Archive for the ‘Features’ Category
by Dan Nadel
Friday, July 9, 2010
Ryan Holmberg wrote this excellent piece about Yokoyama’s recent work (I’d be remiss not to mention that while we iron out how best to bring Baby Boom to these shores, PBox is offering a new limited edition book that contains work in that vein, BABYBOOMFINAL), and kindly offered it to Comics Comics.
Ryan, take it away:
If you put the first three Yokoyama Yuichi books together, you have a composite image of the development of a landscape for leisure tourism in Japan, and a playfully dystopian view of its ramifications. In New Engineering, there is the construction of various sorts of landforms and public works projects mainly for recreational use. In Travel, three men ride in one of the icons of Japan as technological and administrative master of space and timetables – the high-speed Bullet Train – consuming landscape from the comfort of their padded seats en route to a seaside getaway. In Garden, a phalanx of men pass through a modern sculpture park-cum-obstacle course – reminiscent of that television show Takeshi’s Castle – playing recklessly with its objects, leading ultimately to the park’s destruction. The association made on the Transatlantis blog between Yokoyama’s structures and Isamu Noguchi’s posthumously finished Moerenuma Park in Sapporo, likewise with man-made mini-mountains and cuboid “play sculptures” for climbing, I think is spot on. In general, I think it useful to think about Yokoyama’s reworking of modernist avant-garde forms (like Futurism) and fantasy architecture (like Boullee’s “Cenotaph to Newton”) through this lens of recreational play, and by extension tourism, considering also the recurring motifs of the sightseer and photographer, especially in a work like Garden, its trespassers the perfect image of the thoughtless tourist group, their activities linked, at the end, directly with the destruction of the consumed landscape, which blows apart in an apocalyptic hurricane. In these and other examples, you have various facets of modernism – mass mobilization, advanced military, surveillance, and transportation technologies, visionary architecture, geometric abstraction, the Futurist obsession with speed and sensation – retooled for a leisure economy, something that has particular resonance in Japan, following the collapse of the Bubble Era and its attempts to physically reshape the archipelago for a first class “leisure society” of parks, art, and resorts. (more…)
Labels: Ryan Holmberg, Yuichi Yokoyama
Sunday, June 27, 2010
On October 4, 2008, I had the pleasure of conducting a live q&a session with Bryan Lee O’Malley as part of the programming slate for the 2008 Small Press Expo. O’Malley is the creator of the popular Scott Pilgrim series of bookshelf-format comics, soon to see its sixth and final volume released on July 20, 2010, along with a motion picture adaptation directed by Edgar Wright, set to premiere in North America on August 13, 2010.
Moreover, O’Malley is perhaps the most visible face of a young comics-making generation liable to draw considerable influence from international comics art, and pursue means of distribution outside of the classical comic book format – his background is in webcomics, and his print-format career, est. 2001, traces the meteoric growth of manga as a presence in English-language North American comics reading. Even if we set visual qualities aside, it is striking that so many of O’Malley’s cited influences are comics and animation material targeted at women and girls; just one reading generation prior, this would have been almost unthinkable, as American comics had by and large abandoned that demographic as insignificant.
Yet O’Malley also keenly distinguishes between manga traditions — boys’ comics, girls’ comics, ’70s Golden Age traits, anime-adapted tropes — and applies them to a grander, evolutionary metaphor in Scott Pilgrim, a romance comic (and so much more!) about leveling yourself up by understanding your lover’s (possibly storied) romantic history, and confronting the negative traits “evil” ex-boyfriends might represent. Gaming action hangs over everything as a looser, atmospheric metaphor for personal myth-making; video games don’t function as ‘literature,’ not like books, but they are eminently applicable in their social role-playing capacity.
What follows is a record of our live q&a, transcribed by me, and edited to remove ums and ahs and hanging sentences. Keep in mind, this was 2008, so the currently most-recent book of the series, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, had not yet been released. Many thanks to Chris Mautner, aka “Audience #8,” for recording the panel (his own thoughts on Scott Pilgrim are hereby commended to your attention), and Bill Kartalopoulos, for shepherding the event into reality.
Labels: Brian Lee O'Malley, Jog aka Joe McCulloch, SPX
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Last fall, not long after Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days was published, I interviewed Al Columbia. I thought he might be a tough subject, reticent to talk about his work and himself, but he was quite the opposite: thoughtful, friendly, and easy to talk to. I liked him quite a bit, in fact. If you haven’t already bought the book, do it now.
