Comics

Do you love your father? How do you love him? Is your affection spontaneous, dutiful, rote, wry, overflowing, ambivalent or simply unexamined? When you consider these questions — or decline to do so, thank you very much — consider also Nina Bunjevac's drawing style.

Consider the ways you could misstep in updating a classic comic-book superhero. Now imagine that your protagonist is A) female, B) 16, C) a Pakistani-American and, oh yeah, D) Muslim.

"A plague of tics": That's how writer David Sedaris described his experience of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but for others the enigmatic illness is more like a storm of thoughts. "Did I lock my [storage] locker?" broods John Porcellino in The Hospital Suite. "Did I turn the living room lights off? What if the force of removing my hand from the [refrigerator] door caused it to open a little?"

(For stories are necessary lies.)

It's the hats. In century-old photos of women's suffrage activists, there's something just plain dowdy about the headgear. Teetering atop laboriously pinned-up hair, groaning under the weight of improbable foliage, the hats can't help but make suffragists seem irredeemably stodgy to modern eyes.

Rescuing Science From The Military ... With Comics?

Aug 31, 2014

Pouty lips, flowing hair and ... oligonucleotide synthesizers? Two of these things don't seem to belong — at least, not in a comic that seeks to expose high-level Defense Department research to the critical light of day. Human physicality seems somehow out of place in the sterile confines of a government lab.

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer — now in his mid-80s— has been in the business for more than 60 years. So his first graphic novel, a darkly drawn confection in the noir tradition, called Kill My Mother, comes late in his career. I feel a certain kinship with him, because as a reader I'm a latecomer to the genre myself. Call me a dinosaur, but his book, so deliciously inviting to scan (if a bit convoluted in its plot), is one of the first of its kind that I've read cover to cover.

British army troops once kicked a soccer ball around as they went into battle. True story! In fact, it's one of the first and best anecdotes in Paul Fussell's classic study of World War I, The Great War and Modern Memory. That astonishing image illustrates just how naive the recruits were about modern war's potential for unprecedented destruction — and it sets the stage for their devastating shock and disillusionment.

'How The World Was,' Drawn In Dreamy Lines Of Memory

Aug 14, 2014

What's interesting? All sorts of things, and people tend to agree on what they are. War, for instance, is more or less universally believed to be interesting. And yet back in the early 2000s, when French artist Emmanuel Guibert decided to craft a graphic novel about his friend Alan Cope's experiences in World War II, the source material wasn't particularly "interesting" at all.

A Beautiful Book, Whether Or Not It Makes You 'Happy'

Aug 9, 2014

Lies! Deceit and rank mendacity! Eleanor Davis promises what current pop music insists is perfectly possible — that you can be happy — and then she doesn't deliver. Instead she draws comics full of hilarious surrealism, gut-tugging tropes and eloquent despair. How dare she?

There's a line pop culture likes to flirt with. It's the line between naughty and nasty, between seamy and sordid, between icky and "come on, really, I just ate lunch." Back in the mid-'60s, when ladies always wore stockings and gentlemen still wore hats, S. Clay Wilson left that line in his rearview mirror.

For the first time since the 1940s, the Green Turtle is returning to comic bookshelves. The long-forgotten character has been resurrected in The Shadow Hero, a new graphic novel about what many comic fans consider the first Asian-American superhero.

"He's like a classic, American World War II hero," says cartoonist Gene Luen Yang, who collaborated with illustrator Sonny Liew on The Shadow Hero.

Here's the drill: This Saturday, May 3rd, is Free Comic Book Day. Walk into a comics shop (you can find the one nearest you at www.freecomicbookday.com/storelocator), and they will hand you some free comics.

Book News: Archie Comics Is Going To Kill Off Archie

Apr 9, 2014

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

When I was a kid, my local comic book store was a seedy, subterranean hole. I never saw other kids there — only adults and teenagers, who came alone and seemed furtive and abashed. We guiltily pored over the spandex-covered torsos and gore-splattered pages in separate corners.

Now, as an adult, I live partially in Seattle and partially on the Internet, two places where comics and graphic narratives are as respected and celebrated as any other medium. No one hides in the corner, and I read comics without shame — almost. One comic book hero remains a guilty pleasure.

About a month ago, I asked my followers on Twitter if they had any recommendations for a comic artist whose work I should check out. Person after person brought up Yumi Sakugawa, a California-based artist. And I was familiar with her work: she's the brains behind the ever-nostalgic strip, "Claudia Kishi: My Asian-American Female Role Model Of The 90s."

Joe Sacco is a cartoonist, graphic novelist and journalist; he's best-known for his dispatches from today's regions of conflict, like the Middle East and Bosnia, in cartoon form. But for his latest book, The Great War, Sacco turns his eye on history. He's recreated of one of the worst battles of World War I, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, from its hopeful beginning to its brutal end.

Neil Gaiman started writing the Sandman comic books 25 years ago. Since then, he's written acclaimed fantasy novels, children's books and screenplays — but the pale, star-eyed Lord of Dreams remains one of his most beloved characters. Over the course of 75 issues, the series captivated fans and critics alike.

Ready for your fair share of Halloween shakes and shivers, kiddies? Look no further than Afterlife with Archie, a new ongoing comic series that melds our eternal fascination with all things zombie apocalypse and one of the most enduring and successful comic icons of all time, Archie Andrews — and yes, it is actually scary.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, a documentary in three hour-long segments that will premiere back to back (to back) tonight on many PBS stations, begins with a curious image: Vincent Zurzolo of Metropolis Comics explains that a recent copy of Action Comics #1, which contained the first appearance of Superman, recently sold for over $2 million. He shows us Action Comics #1, and then ... he locks it in a safe.

It's axiomatic now that comics have gone from being kids' stuff to, in some cases, adults only. These days, comics are recognized as a real artistic form, one that can be complex, subtle, pointed, probing and profane.

One of the artists most responsible for this is Art Spiegelman, who drew for Topps Bubble Gum comics, invented the Garbage Pail Kids, created a character who was all head, no body, for Playboy and won the Pulitzer Prize for Maus, his Holocaust comic — a phrase that was once unfathomable.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Dash Shaw is a graphic novelist and animator whose previous books, including Bottomless Belly Button and Bodyworld, seethe with dark, mischievous intent. He sets out to unsettle, using the unique tools the comics medium provides to expose discomfiting truths about relationships both familial and romantic. A proud experimentalist, Shaw often shuns tidy narrative conventions in favor of raw emotion.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.