Little Paintings


By James Kochalka (Top Shelf Productions)
ISBN: 978-1-60309-017-9 (HB)

James Kochalka is a prolific and always entertaining giant of comics creation, whose vast, sublimely surreal, enticing works range from kid-friendly romps such as the Glorkian Warrior and Johnny Boo series, to self-examining daily journal strip American Elf and the indescribably fun SuperF*ckers (and that’s my censorious edit there, not his…)

The author, artist, animator and rock musician is utterly wedded to the energies of creativity and this tantalizing tome gathers hundreds of mini-paintings he knocked up to sell at various conventions between 2001 and 2007. All the old familiar face are there: cats, ghosts, robots, monsters, aliens, bathrooms, birds, chicks and dudes, animals, cats, mushrooms, landscapes and weather, cats, machines and random images, all apparently arranged in no particularly order and inviting your response. Did I mention, there’s cats?

There is a narrative here, but it’s completely generated by the viewer who can’t help but create a story around the hundreds of thumbnail paintings of gloriously hued things and folks and stuff, and a lot to read in if you’re willing to take some time.

Go on, you know you want to…
© James Kochalka 2011. All rights reserved.

Mindviscosity


By Matt Furie (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-370-7 (HB)

Matt Furie was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1979. After studying at Wesleyan University, he became an artist for pay, creating characters, strips (that eventually became the 2016 graphic novel Boys Club) and children’s book The Night Riders.

Boys Club inadvertently made him a figure of global controversy after one of his characters became a universal meme and was appropriated against his wishes by some very nasty people. If you need to know more you can search for Pepe the Frog online or watch the 2020 documentary Feels Good Man. I’m pretty sure Furie has had enough of the entire affair, so let’s move on.

What we have in plush hardback Mindviscosity is a collection of designs, studies and full, multi-character paintings of incredible monsters, beasts and unnatural wonders displaying fantastic imagination along the lines of Dr. Seuss and Basil Wolverton, rendered in a variety of styles and media: a joyous bestiary of happy horrors, celebrating otherness in a garish parade of surreal collations. Be warned though, there’s so much that kids will love here, but some of the situations are rather mature in content so either police this material or be prepared to answer some tricky comments on the birds and the beasts and where monsters come from…

Quirkily inclusive, brashly optimistic and preceded by appreciative Foreword ‘Matt’s World’ from John Lee of PFFR, this is a superb showcase of Furie’s painterly skills and narrative gifts making him in so many ways this generation’s Bosch or Bruegel. Here, truly, every picture tells a story…
© 2020 Matt Furie. Matt’s World © 2020 John Lee. This edition © 2020 Fantagraphics Books Inc. All rights reserved.

A Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola


By Ricardo Cortés (Akashic Books)
ISBN: 978-1-61775-134-9 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Potent, Punchy and Thought-Provoking Fodder to Ponder and Enjoy after Overindulging… 9/10

The astounding power of graphic narrative to efficiently, potently and evocatively disseminate vast amounts of information in layered levels has always been best utilised in works with a political or social component. That’s seldom been better demonstrated than in this stunning and scholarly work from Ricardo Cortés.

Born in 1973, illustrator/artistic intellectual activist Cortés has had a sublimely seditious career thus far. He made waves in Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Post, The Village Voice, San Francisco Chronicle, and been challenged on CNN and FOX News after his controversial children’s book Marijuana: It’s Just a Plant – written by Marsha Rosenbaum – was mentioned in Congress. He followed up by illustrating Adam Mansbach’s Times Best-Selling Go the F**k to Sleep and sequel Seriously, Just Go to Sleep, and created the colouring book I Don’t Want to Blow You Up! about famous Muslims who aren’t terrorists.

In 2011 he received a grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Greater New York Arts Development to create Jury Independence Illustrated – a public booklet dealing with Jury Nullification produced with the intention of educating potential jurors about their powers to acquit if they disagree with specific laws or judicial rulings. Clearly a born troublemaker…

This particular project is a brilliantly engrossing exploration of acceptable addictions blending scrupulously scholarly reportage with a seductively beautiful selection of captivating images and historical reproductions.

The story starts with the origins and history of ‘Coffee’ from its mythic discovery as a berry fruit for goats in Ethiopia, through being taken up by Yemeni traders who disseminated “qahwah” throughout the Islamic world. A proven intoxicant, concerns over its salubrity, morality and legality grew and it was soon being trafficked by desperate men. In the 16th century the beverage was banned in Mecca, Cairo and elsewhere, but its taste and effects were impossible to resist.

By the time “kahveh” reached Turkey, trading in the beans carried the death penalty. As “Coffee” it reached Europe in the 17th century, touted as a miracle cure-all for everything from headache to miscarriage and grew explosively into an intellectual’s seditious vice. In 1675, Charles II ordered it suppressed and closed England’s Coffee Houses by Royal Edict.

