster, when video rental places were still a thing outside of Austin. It's cool to see a new English language release of the first volume of the material translated by Kelly Sue Deconnick, with the first ever translation of the second volume to follow early next year. The book is interesting enough on its own, but Humanoids's publishing strategy is fascinating. What might be characterized as the central release is a massive volume, 12 inches X 16 inches, officially a coffee table book, and coming in at a modest $80 for 70 pages of content. Also being made available is a digital version, which will cost you -- this is not a typo-- $5.95. Just to be clear, the digital version costs less than 7.5% of what the physical version costs. In this case, what you're paying for isn't the content, its the packaging. That's true of all physical releases, of course, but this is extreme, the logical conclusion of a market driven by collectors. Eventually, I'm sure there will be a more reasonable physical version, but, for now, I think it's cool that Humanoids is making the work available for those of us without either the $80 to lay down or the coffee table to put the book on. 


Bumperhead by Gilbert Hernandez 

I'm about to dig deep into Gilbert Hernandez's Heartbreak Soup stories for a presentation I'm giving at ICAF in November (A Cosmonaut in Palomar: Seeing, Showing, and Imagining In Gilbert Hernandez’s Heartbreak Soup). It'll be my first academic conference as a graduate student. Excitement and terror are closer than people realize. Anyway, Hernandez's newest project is out in wide release this week, after a SDCC debut, and, as always, it looks excellent