Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, and The Green Hand and Other Stories

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Post-Natal Returns

After having to readjust for a few major life changes — including a new baby for first-time parents! — Edward and Derek are back with the monthly Euro Comics series. For November they discuss two graphic biographies devoted to early twentieth-century artists as well as a collection of surreal and experimental fiction. They start with Carlos Sampayo and Jose Muñoz’s Billie Holiday (NBM Publishing), a text that fully utilizes the somber, even noir uses of black-and-white (Muñoz’s art was an inspiration for Frank Miller’s Sin City, after all). Originally published by Fantagraphics in 1993, this work provides a skeletal overview of Holiday’s life and career, both its artistic highs and its drug-filled lows.

A much more detailed graphic biography is Jose-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller’s Josephine Baker. Published by SelfMadeHero, this is an extensive look at Baker’s life and includes encyclopedic back matter that supplements the narrative. This is a more conventional biography than the one on Billie Holiday, a chronological accounting from a more objective, detached point of view. Perhaps most notable is the fact that Edward, himself, did the translation of this text (although not the back matter). As such, he provides insightful behind-the-scenes information about the preparation of this album, its editorial handling of sensitive racial issues, and the dynamics involved in the art of translation.

Finally, Derek and Edward wrap up with very different kind of work, Nicole Claveloux’s The Green Hand and Other Stories (New York Review Comics). In addition to its longer titular story, the collection includes seven other Claveloux short comics that vary in style and narrative conventionality. All of the pieces are dreamlike, even psychedelic in nature, originally appearing in Métal Hurlant or through Les Humanoïdes Associés between 1979 and 1980. With an introduction by Daniel Clowes and an interview with “Green Hand” co-creator Edith Zha, this is collection that serves as a great introduction to the often-overlooked Claveloux.

Comics Alternative, Episode 239: Reviews of Herman by Trade, Rise of the Dungeon Master, and Eternal Empire #1

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Huzzah!

This week Andy and Derek look at three new titles, each one visiting the fantastic in one form or another. Before they jump into the reviews, however, they discuss some of the big comics news from the past week: the announcement of the 2017 Eisner Award nominations and Free Comic Book Day. The guys don’t go into too much detail about the Eisner nominees because they plan on devoting an upcoming episode to that topic. However, they do briefly mention the curious situation surrounding the nomination of the Love Is Love collection in the Best Anthology category. They have much more to say about last Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day. Both guys share some of their experiences at their local shops and the free comics they got there. Listen to the podcast’s FCBD episode for more details.

But then the Two Guys get into the heart of this week’s show. They begin with Chris W. Kim’s Herman by Trade, coming out this week from SelfMadeHero. Although on the surface this appears to be a more realistic narrative, its fantastic elements become apparent in the transformation of the title character who has the ability to change his appearance and mimic others’ abilities at will. As both Derek and Andy point out, this is an unusual story that sticks with you long after reading.

Next, they turn to a new graphic biography that is all about fantasy, Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D (Nation Books). The art is by Koren Shadmi, but the book is written by David Kushner, based on a profile he wrote for Wired magazine in 2008. What’s most notable about this brief biography is the narrative point of view, almost entirely presented in the second person. This is fully in keeping with the spirit of role-playing games, where in this case the the narrating presence is, in essence, your “dungeon master” guiding your awareness as you enter the creators’ biographical realm.

Finally, Andy and Derek conclude with the latest collaboration from Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. Eternal Empire #1 (Image Comics) is a fantasy set in a distant world that, as Andy points out, is reminiscent of Game of Thrones. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time speculating on the originality of this series, wondering if the unique elements will become more apparent in the issues to come. And while Andy isn’t sure if he’ll stick around to find out, Derek is going to give Eternal Empire a chance, especially given his appreciation of the Luna brothers’ previous comics, and especially Luna and Vaughn’s previous series Alex + Ada.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Joe Ollmann

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Of Human Bondage

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  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:04:00 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:20 – Interview with Joe Ollmann
  • 01:21:27 – Wrap up
  • 01:22:58 – Contact us

