Love Me Please – The Story of Janis Joplin (1943-1970)


By Nicolas Finet, Christopher & Degreff: translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-681122-76-2 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-681122-77-9

The list of people who lived hard, died young and changed the world is small but still, somehow, painfully overcrowded. Possibly the most tragic, influential, yet largely unknown is a born rule-breaking rebel who defied all conventions and became almost inevitably THE icon of doomed youth-with-big-dreams everywhere…

Author, filmmaker, journalist, publisher, educator and music documentarian Nicolas Finet has worked in comics for more than three decades and also generated a bucketload of reference works – such as Mississippi Ramblin’ and Forever Woodstock. His collaborator on that last one was veteran author, journalist and illustrator Christopher (The Long and Winding Road; many other music-centred tomes and adaptor of Bob Dylan).

Their compelling treatise on misunderstood and self-destructive Janis – just like her music, poetry and art – is something to experience, not read about, but I’ll do my best to convince you anyway…

After a quick dip into early life and influences, the story proper opens in Texas in 1947 as ‘Forget Port Arthur’ zeroes in on key childhood traumas and revelations around the homelife and schooling of little Janis Lyn Joplin at the start of the most culturally chaotic and transformative period in American history…

Brilliant, multi-talented, sexually ambiguous, starved for love whilst desperately directionless, her metamorphosis through Blues music mirrors that of many contemporaries (a fair few of whom comprise the infamous “27 Club” of stars who died young). However, as this book shows, although something indefinable was always just out of Joplin’s reach, her response was never to passively accept or ever surrender…

After wildly rebellious teen years, an uncomfortable educational life, a brief brush with conventional conformity and a near-lethal counter-culture encounter in San Francisco – as detailed in ‘The Temptation of Disaster’ – her meteoric rise in the era of flower power, liberal love and drug experimentation and record company exploitation lead to her return to California and triumphant breakthrough in 1966, all carried along by ‘Spells and Charms’

Stardom with hot band Big Brother and the Holding Company, a host of legendary encounters and even greater personal dissipation makes wild child into living myth at Monterey and other landmarks of the Summer of Love, before success and acceptance prove to be her darkest nightmare in ‘Lost and Distraught’

Global stardom and media glorification are balanced by heartbreak, betrayal and too-many brushes with death. As Woodstock confirms her status and talent to the world, the landscape inside her head turns against Janis. Endless exhausting tours and brief amorous encounters further destabilise the girl within and the end – when it comes – is no surprise to anyone…

With a moving Preface from comics legend and childhood friend Gilbert Shelton, a huge and star-studded Character Gallery and suggested Further Reading and Viewing, this forthright, no-nonsense yet extremely imaginative interpretation of the too-short flowering of “the Rose” offers insight but no judgement into a quintessentially complex, contradictory and uncompromised life…

NBM’s library of graphic biographies are swiftly becoming the crucial guide to the key figures of modern history and popular culture. If you haven’t found the answers you’re seeking yet, then you’re clearly not looking in the right place…
© Hatchette Livre (Marabout) 2020. © 2021 NBM for the English translation. All rights reserved.

Love Me Please – The Story of Janis Joplin 1943-1970 is scheduled for release on July 15th 2021 and is available for pre-order in both print and digital editions.

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

The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective


By Rand Holmes; written and compiled by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-170-1 (TPB)

Randolph Holton Holmes was a unique individual: a self-taught artist who grew up troubled, found peace and sufficiency if not fame and fortune, and died far too young on March 15th 2002. Available in wrist-wrenching paperback and soothing digital editions, this superbly curated compilation and biography re-presents scads of sketches; reproductions of drawings; cartoons and paintings he created in later life, preserved alongside a copious collection of his wickedly wonderful underground and alternative comic strips for fans and the soon to be devoted…

As usual, I’ll deliver here my warning for the easily offended: this book contains comic strips never intended for children. If you are liable to be offended by raucous adult, political and drug humour, or beautifully illustrated scenes of explicit sex, unbelievable comedic violence and controversial observations, don’t buy this book. In fact, stop reading this graphic novel review. You won’t enjoy any of it and might be compelled to cause a fuss.

