Locally published comic goods for your lazy, hazy, summer reading pleasure
There’s nothing quite like lounging in a hammock with a mile-high pile of comics to read to restore your faith in quality time. Lucky for us, local publishers have put out all sorts of little goodies in the last while, in perfect time for our summer reading pleasure. So pick these up, settle in, and relaxxxx…
Guy Delisle’s Aline and the Others (Drawn & Quarterly) is among the funniest wordless compendia of narratives you’re likely to find out there. Composed of 23 short strips titled with the name of a girl, ranging the alphabetical gamut from Aline to Zoë, the book bursts with hilarity and naughtiness, kid-gloved perversion and morphological monstrosities. His drawings are so delicate and minuscule you wouldn’t expect them to pack the punch they do.
Other local comic artist Obom released two works in French this summer under Mile End imprint L’Oie de Cravan. Plus Tard… is a collection of dream stories, reminiscent of many of Julie Doucet’s comics but without the sexual imagination or the oomph. It’s still a charming book that makes the most of Obom’s naive drawing style and wacky creativity, but I much preferred Kaspar, a short graphic novel about the life of Kaspar Hauser, a real-life mystery man from 19th century Germany who was kept in a dark room and fed water and bread until the age of 17, when he was released into Nuremberg. Obom’s extremely minimalist style lends itself ideally to the telling of this extraordinary story of alienation. Hauser, believed to have been an illegitimate son of royalty, was kept in jail until he became a fashionable cause célèbre, thereafter bouncing from house to house among the German aristocracy. It was never discovered who his keeper was throughout his childhood, and when he was assassinated at the age of 21, it was never discovered who was behind it. Obom shrouds her character in the perfect amount of mystery.
Emily Holton brings her poetry to life in Little Lessons in Safety (Conundrum) with a collection of stories that range from thoroughly charming to neither here nor there. The problem stems from the editing, though, rather than the talent: pieces like Murder Mitchell and Osoyoos are extremely powerful pieces of writing, in which Holton’s tender pencil tendrils are as sensitive in their expression as her words. But other pieces, like Pecos Bill and Renegade, just aren’t worthy of publication. You can sense their spontaneity and there’s no denying Holton has draftsmanship in her blood, but half-thought jottings make for fun discoveries in the sketchbook of an artist whose work process gets attention after a 20-year stellar career, not in a first book. When every second person in this city is an artist, a sketchbook is not such an impressive thing.
Drawn & Quarterly, always with their eyes on the prize, have picked up Israeli comic artist Rutu Modan in the last while and translated her work Exit Wounds into English. Modan’s story of a man and his hunt for his philandering father, whom he believes might have been the victim of a suicide bomb, is an entrancing story about the small dramas of a place where death is commonplace. The artist’s clean, calm style conveys the mundane in an involving, easy way, so that for the short time it takes to read the book, you are part of her universe of turmoil, frustration, fear and romance – and sad to leave it when it’s done.
And last but not least, Conundrum’s very recent release of Monster Island Three, edited as always by Billy Mavreas and uniting local (and outsider) talent of all sorts, from Joe Ollmann to Bernie Mireault, Hélène Brosseau, Andy Brown and Leyla Majeri, is a trippy amalgam of everything monstrous. Uniting short fiction, abstract prints, narrative comics and single panels, it may not be the most astutely composed of all Monster Islands, but it has something for everyone and is certainly the most beautifully published yet. Rupert Bottenberg’s Reflections in the Aftermath of a Tripartite Second-Reel Kaiju Battle is damn good for a giggle, and it was a distinct pleasure for me to discover the aesthetic finesse of both Sean McCarthy and Shawn Cheng. Kudos on the inclusion of artists’ bios at the end, so that we can all get to know the talented few a bit better.