Leonardo da Vinci: The Renaissance of the World


By Marwan Kahil & Ariel Vittori, translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-259-5 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-260-1

Some people are simply so famous that everybody thinks they already know all about them. That’s what makes biographies like this one such a tricky proposition. As always, talent will tell and the narrative gifts of writer Marwan Kahil and illustrator Ariel Vittori are more than sufficient to breathe fresh life into a much-told tale of one of the most accomplished men in world history…

Kahil (A. Einstein – the Poetry of Real) studied at the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris and Simon Boudvin’s prestigious Graphic Art Workshops before deciding to split his time and efforts between comics and film and theatre. Rome-based Ariel Vittori (Quelques pincées de désir) is an artist and designer who numbers Disney, Campari and Monadori amongst her satisfied clients, although her true calling is narrative illustration. She is co-founder and President of Attacapanni Press: an independent publisher matching rising stars with seasoned comics veterans…

Available in English in both sturdy hardback and assorted digital formats, Leonardo da Vinci: The Renaissance of the World opens with a querulous preface from Kahil before the Maestro’s eventful life begins to unfold in glorious colour as the elder reminisces in Rome 1515 anno domini…

It begins with ‘Chapter 1: A Young Man Unlike Any Other’ in April 1452 at the hamlet of Anchiano (near Vinci) with the welcoming of a very observant baby to loving extended family. Time passes and a doting grandfather passes, leaving the special child apprenticed to a painter in Florence…

The present interrupts as the elderly Leonardo falls foul of the Roman clergy and is forced to flee to France…

‘Chapter 2: The Most Handsome Man in Florence’ then follows the seemingly blessed teenager as he excels and overtakes his mentor Andrea del Verrocchio, roistering his way through Florence and making many friends and far more enemies as he courts rich, powerful and essentially dangerous patrons. Throughout it all he is driven by his unconventional romantic drive and fanatical compulsion to see more and understand everything…

In ‘Chapter 3: The Sforza’s Man’ the itinerant ideas man reaches Milan and works for the powerful duke, even as his older self in 1515 must deal with the so-different responses of his two apprentices Salaì and Francesco to their impending arrest and excommunication…

The sage concludes as the great man finally achieves a measure of peace and security under the patronage of lifelong admirer Francis I, allowing Leonardo to end his days in ‘Chapter 4: In the Service of the King of France’

Although many scenes and snippets are taken from non-chronological key moments, the overall effect reveals a life both frustrating and often dangerous, but lived very much on the scholar’s own terms and with few regrets. The tale is also liberally dosed with revelatory secrets on the creation of the Masters greatest artworks and scientific discoveries, adding a degree of enthralling vitality to proceedings.

This beguiling dramatized biography is splendidly augmented by educational extras, such as with ‘Leonardo da Vinci – Works’: a commentary on many of his creations, supplemented by a crucial illustrated menu of ‘Principal Players’, a fulsome list of further reading in ‘More on Leonardo’ and a copious illustrated collection of ‘Quotes of Leonardo da Vinci’.

Seen here is a visual delight celebrating a unique mind and personality, and one you should reacquaint yourself with as soon as you can.

© 2017 Blue Lotus Prod. © 2019 NBM for the English translation.

For more information and other great reads go to NBMpub.com

Liebestrasse


By Greg Lockard, Tim Fish, Héctor Barros, Lucas Gattoni (Greg Lockard/ComiXology Originals)
No ISBN: digital only.

I’m ending our salute to Gay Pride and LGBTQ publishing with a little something that encapsulates the core concept of the entire issue: the right to love and be loved by whoever you choose. In our history, that’s been a long hard battle and one not won yet, but if you never start anything, you’ll never finish and I firmly believe bigotry is ultimately self-defeating. I just wish it was a faster process and that our opposition was more reasonable and less fanatical…

Set firmly in the footsteps of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, this tale of regret and thwarted love comes from writer Greg Lockard and artist Tim Fish, aided and abetted by Héctor Barros on colours with Lucas Gattoni providing letters and calligraphy.

The story opens covertly in the Land of the Free in 1952 as an aging, wealthy man seeks solace and the company of “his own kind” in a very special bar…

The next day, Sam Wells visits a modern art exhibition where a brief encounter with a young man of similar tastes triggers a flashback to an old friend. Soon after, Wells is flying to Berlin to establish new business contacts and, hopefully, relive the better moments of his past.

