Death Threat


By Vivek Shraya & Ness Lee (Arsenal Pulp Press Vancouver)
ISBN: 978-1-55152-750-5 (HB/Digital edition)

Vivek Shraya is a poet, musician, educator, writer and performer of immense creativity, as can be appreciated in books such as God Loves Hair; even this page is white; The Boy & the Bindi; I’m Afraid of Men and She of the Mountains or her many albums and films.

On her 35th birthday Shraya publicly announced her status as Trans and requested that she be henceforward addressed with female pronouns. That seems inoffensive enough to me and you, and nobody’s business but hers, but sadly and all too typically these days, the announcement inspired the by-now pro forma response from certain quarters: a tirade of vitriol and harassment from nasty busybodies hiding behind and tainting social media…

Unevolved old jerks like me just get angry and hunger to respond in kind – with vituperative counterattacks – but happily, more civilised people find better ways. This book is perhaps the best of them as, in collaboration with Toronto-based artist and designer Ness Lee, Shraya transformed fear and disappointment into art with a heavy helping of surreal, satirical soul searching.

The liberating act of turning those unsolicited, unreasoning email assaults – all couched in offensive terms by people who hide behind religions whose fundamental tenets they will gleefully cherry pick – into a gloriously incisive and witty exploration of the inexplicable mindless aggression that continues to debase so much of modern society is eyepopping and mind-blowing…

Unlike those who cower behind the cowardly anonymity of keyboards and phones, Shraya & Lee proudly appended their names to this vibrant voyage, detailing how the bile of ignorant bullies (you simply won’t believe just how dumb some bigots can be until you see the hate mail here!) inspired beautiful images and empowering inclusivity.

My generation’s parents told us to ignore or strike back, but today’s ostracised, oppressed and unfairly targeted have found a far better way to respond to bullies: turn their hate into beauty and take ownership of it.
Death Threat: Text © 2019 Vivek Shraya. Illustrations © 2019 Ness Lee. All rights reserved.

The Bible


By Sheldon Mayer & Nestor Redondo, with Joe Kubert (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3425-6 (HB/Digital edition)

I first reviewed this material back in 2008, even though it didn’t really qualify as a graphic novel or book. This was because the artist I wanted to highlight wasn’t a fan-favourite in America or England (a fact I find utterly inexplicable) and English-language collections featuring his incredible artwork were few and far between.

Eventually a new world dawned where comics can be considered both Art forms and high-ticket commercial artefacts, where the big comic has been reborn as a full-on item of merit. All anything ever takes, is time…

In 2012, the entire affair was reprinted as an oversized (262 x 345 mm) commemorative hardback edition, and latterly rereleased in the digital edition I’m referencing here.

Nestor Redondo was born in 1928 at Candon, Ilocas Sur in the American Territory of the Philippines. Like so many others in that impoverished land, he was deeply influenced by US comic strips such as Tarzan, Superman, The Phantom, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon which were immensely popular and widely disseminated in the entertainment-starved Pacific Archipelago.

Drawing from an early age, Nestor emulated his brother Virgilio who already worked as a comics artist for the cheap magazines of the young country. The Philippines became a commonwealth in 1935, and achieved full-independence from the USA in 1946, but always maintained close cultural links to America.

Nestor’s parents pushed him into architecture, but within a year he returned to comics. A superb artist, he far outshone Virgilio – and everybody else – in the cottage industry. His brother switched to writing and they teamed up to produce some of the best strips the Islands had ever seen, the most notable and best regarded being Mars Ravelo’s Darna.

Capable of astounding quality at an incredible rate, by the early 1950s Nestor was drawing for many comics simultaneously. Titles such as Pilipino Komiks, Tagalog Klasiks, Hiwaga Komiks and Espesial Komiks were fortnightly. and he usually worked on two or three series at a time, pencils and inks. He also produced many of the covers.

In 1953, he adapted MGM film Quo Vadis for Ace Publications’ Tagalong Klasiks #91-92. Written by Clodualdo Del Mundo, it was serialized to promote the movie in the Philippines, but MGM were so impressed by the art-job that they offered 24 year old Nestor a US job and residency. He declined, thinking himself too young to leave home yet. If you’re interested, you can see the surviving artwork by searching online for “Nestor Redondo’s Quo Vadis”, and you should, because it’s frankly incredible.

Ace was the country’s biggest comics publisher, but by the early 1960s they were in dire financial straits. In 1963 Nestor, Tony Caravana, Alfredo Alcala, Jim Fernandez, Amado Castrillo and brother Virgilio set up their own company – CRAF Publications, Inc. – but times were against them …and publishers everywhere.

Around this time, America came calling again, in the form of DC and Marvel Comics. By 1972, US based Filipino artist Tony DeZuñiga had introduced a wave of his associates to US editors. Nestor drew anthological horror tales for House of Mystery, House of Secrets, The Phantom Stranger, Secrets of Sinister House, Witching Hour, The Unexpected, Weird War Tales; fill-ins for Marvel’s Man-Thing; an astonishingly beautiful run on Rima the Jungle Girl #1-7 (a loose adaptation of W H Hudson’s seminal 1904 novel Green Mansions) and ultimately replaced Bernie Wrightson as artist on the first run of Swamp Thing. He also worked on Lois Lane and crafted magnificent tales for Joe Kubert’s Edgar Rice Burroughs/Tarzan titles.

