Leonardo2


By Stéphane Levallois, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM/Musée du Louvre Éditions)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-264-9(HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-265-6

In 2005 one of the greatest museums in the world began an intriguing ongoing project with the upstart art form of comics; inviting some of the world’s most accomplished masters of graphic narrative to create new works in response to the centuries of acquired treasures residing within the grand repository of arts, history and culture.

The tales are produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Louvre, dedicated to pushing the envelope of what can be accomplished by master craftsmen inspired by their creative antecedents and forebears. These are no thinly-concealed catalogues of exhibition contents gift-wrapped in cartoon terms to gull potential visitors off their couches and into a stuffy edifice of public culture, but vibrant and challenging comics events calculated to make you think again about what creativity and history mean…

Since then, many of our medium’s greatest exponents have crafted 12 astounding and compelling graphic novels and the twelfth may well be the most potent and rewarding thus far.

Courtesy of those fine folks at NBM, that latest beguiling bande dessinée is now available in English, highlighting the genius of Leonardo DaVinci in a most intriguing and impressive manner…

The artist of record in this staggeringly large – 254 x 36 mm – hardback (and more manipulable digital edition) is Stéphane Levallois. He was born in 1970 and studied at the Penninghen Graduate School of Graphic Art from 1988-1992, taught sketching there and studied computer graphics. He’s worked mostly in poster-making and illustration, games design, film storyboarding and advertising. He also clearly remembers the golden age of Metal Hurlant

Originally released in 2019, Leonardo2 takes a stunning science fiction approach to the appreciation of great art as in the distant future and depths of space the last remnants of mankind approach a derelict museum proofed against the rigors of the void.

Through their advanced technologies, the last men of Earth harvest genetic material from a certain painting and clone a lost master. They don’t want him for his painting skills…

As the boy grows his life is imparted to him in the face of imminent extinction. an alien species is hunting humanity and what is needed is Leonardo the inventor, Da Vinci the Master of War…

Rendered alternately in in sepia and full colour, this incredible tale – two years in the making – began with Levallois learning to draw in Da Vinci’s style and the result is lovely and staggering. Moreover, the story is layered with psychological intrigue, questioning the power of creation and the morality of survival.

A glorious feast for the eyes, the saga is augmented by a sketch-packed essay detailing how it all came about ‘In Leonardo’s Footsteps’.

This is another astounding and ferociously strident comics experience no art lover or devotee of the visual narrative medium can afford to miss. Moreover, in this most unusual of years, I feel no compunction in breaking convention and saying this is a guaranteed 10 out of 10 Christmas certainty, if you’re looking to fill those stockings early…
© Futuropolis – Musée du Louvre Éditions 2019. © NBM 2020 for the English translation.

Leonardo2 will be released on October 15th and is available for pre-order now.

Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

Grosz


By Lars Fiske (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-041-6 (HB)

Although I bang incessantly on and on about the communicative power of word and pictures acting in unison, I will never deny the sheer efficacy and raw potency of the drawn image. Therefore, whenever an author makes the extra effort to create a narrative that stands or falls on vision alone, I’m ready to applaud mightily and shout “oi, look at this!”

Today that means taking a little lesson in art history and social awareness via a truly radical pictorial biography of Dadaist anti-fascist, caricaturist, artist and commentator Georg Ehrenfried Groß AKA George Grosz.

He was a complex and amazing man, risking his life for his beliefs but deeply flawed at the same time, and this cartoon confection really captures the feel of him and his tempestuous, self-annihilating life…

Devoid of verbal narrative, an edgy and uncompromising picture play adds reams of emotional kick to the history of a radical non-conformist who grew up in Imperial Germany, found his true calling during the Great War and fought a seditious and dangerously lonely struggle against the growing National Socialist (Nazi) party in the post-war Weimar Republic, all while embracing the heady sexual decadence of that pre-apocalyptic era…

In brief visual sallies supported by brief quotes from his writing – such as ‘Pandemonium: “I am up to my neck in visions”’, ‘Amerikanismus: “Day by day my hate for Germany gains, new, blazing nourishment”’ and ‘Nationalsocialismus: “The Devil alone knows how things will turn out”’ – Lars Fiske traces the one-sided conflict and follows the artists as he relocates to his long-loved-from-afar USA… and what happened next…

With this book there’s no half-measures. Oddly, I suspect that the reader will be best served if you know a lot about Grosz or nothing at all, but if he’s an artist you vaguely recall, there may be many rapid consultations of Wikipedia before you come away awed and amused…
© 2017 Lars Fiske, by arrangement with No Comprendo Press.