As he moves about the divided city, Wells’ mind flits back to 1932 when, as a young Mover & Shaker, he was posted to Germany to set up an overseas office for his company. For a young man of wealth and his particular tastes, the Weimar Republic offered many opportunities, temptations and, crucially, freedom from dangerous oversight. However, there was also a sense of oppressive menace, especially after meeting audacious, outspoken Philip Adler… and falling madly, passionately, head over heels in love.

Philip’s sister Hilde was already in the sights of the rising National Socialists for creating un-Aryan art, but his constant challenging of the party in words, and especially with his “degenerate” lifestyle, soon painted a target on all their backs, as well as on the numerous doomed and dancing-on-the-volcano’s-edge liberals Sam met at parties in in the music clubs…

As the months passed, the affair intensified – as did the danger – and inevitably, the hammer fell. For Sam that meant a beating and deportation, but for Philip there was no such callous leniency. Now decades later, Wells is back and has to face Hilde again…

Forceful, frantic, passionate and deeply moving, Liebestrasse is a powerful testament to the abiding power and wonder of passion and a sobering reminder of how far we’ve come: an irrefutable argument for live and let love…
LIEBESTRASSE © 2019 Greg Expectations, LLC & Timothy Poisson. All rights reserved.

Little David


By David Cantero (Northwest Press)
eISBN: 978-1-9438900-0-2 (digital only)

Families are important: by all metrics the foundation of human society. If we swallow our arrogant exceptionalism for a moment, it’s also the binding concept of all mammalian life and a fair bit of the rest of Earth’s breathing occupants. You just need to be flexible, amenable to change and willing to re-examine and where necessary loosen any old hidebound definitions you might have acquired while growing up…

The concept is one we’re finally shedding: escaping centuries of oppressive preconditioning and the diktat of whatever autocratic – or, more usually, theocratic – hegemony presumes to run your life.

I’ll restate that just in case I wasn’t clear: human beings are all about families and what constitutes a family is open to interpretation…

David Cantero Berenguer (The Little Swallow Light, Cunitoons, People) was born in Cartagena, Spain and – after graduating in 1996 from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Liège – embarked on a stellar career as an author, cartoonist, illustrator, concept artist, designer and games maker. He is a prolific creator of books and graphic novels for kids and adults. Many of his works involve gay themes, ranging from inclusive all-ages chronicles (like the one under review here) to beguiling adult erotica.

First released in 2015 and deftly referencing Winsor McCay’s classic fantasy Little Nemo in Slumberland, Little David is a delicious selection of short gags wherein the ever-inquisitive titular star cavorts, chats and interacts with nine other kids, all cumulatively representing the wealth of options qualifying as family units today.

David himself has two dads, and pal Ulysses has a widowed mother, a stepdad and two half-brothers, whilst forthright Marie just has her mum. Abrasive Big Harry is full-nuclear in a biological clan of mum, dad and one sister, whereas Lenais a result of artificial insemination undertaken by her already-divorced mother. Anastasia has a mum and dad who conceived her in vitro, and PJ was adopted. Completing the menu, Ian has a trans dad and a mum whilst twins Yoko and Keiko have two mums and are the result of natural insemination…

That’s a heady mix and the subject of exactly the kind of innocently incisive, hilarious conversations you’d imagine a bunch of smart, curious kids to indulge in when the adults are absent and they’re trying to get to know each other.

The result is a charming and wittily compelling string of spit-take moments, especially as David (and his beloved stuffed unicorn Little Poo Poo) not only learn about many other ways of living but also explore various ways of dressing and expressing his own developing personality, interests and choices…

As innocently enchanting as Peanuts, as astute as Bloom County and as revelatory as Calvin and Hobbes, this peewee playground of family fun offers as sincerely inclusive and heartwarming kindergarten of comics messaging as you’d ever want your kids to see and is also a superb example of top rate cartooning to gladden the eyes.

Little David is a book every home and elementary school should have and use.
© 2015 David Cantero. All rights reserved.

Maybe… Maybe Not and Maybe… Maybe Not Again!