In 1973, Nestor produced classical literature comics adaptations including Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Vincent Fago’s Pendulum Press Illustrated Classics (later reprinted as Marvel Classics Comics). In later years he moved to Marvel to ink – and eventually fully illustrate – Savage Sword of Conan.

During his DC period, he was tapped to draw an adaptation of King Arthur (which DC killed before it was completed (once again some pages survive and the internet is your friend if you want to see them). He also illustrated issue C-36 of the tabloid-sized Limited Collectors’ Edition. These were comics printed twice the height and width of standard comic book and generally a means of selling themed reprint collections, but also became a magnificent vehicle for all-original special events such as the first Superman/Spider-Man team-up, Neal Adams & Denny O’Neil’s Superman Vs Muhammad Ali and many headline-grabbing moments in DC continuity such as the wedding of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl or Superman vs Wonder Woman

Another ambitious all-new project that was never completed, The Bible was written by Sheldon Mayer (Scribbly; Red Tornado; Black Orchid; Day After Doomsday; Three Mouseketeers; Sugar and Spike) and designed and edited by Joe Kubert. It was planned as the first instalment in a graphic interpretation of the entire Bible, but apparently readers prefer costumed saviours above all others…

A deeply religious man, Redondo had already produced the serial Mga Kasaysayang Buhat sa Bibliya (Tales from the Bible) for the Philippine’s Superyor Komiks between 1969-1970, as well as creating an on-the-job training scheme for young creators there. Over many years he contributed to various Christian comics, including Marx, Lenin, Mao and Christ, published in 1977 by Open Doors, Aida-Zee and Behold 3-D, produced in the 1990s by Nate Butler Studio. He was also a panellist for the first Christian comics panel discussion of Comic-Con International, in 1992.

Stories from the Bible have been a part of US comics since the earliest days of the industry, but they have never been so beautifully illustrated as in this book. Included herein are loving interpretations of The Creation, The Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, The Generations of Adam, Noah and the Flood, The Tower of Babel, The Story of Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah.

Also included are single-page information features ‘Digging into the Past’, ‘School Days in Bible Times’, ‘The Ziggurat’ and ‘Soldiers in the Time of Abraham’ all illustrated by Kubert, but the true star is the passionate beauty of Redondo’s, lush, glorious art.

Redondo worked as an animation designer for Marvel Studios in the 1990s. He wrote On Realistic Illustration – a teaching session for the 1st International Christian Comics Training Conference in Tagaytay, the Philippines, in January 1996, but sadly, died before he was able to deliver it.

Whatever your beliefs – and I don’t really care – you wouldn’t be reading this unless comics meant something to you. On that basis alone, this is work that you simply cannot be unmoved by and truly should be aware of. Even if there isn’t a comprehensive collection of his work – yet – this single work stands as a lasting tribute to Nestor Redondo’s unparalleled talent. If you venerate beautiful pictures telling stories, you must see this book.
© 1975 National Periodical Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Big Scoop of Ice Cream


By Conxita Herrero Delfa: translated by Jeff Whitman (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-294-6 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-295-3

Comics are a nigh-universal, extremely powerful medium that lends itself to a host of topics and genres, but the area where it has always shined brightest is in its chimeric capacity for embracing autobiographical self-expression. Whether through fictionalised narratives or scrupulously candid revelation, imaginative forays into self-realisation and self-expression frequently inevitably forge the most impressive and moving connections between reader and author.

Conxita Herrero Delfa’s vibrant collection Gran bola de helado was originally released in 2016, containing lifestyle short stories crafted before COVID changed the world. She is Barcelona born – in 1993 – and studied Fine Arts, but found another outlet for her artistic and raconteurial tendencies by publishing fanzines exploring aspects of free discourse, tireless observation and personal introspection. If you’re open-minded and well-travelled, you may have seen her follow-up work in various magazines and collective books. She’s also a singer, so look out for the album Abducida por forma una pareja by Tronco, if you’re so inclined…

Big Scoop of Ice Cream sees Conxita explore in compelling detail her metamorphic life via comic strips, with what appears to be relentless honesty and inspired veracity. Gathered here is a broad menu of experiences true, slightly true, made up, tedious, meta-real and maybe even a bit untrue, made in response to an ineffectual youth becoming – in fits and starts – a grown up. Everyday tasks, major achievements, personal breakthrough and moments without merit jostle beside strange days and minor miracles in ‘Resolutions’, after which we survive spectral invasion ‘Ghosts’ and learn what “adulting” means in ‘The Bathroom’.