NICOLE RUDICK: How often do you work during the day?
AL COLUMBIA: Pretty much from when I get up till I go to bed.
You draw all day?
That, and other things. These days, I don’t draw as much as I did a couple years ago. A couple years ago, I would work from when I got up to when I went to sleep, but that would either be a very long day or two days in a row. I spent a lot of time pushing that, going into two days and getting very little sleep and waking up and doing it again. I became very obsessed with what I was doing at the time. For many years, I wasn’t getting very much sleep. I was just working, working, working, working—until it just seemed to turn in on itself, and it became a weird experience to draw, a little less pleasurable. Not that it’s always pleasurable—it’s hard work—but it seemed to scrape at something inside—deep inside, actually—that made me uncomfortable. So I don’t draw as much as I used to.
When did you start?
Really young, very, very young, two or three. I remember seeing Dorothy, from The Wizard of Oz, on the television and falling in love with her. I tried drawing her face, and I remember it didn’t look right. So I drew it again, and it didn’t look right, and I drew it again. I got really upset: I kept drawing her face over and over until I got it as best I could, so I could remember her until next year, when she was on TV again. Back then, they would only show The Wizard of Oz once a year, so that was the only time I would get to see Dorothy. I was kind of heartbroken.
Labels: Al Columbia
by Dan Nadel
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Since I’m procrastinating a bit here on another rainy day in Lucerne, getting ready to pack up and head out to Toronto tomorrow, I thought I’d add a few more thoughts on Fumetto and the festival.
Ben Jones opened a very fine exhibition last week, consisting of large cardboard sculptures, some paintings, and a couple of wall drawings. It’s a good way to see what Jones is up to these days. We did a talk together on Saturday afternoon, walking through the show and tossing around arguments about form and hierarchies. I’ll post it when I’m back. Ben took off for Athens yesterday for yet another art show. Busy boy.
What has struck me about the current show is how much can be told even without displaying some of his “iconic” pieces, as has been noted elsewhere. For this, and for any audience really, it’s almost more important to see the work as work, rather than as propping up iconic properties. It’s easier to take in as comics qua comics, or in the case of his collage and pencil drawings: as highly personal mark-making.
Labels: Fumetto festival, Jack Kirby
by Dan Nadel
Monday, April 19, 2010
I asked Ryan Holmberg, the curator of Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973, (running until June 26 at The Center for Book Arts in NYC) to write something for Comics Comics about the exhibition. He came through and more. Take it away, Ryan.
So, Dan has asked me to write something about “Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973.” Since I don’t want to completely rehash what’s in the exhibition catalogue, I think I will approach this from what I think the exhibition offers as a corrective to the dominant North American image of Garo—a venue for highly inventive and very funny, but supremely crass material, with lots of deskilled drawing, gross body humor, and non-sequitur narratives—an image informed by anthologies like Comics Underground Japan and PictureBox’s Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby that have translated work from the 1980s and ’90s. This standard image—I will call it “hetauma” (lit. “bad good,” i.e. deskilled, punk, et cetera) Garo for short—fits fairly well with contemporary ’70s-’80s underground comics in North America. The mutually adoring relationship between Gary Panter and Japan in the early ’80s is a good example of how there is a certain trans-national convergence of taste in alternative comics-making in that period which did not exist in the ’60s: Garo and Zap had little in common.
Labels: Garo, heta uma, manga, Ryan Holmberg, Takashi Nemoto, Yoshiharu Tsuge
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Last fall, I saw the New Museum’s small show of work by Dorothy Iannone. A quick introduction. Iannone is a Boston-born artist, born in 1933, who started painting in 1959 and has since also made video installations, sculptures, and drawings. Her work uses explicit imagery—highly stylized, resembling Egyptian art and fertility goddesses—to describe both the “ecstatic unity” achieved with fellow artist and lover Dieter Roth and the female sexual experience. (Shows of her work have long been plagued by censorship; she’s seventy-five and, this show was her first solo exhibition in an American museum.)
The work from the New Museum show that has really stuck in my mind is An Icelandic Saga, forty-eight bound drawings depicting her trip by freighter, in 1967, to Reykjavik, where she and Roth first met. But it isn’t just pictures; there are words, too. Though plenty of critical accounts have called the drawings “narrative picture stories,” for me it adds up to comic book. There’s comparatively little written about Iannone and her work (considering she’s been making art for half a century), but from what I can tell, she never read comics. And that’s what makes An Icelandic Saga all the more interesting: She arrived at the medium from a completely different path.