By Ralf König, translated by Jeff Krell (Northwest Press)
No ISBNs:

I’d like to think that most of the social problems humanity suffers from can be fixed by a little honesty and a lot of communication – especially when it comes to relationships. Being able to laugh together probably helps too. In regard to sexual politics and freedom it’s an attitude Germany adopted decades ago. As a result, the country has an admirable record of acceptance of the LGBTQ community and a broad penetration (yes, I’m awful! And Not Funny!) of gay comics into the general population.

Undisputed king of home-grown graphic novels is Ralf König, a multi-award-winning cartoonist, filmmaker and advocate with almost fifty titles (such as Suck My Duck, Santa Claus Junior, Stehaufmännchen, and Kondom des Grauens – released in Britain as The Killer Condom) under his belt.

He was born in August 1960 and came out in 1979, crafting an unceasing parade of incisive and hilarious strips and sagas set in and around the nation’s ever-evolving gay scene. Much to his own surprise, he discovered that his work had vaulted the divide from niche market to become a staple of popular mass market book sales. The two collections covered here – curated, “Foreworded” and translated by American cartoonist Jeff Krell (creator of gay domestic sitcom strip Jayson) and available as eBooks from Northwest Press even inspired the largest grossing film in German history…

Originally published as Der Bewegte Mann in 1987 (and appearing in a UK paperback from Ignite! Entertainment in 2005 if you can find it), Maybe… Maybe Not introduces a cool and comfortable group of gay men enjoying their glamourous, gossipy days and nights in Dusseldorf. However, after ambiguous – and curious – hetero hunk Axel enters their lives, Walter Ruhmann AKA Waltrina and Norbert find composure increasingly rocked and jarred out of kilter…

After failing to trick his girlfriend Doro into taking him back via a fake suicide attempt, Axel rudely returns to the Men’s Support Group where Waltrina acts as the expert voice on homosexuality and related issues as a representative of the Dusseldorf Gay Alliance.

Waltrina cannot take his eyes off Axel, and astonishingly, über-macho Axel seemingly responds. Maybe he’s not totally ‘On the Straight and Narrow’

The confusion mounts in ‘Clothes Make the Man’ as Axel agrees to go to a party with Walter and Norbert also falls under his brawny spell…

An ever-escalating comedy of errors and sexual impolitics launches as Axel adjusts surprisingly well to the alternative lifestyle and scene of those turbulent times, before grudgingly revealing a few secrets from his own past. Before long, he’s couch-surfing with his new pals, but everything comes to a hedonistic head after ‘Attack of the Killer Penis’ exposes the clearly-confused and conflicted brute to the pros and cons of Gay culture, proving he is still ‘Deep in the Closet’ one way or another…

Doro, meanwhile, is having second thoughts about the useless lump she thought she was well rid of. She’s been to the doctor and has some news…

The hilarious and still-outrageous volume ends with a happy event in ‘Epilogue: Two Months Later’ when Axel’s two worlds collide and have to play nice at the church…


Sequel volume Maybe… Maybe Not Again! opens scant months later with ‘Trouble in Paradise’ and Axel still undecided on whether he’s Gay or Straight (modern shades of gender and sexuality being largely unestablished way back in 1988), but definitely less than enamoured of his impending membership in a traditional nuclear family. He’s also blithely unaware of the fallout he’s left in the now-acrimonious friendship circle inhabited by Watrina and new rival Norbert.

A new disruptive element arrives when ‘Muscle Queens’ introduces spitefully provocative bitch Frank Hilsmann – who thrives on infidelity and innuendo. He targets poor Norbert even as Axel’s manic old flame ‘Elke Schmitt’ resurfaces and tempts the undecided oaf with yet another bad choice… hot, commitment-free hetero infidelity while Doro is at her most shouty and unattractive…

Of course he succumbs, and of course he drags in his still-smitten Norbert to provide cover and a comfortable liaison space. And of course, such ‘Commitment’ to friendship and fidelity only makes things worse for poor Norbert as he finds himself overwhelmed by the cost of everyone else’s ‘Primal Urges’. Thankfully the chaos is derailed when Doro turns up on her way to the delivery room…

Simultaneously wry and witty and coarsely hysterical, these books manage to bawdily entertain whilst asking questions that still vex many of us to this day. Maybe… Maybe Not and Maybe… Maybe Not Again! certainly won’t appeal to everybody, but if you love a big raucous belly laugh about how daft we can all be about one of the most basic drives we’re afflicted with, these might well become some of your favourite reads.
© 1987, 1988 by Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany. All rights reserved.