The significance of playing alone shapes ‘Talking’, and perhaps a hint of potential romance looms in ‘The Couch Cushion’, before ‘The Arrival of Spring’ induces travel and causes a mini crisis. Sex happens in dusky pink monotones while ‘Relating’ before solitude returns, sparking thoughts of ‘The South of California’ and triggering ominous internet hook ups in ‘Enter’

Acquiring an item of furniture attains the status of ‘The Metaphor’ for her and her friends whilst a beach break with Ricardo in ‘Alghero’ turns into a partial break with reality before ‘The Castles’ sees perspective restored – and endangered – by an over-sharing drinking buddy and other travelling companions…

A temporary liaison doesn’t pan out, but that’s okay because of what Conxita carries in ‘The Pocket’, and there are always marvels in abundance when ‘Looking Up’ or finding someone who will play ‘The Game’

Visually experimental, the eponymous ‘Big Scoop of Ice Cream’ contrasts flavours and relationships without reaching any useful conclusions but segues neatly into a strange encounter in a bar with ‘The Reject’ before the ruminations conclude with confirmation that ‘People are Only Human’

Boasting quotes from Marcel Proust, José Sainz, and Conxita herself, this whimsical confection is uplifting but never self-deluding, wryly inviting and features a breakout performance by pet cat Julia and a recurring box of toffee apples.

These 17 slices of Latin soul are delivered with verve and gusto in a minimalist cartooning style afforded surprising depth by swathes of flat colour: stylishly masking earnest inquiry and heavy introspection with charm, wit and carefully ingenuous nonsense. Big Scoop of Ice Cream is a book to delight and enthral and get in your head, and should be there with you wherever or however you holiday and forever after when you get back to mundane reality.
© 2016 Conxita Herrero Delfa and apa apa comics. © 2022 NBM for the English translation. All rights reserved.

Big Scoop of Ice Cream is scheduled for UK release July 14th 2022 and is available for pre-order now. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/. Most NBM books are also available in digital formats.

Edwurd Fudwupper FIBBED BIG – Explained by Fannie Fudwupper with Berkeley Breathed Helping Slightly


By Berkeley Breathed (Little, Brown & Co./Storyopolis)
ISBN: 978-0-316-14291-5 (HB) 978-0-316-14425-4 (Album PB)

I’ve been watching The News and getting upset by politicians’ obnoxiously blatant disregard for probity and dearth of ethical standards, not just in my own bankrupt-in-every-aspect Britain, but everywhere else too – except maybe New Zealand (Nice One, Jacinda).

As is always the case in such circumstances, I turned to comics and cartoons for solace and found this. Please read, enjoy and act according to the dictates of your conscience, if you have one…

Please Note: any similarity to other malign, malformed, bribe-fattened, emotionally stunted, eternally misbehaving overprivileged schoolboys currently serving at the Nation’s expense is just the way things are these days…

Throughout the 1980s and for half of the 1990s, Berke Breathed dominated the newspaper strip scene with agonisingly funny, edgy-yet-surreal political fantasy Bloom County and, latterly, Sunday-only spin-off Outland. They are all fully available digitally – so don’t wait for my reviews, just get them now!

At the top of his game and swamped with awards like Pulitzers, Breathed retired to concentrate on books like Red Ranger Came Calling, Mars Needs Moms! or Flawed Dogs: The Year End Leftovers at the Piddleton “Last-Chance” Dog Pound and sequel Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid on Westminster. They rank among the best America has ever produced. Get them too.

His first foray into the field was 1991’s A Wish for Wings That Work: a Christmas parable featuring his signature character, and the most charmingly human one. Between 2003 and 2008, Breathed revived Opus as a Sunday strip, before eventually capitulating to his career-long antipathy for the manic deadline pressures of newspaper production and often-insane, convoluted contradictions of editorial censorship.

It seemed his ludicrous yet appealing cast of misfits – all deadly exponents of irony and common sense residing in the heartland of American conservatism – were gone for good, until the internet provided a platform for Breathed to resume his role as a gadfly commentator on his own terms. Since 2015, Bloom County has mocked, exposed and shamed capitalism, celebrities, consumerism, popular culture, politicians, religious leaders and people who act like idiots. Donald Trump figures prominently and often, but that might just be coincidence…

These later efforts, unconstrained by syndicate pressures to not offend advertisers, are also available as book collections. You’ll want those too, and be delighted to learn that all Breathed’s Bloom County work is available in digital formats – fully annotated to address the history gap if you didn’t live through events such as Iran-Gate, Live-Aid, Star Wars (both cinematic and military versions), assorted cults and televangelists experiencing less than divine retribution and sundry other tea-cup storms that make us Baby Boomers so rude and defensive…

Not quite as renowned, but every inch as crucial to your enjoyment, is the lost gem on display today: a paean to the power of principles and effects of honesty, all wrapped up in a children’s book about a mean kid with no moral compass…

As previously stated, after the all-too-brief, glittering outing as a syndicated strip cartoonist and socio-political commentator (usually the very same hallowed function) Breathed left strips to create children’s picture books.

He lost none of his perception, wit or imagination, and actually got better as an artist. Even so, he never quite abandoned his entrancing cast of characters and always maintained the gently excoriating, crusading passion and inherent bittersweet invective which underscored those earlier narratives.

