Phantoms of the Louvre


By Enki Bilal translated by Joe Johnson (NBM ComicsLit/Louvre: Musée du Louvre Éditions)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-841-3

A few years ago the legendary Louvre Museum in Paris began an intriguing and extremely rewarding collaboration with the world of comics, and their latest beguiling translated bande dessinée is now available in English courtesy of those fine folks at NBM.

Phantoms of the Louvre is a lush and beautiful, oversized hardback graphic art book which reproduces the stunning results of master storyteller Bilal’s creative response to the collected treasures and even architecture of the prestigious institution.

The origins and details of the project are described in his Preface and the 22 artworks which resulted had their own exhibition in the Louvre in 2013.

The premise is delightfully simple: each item and place in the galleries is blessed or afflicted by a ghost somehow attached to an item which affected their lives or passing, and Bilal incorporates a photo of each artefact with an image of the ghost.

The story of every phantom is then told in poetic prose augmented by photos, sketches and designs of the revenant in question…

Enes Bilalović AKA Enki Bilal was born in Belgrade in 1951, breaking into French comics in 1972 with Le Bal Maudit for Pilote. Throughout the 1970s he grew in skill and fame, and achieved English-language celebrity once his work began appearing in America’s Heavy Metal magazine.

Best known for his self-scripted Nikopol Trilogy (Gods in Chaos, The Woman Trap and Cold Equator) his other bleakly beguiling and ferociously contemplative works include Ship of Stone, The Town That Didn’t Exist, Exterminator 17, Four?, Magma, Julia & Roem and many, many more. In recent years Bilal returned to contemporary political themes with his much-lauded, self-penned Hatzfeld Tetralogy…

As always, the work is produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Musée du Louvre, but this is no gosh-wow, “Night-at-the-Museum”, thinly-concealed catalogue of contents from a stuffy edifice of public culture. Rather, here is a gripping, intense, informative and insightful glimpse into the power of art and history as engines of imagination and personal obsession.

Weaving fact into an imaginary tapestry of fictions detailing the putative lives of those affected by or affecting the creation of the inspirational treasures, the stunning procession of lost souls leads off with ‘Aloyisias Alevratos’ inspired by The Winged Victory of Samothrace, detailing an ancient sculptor’s history whilst ‘Antonio Di Aquila’ recounts the short, tragic life of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s assistants/models during the period when the master painted the Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco Del Giocondo, called Mona Lisa, La Gioconda or La Joconde

‘Enheduana Arwi-A’ was a remarkable woman who engraved part of the tablet containing The Code of Hammurabi whilst ‘Arjuna Asegaff’ turned a troubled life around to become a popular model who posed for Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin’s The return of Marcus Sextus and ‘Analia Avellaneda’ developed a new pigment which fascinated Doménikos Theotókopoulous, called “El Greco” during the creation of Saint Louis, King of France and a Page, but cost the tragic lady her life…

‘Ahmose Chepseset’ was a crazed vandal in ancient Egypt whose actions despoiled much of the relic dubbed Man’s Head, vengeful half-caste ‘Djeynaba’ was a near-supernatural blight who tainted the Red Rooms and unrepentant Nazi ‘Colonel Markus Dudke’ killed himself in The Grand Gallery

‘Lantelme Fouache’ was the brutal father whose murder inspired Eugene Delacriox’ The Orphan Girl at the Cemetery whilst fisherman ‘Jacobus Grobbendoeke’ was recovered from the sea and incorporated into The Fish Market (after) Frans Snyders, whilst illicit woman warrior ‘Hecuba’ wore the Corinthian-style helmet as part of her imposture of a male hoplite seven centuries before Christ.

A doomed childhood love touched ‘Melencoloia Hrasny’ and Albrecht Dürer which resulted in a famed Portrait of the Artist whereas ill-fated Janissary ‘Zvonimir Karakasevic’ suffered a slow death which led to his becoming a forgotten component of sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle’s Voltaire Nude. Poor farm boy ‘Lakshek’ had more affinity for the bovines which inspired the Human-headed Winged Bull than the cruel, callous men who carved it…

Roman soldier ‘Longinus’ used his spear to wound the crucified Messiah depicted as Christ Dead, the Amazon ‘Marpada’ adored her equine companions – as exemplified by the marble Horse Head – far more than men and ‘Gaius Livius Maximus’ was a doctor of Rome who ended his own life upon the ancient Bed on display here.

‘Bella De Montefalco’ was the childish accidental instigator of a grotesque crime of passion hinted at in The Shadows of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta Appear to Dante and Virgil by Ary Scheffer, but professional duellist ‘Lyubino Nuzri’ was a willing killer who met his fate in the forever after haunted Alcove Room, and the ‘The Regodesebes Twins’ mere tools of destiny whose cruel deaths only tangentially affected The Countess Del Carpio, Marquessa de La Solana as portrayed by Francisco de Goya y Lucietes shortly before her own demise…

A criminal and beast in human form, butcher ‘Willem Tümpeldt’ provided The Slaughtered Ox immortalised by Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn but Muslim artist ‘Doura Ximenez’ had to dress as a man and remain unknown to craft the anonymous Supposed Portrait of Gabrielle d’Estrées and her sister the Duchess de Villars which concludes this tour of the night galleries…

With detailed floor plan maps showing where the art works, rooms and artefacts referenced are displayed, this is a truly magical collection that no art lover or devotee of the medium can afford to miss…

© 2012 Futuropolis/Musée du Louvre Éditions. © NBM 2014 for the English translation by Joe Johnson. All rights reserved.

World War One: 1914-1918


By Alan Cowsill, Lalit Kumar Sharma, Jagdish Kumar & various (Campfire)
ISBN: 978-93-80741-86-4

In 1914 following thirty years of empire building and politicking by wealthy nations, Europe was a tinderbox sitting atop a powder-keg. On June 28th in the city of Sarajevo a bomb was thrown, shots were fired and a spark set everything off…

There have been many graphic novels set in and about the Great War, but very few that have been brave enough to offer a comprehensive overview of the entire conflict. This compelling primer by writer Alan Cowsill and illustrators Lalit Kumar Sharma & Jagdish Kumar pulls off the neat trick of bullet-pointing the key events whilst simultaneously personalising the conflict through the unfolding fortunes of a number of ordinary “Tommies” who enlisted at the very start…

The account begins on The Somme in 1916 where George Smith and his brother Joe prepare to go “Over the Top”. As the attack commences he recalls how they all got there, beginning with a review of the initially botched assassination by a dying Serbian Nationalist in an inconspicuous little town in Bosnia-Herzegovina – and how German military ambition and Austro-Hungarian indignation slowly, inexorably kindled the flames of conflict on a continent enmeshed in a convoluted web of complex alliances…