I Am Not Okay with This



By Charles Forsman (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-193-2 (FB PB) 978-0-57135-012-4 (Faber & Faber PB)

Teenage rites of passage are an evergreen source for dramatic material – and comedy too, if you’re fortunate enough to survive the inescapable maturation process relatively unscathed and not too warped – especially when viewed from a bit of distance and with the right perspective.

Even so, it certainly seems that the problems faced get worse for each successive generation. I can remember my lot facing peer and parental pressure, sexual and/or gender confusion, the war against conformity, political despair and general powerlessness, all while trying to stay sober enough to finish A-Level exams and ponder our employment futures, but trolls and invisible bullies you can’t escape or confront? No, thanks…

Today’s issues have a unique (devil’s) advocate however, in a brilliant cartoonist who combines keen insight, devilish imagination and an uncanny ear for dialogue to make stories it’s impossible to not respond to, no matter your specific age or circumstance…

Charles Forsman is a multi-award-winning graduate of Vermont’s celebrated Center for Cartoon Studies, whose previous releases include Celebrated Summer, The End of the Fucking World, Hobo Mom and self-published minicomics such as Snake Oil, Revenger and Slasher

Already into its third physical printing, readily available digitally and the basis for an equally evocative – but by no means identical – TV adaptation, I Am Not Okay with This is rendered in a powerfully deceptive and underplayed cartoon primitivist manner which deviously disguises the fact that this yarn has the shock value and emotional impact of a chunk of concrete chucked through your windscreen from a motorway overpass…

The tale for our times opens with troubled outsider Sydney reluctantly complying to a school counsellor’s urgings to start a journal to catalogue and confront her feelings. Syd is 15 and confused: she’s so far from pretty, a poor student, and recently lost her war-veteran dad in a most unconventional manner.

She’s fighting with her mom – who wastes all her time at her crappy waitressing job – and idiot little brother Liam. Her only friend Dina is now ghosting her, having just discovered boys in the incomprehensibly form of vile jock Brad. He wants to keep the freak away from his “property” and calls Syd a dyke. Maybe she is? So what?

…And now – as if sexual confusion, family insecurity and disgusting body breakouts aren’t enough – Syd discovers a hidden and uncontrollable ability to cause harm and destruction with her mind. She also thinks someone dark and dangerous is dogging her heels and knows all her secrets…

The similarities to the broader elements of Stephen King’s epistolary landmark Carrie or Kazuya Kudō & Ryoichi Ikegami’s Mai the Psychic Girl soon vanish in this tale, as the progression of diary entries intimately expose a succession of poor decisions and relationship mistakes that reshape and transform Syd and everyone she knows.

Sadly, the choices made by one lost soul are increasingly irredeemable. They will never get the chance to live down or move away from the events that soon overtake them all, bringing tragedy and disaster in their wake…

Potent and moving, I Am Not Okay with This is a devastatingly affecting variation on a teenage theme, and an unforgettable exploration of becoming human everyone with a heart and mind must read.
© 2018 Charles Forsman. This edition © 2018 Fantagraphics Books Inc. All rights reserved.

Blue is the Warmest Color


By Julie Maroh, translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger (Arsenal Pulp Press)
ISBN: 978-1-55152-514-3

Blue is the Warmest Color won the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Sadly the buzz around this big screen interpretation – it is not an adaptation – concentrated on the “excessive and prolonged lesbian sex scenes“ (decried and disowned by graphic novel author Julie Maroh) rather than the story.

We’re only really about comics here: it’s the words and pictures on paper that matter to me and hopefully to you too…

And what a wonderful marriage they make in Maroh’s moodily pensive exploration of prejudice and acceptance in a straightforward but devastating coming-of-age love story.

Le bleu est une couleur chaude was first published in France by Glénat in 2010, five years after Maroh originally began the tale as a 19-year old student studying Visual Arts and Lithography/Engraving at the Institut Saint-Luc and Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts (Brussels).