Moreover, he couldn’t ignore that morally uplifting component of his work that so upset hypocrites, liars, greedy people and others who let us all down while carping on about being unfairly judged and how we don’t really understand complex issues. Trust me, we – and Breathed – understand perfectly…

This crushingly captivating cartoon catechism ruminates on the cost and worth of family and idiocy of arrogant aggrandizement and self-congratulatory self-importance. It is lensed through the fabled truism of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, as little sister Fannie complains again about her idiot brother…

Edwurd Fudwupper tells lies because he wants to, because he can and because of the chaotic consequences his dissembling causes. The only thing he isn’t, is convincing. Always in trouble, he narrowly and perpetually weasels out of instant retribution due to his facility for fibs, but now Fannie recalls the day when that stopped working…

After a couple of whoppers lead to the disappearance of a neighbour and destruction of beloved family property, Edwurd’s automatic response of lying big and compounding nonsense with bigger balderdash sparks community calamity, mass military deployment and imminent alien invasion. As the Earth stands still in the moment before utter disaster, a small voice speaks out…

Delivered in sharp and lyrical rhyme like a weaponised Dr. Seuss story, and with lush lavish illustrations painted in the stunningly grotesque exaggeration beloved of Ralph Steadman and Terry Gilliam cartoons, this is a book to trigger personal reflection, audit consciences and promote better behaviour, but it will make grown citizens howl and children sit up and pay attention. It’s also deliciously funny. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think hard before calling in sick or blaming the dog – or opposition or asylum seekers – for eating your homework…
© 2000 Berkeley Breathed. All rights reserved.

2120


By George Wylesol (Avery Hill Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1-910395-65-3 (TPB)

Baltimore-based George Wylesol (Internet Crusader; Ghosts, Etc.) is a cartoonist with lots to say and intriguing ways of doing so. Past works have channelled his avowed fascinations – old computer kit/livery; anxiety; iconography; the nostalgic power of commercial branding and signage and a general interest in plebian Days Gone By – into chilling affirmations of his faith in the narrative power of milieu and environment as opposed to characters.

That remains the case in his latest retro-modernist extravaganza… a canny revival of a brief fad stillborn on the way to today’s computer game world; explored through a salutary experience befalling a rather bland service engineer…

Once upon a time (way back in the 1980s) books and graphic novels experimented with an interactive approach: constructing stories where readers could opt to proceed in a linear manner, whilst being encouraged to jump ahead or back, by following suggestions at certain decision points of the narrative. Depending on which one a reader followed, the story could travel in numerous directions and outcomes were many and varied…

The fad faded as technology surpassed physical print restrictions and now most games offer even more variety and immersion, but the process was and still is a powerful device for storytelling and point-making, if you know the trick of it.

Wylesol does, and in 2120 skillfully manipulates the form to create a chilling and potent suspense saga. The set-up is simple. Forty-something computer repairman Wade Duffy is booked to service a machine at 2120 Macmillan Drive: an isolated building in a vacant lot.

The place seems deserted and decommissioned, but after gaining entry, Wade dutifully proceeds through countless empty rooms and corridors – far more than seems possible for a facility of its size. The place seems to go down too many levels, and as he seeks endlessly for the broken computer he is determined to repair, his responsible work attitude gradually erodes under tidal waves of suspicion, uncertainty and nervous tension.

The place is just not right…

Too many rooms, odd sights and sounds, bizarre detritus, scraps and remnants indicating rapid abandonment… and his solitary, endless examinations and futile explorations only tip further into paranoia once he finally finds other occupants and his mind starts doubting him…

I first read the book without making any choices. I’m not saying you should, but if you do, let your mind build a story of its own then reread as often as you want, using the page directions to reshape the events and outcomes and see how that changes the momentous “Big Reveal” hidden within.

Genuinely disturbing in the manner of the best psychological dramas, with plenty of scary moments and distressingly eerie characters, the coldly diagrammatical illustration and workplace bright colour palette adds immensely to the overall aura of unease.

A compelling and compulsive experience, seamlessly wedding sensory evocation to carefully neutralised visual input, like the subject matter itself, this book is not what it seems and should not be missed.
© George Wylesol 2019. All rights reserved.

Mickey All-Stars (The Disney Masters Collection)


By Giorgio Cavazzano & Joris Chamberlain and many & various: translated by David Gerstein & Jonathan H. Gray (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-369-1 (HB) eISBN 978-1-68396-422-3

Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey Mouse was first seen – if not heard – in the silent cartoon Plane Crazy. The animated short fared poorly in a May 1928 test screening and was promptly shelved.

It’s why most people who care cite Steamboat Willie – the fourth completed Mickey feature – as the official debut of the mascot mouse and his co-star and occasional paramour Minnie Mouse since it was the first to be nationally distributed, as well as the first animated feature with synchronised sound. The film’s astounding success led to the subsequent rapid release of its fully completed predecessors Plane Crazy, The Gallopin’ Gaucho and The Barn Dance, once they too had been given new-fangled soundtracks.