I’ll cover something far more wholesome tomorrow so please come back then if you want. Be warned again though: I think you are being silly and may just cover something just as unseemly. That’s just the way I am…

Rand Holmes was born in Nova Scotia on February 22nd 1942 and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. After a rather remarkable early life (no clues from me – the whole point is to get you to buy this book) which included honing a prodigious artistic talent through diligently absorbing the work and drawing styles of Jack Davis, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman (who bought Rand’s first profession efforts for Help! magazine) – and most especially Wally Wood – Holmes became a jobbing cartoonist and illustrator at The Georgia Straight in 1969: one of many youth-oriented, counter-culture /“underground” newspapers that blossomed during the period.

Whilst there he created signature character Harold Hedd. It ran as a regular strip, and was assembled in 1972 into an outrageously hilarious, adults-only comic-book The Collected Adventures of Harold Hedd. A second volume followed a year later. Married young and always restless, Holmes generated an astounding amount of cartoon and comic work, which appeared in White Lunch Comix, All Canadian Beaver Comics, Slow Death, Fog City Comics, Gay Comics, Dope Comics and Snarf, amongst many others.

Holmes was by inclination a completely liberated sexual and political satirist. Sadly, his meticulously lush and shockingly explicit strips often obscured powerful social commentaries by being just too damn well-drawn. He produced strips for Rolling Stone and Cheri magazine and, in the 1980s, worked briefly in the mainstream comics market. When the Direct Sales revolution first flourished, he crafted EC-flavoured yarns for genre anthologies Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds,reuniting with long-time publishing collaborator Denis Kitchen for horror anthology Death Rattle as well as the fabulous mini-series Hitler’s Cocaine: the hip, trippy, return of Harold Hedd (included in its entirety in this volume).

Holmes married a second time in 1982 and moved his family to the idyllic, isolated artistic community of Lasqueti Island where he increasingly concentrated on a self-sufficient life-style, with oil painting replacing cartooning as an outlet for his relentless artistic drives. Here, with other creative hermits, he built an art centre which has become his lasting monument.

He passed away from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2002 and this book was the result of the first retrospective show compiled by his family from the treasury of superb material he left behind.

As well as a photo-stuffed and highly engaging history, this volume contains a wealth of artwork from early doodles to teen cartoons; illustrations and covers from his commercial art days; sketches; paintings; fascinating excerpts from the journals he kept for most of his life and a wonderful selection of his comics.

These last include many ‘Out to Lunch’ hotrod strips; early Harold Hedd pages from the Georgia Straight; sexy horror yarn ‘Raw Meat’; assorted ultra-nasty Basement Man tales; ‘Nip an’ Tuk – Those Cute Little Fuzzy Mices’; even more Hedd in ‘Wings Over Tijuana’ plus an unfinished story, as well as the aforementioned ‘Hitler’s Cocaine’ saga. Also on view are ‘And Here He Is… the Artist Himself’; ‘Killer Planet’; ‘Junkyard Dog’ (written by Mike Baron) and ‘Mean Old Man’ (written by Rob Maisch) – a powerful yarn that smacks of autobiography – before the artist portion concludes with a gallery of the stunning paintings that occupied his later days.

Rand Holmes was a true artist in every sense of the word: mostly producing work intended to change society, not fill his pockets. This terrific tome is a splendid and fitting tribute: one any grown-up art lover will marvel at and cherish.
© 2010 Patrick Rosenkranz, with the exception of the Rand Holmes diary entries which are © 2010 Martha Holmes. All artwork © 2010 Martha Holmes. Individual comic stories © their respective writers. All rights reserved.

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles


By Fermín Solís, translated by Lawrence Schimel (SelfMadeHero)
ISBN: 978-1-910593-84-4 (PB)

The places and moments where great art intersects with mundane reality have always made for great storytelling, and that’s never been more deftly demonstrated than in this highly personal interpretation of a crucial moment in the history of 20th century cinema.

Luis Buñuel Portholés (February 22nd, 1900 – July 29th 1983) was a Spanish filmmaker who renounced his citizenship in favour of Mexico, and his catholic faith in favour of truth: an iconoclastic, moralistic thinker and revolutionary who embraced surrealist doctrine and reshaped the arts of filmmaking.

If you have the stomach and suitable respect for the medium, please view Un Chien Andalou, L’Age d’Or and That Obscure Object of Desire – if not all of his heady output – but probably best leave it until after reading this engaging visual introspection from award-winning cartoonist Fermín Solís Campos.

The self-taught cartoonist, animator and illustrator of such treats as Otra Vida and El Hombre del Perrito shares many similarities with his subject and a solid yet whimsical earthy touch that is perfect for this examination of a key moment in the celluloid auteur’s rocky progression from wunderkind to industry lynchpin.

