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 Podcast Episode 58: A Review of Rebetiko, Pachyderme, and The Outliers #1

Alternative to the Max

RebetikoThis week Gene and Derek review two new books (both translations from the French) and the first issue of a new series. They begin with David Prudhomme’s Rebetiko (SelfMadeHero), a narrative centered around a day in the lives of five rebetes, musicians who were a part of the Greek folk music subculture in the 1920s and 1930s. The characters are outcasts, living on the fringe because of their love of rebetiko — often called “Greek blues” — and treated as immoral influences. Prudhomme uses the music and the lifestyle as a Pachydermestructuring device for his narrative. The Two Guys then turn to Pachyderme (SelfMadeHero), Frederik Peeter’s surreal, dreamlike story of a woman who is searching — searching for her husband, whom she believes to have been in an accident; searching for her young female piano student, who elicits in her some sort of hidden passion; and searching for her own sense of self as a fully realized woman. The result is a free-flowing, associative story that seems to turn back on itself and resists closure. If you appreciate Charles Burns’s dislocated and defamiliarizing narratives, you’ll really enjoy OutliersPachyderme. Finally, Derek and Gene discuss the first issue of Erik T. Johnson’s series, The Outliers (Panelvision Productions/Alternative Comics). Beginning almost two years ago as a Kickstarter campaign, this is Johnson’s adventure story of a speech-impaired boy who is able to see creatures living on the periphery of human consciousness, or outliers, that others cannot perceive. The guys are impressed by all three of the titles they discuss and heartily recommend that listeners run out to get these comics. This week is truly an alternative comics feast!

NOTE ABOUT THE EPISODE: Approximately 35 minutes into the show, there is a little technical difficulty with the recording. There is a two- or three-second lag between what Gene is saying and what Derek is saying, and at times it sounds as if one is talking on top of the other. We apologize for this minor problem, but the gist of the guys’ commentary is still understandable and clearly intact.

This week’s incidental music is brought to you by
Rebetiko Sergiani – İstanbul’un Şarkıları (1920 – 1940) and
Camper Van Beethoven’s Telephone Free Landslide Victory

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Comics Alternative Podcast Episode 55: A Review of David B.’s Black Paths and Incidents in the Night, Book 1, and Jonathan Hickman and Mike Costa’s God Is Dead #1

Of Dreamscapes and Gods

IncidentsNightThis week on The Comics Alternative, Tof once again joins Derek to talk about comics, and this time they’re reviewing new books by David B. — Black Paths (SelfMadeHero) and Incidents in the Night, Book 1 (Uncivilized Books) — and issue #1 of God Is Dead by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa, and Di Amorim (Avatar). The Two Guys with PhDs begin by BlackPathsdiscussing David B.’s surreal and idiosyncratic style, and how that style manifests itself in his two most recent books. First they look at Black Paths and how David B. uses history,  the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and the ill-fated Free State of Fiume, as a scaffolding for his story. Tof and Derek also highlight the various narrative connections between that book and Incidents in the Night, pointing out the creator’s penchant for interlinking GodIsDeadhis narratives though iconic markers. They talk in-depth about David B.’s surrealistic style, his “flat” or two-dimensional art, and the dream-like world where most of his stories take place. Next, the Two Guys turn to the first installment of Jonathan Hickman and Mike Costa’s new six-issue miniseries, God Is Dead. Although Tof is a little uncertain about Di Amorim’s art (e.g., the depiction of women), Derek is fascinated by the way that Hickman and Costa set up their storyworld, giving us several events that promise to converge in the coming issues. There’s a lot to listen to…so start listening already!

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