Like a Dog


By Zak Sally (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-165-7 (HB)

Some people do it for money or fame… and money. It doesn’t matter what form of creative endeavour “it” is. Whatever art-form you’re thinking of, there are those who are rewarded for their creative efforts (whether fairly or otherwise is another can of worms and I’m not going there) as they either work within or expand the boundaries of their medium, and there are the other sort. Sometimes the other sort gets really lucky and finds fame and fortune along the way.

Why am being so obtuse?

Because unless you are one of those other types that will produce paintings or music or poetry or whatever shapes and impels your life even after every other carbon-based life-form on the planet is dead – or worse yet, just ignores or humours you – then you have no idea of how powerful the compulsion to create can be.

Bassist and musician Zak Sally has travelled far (as a member of bands Low, Enemy Mine and The Hand) and dabbled in photography and all forms of print media, but what he is at his core is a cartoonist. He sees the world in terms of incidents, epigrams and bon mots he reproduces as sequential images. He has been producing stories, mini-comics, gags, nonfiction and biographical tales and even historical and political drama for over 20 years in his self-published ‘zine Recidivist, and other peoples productions such as Mome, Dirty Stories, The Drama, Comic Art Magazine and other places discerning enough to print them.

Even if they hadn’t, he would still have drawn them, and in 2009 they were collected in a magnificent hardback collection from Fantagraphics which gathered the first two issues of Recidivist in their entirety, and included another thirteen unique and compelling tales in a variety of styles and media, all copiously and tellingly annotated as an encore.

Personal favourites – and there are many – include the bleakly informative ‘Dresden’ (because haven’t we all wanted to be rock stars?), the graphically bold ‘Dread’ and ‘The War Back Home’ but, unfettered by commercial pressures, the author has been able to turn his attentions to whatever caught his eye and the book is a broad anthology of material ranging from horror to comedy to surreal dreamy pure imagery, all underpinned by a keen wit, a canny eye for design and a great ear for dialogue.

Without doubt the best pieces are the utterly superb ‘At the Scaffold’ (an account of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s imprisonment by the Tsar) and ‘The Man who Killed Wally Wood’ an “it-happened-to-me” recollection that will captivate any fanboy with an ear for scandal and rumour…

This is a gloriously rough-hewn and hands-on collection from a compulsive cartoonist and storyteller packaged with the flair and imagination that has become a trademark of the world’s leading publisher of fascinating comics. This book didn’t make much of an impact back then and won’t appeal to everybody (especially devotees of the superhero mainstream), but Sally’s dedication to innovation, exploration and imagination will astound and entrance anyone who knows capital “A” Art when they see it. This is a read that demands rescue, revivification, and resounding renown. Over to you, then…
© 2009 Zak Sally except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved.

Red Mother with Child (Louvre Collection)


By Christian Lax translated by Montana Kane (NBM/Musée du Louvre Éditions)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-257-1(HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-258-8

In 2005 one of the greatest museums in the world began an intriguing ongoing project with the upstart art form of comics; inviting some of the world’s most accomplished masters of graphic narrative to create new works in response to the centuries of acquired treasures residing within the grand repository of arts, history and culture.

The tales are produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Louvre, dedicated to pushing the envelope of what can be accomplished by master craftsman inspired by their creative antecedents and forebears. These are no thinly-concealed catalogues of exhibition contents gift-wrapped in cartoon terms to gull potential visitors off their couches and into a stuffy edifice of public culture, but vibrant and challenging comics events calculated to make you think again about what creativity and history mean…

Since then, many of our medium’s greatest exponents have crafted 11 astounding and compelling graphic novels and the twelfth may well be the most potent and rewarding thus far.