‘Do Not Disturb! Artist Dreaming’ opens with Buñuel wracked by his usual night terrors of barnyard fowl, Christian iconography and talking wildlife before an old friend calls to inform him of a cash windfall. It’s the end of 1932 and old comrade Ramón Acin trails him through the seedy warrens of the city, carousing and pontificating on past glories before deducing ‘Paris no Longer Loves Us’. Are there no challenges left? Is surrealism no longer enough to challenge the world and outrage society?

‘Ten Hours from Paris’ and months later, they and a small crew are assessing one of the most poverty-stricken regions of Europe. A Spanish region wedded to faith but so poor that the residents have no conception of even basic foodstuffs like bread. As the bizarre villagers and their weird tortoise-like huts bore into Buñuel’s fevered subconsciousness, his creative dry spell vanishes. Inspired again, he carefully concocts Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread) contravening all established rules and mores to create a new genre beyond simple documentary. Alternatively called ethnofiction, pseudo-documentary or cinema verité, its cost to veracity, human compassion and even simple morality might be too much to bear…

Challenging, compelling and utterly absorbing, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is a superb graphic assessment of the creative process that will surprise and delight in equal measure
© 2008, 2019 Fermín Solís. © 2019 Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, S.A.U. All rights reserved.

Michael Jackson in Comics


By Céka, illustrated by Patrick Lacan, Filippo Neri & Piero Ruggeri, JGSB, Laurent Houssin, Lu-K, Guillaume Griffon, Sarah Williamson, BiG ToF, Nikopek & Lou, Vox, Domas, Clément Baloup, Martin Trystram, Bast, Guillaume Tavernier, Aurélie Neyret, Anthony Audibert, Yigaël, Julien Akita, Lapuss, Kyung-Eun Park, Jean-Christophe Pol & Vallale; translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-228-1 (Album HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-230-4

Graphic biographies – especially those produced in Europe dissecting the lives of iconic celebrities and artists – are incredibly popular these days. This one was originally released in 2018: an inevitable but accessible addition and one featuring probably the most popular and controversial musical star of all time.

If you’ve never heard of Michael Jackson, there’s very little point in you carrying on any further.

Still with us? Okay then…

Offering cannily repackaged popular culture factoids and snippets of celebrity history, this tome – written by journalist Céka, with a legion of illustrators providing vivid and vibrant mini-strips – hones in on key moments in the controversial star’s career: detailing them through brief text essays.

It all began at ‘2300 Jackson Street’ where an extended family of juvenile performers were harshly schooled by their ruthless dad, after which the inner life of an abused kid is depicted in ‘I Wish I Could Have Been… A Child’, as portrayed in strip-form by Patrick Lacan.

The euphoria of winning talent contests and getting picked up by a major label is described in text article ‘From the Apollo Theater to Motown’ before Filippo Neri & Piero Ruggeri detail the draconian rehearsal regimen forced on the Jackson 5 by ambitious father Joe.

As their fame grew, little Michael constantly sought surrogate maternal relationships from a string of female celebrities. This is detailed in ‘One Father and Five Mothers’, with vividly lurid cartoon extrapolation ‘Diana Ross: THE Lady in his Life’ exploring the situation courtesy of JGSB.

‘From the Jackson 5 to Michael’ details the fractious move to solo stardom and hard-won autonomy ‘Made in Motown’(art by Laurent Houssin), whilst ‘5% Talent, 95% Hard Work’ explore the boy star’s ultimate idol in Lu-K’s ‘James Brown, the Mentor’.

The start of autonomy comes with ‘The Quincy Jones Trilogy’, depicting the global-shocks attending the making of‘Thriller: No Mere Mortal Can Resist!’ by Guillaume Griffon. Status is confirmed by ‘Birth of an Icon’ and attendant Moonwalk step-chart ‘An Extraterrestrial on Earth’ (Sarah Williamson art) before I Have a Dream’ starts tracing the cracks, and ‘The MTV Blackout’ – by Big ToF – discloses the colour bar keeping certain performers’ videos off pioneering music channels…

‘Jackson’s Jackpot’ and Nikopek & Lou’s linked visualisation of ‘A 47-and-a-Half Million-Dollar Blunder’ explore the tensions between the young star and Paul McCartney as well as music ownership rights, whilst – courtesy of Vox – carton strip ‘The Man with the White Socks’ illustrates the consequences of Prince of Pop’s style decisions as textually defined and described in ‘Fashionista’. ‘Dancing Machine’ examines signature moves, with Domas limning the steps in cartoon guide ‘The Man Who Slides on Clouds’. Before, social conscience engaged, ‘We are the World’ recalls the era of charity mega-records, with Clément Baloup depicting how the song was written in ‘Check Your Egos at the Door’.