The collected album won the fan-determined Fnac-SNCF Essential prize (Audience Award) at the 2011 Angoulême International Comics Festival, subsequently garnering many more international accolades. Sadly, no American publisher was brave enough to tackle the English language translation, but that’s why indie outfits like Canada’s Arsenal Pulp exist…

The story opens as Emma returns to a house she was unceremoniously banished from decades ago. Beloved Clementine is dead, but her last wish was that her one true love have her journals; books which described the thoughts and fears, ambitions and dreams of a confused 15-year old girl who struggled to accept her nature in a toxic school and home environment where loving someone of your own sex was considered an abomination…

Emma stays overnight in a home scarred by tragedy and steeped in tension, repentance and still-undispelled animosity, reading of how, in 1994, fraught and frantic high schooler Clementine saw a girl with blue hair and just couldn’t forget her…

This is a beautiful, simple, evocative and ultimately tragic story about how two very young people fell in love and what eventually happened to them. It’s not polemical or declamatory and doesn’t have points to score. That the Romeo and Juliet are both female is sublimely irrelevant except in the ways and manners it shaped the problems the lovers had to overcome…

Depicted alternately in a beguiling wash of misty full colour and stark dichromatic tones, the images are subdued and enthralling, not dynamic or overblown, and although there are some explicit love scenes, they are vital to the tale’s context and utterly subsumed by the overwhelming tide of elegiac sadness, political and social turmoil and doom-laden mystery which permeates the proceedings.

This is a masterful and compellingly human story that will astound lovers, loving grown-ups and all lovers of comics narrative.

Yes, there is a movie, but for pity’s sake read this first…

English Language edition © 2013 Arsenal Pulp Press. First published in French as Le bleu est une couleur chaude by Julie Maroh © 2010 Glénat Editions. All rights reserved.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities


By Mady G & J.R. Zuckerberg (Limerance Press/Oni Press)
ISBN: 978-1-62010-586-3 (PB) eISBN: 978-1-62010-587-0

Here’s a handy rule of thumb for getting along. People get to decide what to call themselves. You get to accept and agree with them, as long as no one is being actually harmed. That assessment is to be made by Law, not personal belief or some higher calling. If you can’t accept their definitions of themselves, you have the right to leave people alone and never interact with them.

Okay?

We are the naming primate. If we encounter something unknown and/or scary, we give it a description, definition and title and accept it into our ever-expanding understanding of Reality. It’s what enabled us to take over this world. Naming things is generally a good thing and allows us to navigate our universe.

Some people, however, use the power of naming to isolate, ostracise and wound. They are not doing it right. People like us have plenty of really fitting names for people like them when they abuse our gift…

Seriously though, it seems like every time we make a move towards greater inclusivity, some faction of retrograde, regressive backwards-looking churl and biological luddite manufactures a reason why we can’t all get along.

I personally favour retaliation, but the only way to truly counter them is with understanding, so here’s a book that offers plenty of names and definitions we should all be adding to our lexicons…

I’ve frequently argued that comic strips are a matchless tool for education: rendering the most complex topics easily accessible and displaying a potent facility to inform, affect and alter behaviour. Here’s a splendid example of the art form using its great powers for good…

The Quick & Easy Guide series has an admirable record of confronting uncomfortable issues with taste, sensitivity and breezy forthrightness: offering solutions as well as awareness or solidarity.

Here, coast-to-coast cartoonists Mady G. and J. R. Zuckerberg collaborate on a bright and breezy primer covering the irrefutable basics on establishing one’s own sexual and gender identity (including the difference between those terms), safely navigating all manner of relationship and exploring the spectrum of experiences available to consenting adults.

A major aspect of us People Primates is that we spend a lot of our lives trying to work out who we are. It takes varying amounts of time for every individual and lots of honesty.

It’s like most work. It can be unwelcome, laborious, painful and even dangerous and nobody should attempt it too soon or alone.

Moreover, all too often, assistance and advice offered can be unwelcome and stemming from somebody else’s agenda. In my own limited experience for example, any sexual guidance offered by anybody with a religious background is immediately suspect and a waste of breath. Perhaps your experience is different. That’s pretty much the point here. In the end, you have make up your own mind and be your own judge…

Unlike me, A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities takes no sides and offers no bias as it runs through the fundamentals, but only after a Foreword from cartoonist and author Roz Chast and an Intro by Mady lay out the rules of engagement on the attaching and utilisation of the labels and roles gradually becoming common modern parlance…

The micro lectures are set during a wilderness trek where an agglomeration of troubled humans have a group teaching encounter under the supervision of a “Queer Educator” endeavouring to define for them the nature of ‘Queerness’

