Cyberman – An On-Screen Documentary


By Veronika Muchitsch AKA L.B. Jeffries (Myriad Editions)
ISBN: 978-1-8383860-2-3 (TPB) eISBN: 978-1-8383860-3-0

In modern society somebody is always watching. Are we unconscious – often unwilling – objects of voyeurism or participants in an increasingly intrusive overwatch?

Although daubing marks on a surface is possibly our oldest art form, the potential to ask questions, make stories and simply communicate via that primal process remains infinitely adaptable to modern technologies and as powerful as it ever was in exploring the unchanging basics of the human condition.

Narrative plus image – and the interactions such conjunctions can adapt to and embrace – underpin all of our communal existence and form the primary source for how we view our distant forbears. When employed by an incisive, sensitive, uncompromising agent and interlocutor such as Veronika Muchitsch, the road from “seen” to “created” can also shed light on the furthest fringes of human behaviour.

Veronika Muchitsch is an Austrian artist who distinguished herself at Falmouth University before settling here. In recent years she began participating in a uniquely modern phenomenon. Entire countries away, fifty-something Finnish man Ari Kivikangas was live-streaming his entire existence, 24 hours a day without pause or let up. Drawn in, Veronika began regularly watching him inhabit his simple flat, sleeping, eating, playing his music and occasionally interacting with the observers tuned in to Cyberman.tv.

Entranced, Muchitsch – while becoming increasingly concerned about her own unchecked voyeurism – began painting the images on her screen, fascinated by the bland yet ominous existence unfolding with staggering constancy and endured with brutally frank, ferocious honesty every moment of every day. Ari was poor, ill, isolated and solitary and hungered for fame and validation: a shut-in managing life by his own rules. He accepted potential intrusion, condemnation and actual abuse from the inevitable inescapable trolls infesting social media with staunch bluntness and just carried on streaming.

The compulsive viewing led to Muchitsch reassessing her own views and first impressions. Over the course of a year, she surrendered anonymity and neutrality: becoming one of the people interacting with Ari – even getting his exultant approval to make him famous in one more modern medium…

She initially adopted the username L.B. Jeffries to interact with Ari, as compulsive observation evolved into a project based on parallels she recognised between her own actions and responses and the role played by Jimmy Stewart in classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window.

The result is a stunning pictorial re-evaluation of modern life, interactions and relationships at the overlap of physical life and virtual existence – which can apparently be far more mundane than our “real” thing…

The story unfolds as a parade of singular images lovingly painted: captured moments that fall almost unbidden into a narrative. How much of that is calculated, curated direction and how much of the story comes from the reader looking at the pictures of the live stream of a stranger’s life? Only you can decide…
© Veronika Muchitsch 2021.

Cyberman – An On-Screen Documentary is scheduled for UK release May 26th 2022 and is available for pre-order now.

Georgia O’Keeffe


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosa Parks


By Mariapoala Pesce & Matteo Mancini, translated by Nanette McGuiness (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-291-5 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-292-2

It must be quite hard to say something new – or even get under the accumulated skin – of a legend, and doubly so when the single act the entire world knows them for is not the beginning or end, but rather a middle moment in a long life of impassioned exceptionalism…

On December 1st 1955, “negro” seamstress Rosa Parks rode the bus home. She had taken said public transport vehicle many times before and until that moment had always followed the rules. This was in Montgomery, Alabama, where “Jim Crow” laws had been steadily snatching back every vestige of freedom and liberty won with shot and shell during the War Between the States, almost from the moment the shooting stopped…

Thus, on those commuter routes – as everywhere else – white people had priority, and if a black person was seated, they had to get up and literally move to the back of the bus to let “their betters” sit down.

On that evening, weary Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, even when told to by the white bus driver. She knew there would be consequences, anticipated them and was ready for them. Perhaps she wasn’t so sure where that act of passive defiance would take her and the entire country…

That moment is as much part of mythology as history, but here – via some intriguing extrapolation from writer Mariapoala Pesce (Angela Davis; Alice in Austenland; La Fattoria Degli Animali) and illustrator/designer Matteo Mancini (Una divisa per nino) – we take a look at what made the moment: who Rosa Parks was before and what she became after that act of wanton lawbreaking…

Preceded by thoughtful author’s preface ‘Does it still make sense to talk about Rosa Parks?’ the story is then told through a distant lens, beginning in a taxicab on December 1st 2014, where a hot young rapper frets and slowly gets acquainted with the elderly blue collar driver. They’re different generations of black man, but as the ride progresses, conversation shows how much has changed and how much they’re still alike…

The star is wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt and that cause celebre sparks talk of another more distant time…

And thus is told an intimate tale of the thoughtful family woman who weathered instant infamy and dangerous notoriety to become an eternal activist, iconic institution and tireless campaigner for employment equality, civil rights education, literacy and an end to sexual abuse and exploitation of black women and girls.

The captivating tale within a tale is augmented by ‘Martin Luther King’s Letter to Citizens of Montgomery, AL’; an essay by Stephanie Brooks detailing ‘Rosa Parks After’; a bibliography of Further Reading and a beautiful, capacious and extensive sketch and design section.