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On this interview episode, Andy and Derek talk with Doug Wright Award-winner Joe Ollmann, whose new book, The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, comes out this week from Drawn and Quarterly. Joe starts off by introducing William Seabrook and his writings, since this is a historical literary figure that most listeners have probably never heard of before. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time discussing the ups and downs of Seabrook’s career and speculating on why he’s not more notable than he is. With a background in yellow journalism, Seabrook became a famed adventurer and travel writer who befriended a who’s who of early twentieth-century literati, including Thomas Mann, Aldous Huxley, Gertrude Stein, Sinclair Lewis, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and Aleister Crowley. As Joe points out, he was famously known at the time, not only as a writer, but as a cultural progressive, a cannibal, a bondage enthusiast, and the man who popularized zombies. What fascinates Ollmann most about this colorful figure is Seabrook’s upfront attitudes about himself, refusing to hide the more salacious sides of his personality. At the same time, this cavalier manner may have contributed to his notorious alcoholism, tragically revealed in his memoir, Asylum, and a condition that stifled his career and helped lead to his eventual death. The guys have a great time talking with Joe about his 10+ years in researching and writing this biography, the differences between writing this book and his previous ones (all fictions), and the dynamics of visually narrating the life of such a controversial and conflicted character.

Joe is also writing about his experiences with The Abominable Mr. Seabrook on The Paris Review!

And read Derek’s previous interview with Joe Ollmann for The Comics Alternative blog.

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Comics Alternative Podcast Episode 84: Reviews of Andre the Giant, Shackleton, and Southern Bastards #1

Shoeshine Boy

AndreOn this episode of The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek discuss three new titles, and boy, do they have great time! They begin with Box Brown’s new graphic biography from First Second, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. While neither of the Two Guys are big professional wrestling fans, they did grow up in an era where Andre the Giant was a significant cultural figure, covered in news programs, Shackletonstarring in films and television series, and appearing on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman. Next they look at another historically based comic, also published by First Second: Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey, by Nick Bertozzi. This work focuses on the expedition that Ernest Shackleton took to the South Pole between 1914 and 1916, intending to traverse the Antarctic on foot. As the guys point out, this is another of Bertozzi’s comics about historical explorers, a previous title being 2011’s Lewis and Clark (also from First Second). Finally, Derek and Andy wrap up SouthernBastardswith a fun discussion — beginning with references to a dog taking a dump — of the new series from Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, Southern Bastards (Image Comics). Both of the guys are familiar with the Southern setting serving as the backdrop of this comic — Derek is from Charlotte, NC, and Andy has been living in South Carolina for a number of years — and they can relate to where the two Jasons are going. Derek, in particular, is excited to see Aaron back on a creator-owned, non-superhero title, and both are enthusiastically on board for what appears to be another great Image series.

This episode’s incidental music is brought to us by
T-Bone Burnett’s The True False Identity

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Comics Alternative Interviews: Vivek Tiwary

All You Need Is Love

TiwaryOn this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews Derek and Gene talk with Vivek Tiwary about his recently published The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story (Dark Horse Books). In their conversation, Vivek FifthBeatle_Maindiscusses the genesis of his book, his personal and professional interests in Brian Epstein, the challenges of being a first-time graphic novel writer, and his dogged efforts to accurately represent the life The Beatles’ manager. Gene and Derek also ask Vivek about working with artists Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker, as well as information on plans to turn The Fifth Beatle into a movie. There’s a lot of information packed into this show, all part of an effort to bring renewed — and sorely needed — attention to the man who made The Beatles into a cultural phenomenon.

This week’s incidental music is brought to you by
…who else? The Beatles!

Interview Image-Tiwary

Deconstructing Comics #345: Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, and the talent of Joseph Lambert

Annie Sullivan and the trials of Helen KellerYou’ve probably heard of Helen Keller, one of the first (but not the first!) blind & deaf Americans to become educated. If so, then you probably also know the name Annie Sullivan – Helen’s teacher. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, by Joseph Lambert, is a graphic novel biography more of Annie than Helen, taking advantage of the comics medium to show symmetry in the lives and situations of the two women. It’s also pretty awesome.

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Deconstructing Comics #076: “Houdini, the Handcuff King”

FLASHBACK! Tim and Brandon snack while examining Houdini: The Handcuff King and 24-hour Comics Day Highlights 2006! (Originally published May 21, 2007)

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