The useful commentary, educational asides and plentiful laughs are generated by a colony of snails avidly observing proceedings like a raucous and bewildered Greek Chorus. Such gastropods, as I’m sure you recall from school, are either male, female, hermaphroditic or something else entirely, depending on what time it is. Now that’s perspective…

Subjects covered with forthright verve, clarity and – crucially – wry wit begin with ‘What is Queer?’, proffering terms for defining Sexuality and Gender as subdivided into Bisexuality, Asexuality, Pansexuality amongst other permutations. These and later lessons are illustrated with examples starring primarily neutral vegetable critters dubbed The Sproutlingswho are conveniently pliable and malleable…

‘What is Gender Identity?’ digs deeper, discussing Gender vs Sex via a little biology tutorial before ‘Now… What’s Gender Expression?’ expands the debate, determining modern manners and ways of signalling the world what one has decided is a person’s (current, but not necessarily permanent) status. The lecture comes with carefully curated real-world examples…

This is all fine in an ideal world, but contentious, often life changing problems that can occur are tackled head-on in ‘What Does Dysphoria Mean?’, detailing examples of the traumas accompanying the realisation of not being how you believe you ought to be. Divided into Physical, Social and non-binary Dysphoria, the examination includes ways of combatting the problems and more case histories courtesy of the human wilderness students…

In swift succession ‘So, what is Asexuality?’ and ‘What does it mean to Come Out?’ offer further practical thoughts and prospective coping tactics before vital life lessons are covered in ‘Here are some Relationship Basics’.

Also included here are an “Outro” by Zuckerberg and a section of activities including ‘Design a Pair of Friendship Jackets’, ‘Create Your Own Sprout-sona!’ and ‘How to make a Mini Zine!!’ as well as information on ‘More Resources!’and Creator Biographies.

I hail from a fabulous far-distant era where we happily ravaged the planet without a qualm but believed emotional understanding led to universal acceptance. We’re apparently smarter about the planet now, and it’s wonderful to see that the quest to destroy intolerance and ignorance still continues. This witty, welcoming treatise offers superb strategies for fixing a pernicious issue that really should have been done and dusted decades ago.

Hopefully, when we all share appropriate, non-evocative and un-charged terms for discussing human sexuality and gender – such as seen here – we can all make decisions and assessments that will build a fairer, gentler world for everybody…
A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities ™ & © 2019 Mady G & J.R. Zuckerberg. All rights reserved.

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded


By Jim Ottaviani & Leland Purvis (Abrams ComicArts)
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1893-9 (HB) 978-1-4197-3645-2 (TPB)

Like every persecuted grouping of humanity, the LGBTQ community have far too many martyrs, but apart from Oscar Wilde and perhaps Harvey Milk, how many can you name? If any, I’ll bet Alan Turing tops that list…

Spellbindingly scripted by Jim Ottaviani (who has similarly eulogised and dissected quantum physicist (Richard) Feynman and – in Primates – primatologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas) with compellingly effective art by Leland Purvis (Vox, Pubo, Vulcan & Vishnu and Suspended in language: Niels Bohr’s life, discoveries, and the century he shaped – a previous collaboration with Ottoviani), this full-colour hardback, trade paperback or eBook biography divides Turing’s life into three broad sections, incisively and winningly reviewed as if in a documentary.

Events from his turbulent life are deftly mixed with faux “interviews” and candid disclosures from those who knew him – his mother, the computing “girls” at Bletchley Park, fiancée Joan Clark, Professor Max Newman, engineer and lab partner Bayley and the weak, shady “rent-boy” who brought about Turing’s eventual downfall and death…

‘Universal Computing’ covers the difficult, solitary boy’s childhood and college years, providing plenty of revelatory scenes showing how smart, obsessed and just plain different Alan Mathison Turing always was.

Top Secret Ultra’ focuses on the war years that built Turing’s reputation as a cryptographer and inventor at the officially “non-existent” base where the Enigma Code was cracked and the battle against fascism won.

The most painful and potent moments are seen in his post-war years at Manchester University, trying to beat the Americans in the ferociously competitive race to build Thinking Machines. Here he came under increasing stress as his open homosexuality – accepted as fact and ignored at Bletchley – gradually overtook and destroyed the life of the mis-socialised plain-speaking genius whose thoughts and writings resulted in the breakthroughs everybody now knows as ‘The Imitation Game’

Rounding out the cruelly educational experience is a poignant and challenging ‘Authors Note’ touching on the still-unresolved mystery concerning Turing’s death, a vast ‘Bibliography and Recommended Reading’ list and a bewilderingly comprehensive ‘Notes and References’ section, covering everything from the panel structures of this tale to the mathematics involved in and comprising much of the book’s subtly beguiling make-up.