From those rather timid and tenuous beginnings grew an immense fantasy empire, but film was not the only way Disney conquered hearts and minds. With Mickey a certified, solid gold screen sensation, the mighty mouse was considered a hot property ripe for full media exploitation and he quickly invaded America’s most powerful and pervasive entertainment medium: comic strips…

In close to a century of existence, Walt Disney’s anthropomorphic everyman Mickey Mouse has tackled his fair share of weirdos and super freaks in tales crafted by gifted creators from every corner of the world. A true global phenomenon, the little wonder staunchly overcame all odds and pushed every boundary, and he’s always done so as the prototypical nice guy beloved by all.

He might have been born in the USA, but the Mouse belongs to all humanity now. Mickey has always been and is still a really big deal in Europe and thus, when his 90th anniversary loomed, a comics movement grew to celebrate the event in a uniquely comic strip way.

Invitations went out to creators with a connection to Disney endeavours from countries like Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, Belgium, France and more. The rules were simple: each auteur or team would have a single page to do as they liked to, for and with Mickey and all his Disney pals, with the only proviso that each exploit must begin and end with the Mouse passing through a door. The whole affair would be framed by an opening and closing page from illustrator Giorgio Cavazzano and scenarist Joris Chamberlain…

The result is a stunning joyous and often wholesomely spooky rollercoaster ride through the minds of top flight artists all channelling their own memories, feelings and childhood responses to the potent narrative legacy of Mickey & Friends: a tumbling, capacious, infinitely varied journey of rediscovery and graphic virtuosity that is thrilling, beautiful and supremely satisfying.

This translation comes with an explanatory Foreword laying out the rules far better than I just did and ends with ‘The All-Star Lineup’ offering full and informative mini biographies of all concerned responsible for each page.

They are – in order of appearance – Flix, Dav, Keramidas, Fabrice Parme, Alfred, Brüno, Batem & Nicholas Pothier, Federico Bertolucci & Frédéric Brrémaud, Silvio Camboni & Denis-Pierre Filippi, Thierry Martin, Guillaume Bouzard, José Luis Munuera, Alexis Nesme, Fabrizio Petrossi, Jean-Philippe Peyraud, Pirus, Massimo Fecchi, Boris Mirroir, Godi, Florence Cestac, Éric Hérenguel, Marc Lechuga, Cèsar Ferioli, Tebo, Clarke, Dab’s, Pieter De Pootere, Antonio Lapone, Ulf K, Pascal Regmauld, Johan Pilet & Pothier, Mathilde Domecq, Nicolas Juncker, Jean-Christophe & Pothier, Mike Peraza, Arnaud Poitevin & Chamberlain, Olivier Supiot, Éric Cartier, Zanzim, Marco Rota, Paco Rodriguez, Sascha Wüsterfeld, and the aforementioned Giorgio Cavazzano & Joris Chamberlain.

Frantic, frenzied fun for one and all. Everything you could dream of and so much more…

© 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Georgia O’Keeffe


By María Herreros; translated by Lawrence Schimel (SelfMadeHero)
ISBN: 978-1-914224-05-8 (TPB/Digital edition)

Georgia Totto O’Keeffe entered the world in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin on November 15th 1887, second of seven children born to a dairy farmer turned (failed) construction entrepreneur. Seized and overwhelmed by the artistic impulse before the age of ten, she overcame financial hardship to secure an impressive traditional artistic education which she promptly rejected in favour of finding her own path.

From 1917 and her first exhibition, to her death in 1986, she made art her way, most famously with series of paintings of flowers, buildings and ultimately desert scenes which became a catalyst of taste and part of global artistic culture. She is regarded as America’s first abstract artist and has been called The Mother of American Modernism.

Innocently controversial from the start, O’Keeffe increasingly sought to understand colour and shape via stark cityscapes and florid blossoms but had to endure censure and gossip over nude photos exhibited by her patron Alfred Stieglitz, and the indignity of having her flower paintings mansplained by critics – even female ones – who continuously likened them to female sexual organs.

Bored with saying “they’re just flowers” and self-important fools, she began a gradual, years-long process of quitting metropolitan civilisation for peace, contentment and endless inspiration under the big skies and vivid deserts of New Mexico.

Over a decades-long career. O’Keefe garnered international acclaim and many awards. These included an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the College of William and Mary (1938); election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences(1966); receiving the M. Carey Thomas Award from Bryn Mawr College (1971) and another honorary degree (from Harvard in 1973) as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977), The National Medal of Arts (1985) and – in 1993 – posthumous induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

As you’d expect of a determined, driven professional woman of that period in that country, making extremely successful headway in a predominantly male preserve, her personal life was something of a trainwreck, but this compelling examination chooses to downplay those aspects.

Sensibly side-lining the more sensationalised moments of O’Keefe’s past in favour of tracing her accomplishments and victories, graphic biographer María Herreros has employed her painterly, primitivistic narrative style which liberally samples O’Keeffe’s copious canon of letters and idiosyncratic writings to bring us inside the head of a profoundly visual and arguably obsessive being.

Based in Madrid, but born in Valencia in 1983, Herreros is a modern multidisciplinary artist. She studied at the University of Fine Arts, San Carlos and since 2011 has combined high level commercial commissions with gallery shows, book collaborations and comics such as Viva la Dolce Vita, Marilyn tenía once dedos en los pies, and Paris sera toujours Paris. Her personal works explore human emotion, societal evolution and the concepts of beauty and normative states.