Courtesy of those fine folks at NBM, that latest beguiling bande dessinée is now available in English, highlighting Christian Lax’s inestimable artistic gifts and his dedication to and fascination with contemporary crises. Red Mother With Child shockingly combines reportage with drama and suspense with art appreciation to look beyond simplistic media hot button reports and governmental sideshow talking points to truly focus on one of the world’s most tragic human crises via the lens of immortal transcendent art and history…

Originally released in 2019 as Une Maternité rouge, this is a timely and powerful commentary on the value of art as well as a telling riposte to modern society’s callous ineptitude to the ongoing crisis of enforced global displacement. A beautifully robust oversized (234 x 305 mm) hardback graphic narrative – also available in digital formats – the tome follows the journey of one dedicated migrant as he strives to save a work of art from fanatics determined to destroy it in the name of misguided religion…

Multi award-winning author/artist Christian Lacroix AKA Christian Lax (Hector le castor, La marquise des Lumières, Azrayen) was born in Lyon on January 2nd 1949 and, after graduating from the École des beau-arts de Saint Étienne in 1975, began working in advertising whilst breaking into comics such as Metal Hurlant. After collaborating on a number of relatively straightforward adventure strips, in 1993 he began to carefully mine modern events for material, beginning with Romania-set political thriller La fille aux ibis. Since then has sought in all his works (which range from thrillers and historical journalism to sports strips such as Tour de France strip L’Aigle sans orteils) to show how social history impresses and shapes each generation…

Here, in muted lyrical hues, the tale begins in the Federation of Mali. It’s 1960 and the French are leaving the country days before it gains independence. With them they are taking every piece of native art and trinket of note…

One young boy determines that they won’t have everything and steals one statue: a small red figurine of a mother holding a baby…

In Spring 2015, officials and technicians of the Louvre discuss their jobs and the ethical ramifications of curating/safeguarding the cultural treasures of many lands and civilisations, even as, a scant distance away, a small band of refugees huddles under a café by the Seine. They all have stories of horrific past hardships and struggles to reach France and now endure daily kindness from some and cruel abuse from others. However, for one, his ultimate goal and mission is to breach the walls of the Louvre, itself…

Alou was a young honey hunter, at home with his simple world until he encountered Islamists throwing their weight around. After destroying the impious, heretical carving on Alou’s walking stick, the invaders blew up the ancient Baobab tree he was climbing. Secure in their power, the militants drove away unaware that their prank had unearthed a red figurine lost since Mali’s colonial days: a piece of art that grips the boy in a protective frenzy and makes him determined to save it from destruction at the hands of the anti-art fundamentalists…

With the aid of an old teacher/shaman with a secret interest, Alou sets out to place the Red Mother beyond their reach in the fabled Louvre. The boy must join the thousands abandoning their lives and homes and head for the relative paradise of Europe…

Lax has a unique talent for bringing history to vibrant life and a sublime ability to build rounded characters in a minimum of time and space. Packed with powerful detail, Alou’s journey throws a harsh spotlight on the plight of migrants and the causes of mass population displacement, but the artist narrator never loses sight of the fact that this is a tale of people. His contemporary epic shines with small acts of empathy and wickedness from a host of authentic characters peppering the voyage, turning a simple hero’s quest into a mighty pictorial paean to human endurance and testament to the force art exerts upon the soul.

Supplementing the narrative is a photo-packed essay detailing the history of the 14th century statue that inspired this tale and The Pavillon des Sessions’ that houses it.

This is another astounding and ferociously strident comics experience no art lover or devotee of the visual narrative medium can afford to miss…
© Futuropolis – Musée du Louvre Éditions 2019. © NBM 2020 for the English translation.
Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

Rosa Goes for a Walk


By Nic Lawson (Nic Lawson Comics/Canberra)
ISBN: 978-0-646-90434-4 (PB)

The current comics/graphic novel market is a true wonderland these days. For every planetary megastar and proprietorial blockbuster romp or spectacular action thriller, staggering horror yarn or historical journey there are incisive, revelatory biographies, archival collections of veteran properties, self-exploratory observations and deeply personal reminiscences as well as cartoon stars of every era revived for modern delectation.