The tale then switches to idyllic England where anti-German sentiment was the backdrop to the introduction of the Smith boys. Older brother Joe was part of the first wave – the British Expeditionary Force – dispatched to France in August 1914 for the hellish wake-up call that was the Battle of Mons

Back home underage George and his pal Fred Cowsill had little problem enlisting and were soon coping with basic training as focus shifts to the Central Powers where German plans were explored and the appalling rate of attrition meant younger and younger soldiers were being ferried to the front…

And so it continues: the Smith’s experience of mud, mayhem and crippling tedium interspersed with incisive examinations and overviews of the military and political forces at play,

Whilst the boys slogged through mud, dug trenches and dodged bullets and gas, the narrative explores the role of other advantage-seeking countries such Japan, naval engagements and the supremacy of submarine combat, the war in Africa, Germany’s role in the Russian Revolution and the foolish mistakes which led America to surrender its neutrality and join the Allied Powers…

Also touched upon are the achievements of T.E. Lawrence (“…of Arabia”), Wilfred Owen, the Christmas Day football match, the creation of Tanks and development of aerial combat, the disproportionate and astounding contributions of the Australian and New Zealand contingents, the bombing of Britain, the vile executions of deserters and psychologically scarred “shellshock” victims and how, but for political intransigence, the war might have ended in 1916…

Quite understandably for a book from an Indian publisher, some long-delayed attention is paid to the crucial contributions of the Empire’s Asian soldiery, such as Sepoy Khudadad Khan Minhas (first soldier of the Indian Army to win the Victoria Cross) whom Joe meets in a field hospital, and there are some damning views of the folks at home, smugly doling out white feathers to any men they consider shirkers or cowards…

Peppered with significant factual titbits and landmarks, the report continues, following the disastrous campaigns, the technological advancements, the battles, the global involvement and implications and how, even after the Armistice, the killing continued, whilst George and his comrades fall one by one by one…

Superbly précising the entire conflict, smartly mixing factual overview with eyewitness perspective at home and abroad and never straying far from action and bloodletting, this is a captivating introduction to the “War to End All Wars” (although I might quibble on the art side and wish for a little more diligent use of photo reference in certain places) and is ably augmented by fact-features such as ‘Was it Really a World War?’ and a truly heartbreaking illustrated essay on ‘Silent Soldiers’: the astounding animals who were awarded incredible honours for their incomprehensibly valiant deeds in the human Armageddon…

© 2014 Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt Ltd. All rights reserved.

Papyrus volume 3: Tutankhamun, the Assassinated Pharaoh


By Lucien De Geiter, coloured by G. Vloeberghs & translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1- 905460-84-7

British and European comics have always been happier with historical strips than our American cousins (a pugnacious part of me wants to say that’s because we have so much more past to play with – and yes, I know they’re responsible for Prince Valiant, but he’s an exception, not a rule) and our Franco-Belgian brethren in particular have made an astonishing art form out of days gone by.

The happy combination of familiar exoticism, past lives and world-changing events blended with drama, action and especially broad humour has resulted in a genre uniquely suited to beguiling readers of all ages and tastes.

Don’t take my word for it – just check out Asterix, Adèle Blanc-Sec, The Towers of Bois-Maury, Iznogoud or Thorgal to name but a few which have made it into English, or our own much missed period classics such as Olac the Gladiator, Dick Turpin, Janus Stark, Heros the Spartan or Wrath of the Gods; all far too long overdue for collection in album form, I might add.

Papyrus is the magnificent magnum opus of Belgian cartoonist Lucien de Gieter. It premiered in 1974 in legendary weekly Spirou, running to more than 30 albums, a wealth of merchandise, a television cartoon show and a video game.

De Gieter was born in 1932 and studied at Saint-Luc Art Institute in Brussels before going into industrial design and interior decorating. He made the jump into sequential narrative in 1961, first through ‘mini-récits’ (fold-in, half-sized-booklets) inserts for Spirou, starring his jovial little cowboy ‘Pony’, and later by writing for art-star regulars such as Kiko, Jem, Eddy Ryssack and Francis.

He then joined Peyo’s studio as inker on ‘Les Schtroumpfs’ (The Smurfs) and took over the long-running newspaper strip ‘Poussy’.

In the 1960s De Gieter launched South Seas mermaid fantasy ‘Tôôôt et Puit’ whilst Pony was promoted to the full-sized pages of Spirou, deep-sixing the Smurfs gig to expand his horizons working for Tintin and Le Journal de Mickey.

From 1972-1974 he assisted cartooning legend Berck on ‘Mischa’ for Germany’s Primo, whilst applying the finishing touches to his latest project: a historical confection which would occupy his full attention and delight millions of fervent fans for the next forty years.

The annals of Papyrus encompass a huge range of themes and milieus, blending Boy’s Own adventure with historical fiction and interventionist mythology, gradually evolving from traditionally appealing “Bigfoot” cartoon style and content towards a more realistic, dramatic and authentic iteration, through light fantasy romps – leavened and flavoured with the latest historical theories and discoveries – starring a fearlessly forthright boy fisherman favoured by the gods to become a hero of Egypt and friend to Pharaohs.

As a youngster the plucky “fellah” was blessed by the gods and given a magic sword courtesy of the daughter of crocodile-headed Sobek.

The lad’s first task was to free supreme god Horus from imprisonment in the Black Pyramid of Ombos thereby restoring peace to the Double Kingdom, but his most difficult and never-ending duty was to protecting Pharaoh’s wilful, high-handed and safety-averse daughter Theti-Cheri – a princess with an unparalleled gift for seeking out trouble…

Tutankhamun, the Assassinated Pharaoh is the third Cinebook translation (17th in the series and originally released in 1994 as Toutânkhamon, le Pharaon assassiné), skilfully blending fact and fantasy into a strange and disturbing tale of grave robbery, unquiet ghosts and madness…

It all begins with a squabble between the Mayor of the City of the Dead and his equivalent civil servant for the City of Thebes. The vast desolate region of imperial tombs, sepulchres and lesser burials is being systematically ransacked by blasphemous thieves and, whilst aforementioned Executive of the Interred Paur claims the sacrilegious raids must be the work of roving Bedouins, Thebes’ Mayor Paser posits that the defilers’ knowledge of the sites indicates they must be Egyptians… perhaps even some of Paur’s workers or tomb guards…

Bored with the interminable bickering, Theti-Cheri drags away Papyrus and court jester Puin to join her father’s lion hunt in the deep desert. Amidst the hustle and bustle the jolly dwarf is left behind and forced to frustratingly follow on his astoundingly smart donkey Khamelot.