Although remaining primarily positive and inquisitive here, Herreros touches on O’Keeffe’s mental ill health issues, her Svengali-like attachment (later marriage) to older, already-married Fine Art photographer/gallery owner Stieglitz and her end-of-life companion John Bruce “Juan” Hamilton – both notorious age-inappropriate public scandals that Georgia casually, magnificently, ignored.

Via communications with Georgia’s close female friends and Stieglitz, Herreros takes us inside the painter’s mind, revealing the creative process and progress in navigating society, the public and the poison chalice of simply having to exhibit art to survive, while emphasising making the images she wanted to in places she truly loved which became her greatest joy and solitary citadels.

Less a biography than a carefully crafted appreciation and appraisal of a career and legacy by a fellow fully emancipated, self-determining female creator, Georgia O’Keeffe is a compelling and beguiling glimpse into the forces that shape art and artists.
Text and illustrations © 2021 by María Herreros. All rights reserved. Published by agreement with Astiberri Ediciones and Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza English translation © 2021 SelfMadeHero.

The Set-Up


By
Joseph Moncure March illustrated by Erik Kriek (Korero Press)
ISBN: 978-1-91274-008-6 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-91274-012-3 

I’ve never understood boxing as a sport. Where I come from, you don’t hit people for money or fame but because you don’t like them, have a grievance with them or because they’re a member of the Tory Cabinet. I suppose that’ s pretty much the same thing these days. 

However, it’s an indisputable fact that for billons of humans over thousands of years, pugilism in its various forms has captivated, enthralled and on rare occasion, enhanced the lives of those both participating and spectating.  

Entire sub-cultures have embraced the Fight Game and it has in return elevated a few (some actual combatants, but a far greater number of managers, promoters and – disturbingly – “owners” of society’s officially sanctioned domestic gladiators) to positions of wealth and power. Many love to watch and many more are irresistibly drawn to compete…  

Despite – or more likely because of – modern rules and legal oversight the industry is apparently not as flagrantly in the pockets of crime bosses as in its early golden years, but once upon a time in the mid-20th century Boxing matches were the great leveller: drawing hoods and heroes, media stars and mobster scum, intellectuals and imbeciles… 

In 1928, white Jazz Age poet and essayist Joseph Moncure March wrote a highly successful and influential long-form poem about boxing that stripped away much of the glamour by focussing on the criminality and poverty-driven desperation that underpinned it.  

March was a war veteran, a college protégé of Robert Frost and first managing editor of The New Yorker, and infamous for his other poem. Bawdy, antisocial, deliberatively provocative and shocking, The Wild Party took three years to find a publisher. The Set-Up was similarly divisive and influential. You can find all you need to know about the odes and their author in Masha Thorpe’s brilliantly informative and erudite Introduction which combines appraisal and appreciation with history lesson in a critical biography of the pioneering poet. It also candidly discusses the major bone of contention this uncompromising revival will  stir up: Race.   

Protagonist Pansy Jones is an ex-con, over the hill fighter: an old Negro grateful for one final chance at a payoff against a younger, fitter, tougher opponent. It’s his last bout and he wants to go out with pride and dignity. Sadly, the match is fixed, but his crooked promoters have opted not to tell him and kept his portion of the pay-off for themselves… 

It sounds cliched now, but that’s because the printed poem was a monster hit during the Depression Era, spawning countless swipes and a popular but utterly bowdlerised 1947 noir film adaptation which omitted the uncompromising elements of commonplace bigotry the saga wallows in.  

Although in 1947 the author strenuously protested the replacement of Pansy with a white fighter, when The Set-Up was rereleased in 1968, March himself “de-nationalized” the tale, removing the brooding racial tensions and character that carried the original. 

What we have here now is the restored original text which wallows in grime, crime and poverty with fully-realized, universally grotesque, sordid and unsavoury characters all taking their piece of the action from desperate men pummelling each other for other people’s callous gratification… 
The tale is told in relentless rhyme and pitiless beats presaging modern Hip Hop culture: brutal, bleak, repetitive; glorifying another kind of gang culture and clinging to the notion of a last chance to win if you are man enough. This is dawn-era storytelling with classical themes delivered as primordial Rap in its purest, most primal form: drenched with aggression, hostility, nihilism, misogyny, explicit but accepted racism and, always, frustrated hope. 

March eschews conventional stanzas for explosive couplets, displaying verbal virtuosity and building scene-setting mood through a driving beat and mesmerising rhythm. Visually they are delivered in this edition like blows, laid in typographic blasts in clinches with starkly effective illustration cunningly informed by the works of graphic genius Will Eisner. 

The art is astounding, crafted by a modern master with his head firmly set towards past times. 

Amsterdam-born Erik Kriek (In the Pines – 5 Murder Ballads; silent superhero spoof Gutsman; Little Andy Roid; Welcome to Creek Country; Mika, the Little Bear That Didn’t Want to Go To Sleep) is a graduate of the Rietveld Academy for Art and Design and an in-demand illustrator of books – such as Holland’s Tolkien and Harry Potter editions – magazines, apparel, skateboards, ad infinitum.  