…And the wealth of internationally generated, globally-sourced book for kids is mouth-watering in its vast variety…

In that nigh-infinite cauldron of choice, there’s even room for small, personal works that defy ready categorisation and shine through sheer novelty, innovation, whimsy, talent and charm. Just like Rosa Goes for a Walk, the very best adventure comic you’ve not read yet…

Nicole Lawson (If a Tree Falls, Pretty in Pink, Nic and Craig Go to Japan) is an Australian painter, illustrator and storyteller who creates wonderful comics. Her work has been mostly self-published but she has also appeared in Canberra Zine Machine and Supanova. This particular tale was shortlisted for a Ledger Award…

Seditiously eccentric, the story begins as we ‘Meet Rosa’, a faded flower of an old lady who resides in a distressed hotel (“the Discovery”) in a deserted outback ghost town. There’s a road, but nobody ever stops for food or fuel or conversation…

Rosa’s days are pretty much identical, but she maintains her standards and keeps the old place ready for guests who never come, which leaves her lots of time to remember the good old days. Hers were especially good. Rosa Philips used to be a globe-girdling adventurer, explorer and treasure-hunter. She’s even got the scrapbooks and press-cuttings to prove it… if anybody was around to see…

And so her days pass, until one morning ‘The Adventure Begins’ after she spots an inexplicable alteration to the stunning but so-familiar landscape. Plagued with curiosity, Rosa tools up one last time and heads for the distant horizon. Making her rickety way through the bush, she eventually encounters something utterly astonishing which changes her knowledge of how the entire world works before ‘The Conclusion’ reveals even more shocking secrets both personal and profound…

Largely free of dialogue and narration, rendered in a simplified but compelling watercolour manner and wistfully tinged with the emotive impact of the best of Raymond Briggs, Rosa Goes for a Walk is a superb exploration of isolation, abandonment and life passed by, elevated by a brilliant twist of imagination. This a lovely, moving story of old age and past glories as it affects a person and a planet. Moreover, while we’re all pining away in necessary solitude, it’s a tale full of the perspective and uplift we can all do with. Do yourself a favour and track it down – preferably in digital format and beamed to you behind your own sealed doors – and feel a part of something bigger and better, supremely well-crafted and with some inkling of where we’re all going…
© 2013 Nicole Lawson All rights reserved.

A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas


By Evie Robillard & Rachel Katstaller (Kids Can Press)
ISBN: 978-1-5253-0056-1 (HB)

We don’t cover nearly enough kids’ books here, nor those with an Arts or educational underpinning, and that’s because I lazily prefer to read stuff that’s entertaining, worthwhile and well-produced. And yes, I know they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive but somehow, so often…

Happily, this gloriously inclusive biographical primer into one of the world’s most interesting and accomplished women and her life partner is all of that and more.

Delivered as a delicious and enthralling picture book for 6 to 9-year-olds, A Portrait in Poems précis’ and shares some notable Parisian moments in the life of author Gertrude Stein and her muse Alice B. Toklas. This unconventional couple led the upcoming arts glitterati of Europe and collected one of the most astounding art collections in history prior to one World War and before another. The book is drafted in episodic free verse by librarian, teacher and writer Evie Robillard and painted with idyllic verve by El Salvadoran illustrator Rachel Katstaller in a superbly subtle manner guaranteed to get youngsters addicted to learning more.

In short order you’ll visit the protagonists’ first home at ‘27 Rue de Fleurus’, observe as ‘Picasso Paints a Portrait’, share ‘Saturday Evenings’ and enjoy ‘The Room with All the Paintings’ before meeting ‘Gertrude Stein, the Genius’

The couple shared their exalted existence with ‘A Dog Named Basket’ (two actually) and we see more of them all in ‘Gertrude & Alice & Basket in a Book’ before wrapping up the history with what happened ‘After’

Adding learning and lustre a ‘Time Line’ supplies dates and hard facts, while glimpses of character shine in a trio of epigrammatic ‘Snapshots’, whilst ‘Sources’ offers some of Gertrude’s best works to check out and a bibliography reveals more books about her, before a final ‘Author’s Note’ deals with the contentious period when the couple abided under Nazi occupation in Vichy France.