Naturally this leads to him being attacked by the self-same decrepit man-eater Pharaoh is trying to eradicate, and as Puin frantically flees the hungry cat he sees chariot-borne scout Papyrus save a fellah from brutal grave guards.

The grateful peasant is a plant however and secretes a golden tomb treasure on the boy hero before knocking him out…

When Papyrus comes to he is surrounded by soldiers and accused by Paur’s captain Rhama of tomb-robbing. A crowd of suspiciously incensed citizens even try to stone him to death and Pharaoh has no choice but to have the boy imprisoned for trial.

However, before the doughty lad can gather his wits, Paur attempts to assassinate him with snakes and then kidnaps him from his temple cell, hiding the drugged and unconscious form in a secret access shaft to the grave of tragic boy king Tutankhamun

Falling through into the tomb proper, Papyrus’ spirit is accosted by the ghost of Ankhsenamun and discovers from Tutankhamun’s beloved child-bride that his own peasant great-grandfather played a major role in the tragic romance and short, complex reign of the murdered Boy-King…

As Papyrus learns the incredible, unpalatable truth about the legendary ruler’s fate, in the physical world Puin and Khamelot have informed Theti-Cheri of the plot and the impetuous Princess has rushed to the site and subsequently trapped herself in the tomb whilst gold-crazed Paur’s men close in to murder everybody who knows of the Mayor of the City of the Dead’s perfidy…

However the blasphemous bandits have not reckoned on Pharaoh’s cunning perspicacity or a certain donkey’s loyal ingenuity…

This is another astounding amazing adventure which will thrill and enthral fans of fantastic fantasy – although some of the finer points of Pharaonic marriage customs might distress fainter-hearted parents and guardians – and De Gieter’s clever merging of gothic romance, ghost story and archaeological revelation make for a particularly impressive treat..

Papyrus is a brilliant addition to the family-friendly pantheon of continental champions who marry heroism and humour with wit and charm, and anybody who has worn out those Tintin or Asterix volumes would be wise beyond their years in acquiring all these classic chronicles.
© Dupuis, 1994 by De Gieter. All rights reserved. English translation © 2009 Cinebook Ltd.

Usagi Yojimbo book 7: Gen’s Story


By Stan Sakai (Fantagraphics)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-304-1

Usagi Yojimbo (which translates as “rabbit bodyguard”) first appeared as a background character in Stan Sakai’s anthropomorphic comedy The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy, which premiered in 1984 amongst the assorted furry ‘n’ fuzzy folk Albedo Anthropomorphics #1. He subsequently graduated to a solo act in Critters, Amazing Heroes, Furrlough and the Munden’s Bar back-up series in Grimjack.

In 1955, when Sakai was two years old, his family moved to Hawaii from Kyoto, Japan. He left the University of Hawaii with a BA in Fine Arts, and pursued further studies at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design in California.

His early forays into comics were as a letterer – most famously for the inimitable Groo the Wanderer – before his nimble pens and brushes found a way to express his passion for Japanese history, legend and the filmic works of Akira Kurosawa and his peers, and transformed a proposed story about a human historical hero into one of the most enticing and impressive fantasy sagas of all time.

And it’s still more educational, informative and authentic than any dozen Samurai sagas you can name…

Although the deliriously peripatetic and expansive period epic stars sentient animals and details the life of a peripatetic Lord-less Samurai eking out as honourable a living as possible by selling his sword as a Yojimbo (bodyguard-for-hire), the milieu and scenarios all scrupulously mirror the Feudal Edo Period of Japan (roughly the 17th century AD by our reckoning) whilst simultaneously referencing other cultural icons from sources as varied as Zatoichi and Godzilla.

Miyamoto Usagi is brave, noble, industrious, honest, sentimental, gentle, artistic, empathetic, long-suffering and conscientious: a rabbit devoted to the tenets of Bushido.  He simply cannot turn down any request for help or ignore the slightest evidence of injustice. As such, his destiny is to be perpetually drawn into an unending panorama of incredible situations.

This evocative and enticingly seventh black-&-white blockbuster collects yarns from Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo comicbook volume 1, #32-38 plus an extra attraction from funny animal anthology Critters #38, offering a selection of complete adventures tantalisingly tinged with supernatural terror and drenched in wit, irony and pathos.

Following a lavish and laudatory Introduction from Groo-some co-worker Sergio Aragonés, the historical drama resumes as the restless, roaming Miyamoto encounters street performer ‘Kitsune’ whose beguiling beauty and dexterity with spinning tops turns many a head.

Of course whilst everybody’s gaping in astonishment the foxy lady is picking their pockets…

The philosophical wandering warrior takes it in his stride but when crooked gambler Hatsu’s customary conniving tricks provoke a bloody fight in an inn, Kitsune is forced to show the still blithely unaware bunny her other – far more lethal skills – to save their lives…

‘Gaki’ (literally “Hungry Ghost”) then delightfully skips backs to the bunny’s boyhood as a Bushido disciple of master warrior Katsuichi, wherein that venerable warrior teaches his fractious student a valuable and terrifying lesson in staying alert, after which ‘Broken Ritual’ (from a plot by Aragonés) offers a magnificent ghost story of honour regained.

It begins when the Yojimbo wanders into a village of terrified peasants cowering from the nightly horrors of a spectral warrior. The unhappy revenant is General Tadaoka, an old comrade of Usagi’s and, as the story of the defeated soldier’s frustrated attempt to commit Seppuku comes out, the heart-sore hare realises what he must do to give his deceased friend peace…

Once, Miyamoto Usagi was simply the son of a small-town magistrate who had spent years learning the Way of Bushido from his stern, leonine master: not just superior technique and tactics, but also Katsuichi’s creed of justice and restraint which would serve the Ronin well throughout his turbulent life.

Mere months after graduating, Usagi was personally recruited by the personal bodyguard of Great Lord Mifunė. The young man advanced quickly and was soon a trusted bodyguard too, serving beside the indomitable Gunichi. It was a time of great unrest and war was brewing…

In his third year of service the Lord’s castle was attacked by Neko Ninja assassins and, although the doughty heroes managed to save their master, the Lord’s wife Kazumi and heir Tsuruichi were murdered. Realising ambitious rival Lord Hikiji was responsible, Mifunė declared war…

The epic conflict ended on the great Adachigahara plain when Mifunė’s general Todo switched sides and the Great Lord fell. At the crucial moment Gunichi also broke, fleeing to save his own skin and leaving the helpless Usagi to preserve the fallen Lord’s head – and honour – from shameful desecration…

The next tale here returns to the days after that tragic betrayal and finds the hunted Usagi hiding in the wild forest known as ‘The Tangled Skein’ and taking shelter in the hut of an old woman. The crone was in fact a demonic Obakemono and, easily overpowering the fugitive, was set to devour Usagi when dead Mifunė returned to repay his most faithful servant for his unswerving loyalty…

This is followed by an extended contemporary tale featuring old frenemy ‘Gen’ and the title tale of this tome.