This is an astoundingly inviting way to take in a true story of incredible accomplishment, dedicated passion and terrifying naivety, ending in a horrific loss to us all…

Please be warned: this is categorically not an adaptation of the 2014 film.
Text © 2016 Jim Ottaviani. Illustrations © 2016 Leland Purvis. All rights reserved.

 

The Case of Alan Turing


By Eric Liberge & Arnaud Delalande, translated by David Homel (Arsenal Pulp Press)
ISBN: 978-1-55152-650-8 (HB Album)

After decades of cruel injustice and crushing, sidelining silence, British mathematician Alan Turing – one of the greatest intellects in humanity’s history – has at last become the household name and revered pioneer of science he has always deserved to be.

As well as books and films describing the amazing achievements and appalling way this brilliant, misunderstood man – arguably the creator of the modern world we inhabit – was treated by society, there’s another graphic novel delineating the factual stuff whilst trying to get beneath the skin of a most perplexing and unique individual.

This gloriously oversized (231 x 13 x 287 cm) full-colour hardback biography – appropriately also available in digital formats – was first released in Europe as Le Cas Alan Turing in 2015 and employs an emphatic literary approach, more drama than documentary, to exploring the life of this tortured man.

The moving script by author Arnaud Delalande (La Piege de Dante) – via award-winning translator David Homel – only touches on Turing’s early, troubled home life and post-war scandals when the genius descended into self-loathing and court-mandated chemical castration to “cure” his “social deviancy”.

Allegations or accusations of homosexuality destroyed the lives of countless men until officially decriminalised in Britain’s 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and although Turing was posthumously pardoned of his “crimes” in 2013, his loss to suicide deprived the entire world of a generation of marvels…

The major proportion of this tale concentrates on World War II and Turing’s work as a cryptographer and inventor at British code-breaking centre Bletchley Park (it’s a stunning shrine to invention now: and you should visit it soon and often) where the insular young man struggled to convince his officious, unimaginative superiors to let him construct a mechanical brain to defeat the Wehrmacht’s presumed-infallible Enigma machines. Turing’s victories cemented his reputation and ensured that the battle against fascism (one sort, at least) was won…

The key figures are all there: sometime fiancée Joan Clark, Professor Max Newman, and the shady, morally-bankrupt “rent-boy” Arnold Murray who brought about Turing’s eventual downfall and demise, as are less well known figures: the MI5 operative who was his constant shadow before and after the war, boyhood lost love Christopher Morcom and many other unsung heroes of the intelligence war…

Played out against a backdrop of global conflict, Turing’s obsession with Walt Disney’s Snow White and a recurring motif of poisoned apples – the method by which he eventually ended his life – figure largely in a tale which reads like a movie in the making. Moreover, this powerful tale of an outsider’s temporary triumphs and lasting impact is beautifully and compellingly rendered by master of historical comics Eric Liberge (Monsieur Mardi-Gras Descendres, Le Dernier Marduk, Tonnerre Rampant, Les Corsaires d’Alcibiade), affording it an aura of unavoidable, impending destiny…

Balancing out the tragedy of chances missed is an informative photo-illustrated essay on ‘The Cryptography War’courtesy of historian, educator and government consultant Bruno Fuligni, detailing the development and use of different kinds of cipher and codes; how Enigma changed the rules of the spying game and how Turing changed it all again…

This is an astoundingly effective way to engage with a true story of incredible accomplishment, dedication and terrifying naivety: one that inevitably ends with tragedy that still blights us all and leaves forever-unanswered sentiments of “What If?” and “If Only…”
Text © Éditions des Arènes, Paris 2015. Translation © 2016 by David Homel.