It’s never too early to give children a hunger to know stuff, and this bright, inclusive foray into the mind and life of one of our most remarkable thinkers is a welcome addition to any junior library or kids’ book stash because it simply cries out for readers to go absorb more…
Text © 2020 Evie Robillard. © 2020 Rachel Katstaller. All rights reserved.

Chicken Fat: Drawings, Sketches, Cartoons and Doodles


By Will Elder (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-704-9 (PB)

Wolf William Eisenberg was born in The Bronx on September 22nd 1921, and you probably have never heard of him. He became a cartoonist, illustrator and commercial artist after changing his name to Will Elder.

Tragically, for many of you, that name won’t ring any bells either, even though he was one of the funniest and most influential cartoonists of the 20th century. Another of those slum kids who changed comics, “Wolfie” studied at New York’s High School of Music and Art – as did future comrades in comedy Al Jaffee, Al Feldstein, John Severin & Harvey Kurtzman.

An artist of astounding versatility, he served in WWII as part of the 668th Engineer Company (Topographical) of the US First Army, instrumental in assuring the success of the Normandy landings. After returning to America, he changed his name and set up the Charles William Harvey Studio with Charles Stern and Kurtzman, operating as a comics shop providing strips and other material for Prize Comics and other publishers.

Elder inked old pal John Severin at EC, and in 1952 when Kurtzman created satire comic Mad, he became a regular contributor of pencils and inks. The spoofs and parodies he crafted for the landmark comic book and sister publication Panic were jam-packed with a host of eye-popping background gags and off-camera shtick, all contributing to the manic energy of the work. He called those extras “chicken fat” and to learn why you should pick up this slim yet satisfying companion collection to comprehensive bio-tome Will Elder: The Mad Playboy of Art. On offer here is a delightful peek at his working process (and outrageous, never-suppressed sense of humour) through roughs, sketches, architectural studies, test runs and abortive strip projects (such as The Inspector, Luke Warm and Adverse Anthony) for numerous clients over the decades, rendered in every medium from loose pencils to charcoal portraits to fully painted finished works, all supplemented by a fulsome Foreword from his son-in-law Gary Vandenbergh and even art from his grandson and successor Jesse Vandenbergh.

A certified touchstone for budding artists, here you’ll see technical illustrations and colour studies, landscapes and murals, as well as candid photos. There are EC model sheets, pop studies confirming Elder’s status as a cultural sponge and perfect mimic of other artist’s styles – a gift Jaffe claimed could have made the cartoonist the “world’s greatest forger”…

Straight magazine illustration lies with a host of sketch research on hundreds of subjects but what most comes out is a never-ending parade of gags and jests, many of which turned up in general interest magazines such as Pageant or Playboy. Elder loved to laugh and he had a very broad and earthy sense of humour so be careful to always swallow what you’re drinking before turning pages here…

As a jobbing cartoonist, Elder was always looking for the next gig and included here are a wonderful assortment of mock – and racy – sci fi pulp covers, star caricatures, political portraits, Time and Newsweek cover roughs and a section devoted to his and Kurtzman’s Goodman Beaver and scathing satirical masterpiece Little Annie Fanny – which Elder limned for 24 years, as well  as wealth of spoofs starring the great and good of comics and the media from Dick Tracy to Popeye to Prince Charles and Lady Diana

A visual tour de force, this is a perfect illustration of how and why cartoonists are and why we’re so lucky to have them.

All material, unless otherwise noted, is © 2006 Will Elder. Little Annie Fanny © 2006 Playboy Enterprises, Inc. Text © 2006 Gary Vandenbergh. All rights reserved.

The Art of Hellboy


By Mike Mignola (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56971-910-7(HB) 978-1-59307-089-2(TPB) eISBN 978-1-62115-749-6

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Indulge Yourself in the Art of Terror… 9/10

Hellboy is a creature of vast depth and innate mystery; a demonic child summoned to Earth by Nazi occultists at the end of World War II. Intercepted and rescued by allied troops, the infernal infant was reared by Allied parapsychologist Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm. After years of devoted intervention, education and warm human interaction, in 1952 Hellboy began destroying unnatural threats and supernatural monsters as lead agent for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.