When the irascibly bombastic, money-mad bounty-hunter and conniving thief-taker bites off more than he can chew, he is lucky Usagi is there to rescue him. Whilst the roguish rhino is recovering from severe wounds, however, the Ronin is approached by a haughty but destitute noblewoman and is drawn into ‘Lady Asano’s Story’ and her quest for vengeance against the traitor who destroyed her clan and family.

The Yojimbo is looking for a way to let her down gently when the dowager recognises Gennosuké as the lost son of her most trusted general…

The bitter bounty hunter wants nothing to do with her but when the traitor Oda – now the town magistrate – arrests the lady and Usagi learns of his companion’s awful upbringing in ‘Sins of the Father’ he decides to help even if Gen won’t.

The attempt fails and he is captured, compelling the rhino to get involved in ‘Lady Asano’s Revenge’: an epic final confrontation of Shakespearean proportions…

The sober, weary pair of itinerants then trek to another village in time for more trouble and ‘The Return of Kitsune’. The shady entertainer has been plying her trade and accidentally stolen a very dangerous letter: one detailing a proposed rebellion and scheme to profiteer from the crisis. Now she in hiding from the mercenaries of a hugely powerful and influential merchant…

However after the ill-starred trio savagely end the threat in typical bloodletting fashion a hidden faction springs a galling surprise on the weary victors…

‘The Last Ino Story’ ends the story section of this volume with a tale of brooding emotional drama and features the return of the Blind Swordspig; a blood-spilling porcine outlaw with a huge price on his head whose incredible olfactory sense more than compensates for his useless eyes.

Although Ino was a ruthless, blood-spilling villain he valiantly helped Gen in a desperate crisis, and the thief-taker returned the favour by leading everyone to believe his profitable quarry had perished.

Now, after fighting their way out of a vicious bandit ambush, the bounty hunter and his bunny buddy discover the swine has simply settled down as an innocuous farmer, but his violent past will not leave him be. Ino is dying of an infected arrow wound and his frantic young wife Fujiko begs them to save him any way they can…

This medieval monochrome masterwork also includes a gallery of covers to charm and delight one and all.

Despite changing publishers a few times the Roaming Rabbit has been in continuous publication since 1987, with more than 30 collections and books to date. He has guest-starred in many other series (most notably Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its TV incarnation) and even almost made it into his own small-screen show.

There are high-end collectibles, art prints, computer games and RPGs, a spin-off sci-fi comics serial and lots of toys. Sakai and his creation have won numerous awards both within the Comics community and amongst the greater reading public.

Fast-paced yet lyrical, informative and funny, the saga alternately bristles with tension and thrills and often breaks your heart with astounding tales of pride and tragedy.

Simply bursting with veracity and verve, Usagi Yojimbo is the perfect comics epic: a monolithic magical saga of irresistible appeal that will delight devotees and make converts of the most hardened hater of “funny animal” stories.

Sheer comicbook poetry by a Comicbook Sensei…
© 1992, 1993, 1996, 2009 Stan Sakai. Usagi Yojimbo is a registered trademark of Stan Sakai. All rights reserved.

Wolfsmund volume 3


By Mitsuhisa Kuji, translated by Ko Ransom (Vertical)
ISBN: 978-1935654-96-4

Pseudonymous woman of mystery Mitsuhisa Kuji steps up the pace in this third volume (originally seen in Japanese publication Fellows! from 2009 as Ookami no Kuchi: Wolfsmund and a tankobon edition in 2011) of her gripping and chillingly fatalistic historical drama reinterpreting the legend of William Tell.

Set in 14th century Switzerland, the serial details the struggle of three conquered alpine cantons – Uri, Unterwalden and Schwyz – for freedom and independence from the cruel, oppressive and savagely rapacious Habsburg proto-Empire.

At first this interpretation centred around the monolithic fortress Wolfsmund, situated in the Sankt Gotthard Pass: an impenetrable Keep, barrier and waystation between dangerous mountain passes which dictated and controlled the population’s ability to move – or flee, find allies, gather intelligence or stockpile war materiel.

The triple-castle complex is a crucial trade bottleneck between Germany and Italy, housing a garrison of hard-hearted soldiers commanded by a human devil with an angel’s face.

Wolfram the Bailiff is a sadistic sentinel with an infallible eye for spotting resistance: slaughtering freedom fighters and crushing the people’s hopes with baroque and monstrous flair and ingenuity.

Until now no one has survived falling under his excoriating gaze, but the lust for liberty has grown strong in the hearts of a people pushed too far for too long…

The horrific murderously medieval passion play resumes with ‘Albert and Barbara Part One’ and a spectacular display of martial arts illustration as a brother and sister, creatively maimed on Wolfram’s orders, complete their training of a very special student. Elsewhere in Lugano, on the Italian side of the mountains, the rebel force of “the Eternal Alliance” lay their final plans for taking back their land. Everything depends upon a suicide mission to take the barrier fortress and Walter, the forbidding and guilt-wracked son of the fallen liberator Wilhelm Tell

The resistance leaders have devised a scheme for the young avenger to climb across the unforgiving mountain peaks whilst his combat-teachers sacrifice themselves as living decoys. Albert and Barbara are keenly resigned to their fate, ignoring Walter’s crushing “Survivor’s Guilt”. He has to get through to coordinate the uprising within the cantons and their lives are just a fair price for victory…

The darkly uplifting parable concludes in ‘Albert and Barbara Part Two’ as the siblings boldly introduce themselves at the gates of Wolfsmund and, by sheer bravado and indomitable courage, invade the castle, chasing Wolfram deep into the bowels of his lair.