The crown starts to wobble as ‘Neverland’ reveals how the fabulous ranch of dreams began, with Martin Trystram illustrating ‘Now Go Go Go Where you Want’, after which the media rumour mill runs wild in ‘Animal Spirit’, with Bast fancifully sketching out the story of exotic pets like ‘Bubbles, Muscles, and Co.’

Once unleashed, the press is relentless and ludicrous, as exposed in ‘Tabloid of Fact?’, with Guillaume Tavernier offering a strip further covering ‘The Rumor Mill’, whilst Aurélie Neyret’s cartoon tale of ‘Ryan White: Gone Too Soon’ adds balance to the uncomfortable reports of child-centred indiscretions recounted in ‘The Lost Children’

Excesses real or otherwise dominate in ‘Tabloid Junkie’, with Anthony Audibert vignetting ‘The Elephant Man Case’before the years of defensive self-isolation are detailed in ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’ and Yigaël draws the benefits – and not – of ‘Privacy’.

‘Scandal at Neverland’ leads to Julien Akita’s sensitive exploration of ‘Jordan Chandler vs Peter Pan’, a review of ‘Family Life’ with attendant strip ‘Once Upon a Time’ from Lapuss, after which ‘The Man With 240 Awards’ reveals ‘The Whims of a Star’ thanks to cartoonist Kyung-Eun Park.

The final days approach, as seen in essay ‘Fans, I Love You More!’ with Jean-Christophe Pol & Vallale visually enquiring ‘What Kind of Fan Are You?’ of the music man’s broad church of devotees.

The star-studded, star-crossed story concludes with ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ as Clément Baloup draws things to a close with ‘Michael Forever’

Although intellectually slight and far from incisive or comprehensive in addressing the many controversies surrounding the star in question, Michael Jackson in Comics is far from a concealing hagiography either and presents a remarkably readable and beautifully rendered confection for comics and music fans alike.
© 2018 Editions Petit a Petit. © 2021 NBM for the English translation.

For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden


By Mannie Murphy (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-410-0 (HB)

How does memory work? Are your recollections neatly sorted and filed away: dry, dusty documents effortlessly relating time, place, event and response, or is the act of personal recall mired in apparently extraneous passions and seemingly irrelevant sidebars of emotion, pulling you from the topic far and away before circling back to what originally set you thinking?

Mine’s that last one, and it’s a phenomenon used to devasting effect by Mannie Murphy as they pull together deeply intimate musings on famous – but presumably unrequited – imagined inamorata who endured tragic fates, peppered with youthful school experiences and personal philosophies while powerfully delivering a chilling expose of the proudly racist and white supremacist history of hometown Portland, Oregon.

Rendered as a personal diary with sometimes-impenetrable cursive script married to wash-&-ink images, Murphy details long-distance, strictly hands-off relationships with teen icons River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves (specifically as observed in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho); Kurt Cobain and less well-known or admired personalities: all while deftly dissecting the far-from-savoury development and current state of a region long considered the promised land for Far Right fantasists and dreamers.

Available in hardback or various digital formats, the meandering masterclass opens with ‘My Own Private Portland’setting the scene for a mesmerising journey through the city and state through the lens of damaged, disenfranchised and frequently doomed youth. Second chapter ‘Ken Death is Dead’ expands the discussion detailing the career of a beautiful poster child for Nazi extremism and convicted mass killer, who was just another pawn in a cruel game played by older, nastier Machiavellians, after which the story of Oregon and its awful record of racism, exclusion and mass murder – much of it permitted or committed by a complacent and compliant police force – is covered in ‘Flood’.

A hard-earned, personal view of the educational set-up and its grim consequences is related in ‘Victims of Groupthink’with perspective supplied by further reference to celluloid Lost Boys and their connections to bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other notable outsiders, all cleverly married to distressing accounts of tragedies and disasters that systematically shaped the city and the kids growing up the Oregon way.