Each page in the Saga roughly stands as a single panel (or panel-less page). Iannone uses hand-lettered text—commentaries, flashbacks, and interludes as well as detailed lists and shipboard menus—in cursive and block fonts to tell the story, and the black-and-white images mainly consist of flattened, front-facing figures. There aren’t any word balloons, but Iannone’s writing, in first- and third-person, moves between narration, reminiscence, and introspection.
Labels: comics vs. art, Dorothy Iannone
Thursday, March 18, 2010
A few days ago Robot 6 directed me to probably my favorite piece of comics publishing hype in a while, a short interview with Stephen King promoting the new Vertigo series American Vampire—King is scripting a back-up feature for issues #1-5, his first-ever original work for comics (as opposed to the various adaptations of his prose over at Marvel). Specifically, I was fascinated by a short bit concerning the comic’s editing process and how it bumped up against King’s take on the form:
One example:Thought bubbles—those puffy, dotted clouds that were a staple of early comics—have been phased out. “I got this kind of embarrassed call from the editors saying, ‘Ah, Steve, we don’t do that anymore.’ ‘You don’t do that anymore?’ I said. ‘No, when the characters speak, they speak. If they’re thinking, you try to put that across in the narration, in the little narration boxes.’” So King happily re-wrote to fit the new style—though he still laments the loss of the thought bubble. “I think it’s a shame to lose that arrow out of your quiver. One of the nice things about the written word as opposed to the spoken word in a movie is that you can go into a character’s thoughts. You do it in books all the time, right?”
This is great for several reasons, not the least of them being the mental image of our ky?-level candidate folding his legs and meditatively accepting instruction; I mean, forgive the presumptuousness, but I think that Stephen King maybe, probably, almost certainly could just petition his editor for a special thought ballooning exception, but he won’t, because he wants to understand how comics are done. Indeed, King was brought on to the project after its initialization, and is duly credited below primary writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque on the cover, in keeping with a supplementary scribe’s status—by all visible indication, he’s going native.
But that got me thinking—which tribe? And what’s their damn problem with thought balloons (as I call ’em)? It’s helpful to take closer look at what’s being said, and—since the comic in question was released just today—what’s being done.
Labels: EC, Shirow Miwa, Stephen King, Takeshi Obata, thought balloons
by Dan Nadel
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wally Wood’s life and art exist in the space between two comic book stories. The first, “My World”, published in Weird Science no. 22, 1953, was written by Al Feldstein as a tribute to the 26-year-old Wood, who drew it. In the story, an unseen narrator describes his daily experience of reality juxtaposed with panel after panel of spectacular fantasy scenes, consisting “. . . of great space-ships that carry tourists on brief holidays to Venus or Mars or Saturn . . . My world can be ugly . . . Landing at night and entering my cities and killing and maiming and destroying . . . My world is what I choose to make it. My world is yesterday . . . Or today . . . Or tomorrow . . . For my world is the world of science fiction . . . conceived in my mind and placed upon paper with pencil and ink and brush and sweat and a great deal of love for my world.” The final drawing of the comic has Wood smoking a cigarette at the drawing table and looking a bit wan. It’s an evocation of the celebrity of Wood-the-cartoonist published by William M. Gaines’ EC Comics, home of Mad, and the publisher for which Wood did his most famous work.
Twenty-two years later, Wood, having long since broken with Gaines and Feldstein and by then a cautionary tale to his peers, wrote and drew “My Word” for Big Apple Comix. It is again a breathless narrative complemented by stunning drawings, but this time it’s a trip through a hellish New York. A furious Wood closes his introductory monologue with “Anyhow, since I have three pages in this mag, I’d like to comment briefly on the universe.” And off he goes. After some muggings, some light S&M and the requisite pile of shit, Wood, apropos of nothing, leaps on art: “That mysterious process by which one’s fantasies enrich the lives of others… and the pockets of publishers. But it is worth it, for there are the fans.” And here we see a naked boy prostrating himself saying, “Do what you want with me! Kick me! Fuck me! Shit on me! I love you! By the way, your old stuff was better…” Wood closes with a distorted version of “My World’s” final panel: A squat alien at the drawing board, smoking and saying, “My word is the word I choose to make it, for I conceive it in my mind and put it down on paper with a lot of sweat and love and shit like that, for I am a troglodyte. My name is spafon gool.”