Their audacious attack leaves them dead, surrounded by a vast harvest of fallen enemies, and their greatest triumph is that the grinning bailiff’s confident poise is shaken as, in a rush of fury, he realises too late that the true blow against him has been struck elsewhere…

In ‘Walter and the Comrades in Fate’ that realisation is revealed after flashbacks disclose the siblings’ pep talks with the valiant Tell. The scene then switches to show in harrowing detail the mountaineer’s epic re-crossing of the treacherous peaks – an act of unsurpassed heroism balanced by Wolfram’s shrewd assessment that his hidden foe can only be the legendary Wilhelm… or perhaps his missing son…

The closing chapters of this excessively graphic and visually uncompromising saga at last relate a turning of the tide as ‘Hedwig and Wilhelm’ opens with a particularly shocking sequence wherein the sadistic bailiff personally tortures Walter’s mother and younger brother seeking confirmation of his mysterious foe’s identity. The interview proves fruitless and Wolfram feels his master’s growing wrath and impatience when he is summoned to report to the Emperor Leopold…

With rebellion brewing in distant Bavaria the supreme overlord is reluctantly forced to leave the Canton situation in Wolfram’s hands… but he is far from content…

Meanwhile Walter makes his way to the rebel rendezvous where he is informed of his family’s plight. Clandestinely joining the crowds rounded up to observe the macabre and grisly executions, the doom-laden wretch can only watch helplessly as the last of his family are put to death by the grinning monster. He might however draw some shred of solace if he knew the dread which secretly grips the bailiff’s heart…

This volume concludes with the climactic ‘Hilde and the Young Cowhands’ as the long-awaited uprising begins and the populace storms and destroys the barrier station’s Southern fortress. With the castle burning the surviving soldiers flee for Wolfram’s Central Keep, unaware that on the German frontier the Northern Fort is now under attack.

Whilst an enraged mob engages the defenders with a frontal assault, Walter leads another suicidal commando raid, bolstered by the jibes of a wanton woman prepared to sacrifice everything for vengeance…

Hilde is the widow of the leader of a local trades Guild. When her husband fell victim to Wolfram’s games she dedicated herself to avenging him, and with the last of his faithful retainers began a reign of horrific reprisals which earned her the nickname “the Ripper of Schwyz”. Now she and the last two cowhands, infiltrated through the roof of the North Castle by Walter’s climbing skills, grimly make their way down to the ground floor, unstoppable engines of destruction…

When the castle falls, the last Tell understands that he not alone in his guilt, but that some things are greater than human life. And now, with both wings fallen, only Wolfram’s force remains, isolated and trapped in the central keep of Wolfsmund…

To Be Continued…

Never a tale for the faint-hearted, with this volume the saga explodes into stunning savagery, forensically examining the costs of liberty in brutally uncompromising character vignettes and breathtakingly intimate portrayals of death at close quarters.

Harsh, seductively cruel and inspirationally ferocious, this unhappy saga is probably most comfortably enjoyed by older readers and those who already know that not everybody lives happy ever after…

Wolfsmund is printed in the ‘read-from-back-to-front’ manga format.
© 2011 Mitsuhisa Kuji. All rights reserved.

Usagi Yojimbo book 6: Circles


By Stan Sakai (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-146-0

Wandering rabbit bodyguard Miyamoto Usagi started life as a background character in Stan Sakai’s anthropomorphic comedy The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper before indomitably carving his own unique path to graphic glory.

Creative mastermind Sakai was born in 1953 in Kyoto, Japan before the family moved to Hawaii two years later. On graduating from the University of Hawaii with a BA in Fine Arts, he pursued further studies at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design in California and started in comics as a letterer, most famously for the inimitable Sergio Aragonés’ Groo the Wanderer.

Eventually the cartoonist within resurfaced: blending a passionate storytelling drive and abiding love of Japanese history and legend with a hearty interest in the filmic works of Akira Kurosawa and his peers, Sakai began crafting one of the most enticing and impressive fantasy sagas of all time.

And it’s still more educational, informative and authentic than any dozen Samurai sagas you can name…

The addictive period epic is set in a world of sentient animals (with a few unobtrusive human characters scattered about) but scrupulously mirrors the Feudal Edo Period of Japan – (roughly the 17th century AD by our reckoning); simultaneously referencing classic contemporary cultural icons from sources as varied as Zatoichi and Godzilla, whilst specifically recounting the life of a peripatetic Lord-less Samurai eking out as honourable a living as possible by selling his sword as a Yojimbo (bodyguard-for-hire).

As such, his destiny is to be perpetually drawn into a plethora of incredible situations.

He is a rabbit – brave, noble, sentimental, gentle, artistic, empathetic, long-suffering, conscientious and devoted to the tenets of Bushido – who simply cannot turn down any request for help or ignore the slightest evidence of injustice…

This superbly stirring sixth black-&-white blockbuster collects yarns from Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo comicbook volume 1, #25-31 plus an extra attraction from funny animal anthology Critters #50, offering a selection of complete adventures tantalisingly tinged with supernatural terror and drenched in wit, irony and pathos.

Following an adulatory Introduction from Jeff Smith, the restless Miyamoto encounters a Hannya (female demon) plaguing travellers whenever they try to cross ‘The Bridge’ after which ‘The Duel’ sees him targeted by a ruthless bookie.

The gambler’s professional duellist only needs one final big payday to safely retire with his beloved wife and child, but his disreputable boss is determined to fleece the locals no matter who has to die…

‘Yurei’ means ghost and, when a weeping woman’s spirit invades the Yojimbo’s dreams crying for justice, Usagi becomes an unwitting avenger whose presence provokes her murderer into making a huge and fatal mistake, after which ‘My Lord’s Daughter’ finds the Rabbit Ronin relating his greatest – battle against a horde of Obakemono (monsters) and demons to rescue a princess – in a wry fairy-tale tribute to the aforementioned Groo…

The remainder of this rousing compendium details a revelatory exploit wherein Usagi makes for his home village with thoughts of finally staying in one place. However when he meets again his childhood sweetheart Mariko a shocking secret regarding her soon changes everything.

‘Circles’ is divided into a succession of connected vignettes beginning with ‘Wind over the Tombstones’ as the homeward-bound hero discovers his former sensei Katsuichi – whom he believed dead – is very far from it…

Then in ‘Remembrances’, young Jotaro is abducted by the deadly Jei.

This veritable devil in human form believes himself a “Blade of the Gods” singled out by the Lords of Heaven to kill the wicked. The raving loon has been hunting Usagi ever since the Yojimbo defeated him – with the aid of a fortuitous or possibly divinely sent lightning bolt….

Now, in the little boy Jei senses a connection to his despise quarry and recruits a band of brigands to assist him in his schemes for revenge…

When the devil’s hired killers attack the village where Mariko’s husband Kenichi is headman, the strands of fate knit together as ‘Shroud Over the Mountain’ unites former friends and rivals in their desire to save the boy – who has already escaped and got into even more trouble…

The drama comes to an emotionally shattering climax in ‘Closing the Circle’ as the Rabbit Ronin learns at last the shocking truth about Jotaro and Mariko.

Arranging for his aging sensei to take on a new pupil he then wearily resumes his restless wanderings …

Triumph, tragedy, terrific action and terror all seamlessly flow together in this addictive epic, and Circles is still one the best collections in an unbroken run of classic graphic masterpieces.