Life with Kevin


By Dan Parent, J. Bone & various (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-68255-940-6 (TPB)

Created by writer/artist Dan Parent and inker Rich Koslowski, Kevin Keller debuted in Veronica #202 (September 2010): a charming, good-looking and exceedingly together lad who seemingly disrupted the eternal cartoon triangle of Archie Andrews, Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper. Keller utterly bowled over the rich go-getter and she was totally smitten with him, although he was far more interested in food, sports and hanging out with the boys… especially JugheadJones

The new kid was a much-travelled, journalism-obsessed “Army Brat”, who in short order was elected Class President, made loads of friends and came out as Riverdale High School’s first openly gay student. When Kevin finally explained to Veronica why she was wasting her time, she became his best buddy: after all they had a lot in common – stylish clothes, shopping and good-looking guys…

Immensely popular from the outset (Veronica #202 was the first comic book in the company’s long history to go to a second printing), Kevin struck a deep and abiding chord with the readership. Soon guest shots evolved into a miniseries before the new kid on the block inevitably won his own ongoing title.

In recent years the company has created related strands for their iconic characters to explore other realities. Archie has married both Betty and Ronnie, been assassinated, faced supernatural horrors of every kind and even entered the 21stcentury. These parallel lives projects have proved immensely popular and so have quite sensibly been extended to include the other inhabitants of Riverdale…

In 2017, a 5-issue miniseries by Parent, inker J. Bone and letterer Jack Morelli focused on Kevin after finishing at Riverdale and graduating from college. Trade paperback & eBook compilation Life with Kevin – delivered in a limited but superbly effective palette of black, white and blue – follows his career as he moves to New York City and joins a major metropolitan news outlet…

Referencing TV sitcoms such as 30 Rock or Rhoda, and subtitled ‘Kevin in the City’ the fun begins in ‘You’re Gonna Make it After All! (Maybe)’ as young Keller moves into a grim apartment, meets his interesting neighbours and makes an unforgettable impression on his new boss at station NYC-TV.

Sadly, his views on what constitutes journalism don’t match hers in the cutthroat era of click-bait and Twitterstorms. Even more tragically, the fact that the camera loves and viewers adore him means Kevin might be forced into becoming a useless, vapid Screen Celeb himself…

The day ends perfectly when Veronica shows up. On Kevin’s advice, his BFF talked back to daddy and now she’s disinherited, broke and homeless…

‘Room for Change’ resumes a short while later with Kevin finding his love life and dating days seriously curtailed by roommate Ronnie, who, unsurprisingly, cannot hold on to any job she finds and whose efforts to help inevitably go badly awry…

After building a profile on a dating app and then accidentally outing himself on live TV – a strict policy no-no at NYC-TV- Kevin’s life gets even crazier. In ‘I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can!’ his boss Babs is ordered to exploit her camera-shy protégé onscreen as much as legally possible. This leads to Ronnie accidentally endangering the mental health of a shy young gay student Kevin is helping through some difficult times…

The gathering storm breaks on social media in ‘Past Tense!’ with Bab’s ruthless attempt to capitalise on the personal crisis for ratings compelling Kevin to make a world-changing decision, but only after a chaotic comedy of errors devastates the station’s schedules…

The story pauses for now with ‘Moving Forward!’ as the progression of roommate dramas, two-timing bad boyfriends, family health scares and career calamities lead to Kevin taking charge of his life and making the future he wants and deserves…

A charming, feel-good comedy romp, Kevin in the City reads like a pilot for a TV series, packed with tension and hilarity whilst delivering the kind of joyous, life-affirming frolics modern folk enjoy. It also succeeds in being about the characters themselves and the situations they endure, not the inconsequential logistics of who they fancy…

Augmenting the saga is a cover gallery by Parent, and a few bonus stories, all taken from Your Pal Archie #1, and set in modern-day Riverdale.

The madness begins with ‘The Road Worrier’ courtesy of scripter/inker Ty Templeton, penciller Dan Parent, colourist Andre Szymanowicz and letterer Morelli. Here high schoolers Betty, Ronnie, Archie and Jughead plan out their summer holidays before an ordeal of shocking terror is unleashed as that Andrews boy attempts to teach Juggie how to drive…

The main event and compelling cliffhanger comes with ‘A Night at the Opera’ as Ronnie gives Archie the brush-off for a sophisticated sophomore. Once again driven astray by Jughead, Archie then buys a lotto ticket that will change his life forever…

Of course, you’ll have to buy that graphic novel to see what happens next, but at least Life with Kevin is a complete experience, at once hilarious, enthralling and magically inclusive for you, your kids and grandparents to enjoy over and over again…
™ & © 2017 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.