The miraculous transport of curated memories then closes with a chilling Epilogue as ‘Young Hatemongers’ revisits the Ken Death trial and media storm around it with revelations that came to light during the later stages of this book’s creation.

Dark, brooding, deeply upsetting while brimming with potent immediacy and rough-hewn passion, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is an apparently rambling but carefully steered narrative of seemingly random remembrances that serve as a warning from history and heartfelt plea for people to be better than they are…
© 2021 Mannie Murphy. This edition © 2021 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

March Book One


By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions)
ISBN: 978-1-60309-383-5 (HB) 978-1-60309-300-2 (PB)

It’s a lazy cop-out but honestly, some books just need to be read. March is one of them. It’s the story in his own words of legendary civil rights pioneer and properly-evolved human being John Lewis: the first of three describing his path from oppressed and sidelined southern child to non-violent activist to the halls of America’s Congress. Adapted by his assistant Andrew Aydin and multi award-winning cartoonist Nate Powell (Two Dead, Come Again, About Face, Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole, The Silence of Our Friends) it charts with astonishing intimacy and warmth a story of the good guys winning in the end…

The artist’s sensitive monochrome washes and tones painstakingly capture the dignity, determination, humour and pervasive quiet tension of the South during those fraught times and the growing groundswell of peaceful resistance that culminated in a very public confrontation on a bridge, a long walk to Washington and the start of a process still sadly underway every day…

It proudly celebrates everything the 45th PotUS seemed determined to roll back, and failed to accomplish, too so that’s a big Yar, Boo Sucks! to him too while we’re on the subject…

March Book One was first released in 2013 as a paperback, again as a lavish oversized (210 by 305mm) hardback three years later. It’s also available in digital formats: one of the most lauded and awarded biographies of recent times and immensely enjoyable and uplifting. You need to see it and the concluding volumes, too.
March Book One © 2013, 2016 John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. This edition © 2017 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story

By Alfred Hassler, Benton Resnik & Sy Barry (Fellowship of Reconciliation/Top Shelf Productions)
ISBN: N/A

When you actually read the book cited in the previous review, you’ll hopefully notice an inspirational comic book enjoyed by many at the time. A potted history and primer on non-violent resistance, Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story was published in 1957 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and widely disseminated and shared by Civil Rights organisations, churches, schools – and young John Lewis. When Top Shelf released The March they also revived this historical treasure, and it too can be yours.

All proceeds still go to fund the Fellowship’s ongoing work…

The Underground Abductor (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales)


By Nathan Hale (Abrams/Amulet Books)
ISBN: 978-0-4197-1536-5 (HB)

Author/cartoonist Nathan Hale has a famous namesake and has been riffing on him, with great effect, for over half a decade now. I don’t know if he – and his familial collaborators – have any genealogical connection to the American spy and war hero of the same name, but the lightly comedic cartoon history books (such as One Dead Spy and Alamo All-Stars) that bear their shared name are a sheer, educative delight: making some pretty tough and harrowing material palatable and memorable by mixing fact and happenstance with a witty veneer of whimsy…

First released in 2015, The Underground Abductor traces the astounding life and exploits of Delaware slave Araminta Ross and how she saved countless black lives, ferrying them so safety in Canada in the days prior to the American Civil War on the “Underground Railway”. You probably know her as freedom fighter, abolitionist and secret agent Harriet Tubman

Rendered in welcoming, comfortable but fact-intense muted color and monochrome cartoon strips with beguiling overtones of the Horrible History books, her incredible exploits will delight and charm you and your kids and – like the other volumes of this wonderful series – ought to be a treasured part of every school library… once we have those again…
Text and illustrations © 2015 Nathan Hale. All rights reserved.

Nat Turner


By Kyle Baker (Abrams)
ISBN: 978-0-8109-9535-2 (TPB)

Nat Turner was a prophet rebel and freedom fighter who died for what he believed. As instigator and leader of a brutal, bloody and short slave uprising in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21st 1831, he shook up complacent America and paved the way to civil war and civil rights.

Anything else you need to know is provided in this powerfully evocative adaptation of Turner’s own words and actions. This award-winning, toned and tinted monochrome testament was originally released as a 4-issue miniseries through author Kyle Baker’s own publishing imprint before being picked up by the prestigious Abrams outfit.