Usagi Yojimbo has been in continuous publication since 1987, resulting in more than 30 graphic novel collections and books to date. The Legendary Lepus has guest-starred in many other comics and nearly had his own TV show – but there’s still time yet and fashions are ever fickle so hope endures…

As well as generating a horde of high-end collectibles, art prints, computer games, RPGs, a spin-off sci-fi series and lots of toys to promote popularity, Sakai and his creation have deservedly won numerous awards both within the Comics community and amongst the greater reading public.

Fast-paced yet lyrical, funny and scary, always moving, astoundingly visceral, ferociously thrilling and simply bursting with veracity and verve, Usagi Yojimbo is a work of cartoon genius: engaging and irresistible with a broad appeal that will delight devotees and make converts of the most hardened hater of anthropomorphic adventures.
Text and illustrations © 1992, 1993, 1994 Stan Sakai. Usagi Yojimbo is ® Stan Sakai. Book editions © 1994, 2006 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

With Only Five Plums books 1-3


By Terry Eisele & Jonathon Riddle (CreateSpace)
ISBNs: 978-1-48399-114-6, 978-1-48399-123-8 and 978-1-48399-127-6

As any long-time reader will attest, I’m a huge advocate of doing it yourself when it comes to making comics, and this collection – three books of an epic historical exposé of one of modern humanity’s greatest atrocities – shows just why, as it spectacularly blends harsh fact with high drama to reveal the tragic story and eventual small triumph of Anna Nesporova whose family was targeted in error by the Nazis occupying Czechoslovakia…

Divided into three quietly understated, deeply evocative volumes, this triptych of ambitiously oversized monochrome memoirs is crafted by historian Terry Eisele and illustrator Jonathon Riddle from Nesporova’s own words, dramatising the horrific story of the Nazi atrocity at Lidice in Czechoslovakia. The memories are not merely those of a survivor but come from a woman whose entire family was intimately connected with the cause of the tragedy…

The history opens in With Only Five Plums: The Time Before as an elderly woman is encouraged by an interviewer to talk of times long past but never forgotten. She cautiously relates the idyllic life in the nondescript hamlet of Lidice before specifically concentrating on the expansive Horak family and her life as innocent, ordinary Anna Horakova in increasingly trying times.

Relating instances of village life, childhood experiences and the early days of her marriage, the story takes a dark turn when describing Christmas customs. In 1941 a cherished family meal tradition presaged disaster for the entire Horak clan…

In June 1938, European leaders trying to appease Hitler allowed Germany to annexe part of Czechoslovakia and as a consequence Anna’s brother Josef fled to Britain, joining the growing émigré/refugee population.

He soon wrote back that he numbered amongst his new friends Edvard Benes and Jan Masaryk: leaders of the government-in-exile…

The next stage in the tragedy came when Nazi aristocrat Reinhard Heydrich – a sadistic monster eagerly expediting Hitler’s pogrom against the Jews – was assassinated and the Horak family were mistakenly implicated in the plot.

The Nazi retaliation was astoundingly disproportionate: the village where they lived – almost universally Christian – was eradicated from the Earth, the male population massacred and the women sent to concentration camps in a display of calculated butchery as bad any thing visited upon the Gypsies, Jews or any other ethnicity the Nazis deemed “subhuman”.

Heavily pregnant at the time, Anna – along with other expectant mothers – was separated from the rest. Once the children were delivered, they were taken away. Those that passed certain tests were removed to be brought up German, and the mothers joined their sister villagers in packed cattle-cars at rail marshalling yards. The destination was Ravensbruck Concentration Camp…

The tale resumes in With Only Five Plums Book 2: This Dark Age where, following a brief recap, Anna details the appalling journey, paying especial detail to an elderly Jewish woman’s attempts to cheer up younger girls with the story of Rabbi Loew’s Golem: created to protect the Jews of Prague during a previous wave of persecution…

After many days and hundreds of miles, the train arrives in Fürstenberg from where the survivors are marched to the camp. Anna’s record of daily humiliations and the slow, piecemeal destruction of bodies and spirits covers three years, but she considered herself lucky. At least she had a skill the Germans found useful (professional-standard sewing) and wasn’t part of a group considered genetically inferior such as the Roma Gypsies.

Heartbreaking memories of Romani inmate Florica (and her folktale of the origins of blonde-haired people) poignantly counterpoints the diary of privation and desperation and serves to underline the horrific accounts of the scientist-torturers Ernst-Robert Grawitz and Ludwig Stumpfegger who used the women as guinea pigs for their horrendous experiments…

The captivity ended one spring. The panicked Germans were in retreat: burning files and dismantling buildings. The women were led out of the gates with a few guards and ordered to march. They staggered through Germany and other countries shattered by bombs and, as the days passed, many died. Soon they were not enough soldiers and Anna and some other women slipped away, always heading towards home.

Avoiding the “liberating” Russian soldiers, the group finally reached Czechoslovakia, battered but once more a free nation. Here Anna met Mrs. Kubrova; wife of her husband’s employer, who took her in and eventually drove her to Lidice… or at least where it had once been…

The graphic documentary concludes in With Only Five Plums Book 3: Life in the East is Worthless, describing the aftermath of the war. Throughout all her trials and torments Anna had been utterly oblivious to the fate of her family and her home. Now she learned that both had been eradicated with devastating efficiency. All that was left was the daughter taken from her at birth and lost seemingly forever somewhere in Germany…

From Kubrova, Anna learned what the Nazis had done to turn a thriving, bustling village into a barren featureless field and of other survivors – mostly stolen children – and these scenes are more harrowing in their understated simplicity than anything else in this grim graphic testament…

However there is a slight moral victory to be seen as she then relates how Lidice was rebuilt and repopulated (despite the Soviet Union’s absorbing the newly liberated nation into their Warsaw Pact-enforced alliance) before the saga concludes with an emotional Epilogue wherein Anna finally shared the fate of her stolen daughter…

Slipping back and forth in time, conversationally adding depth and historical background to a remarkably restrained, tightly controlled and shatteringly effective examination of human nature at its worst and best, With Only Five Plums (a Czech expression akin to “with only the clothes on your back”) focuses on one of the most depraved and appalling acts in human history and manages to derive a message of hope and triumphant perseverance from the tragedy.

This triptych is a superb example of pictorial reportage and graphic memoir, with each big (280 x 216mm) book also offering poetry written about the atrocity (The Far-off Village by Mazo de la Roche, Lidice by C. Day Lewis and To Lidice by George England respectively), text features and extensive, fascinating excerpts from ‘Jonathon’s Sketchbook’.