As well as being a musical historian and afficionado, he can turn his hand to many visual styles and graphic disciplines. Gutsman was reconceived as a soundless mime ballet in 2006 and his collection of Lovecraft adaptations Het onzienbare, en andere verhalen H. P. Lovecraft has been republished in many languages… 

Here he again extends his artistic range and demonstrates chiaroscuric virtuosity and versatility in the resurrection of a landmark of American poetry and precursor of noir sensibilities that has, in its own way, also reshaped the landscape of modern popular culture. You already know the story from a hundred other sources, so I’m not saying more, but I will share a few interior pages… 

Restored and beautifully augmented by stunning potent imagery, The Set-Up is a found classic addressing issues we still all struggle with and is a contest you must see.
© 2022 Korero Press Ltd. All rights reserved. 

The Set -Up will be published on April 21st 2022 and is available for pre-order now. 

Green Eggs and Maakies


By Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-618-8 (HB/Digital edition)

As a career and lifestyle, cartooning has far more than its share of individuals with a unique perspective on life. Ronald Searle, Charles Addams, George Herriman, Gerald Scarfe, Rick Geary, Steve Bell, Berke Breathed, Ralph Steadman, Bill Watterson, Matt Groening, Gary Larson – the list is potentially endless.

Perhaps it’s the power to create entire carefully curated and scrupulously sculptured worlds coupled with the constant catharsis of vented spleen that so colours their work – whether they paint or draw – or maybe it’s simply the crucible of constant deadlines that makes their efforts so addictive and effective.

Tony Millionaire loves to draw and does it very, very well: referencing classical art, vintage children’s book illustration and an eclectic mix of pioneering comic strip draughtsmen like George McManus, Rudolph Dirks, Cliff Sterrett, Frank Willard, Harold Gray, Elzie Segar and that George Herriman guy. These influences, styles and sensibilities he seamlessly blends with the vision of European engravings masters from the “legitimate” side of the pictorial storytelling racket. The result is eye-popping…

Born Scott Richardson, he especially cites Johnny (Raggedy Ann and Andy) Gruelle and English illustrator Ernest H. Shepard (The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh) as formative influences.

He has a variety of graphical strings to his bow – such as his own coterie of books for children like the superbly stirring Billy Hazelnuts and Sock Monkey series; animation triumphs and the brilliant if disturbing weekly strip Maakies – which recounts the riotously vulgar and absurdly surreal adventures of Irish monkey Uncle Gabby and fellow dissolute über-alcoholic/nautical adventurer Drinky Crow.

They are abetted but never aided by a peculiarly twisted, off-kilter cast of reprobates, antagonists and confrontational well-wishers such as Drunken Cop, old Wachtel, The Captain’s Daughter and avian Aunt Phoebe whilst constantly opposed by nefarious Gallic crocodile The Frenchman. Or not. Sometimes. It depends…

Launching in February 1994 in The New York Press, the strip is now widely syndicated in US alternative newspapers such as LA Weekly and The Stranger and globally in comics magazines like Linus and Rocky. There was even an animated series on Adult Swim.

Since continuity usually plays second fiddle to the avalanche of inventive ideas and outré action the strips can be read in almost any order, and the debauched drunkenness, manic ultra-violence in the manner of the best Tom & Jerry or Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, acerbic view of sexuality and deep core of existentialist angst still finds a welcome with Slackers, Laggards, the un-Christian and all those scurrilous lost Generations since X… and everyone addicted to bad taste tomfoolery. This lovely lush landscape collection from 2013 compiles two years of impossibly wonderful weirdness and plumbs new depths of daft depravity proving clearly time cannot wither his infinitely grotesque variety one little bit…

In the grand tradition of the earliest US newspaper cartoon features, each episode comes with a linked mini-strip running across the foot of the strip – although often that link is quite hard to ascertain. Nominally and notionally based in a naval setting of rousing rip-roaring 19th century sea-faring situations, replete with maritime monsters and stunning vistas, the dark-and-bitter comical instalments vary from staggeringly rude and crude through absolutely hysterical to conceptually impenetrable.

Be warned: Millionaire’s gags are utterly unfettered by bounds of taste or simplistic acquiescence to wholesome fun-squelching decency.

He often promotes his other creative endeavours on Maakies pages and digresses into autobiography and personal rants, brings in guest creators to mess with his toys and even invites the readership to contribute: ideas, pictures, objects of communal interest – especially any tattoos his dedicated readership can be enticed/bothered to submit. This penetratingly incisive, witty and often poignant cartoon arena is his playground and if you don’t like it, leave… but quietly please, ‘cause there’s a hangover going on here most days…

Green Eggs and Maakies offers, in starkly indisputable monochrome, more of the wonderful same with such spit-take, eye-watering, drinks-coming-out-of-your-nose moments as how mermaids and ugly fish are created, fun with snakes, the thoughts of ‘Real Ladies of the Dog Park’; arguably the best Superman fart joke ever, and so much more, scraped like barnacles from the edges of all time and space and history.