Born in Queens, New York in 1965, Kyle John Baker is black, astoundingly gifted and blessed with an incredible sense of humour. You should read his other stuff like Plastic Man, Dick Tracy, Why I Hate Saturn, The Cowboy Wally Show, The Shadow, Truth: Red, White and Black, Damage Control, Special Forces and so much more. He does superheroes, gag stuff, political satire, commercial art and animation exceedingly well, and here he deftly relates a horrific piece of biographical history…

How and why is the subject of his brief ‘Preface’ before initial chapter ‘Home’ set the scene, by detailing a slave raid in Africa. Texture is provided by excepts from contemporary documents such as ‘The Memoir of Captain Theodore Canot: Twenty Years of an African Slaver’ and the posthumous publication ‘The Confessions of Nat Turner’, but the impetus of the tale is carried by Baker’s compelling silent illustrations: and they are uncompromising and unforgettable…

‘Education’ reveals a slave’s childhood in Virginia, and the events that led to the rebellion: how a slave somehow learned to read (an illegal act) and was transformed by Bible study into a divinely-inspired liberator driven by visions of ‘Freedom’.

The bloody actions are not downplayed or excused, and lead to ‘Triumph’ of a sort as the imprisoned Turner dictates his side of the story to journalist Thomas R. Gray…

With found print material of the period, a wide-ranging Bibliography and comprehensive ‘Notes’ explaining historical points, this is a timeless wonder you must read.
The Confessions of Nat Turner © 2008 Kyle Baker. All rights reserved.

Hip Hop Family Tree Book 1: 1970s-1981


By Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-690-4 (PB)

Comics is an all-encompassing narrative medium and – even after 40-plus years in the game – I’m still amazed and delighted at innovative ways creators find to use the simple combination of words and pictures in sequence to produce new and intoxicating ways of conveying information, tone, style and especially passion to their audience.

A particularly brilliant case in point was this compulsive compilation of strips and extras from self-confessed Hip Hop Nerd and cyber geek Ed Piskor (author of the astonishing Hacker graphic novel Wizzywig) which originally appeared in serial form on the website Boing Boing.

In astounding detail and with a positively astounding attention to the art styles of the period, Piskor detailed the rise of the rhyme-and-rhythm musical art form (whilst paying close attention to the almost symbiotic growth of graffiti and street art) with wit, charm and astonishing clarity.

Charting the slow demise of the disco and punk status quo by intimately following fledgling stars and transcendent personalities of the era, ‘Straight Out of the Gutter’ begins mid-1970s with South Bronx block parties and live music jams of such pioneers as DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Grandwizard Theodore and Afrika Bambaataa.

The new music is mired in the maze of inescapable gang culture but as early word-of-mouth success leads to first rare vinyl pressings and the advent of the next generation, the inevitable interest of visionaries and converts leads to the circling of commercial sharks…

The technical and stylistic innovations, the musical battles, physical feuds, and management races by truly unsavoury characters to secure the first landmark history-making successes are all encyclopaedically yet engaging revealed through the lives – and, so often, early deaths – of almost-stars and later household names such as Furious 4-plus-1, Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang, the Furious Five, and those three kids who became Run-DMC.

The story follows and connects a bewildering number of key and crucial personalities – with a wealth of star-struck music biz cameos – and ends with Hip Hop on the very edge of global domination following the breakout single Rapture (from new wave icons and dedicated devotees Blondie) as well as the landmark TV documentary by Hugh Downs and Steve Fox on national current affairs TV show 20/20 which brought the new music culture into the homes of unsuspecting middle America…

To Be Continued…

Produced in the tone and style of those halcyon, grimily urban times and manufactured to look just like an old Marvel Treasury Edition (an oversized – 334x234mm – reprint format from the 1970s which offered classic tales on huge and mouth-wateringly enticing pulp-paper pages), this compelling confection (available in very large paperback and variably-proportioned digital formats) – also includes a copious and erudite ‘Bibliography’, ‘Discography’ and ‘Funky Index’, an Afterword: the Hip Hop/Comic Book Connection (with additional art by Tom Scioli) and a fun-filled Author Bio.