Anna Nesporova passed away in 2006, before these books were completed, but the sense that the brooding, painfully oppressive and grimly moving story related would have made her proud remains. As with all accounts of Atrocity, the tale of Lidice needs to be told and retold, if there’s to be any hope of stopping such things from happening again.

With Only Five Plums is a powerful story of inhumanity, stupidity and endurance that will certainly impress fans of war stories and devotees of fine storytelling, but hopefully it will most appeal to history teachers; professional and not…

© 2013 Terry Eisele. All rights reserved.
For more information and to obtain your own copies check out www.terryeisele.com

Paul Robeson for Beginners


By Paul Von Blum, illustrated by Elizabeth Von Notias & Ramsess (For Beginners)
ISBN: 978-1-934389-81-2

The For Beginners series of books are heavily illustrated text primers: accessible graphic non-fiction foundation courses in a vast variety of subjects from art to philosophy, politics to history and much more, all tackled in an accessible yet readily respectful manner. This particular volume was written by Paul Von Blum, author and Senior Lecturer in African American Studies and Communication Studies at UCLA with a wealth of strips and illustrations by graphic design specialist Elizabeth Von Notias and self-taught multi-media creator Ramsess.

If remembered at all, Paul Robeson (April 9th 1898 – January 23rd 1976) is thought of by most people as that African American singer/actor with an incredible bass voice. Maybe some will recall that he was a left wing political activist who fell foul of Joe McCarthy during America’s infamous “Red-baiting” witch-hunting period.

That’s true enough, but he was also one of the most accomplished and gifted individuals in the nation’s history: a true Renaissance man who was cheated of his ultimate potential simply because his skin was the wrong colour…

The Introduction lists Robeson’s astonishing accomplishments – all the more amazing when you realise the lack of opportunities if not outright repression facing negroes in a segregated America at the time of his birth and not truly tackled until the Civil Rights movement began gaining traction in the late 1950s.

As told in more telling detail – both in word and pictures in ‘The Early Days’, ‘Paul Robeson the Athlete’, ‘Paul Robeson the Stage Actor’, ‘Paul Robeson the Screen Actor’ and ‘Paul Robeson the Singer’ – he was born in Princeton, New Jersey; the son of a preacher.

He was the last of five children in a time and place rigidly defined by class and race divisions.

A brilliant student, he graduated Somerville High School in 1915 and won a four-year scholarship to Rutgers University where, despite initial hostility and actual physical assaults – he became the star of the Football, Baseball, Basketball and athletics squads, twice designated “All-American”.

From there he attended New YorkUniversityLawSchool, before transferring to ColumbiaUniversityLawSchool.

Talented and seemingly tireless, he turned an interest in the dramatic arts into a part-time stage career and became a professional Football player in 1920. He got married, acted, sang, played Pro ball and kept on studying, graduating Columbia in 1923 and worked as a lawyer at a prestigious law firm until the bigotry he experienced from his own subordinates became too much.

In 1924 he switched from stage acting to movies but still carried on a glittering international career: starring as Othello in London and playing in many hit plays and musicals such as Showboat, Emperor Jones, Stevedore and All God’s Chillun’s Got Wings

Always politically active, he visited the Soviet Union in 1934, spoke out against Fascism during the Spanish Civil War, co-founded the anti-colonial Council on African Affairs and used his name and fame to agitate for social and legal changes in such contentious areas as Southern lynch law and trade union legislation.

Such activities made him a prime target in the USA and in 1941 J. Edgar Hoover ordered the FBI to open a file on him…

In 1950 the US government took away his passport because he refused to recant his pro-Soviet, pro-socialist stance and he became an exile in his own country. He was unable to leave America for eight years, until a Supreme Court ruling decreed the State Department had no right to revoke passports due to an individual’s political beliefs.

Robeson’s life was filled with such landmarks. Once free to travel again, he became an international political celebrity and social commentator, using his concerts and stage appearances in places as disparate as Wales, Australia, Russia, East Germany and elsewhere to promote a dream of World “Freedom, Peace and Brotherhood”…

His beliefs, struggles achievements and failures are then examined in ‘Paul Robeson the International Activist’, ‘Paul Robeson the Domestic Political Activist’ before a thorough appreciation in ‘The Final Years and His Lasting Legacy’

Augmented by a ‘Bibliography’, ‘Selected Chronology’ and creator biographies, this absorbing documentary proves again the astounding power of visual narrative when wedded to the life story of a truly unique individual.
© 2013 Paul Von Blum. Illustrations © 2013 Elizabeth Von Notias & Ramsess. All rights reserved. A For Beginners Documentary Comic Book © 2013.

Black is the Color


By Julia Gfrörer (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-717-8

There’s never been a better time to find dark and imaginative horror comics tales and the genre has seldom been better represented than with this eerie yet elegiac historical fantasy from Julia Gfrörer.

The relative newcomer hails from Portland, Oregon – having been born in 1982 and raised in historic Concord, New Hampshire. She studied Painting and Printmaking at Seattle’s CornishCollege of the Arts and first began turning heads a few years ago with her thoughtfully terrifying comicbooks Flesh and Bone and Too Dark to See as well as appearances in Thickness, Arthur Magazine, Black Eye, Study Group Magazine and Best American Comics.

The author brings a gift for sensitive emotional scrutiny and quirkily macabre understatement to this slim monochrome tome detailing the last days of a marooned mariner and the strange creature who temporarily adopts him…

It begins in the middle of the ocean as sailors Xavier and Warren are approached by the Captain’s Mate. The voyage is going badly. Storms have battered the frail wooden vessel and provisions are low.

As they were the last to join the ship’s company, the crew expects the pair to calmly get into the dinghy and drift away, giving the rest some slim chance of survival…

Xavier is already quite ill and Warren enquires why they can’t just be shot, but nobody wants a murder on their already benighted souls…

Cast adrift and enduring harsh exposure, the pair float aimlessly. Hardship and privation soon ends Xavier, but as angry, resentful Warren languishes in the boat awaiting his own death, he thinks he hears singing in the night and is soon conversing with a woman who seems to know impossible things – such as how and what his far away wife and child are doing…

More than half convinced he’s gone mad he continues his strange delirious conversations with her, all the while certain that his life is slowly ebbing away…

She won’t save Warren but the sea siren is quite content to stay with him as he expires, sharing intimate memories. And far away across the waves, his former shipmates sail helplessly into another storm as mermaids gather to watch…