As the decades of his career unfold, Hellboy gleans snatches of his origins, learning he is an pit-born creature of dark portent: born an infernal messiah, somehow destined to destroy the world and bring back ancient powers of evil. It is a fate he despises and utterly rejects…

Above all, Hellboy is one of those rare tragic, doomed heroes who somehow fits into every conceivable niche and genre, and that’s a tribute to the narrative and illustrative gifts of creator Mike Mignola (and his many collaborators) and – as this book and editor Scott Allie’s Introduction reveals – a diabolical amount of sheer hard work…

This magnificent oversized (229 x 310 mm) hardback or paperback (also available in digital formats) reproduces a wealth of comics pages and covers, roughs and sketches, beginning with the very first rendering of the proto-wonder.

A treasure trove of Mignola’s pencil designs and ink renderings trace the concept’s development, and are accompanied by the author/artists own recollections, augmented by early comics pages (published and not) and covers (ditto) as well as thumbnail layouts in a variety of media and finished original art pages; all offering the kind of working secrets all wannabe artists never tire of seeing…

Also revelatory are the inclusions from Mignola’s sketchbooks, affording us a far more precious insight into his narrative process…

As well as the creative secrets, this fabulous tome includes many promo pieces, finished but unused pages as well as designs and premium images, and crossover art featuring other folks’ characters such as Batman, The Spirit and Ghost plus out-industry artwork (such as Christmas cards).

Baroque, grandiose, eye-catching and unforgettably powerful, the images in this bombastic book combine as a timeless treat for friends and fiends who love the dark and revere the verve, imagination and, longevity of the greatest Outsider Hero of All: a supernatural thriller no comics fan should be without.

And we’re well past due for a second volume too…
The Art of Hellboy™ © 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 Mike Mignola. All rights reserved.

 

Lala Albert: Seasonal Shift – Comics 2013-2019


By Lala Albert (Breakdown Press/The Library of Contemporary Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-911081-09-8 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Because Not All Beautiful Things are Pretty… 9/10

All right-thinking people know that graphic narrative is the most expressive and expansive medium to work in, right? The range of themes explored, stories told and varieties of delivery are pretty near infinite if created by an inspired artisan.

The act of stringing pictures and/or words together is something almost everybody has done at some stage of their lives. It’s a key step in the cognitive path of children and, for an increasing number of us, that compulsive, absorbing euphoria never goes away.

Whilst many millions acquiesce to the crushing weight of a world which stifles the liberation of creativity, turning a preponderance of makers into consumers, a privileged, determined few carry on: drawing, exploring, and in some cases, with technology’s help, producing and sharing.

That emotional and creative volatility has never been better realised than in the modern crop of storymakers, many of whom are being rightly-celebrated in collections of minicomics and collections such as this compilation of works by Brooklyn-based Lala Albert as part of the Library of Contemporary Comics, which is collecting shorter works by the best cartoonists currently working in the medium right now.

Opening with a forthright ‘Interview’ conducted by Michael DeForge, this sequence of tales, vignettes and self-publications addresses body issues, human relationships, and most especially interactions with society and the ever more imperilled environment through terse short stories, generally framed in science fictional, fantasy and horror terms of reference.

Gathered from Albert’s last six years, the raw, primitivist, questing revelations begin with ‘Morning Dew’: a self-published moment of luxurious hedonism in natural circumstances from 2019 that lapses into a glimpse at the inevitable, if improbable, consequence of plastic saturation, first seen in Future Shock #7 (2014), before ‘Starlight Local’ – part of Alien Invasion volume 3, 2013 – details the disturbing outcome of a casual hook-up during an interstellar commute…

Consumerism and self-determination get a handy heads-up when a girl orders a ‘nu device’ (Trapper Keeper volume 4, 2016) after which a new kind of surveillance society dystopia is explored and overturned in ‘R.A.T.’ (crafted for Latvia’s Kuš Comics in 2015).