Moreover, there’s also a blistering collection of ‘Pin Ups and Burners’ with spectacular images from guest illustrators including The Beastie Boys by Jeffrey Brown, Afrika Bambaataa by Jim Mahfood; Fat Boys by Scioli; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five by Ben Marra; Vanilla Ice by Jim Rugg; Run-DMC by Dan Zettwoch; Eric B. and Rakim by John Porcellino; Salt-n-Pepa by Nate Powell; KRS-One by Brandon Graham & Snoop Dogg by Farel Dalrymple, to get your pulses racing, if not your toes tapping…

Cool, informative and irresistible, Hip Hop Family Tree is wild, fun and deliciously addictive: sparking a revolution and sub-genre in comics creation. This is what cultural cross-pollination is all about and you should dive in right now…
This edition © 2013 Fantagraphics Books. All Hip Hop comic strips by Ed Piskor © 2013 Ed Piskor. Pin ups and other material © 2013 their respective artists. All rights reserved.

First Names: Nelson (MANDELA)


By Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl & Nicole Miles (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78845-097-3 (PB)

Since its premiere in 2012, The Phoenix has offered humour, adventure, quizzes, puzzles and educational material in a traditional-seeming weekly comics anthology for girls and boys. The vibrant parade of cartoon fun, fact and fantasy has won praise from the Great and the Good, child literacy experts and the only people who really count – a dedicated legion of totally engaged kids and parents who read it avidly…

David Fickling Books provides other types of reading matter: novels, graphic novels and a newish imprint of cartoon and strip illustrated biographies highlighting historical and contemporary groundbreakers and earthshakers.

First Names introduces young readers to noteworthy achievers rightly deemed role models and adds now to its roster an absolute legend: the man who defied modern society’s greatest tyranny, defeated an entrenched oppression and changed the lives and minds of millions if not billions of people.

Devised along the lines of the mega-successful, eternally-engaging Horrible Histories books, these prose paperbacks come with a superabundance of monochrome cartoon illustrations to keep the pace of learning fast and fact-packed, and are generally bright, breezy, easily-accessible hagiographies with the emphasis on graphics. That doesn’t mean that they pull any punches when the facts warrant, though…

Written by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, First Names: Nelson (MANDELA) details the astounding life and ultimate triumph of the rational, gentle-minded freedom fighter who endured decades of personal hardship while shepherding his nation through an all-but-bloodless revolution to a tolerant liberation.

The amazing story begins with Introduction ‘Nelson Arrives At The Great Place’, describing how the 12-year old lad arrives at the royal residence of the acting king of the Thembu people. It is 1930 in the Transkei region of South Africa…

The full story begins then with the antecedents and early childhood of small boy Rolihlahla as winningly described in chapter 1: ‘Nelson is Named’ before encompassing school, family joy and heartbreak and relating how a carefree cattle boy with few clan connections grows into a scholar of promise in ‘Nelson Gets Some Boots’ and rejects tribal plans to seek personal independence as ‘Nelson Heads For The City’

Studies, setbacks, marriage and political transformation are deftly covered as 4‘Nelson Joins The Fight’ and 5‘Nelson Stirs Things Up’, whereafter the forthright but breezy tone takes a darker turn as the struggle against South Africa’s white minority rulers starts to bite.

Chapter 6 reveals ‘Nelson Goes On Trial’ and covers life on the run in ‘Nelson Undercover’ before the more public stages of this remarkable life are covered in ‘Nelson Makes His Plea’ and the concluding Chapter 9: ‘Nelson Casts His First Vote’, after which an ‘Epilogue’ deals with the later years of rule, reconciliation and retirement.

This is a subject with plenty of controversial and complex issues for kids to unpack, but the author has illustrator Nicole Miles putting faces to the names and places in smart cartoon collations such as ‘Didn’t you ever lose faith?’, ‘The Awful Passbook Laws’ ‘South Africa’s Horrible Racial Divide’ and brilliantly deals with potentially contentious issues by clever visual essays such as ‘Nelson Explains: Apartheid’ and ‘Nelson Explains: Life on Robben Island’.

There’s also plenty of visual sidebars detailing the basics with background detail like ‘My Tribe and Ancestry’, ‘How South Africa was Conquered’, ‘Circumcision’, and ‘Arranged Marriages’.

Ending the fun is a cool and crucial ‘Pronunciation Guide’ as well as a detailed Timeline (1918-2013), full Glossary and Index appendices for those eager to check out the facts and educate themselves even further…

Working in tandem with delicate sensitivity, the creators have constructed a superb introduction into the most remarkable man of modern times: a book any kid would be proud to share with interested adults.
First Names: Nelson (MANDELA) Text © Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl 2021. Illustrations © Nicole Miles 2021. All rights reserved.