Things got even stranger in 1820 after the alkaloid “Caffe-ine” was finally distilled from the coffee cherry…

The rest of caffeine’s turbulent and torturous legal and commercial progress to today’s status as the world’s most popular stimulant is followed by the story of ‘Cola and Coca’ in which caffeine’s other singularly popular method of natural dissemination is examined. The Kola Nut of West Africa is amazingly high in the stimulant alkaloid and has been used for centuries – if not millennia – as an energy-intensifying fortifier by the various tribes and nations either by chewing the raw nut or brewing a drink called “cola”.

Cola is one of the most popular ancient beverages on Earth and when in 1886 Dr. John Pemberton devised his own formulation – dubbed Coca-Cola – by adding a dash of coca leaves, his medicinal tonic, after an initial shaky start, grew to become the most monolithic drinks brand on Earth.

…But not, apparently, without a little government help…

Coca originated in the Andes, where for centuries indigenous peoples used the herbal bounty as a pick-me-up. Indios chewed coca leaves the way we do gum in the west and in 1499 explorer Amerigo Vespucci brought back tales of the wonder herb’s propensity to promote feats of concentration and endurance. In 1859, Dr. Karl Scherzer returned to Austria after a 2-year scientific voyage aboard the Frigate Novara with 60 pounds of coca, as previously requested by German pharmacologists. Soon after doctoral student Albert Niemann isolated from the samples a new alkaloid which he dubbed “Coca-ine”. This fresh medical marvel – its transparent crystals easily derived from coca leaves – was from 1884 enthusiastically prescribed by the likes of Sigmund Freud for melancholia. Oculist Carl Koller discovered it to be an incredible regional (or as we now say “local”) anaesthetic, allowing unprecedented new surgical procedures to be performed. It became a popular treatment for toothache, labour pains, nervousness, fatigue, impotence, asthma and as a cure for morphine addiction – hence Pemberton’s inclusion of the stuff in his health tonic.

By 1889 cases of compulsive use and abuse began to be reported, leading to heated medical debate, and when the era’s obsessive racial concerns were added to the mix (“cocaine made negroes insane” and it was peddled by “greedy Jewish doctors”) the writing was on the puritanical wall for the foreign import.

On a rising tide of public disapproval, the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act prohibited Cocaine use and coca importation in the USA. However, due to some truly unbelievable backroom dickering, the already powerful Coca-Cola Company secured a constant supply of the banned substance – re-designated “Merchandise No. 5” – for their Schaefer Alkaloid Works in New Jersey – still thriving today as the Stepan Chemical Company. This mercantile miracle was all due to diligent work of Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Ralph Hayes, a former aide to the US Secretary of War and – from 1932 – a vice President of the Coca-Cola Company.

Anslinger was a rabid anti-drug zealot, so just why did he spend 40 years – under seven different US Presidents – enforcing draconian and often expensive, nigh-impossible bans on a vast number of natural pharmaceutical products whilst actively securing and defending Coca-Cola’s uninterrupted supply of cocaine? He even facilitated clandestine schemes to grow coca on American soil and his campaign was so successful that American policy became UN and global norms, forcibly negating all the proven scientific benefits of resources which grew naturally in countries which could never afford Western drugs and chemical advances.

Trust me; you only think you know the answer…

Astonishingly addictive and intoxicatingly revelatory, Coffee, Coca & Cola offers an impressively open-minded history lesson and an incredible look at the dark underbelly of American Capitalism. Exposed here through telling research and beguiling illustrations is a catalogue of hypocrisy wherein successive political administrations and big business always found ways to place commercial interests ahead of any specious moral imperative ingenuously forwarded by the “World’s Cop”.

Learn here how corporations and statesmen conspired to ruthlessly crush the traditions, customs and rituals of other nations and cultures (as recently as 2010, America acted to suppress many sovereign South American countries’ social, spiritual, medicinal and nutritional use of coca) and continue to prevent poor countries utilisation of such ancient natural resources as caffeine and cocaine whilst peddling products inescapably wedded to both American Expansionism and Ideology…

A stunning, hardcover coffee-table book (also available in digital formats) for concerned adults, this captivating chronicle is a true treasure – or perhaps in the parlance of the idiom, I might just say – lip-smacking, trust-quenching, cool looking, stimulating, motivating, hard talking, fool busting, fast thinking, hard quizzing… and unmissable.
© 2012 Ricardo Cortés. All rights reserved.

The Cosmic Slumber Tarot



By Tillie Walden with Darren Shill, Sara Botero & Francesca Romano (Liminal 11)
ISBN: 978-1-91263-417-0 (boxed with felt carry case)

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: Fabulous Fantasy for All Your Tomorrows… 10/10

I don’t really believe in anything except the relentless and unstoppable decline of taste and good manners, but I think I know a beautiful thing when I see it. This is one of those…

Whether or not the ancient life-prognostication tool commonly dubbed Tarot Cards work for you, the sublimely visual aid has certainly beguiled many major artists – comics or other, lesser fields – into crafting their own versions. Novelty cash-ins have included Justice League, Sandman, Disney Villains and even Simpsons-themed sets.