Moreover, in a positive frenzy of public-spirited beneficence, this book features ‘Maakies Womb Portraits’; returning visits of ‘Dr. Dubel, Helicopter Faith Healer’; easily absorbed lessons on ‘How to Drink’; scatological marriage proposals, a running commentary on ‘Married Days’ and general sex advice; revelations of ‘The Accidental Sobrietist’; secrets of such self-surgical procedures as removing impacted belly hair or how to conduct an auto-splenectomy; an ode to ‘The Robust Human Liver’ and more bright ideas from ‘The Universal Moon Genius’.

All the timeless favourite themes Millionaire specialises in are on show, and the usual variations of sordid sexual encounters, ghastly interspecies progeny, assorted single entendres, bodily function faux pas and gory death-scenes share space with some of literature’s greatest poets and sots – who never knew what hit them…

There are even a few continued tales starring ‘Noah’s Ark’, barbarian dwarf ‘Klaus Santa, son of Kleas, son of Wachtel’ and two sets of cut-out, colour-and-keep Christmas tree ornaments to make any seasonal pine a domestic no-go zone…

If you’re not easily upset this is a spectacularly funny and rewarding strip, one of the most constantly creative and entertaining in existence today, and if you can thrive on gorge-rousing gags and mind-bending rumination this is an experience you simply cannot deny yourself.

If you’re still not a fan, Green Eggs and Maakies is the perfect opportunity to become one, and if you’re already converted it’s an ideal gift for them that isn’t…
© 2013 Tony Millionaire. All rights reserved.

The Dynamite Art of John Cassaday


By John Cassaday, with Brett Matthews, Nick Barrucci, Scott Dunbier, Dean White, Laura Martin, Francesco Francavilla, Marcelo Pinto, Ivan Nunes, José Villarrubia, June Chung, Tony Aviña & various (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1524109363 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Intoxicating Imagery and Timeless Heroic Poses… 9/10

It can’t be Christmas without an art book or two. Here’s one of the very best of the last decade…

Born Texan in 1971, Oklahoma-raised John Cassady is a multi-award winning comics artist, actor and TV director who has become legendary for his depictions of Ghost, Captain America, The Astonishing X-Men, Planetary, Desperadoes, I Am Legion and Star Wars. His particularly iconic, stridently symbolist use of imagery has made his work globally known and admired, and his art and imagery have featured in many animated films and poster books.

Cassady is self-taught and has a superb eye for landscape and location. It underpins a primal understanding of the body language of evil and heroism and his deep affection for the classic groundbreakers of our somewhat simplistic genre: combining to inform the astounding visuals in this mammoth hardback (234 x 307 mm) or digital catalogue of comic and fantasy masterpieces.

In 2006 Cassady began a long and fruitful association with Dynamite Entertainment, limning covers for a vast pantheon of stars comprising generational household names and the best of new concepts, and they’re all gathered here for you to ogle…

Following context and potted history from Dynamite Publisher Nick Barrucci’s Introduction and a Foreword by comics everyman Scott Dunbier, the Gallery of Graphic Wonders opens with 100+ pages of ‘The Lone Ranger’ and includes commentary by scripters Brett Matthews and Mark Russell and editor Joe Rybandt, augmenting pencil roughs, sketches and those astounding covers (including colour variants). Throughout, Cassaday’s own colour work is bolstered by contributions from Dean White, Laura Martin, Francesco Francavilla, Marcelo Pinto, Ivan Nunes, José Villarrubia, June Chung and Tony Aviña.

Garth Ennis’ war anthology ‘Battlefields’ boasted some of Cassaday’s most engaging images, and those paintings are here supplemented by designs, working sketches and colour variants as are Project Superpowers spinoff ‘The Death-Defying ‘Devil’’, and vintage stars‘Buck Rogers’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes’.

‘The Complete Dracula’ boasts iconoclastic covers and commentary from co-writer Leah Moore before a return to pulp fictioneers offers additional character studies and designs for a staggering swathe of bombastic eyecatchers gracing the many series and crossover team-ups featuring ‘The Green Hornet’, ‘The Shadow’, ‘The Spider’ and ‘Doc Savage’.

Then‘Grand Passion’, and ‘Ian Fleming’s James Bond’ artworks bring us to a selection of ‘Other Covers’ including ‘Red Sonja’, ‘The Boys’, ‘Zorro’, ‘Blackbeard: Legend of the Pyrate King’, ‘The Complete Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Project Superpowers Chapter 2’, ‘Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt’, ‘Wil Eisner’s The Spirit’, ‘Kiss’, ‘John Wick’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica vs Battlestar Galactica’, and they are all beautiful and unforgettable…

There are many books – both academic and/or instructional – designed to inculcate a love of comics whilst offering tips, secrets and an education in how to make your own sequential narratives.

There are far more intended to foster and further the apparently innate and universal desire to simply make art and do so proficiently and well, but here the emphasis is on promoting the artist’s sheer unassailable visual excitement and his treatment of a lexicon of legends. This book will delight everyone who wants to see a master in his element and showing that nobody does it better…
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