These tales are delivered in a range of styles and palettes, but for me, pure stark monochrome is always a blessing, so the ferocious attitude of ‘Brainbuzz’ (Weird Magazine volume 5, 2014) only intensifies the disturbing exploration of bodily invasion undertaken here…

Masks and the mutability of personas are thoroughly, forensically questioned in kJanus’’:a voyage of intense personal discovery first released by Breakdown Press UK in 2014, before a distressing fascination of what lurks under our skins is displayed in ‘Flower Pot’! courtesy of Marécage, Revue Lagon, France, 2019.

An epic of ecological combat and fairy survival is revealed in multi-chapter saga of survival ‘Wet Earth’ (Sonatina, 2017), pitting ethereal pixies against the lower ends of an uncaring food chain, before a modicum of sanity – but never safety or true security – returns via comforting self-assessment in ‘Pinhole’ (Over the Line, Sidekick Books UK, 2015). After everything, it’s always good to check back in with your own skin…

Dark but never hopeless, and always avoiding slick, glib professional sheen, these tales bore right in to the heart, asking questions we all have. Whether you find any answers truly depends on you…
All work © Lala Albert 2019. This edition © Breakdown Press 2019. All rights reserved.

The Artist: The Circle of Life


By Anna Haifisch (Breakdown Press)
ISBN: 978-1-91108-107-4 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Picture Perfect Grown Up Fun… 9/10

Like Norwegian émigré and cartoon superstar Jason, Anna Haifisch is a compulsive visualiser and raconteur with a devastating touch of whimsy that is impossible to resist.

Born in 1986 in Leipzig, the illustrator and screen printer is a truly dedicated purveyor of captivating comics that exude charm and wit whilst tackling big issues in accessible ways. She’s also very sly, and very funny. It’s made her something of an international celebrity…

In 2017 her book The Artist introduced an effete intellectual avian utterly in love with the fashionable concept of being a creator and this long-awaited sequel delivers another clutch of wry, vainglorious, heartfelt, pompous and charming episodes detailing how tough it is to dedicate one’s life to the Muse… especially if you only want to draw birds and snakes…

A vivid hardback collation, sequel volume The Circle of Life collects strips from 2016 that first appeared online at Vice.Com and shares even more insights in powerful line and flat colour combinations, beginning with an eponymous self-deprecating introduction…

Delivered as short 2-3 page cartoon colloquies, the drama dioramas open on a wearying, pharmaceutical-fuelled night out with Owl, leading to an origin of sorts and a challenging confrontation with that bane of all artists, the wealthy but clueless collector/sponsor…

Most episodes are brief and untitled but some earn themselves notoriety and utility through names such as ‘Art Rap’ which follows a deliriously engaging vignette about St. Luke (Patron Saint of artists). After that blending of imagery with devious street patter, an idealised day segues into a faux documentary on lost painter Edzard Fünfhauser, an incident of excoriating self-recrimination, a visit to the psych ward and a restorative trip down memory lane…

A fanciful sojourn amidst Art’s Great Ones and a historically significant moment of letter-writing leads to a temporary abandonment of dreams and principles before a sordid session of tool fetishism restores equilibrium via a period of Japanese impressionism and Haiku drafting.

There follows and Interlude: On Birds enquiring ‘What Happened to All the Aspiring Cartoon Birds’ (such as Donald, Woodstock and Tweety), after which a dissertation on being online and painful interactions with a non-artistic relative lead to a re-examination of favourite themes and a brief commission in frozen Greenland.

A sad tryst with a cage bird triggers ‘3 Jolly Autumn Strips’; a visit to the Jail built for Artists and the horrors of tawdry commercialism and hawking your work to the public (so clearly autobiographical, as Haifisch is co-founder of Germany’s The Millionaires Club Indie Comics Festival in Leipzig) before concluding on an uplifting high note with an illustrative paean to creativity and a singalong tribute to ‘Sorority’

Outrageous and charming, these exploration of the fabled life and anxiety-drenched traps of the creative spirit are a delight for everyone who’s ever picked up a pencil or looked at a masterpiece and thought “I can do that”…
© Anna Haifisch Breakdown Press 2019.