Now my current absolute favourite comics creator has devised her own delightful traditional hand-painted arcana which comes as a spectacular gift box (138 x 59 x 90 mm and designed Francesca Romano) including 78 full-colour cards, in a beautiful hardback instructional tome all contained in a soft carrying case. I even got some promotional stickers, but that’s probably because I’m really special…

In case you were wondering, that exceptional creator is Tillie Walden: a prolific Texas-born cartoonist who seamlessly blends fantasy fiction with autobiographical intimacy, engendering a feeling of absolute wonder, combined with a fresh incisive view and measured, compelling delivery in terms of both story and character to everything she does. Her artwork is an invitingly sheer delight.

Before globally turning heads with such unforgettable tales as On a Sunbeam, A City Inside, Spinning, I Love This Part, and Are You Listening? she began her rise with Ignatz Award-winning debut graphic novel The End of Summer – a compelling and poignant, family drama fantasy, chillingly reminiscent of Nordic literary classicists such as Henrik Ibsen, Astrid Lindgren or Tove Jansson, thematically toned like Brian Aldiss’ Helliconia novels whilst visually recalling Dave Sim’s Cerebus books High Society and Church & State. That too – as well as every other book I’ve cited here – should be at the top of your Christmas gift list.

Get them, read them, tell a friend. Trust me, one day soon you’ll be seeing all of these as stage plays and movies… if we ever have those again…

So pick up the Tarot set too and maybe see what the future holds.
Images and text © 2020 Tillie Walden. All rights reserved.

I’d Love to Draw


By Andrew Loomis (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-920-9 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: an old-school introduction to peace and recreation… 9/10

Got some time on your hands? Fancy taking up a new hobby or rekindling an old interest?

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. There are however, precious few that do it with as much style, enthusiasm, delight and cunning craft as this recent re-release by one of the most influential and meritorious masters of illustration America ever produced.

William Andrew Loomis was born in Syracuse, New York in 1892 and grew up in Zanesville, Ohio during the period when almost all published illustration was crafted by talented hands rather than mechanical contrivances like cameras or computers.

Aged 19, Loomis moved back to New York to study under George Bridgman and Frank DuMond at the Art Students League before enlisting to fight in The Great War. On returning to America, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago whilst setting up his own agency as a jobbing illustrator. Successful from the start, he began supplementing his income during the 1930s by teaching at the American Academy of Art and eventually began compiling his lecture and class material into such popular and effective instructional tomes as Fun with a Pencil and Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth.

His many beautiful and inspirational books influenced generations of artists before eventually slipping out of print. Titan Books began resurrecting them a few years ago and this tome (with an Introduction and a lavishly informative commentary by comics legend and grateful fan Alex Ross) continues the master’s works in an epic-scaled (315 x 235mm) luxuriously sturdy monochrome hardback which is a treasure to behold. Even when demonstrating the simplest stance or construction shape, Loomis’ utter joy in putting lines or shapes or shades on paper shines through…

This deeply idiosyncratic, wonderfully expansive and copiously illustrated collection begins with ‘Getting Started’: explaining the theory of ‘Basic Forms’ whilst offering page after page of illuminating examples before carefully and enthusiastically getting to grips with the thorny discipline of ‘Perspective’ in all its daunting forms.

The third pillar of artistic accomplishment is tackled head-on in ‘Light’, with a plethora of examples and exercises explaining all the necessities and useful tricks before the comfortable crash-course gravitates to Part Two and ‘Getting the Fun Out of It!’

Here the first port of call is perfecting ‘The Head’, which incorporates basic construction, carriage, positions and techniques before moving on to caricature and portraiture, after which ‘The Figure’ meticulously traces body form and development from stick-skeletons and sketch layouts to varieties of rendering, fast action visual notation, The Nude and the fundamentals of full illustration.

The foundation course concludes with the third and most important part: ‘The Fun of Sketching’: opening with an effusive overview of the practice of ‘Sketching’ – incorporating Line and Form Combined, Exaggeration to Project Character, Solid or Tonal Caricature, Portrait Sketching and much, much more.

Everything ends in an enthralling and enthusiastic ‘Closing Chat’ from the great man encouraging everyone to pick up a pencil and get on with it…

Loomis died in 1959 with one last art manual – Eye of the Painter & Elements of Beauty – published posthumously, yet his professional artistic philosophy, folksy wit and great personal charm still shine throughout this book. His gentle yet thorough instruction of the eternal unchanging verities of visual creation still makes the rewarding act of drawing not only achievable but desirable for everyone.

Perhaps this splendid volume is aimed more squarely at the progressing cartoonist, rather than at utter neophytes, and provides as much a philosophy of creativity as strict instruction, but I’d Love to Draw! will well serve any budding artists and storytellers whilst keeping idle hands and minds amused, absorbed and entertained for hours. If you already have the urge to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this marvellous manual will offer a steadying hand and all the support you could dream of.
© Andrew Loomis, The Estate of Andrew Loomis 2014. All rights reserved.

Introduction and additional text © Alex Ross 2014.

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.