Bleak, beautiful and lyrically elegant, this oddly mesmerising, gently scary, utterly visual yarn tellingly explores pride and loneliness but is cunningly underpinned by wry, anachronous humour and a cleverly memorable conclusion which will delight fans of mystery and imagination and lovers of beguiling illustration.
© 2013 Julia Gfrörer. This edition © 2013 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

Fight the Power – a Visual History of Protest Among the English Speaking Peoples


By Seán Michael Wilson, Benjamin Dickson, Hunt Emerson, John Spelling, Adam Pasion with additional cartoon by Polyp (New Internationalist)
ISBN: 978-1-78026-122-5

Politics is composed of and utilised equally by firebrands and coldly calculating grandees, and that’s probably the only guiding maxim you can trust. Most normal people don’t give a toss about all that until it affects them in the pocket or impacts their kids and, no matter to what end of the political spectrum one belongs, the greatest enemy of the impassioned ideologue is apathy. This simple fact forces activists and visionaries to ever-more devious and imaginative stunts and tactics…

However, all entrenched Powers-That-Be are ultimately hopeless before one thing: collective unified resistance by the very masses they’re holding down through force of arms, artificial boundaries of class or race, capitalist dogmas, various forms of mind control like bread, circuses and religion, divisive propagandas or just the insurmountable ennui of grudging acceptance to a status quo and orchestrated fear that unknown change might make things worse.

From its earliest inception cartooning has been used to sell: initially ideas or values but eventually actual products too. In newspapers, magazines and especially comicbooks the sheer power of narrative with its ability to create emotional affinities has been linked to the creation of unforgettable images and characters. When those stories affect the lives of generations of readers, the force that they can apply in a commercial, social or especially political arena is almost irresistible…

The compelling power of graphic narrative to efficiently, potently and evocatively disseminate vast amounts of information and seductively advocate complex issues with great conviction through layered levels has always been most effectively used in works with a political or social component. That’s never been more evident than in this stunning and scholarly new graphic anthology detailing some of the most infamous and effective instances of popular protest.

In Britain the cartoonist has always occupied a perilously precarious position of power: with deftly designed bombastic broadsides or savagely surgical satirical slices instantly capable of ridiculing, exposing and always deflating the powerfully elevated and apparently untouchable with a simple shaped charge of scandalous wit and crushingly clear, universally understandable visual metaphor …or sometimes just the plain and simple facts of the matter…

For this universal and welcomingly basic method of concept transmission, levels of literacy or lack of education are no barrier. As the Catholic Church proved millennia ago with the Stations of the Cross, stained glass windows and a pantheon of idealised, sanitised saints, a picture is absolutely worth a thousand words, and as William the Conqueror saw with the triumphalist Bayeux Tapestry, picture narratives are worth a few million more…

Following a thought-provoking Introduction by author, journalist and filmmaker Tariq Ali, this procession through the history of dissent compiled and scripted by Seán Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson begins with an agenda-setting ‘Prologue’ – illustrated by Adam Pasion – which can best be described without giving the game away as “Uncle Sam, John Bull and the Statue of Liberty (AKA ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’) walk into a bar…”

Their heated discussion on the value and need of people using their right to dissent is then captivatingly illustrated through a series of erudite, fascinating, shocking and even funny tutorial episodes beginning with a compelling account of ‘The Luddites and the Swing Riots, 1811-1832’ written by Wilson and rendered both palatable and mesmerising by comics legend Hunt Emerson.

The artist then turns his talents to recreating the horrific events and aftermath of ‘The Battle of Peterloo, 1819’ from Dickson’s script before, with Wilson, cataloguing a wave of ‘Colonial Rebellions, 1836-1865’ which the British Empire dealt with in its traditional even-handed, temperate manner (and in case you were wondering, that’s called “sarcasm”…)

Wilson & Pasion then detail the global impact of the ‘Irish Rebellions, 1791-1922’ whilst Dickson & Emerson’s account of ‘The Suffragettes, 1903-1918’ actually follows the story of Votes for Women right up to the present. The practically forgotten and brutally savage sagas of ‘The Australian General Strike, 1917’ (by Wilson & Pasion) and the equally appalling landmark events of ‘The Boston Police Strike, 1919’ – as told by Dickson & John Spelling – reveal the pattern of modern labour conflicts with working folk ranged against intransigent and greedy commercial interests.

The age-old struggle escalated during the ‘UK General Strike and the Battle of George Square, 1918-1926’ (Wilson & Spelling) and reached an intolerable strike-busting peak in Ohio during ‘The Battle of Toledo, 1934’ (Wilson & Spelling): a struggle which cemented management and labour into the intractable ideologically opposed positions they still inhabit today…

The championing of Human Rights is commemorated by Dickson & Pasion in ‘Rosa Parks and the Bus Boycott, 1955-1956’ and a deeply moving account of ‘The Trial of Nelson Mandela, 1964’ whilst the modern American soldier’s method of combating unwelcome or insane orders is reviewed in the brilliantly trenchant ‘Fragging’ by Wilson & Emerson…

Back home and still etched in many peoples memories, ‘The Poll Tax Riots, 1989-1991’ offers a surprisingly even-handed account of Margaret Thatcher’s greatest political blunder by Dickson & Spelling, before hitting today’s headlines with the origins and outcomes – to date – of ‘Occupy, 2011-’

Returning to that bar and Lady Liberty, Dickson, Wilson & Pasion then draw a few telling Conclusions to close the cartoon course in mass resistance, after which the writers discuss their process in Authors Notes: Why This Book? before then listing the truly phenomenal rewards of all those campaigns and protests with a long list of Rights Won (ranging from Women’s Suffrage to the universal formal acknowledgement of the Human Right to Protest).

Understanding the value of a strategically targeted chuckle, this fabulous monochrome chronicle concludes with one last strip as Dickson & Emerson hilariously reveal ‘The Four Stages of Protest’ courtesy of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi…

More so than work, sport, religion, fighting or even sex, politics has always been the very grist that feeds the pictorial gadfly’s mill. Of course cartooning can only accomplish so much and whilst Fight the Power! recounts a number of instances where physical and intellectual action were necessary to achieve or maintain justice, at least our art form can galvanise the unconvinced into action and help in the useful dissemination of knowledge about protest: the Who, Where, When, and How.

If you don’t understand What or Why then you’re probably already on the other side of the barricades…
© 2013 Seán Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson. Illustrations © 2013 Hunt Emerson, John Spelling and Adam Pasion. Cartoons © 2013 Polyp. All rights reserved.

This book was reviewed and scheduled before the announcement of the death of Nelson Mandela. After briefly considering postponing the posting I’ve decided to go ahead. If you can’t understand why perhaps you should think really hard about what he stood for and what Fight the Power! is about.
Win – proudly wearing his little red rebel’s hat…