Intriguing and entertaining, Rosa Parks offers a powerful and enriching approach to a much-lauded but little known example of humanity at its very best.
© Mariapoala Pesce 2020 for the text. © Matteo Mancini 2020 for the illustrations. © for the original Italian EditionBeccoGiallo S.r.l. 2020. All rights reserved.

Rosa Parks will be published on February 17th 2022 and is available for pre-order now. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

The Art of Sushi


By Franckie Alarcon, translated by Peter Russella (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-285-4 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-86-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Sensational Sagacity for All Seasonings… 9/10

Usually this bit is about sex or swearing, but I’m issuing my first ever culinary advisory here.

If you are vegan, squeamish or simply care about fish and other animals and are likely to be upset by graphic depictions of the preparation of really cool creatures like octopi or eels, do not buy this book. It’s really not your thing.

Once more confirming that there’s nothing you can’t craft compelling comics about if you’re talented and inspired, here’s a gripping graphic testament to the art, philosophy and mindset of Japan’s most misunderstood culinary export.

First seen as L’Art du Sushi in 2019, and courtesy of ever-inquisitive, fantastically convivial cartoonist-foodie Franckie Alarcon, The Art of Sushi follows the artist and close associates on a fact-finding tour of Japan. Their mission is in response to the recent phenomenon of France falling madly in love with the oriental art of food, and subsequent seeking to mimic and master its traditions and pure quality; whilst making it just a little bit theirs, too…

After a cheery introduction, scene-setting, history and visual précis to the discipline’s antecedents and nine basic forms, “Bibi” Alarcon, girlfriend Marilyne, Editor David and photographer Chloe join translator/guide Rica in Tokyo to track down a revered Master, one who is also a three-starred Michelin chef…

As well as fascinating insights into the philosophy, personal beliefs and techniques of 50-year veteran craftsman Hachiro Mizutani, the researchers taste marvels and come to understand the importance of sourcing the components. ‘Mizutani: Traditional Sushi’ catalogues dishes and how they’re constructed before following him to legendary Tsukiji Market to test the daily catch in still-living splendour before detailing how they are prepared… and why. The lesson includes eye-watering comparisons with the practices of Brittany fishermen….

Sidebars include the parlous state of the oceans and fish stocks, how to make rice and a beguiling history of knife-making.

As seen in ‘Maguro bocho and Oroshi bocho’, the nation’s metallurgical artisans used to make swords, but now craft far more dangerous implements…

After reinforcing our presentiments with tastes of old Japan, the tourists explore the rush of the contemporary city with a brilliant young chef making all the right waves in ‘Okada: Modern Sushi’. Prior to that, they headed into the country to visit with Rica’s family and spent time on fishing boats.

The pride of their catch comes with them to Okada’s city restaurant for a display of his innovative virtuosity and is supplemented by lessons in consuming the beverages that are an integral part of Sushi appreciation; the history of rice; aesthetics of presentation, more blade techniques for preparing various sea creatures and useful information in spotting and dealing with the assorted parasites that infest uncooked food…

One of the most compelling asides concerns the best shape and materials of bowls, plates, cups and other tableware, which diverts into a visit to a ceramicist providing such containers to the trade…

Every visit results in a fresh eating experience and freebies to take home, but after leaving Okada’s place the team go to Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture to learn all about rice wines and ‘The Stages of making Sake’: for many the most important component in ceremonial Sushi consumption…

Once done examining old and new at the high end, our intrepid voyagers tackle the working world of ‘Everyday Sushi’ in modern Japan. Beginning with a day aboard an eel fishing boat, learning cunning tricks to keep the catch alive until ready to eat, the Europeans later enjoy a home-prepared feast courtesy of Mrs. Tanemura – who runs an eatery out of her house – and discover the hard truths about Nori (seaweed wraps/mats) from her other guests…

The trip concludes with a mind-blowing visit to a soy sauce brewery before the city offers Sushi in fast food and convenience store mode before the exhausted well-stuffed visitors go home to reassess the state of ‘Sushi in France’ with now-learnèd eyes and taste buds.

Apparently, the biggest challenge is adapting to a far smaller range of truly fresh and seasonal ingredients in a largely land-locked country, but as star chefs Takuya Watanabe – in between revealing how to grow authentic wasabi in European soil – and Yannick Alléno point out, Gastronomy and Sushi are about technique. It works with vegan or even mammal-meat ingredients. There are even chocolate desserts available for the bold and truly discerning…

Closing out a truly revelatory reading experience comes a selection of ‘Recipes’ comprising ‘Rica’s Chirashi’ with either tuna, eel or avocado as main ingredient; ‘Okada’s Green Tea Octopus’, ‘Mrs. Okada’s Temari’ (a selection including meat- and fish-free options) and ‘Sasa Sushi’ (mackerel), plus an accompanying cocktail: ‘The Sake Mojito’

Also adding value is an ‘Address Book’ of recommended restaurants in Japan and France, and physical stores and online sources for ingredients, utensils and travel advice.

The art of food and pleasures of eating have never been better appreciated or shared than in books like these, blending the exoticism of travel with the tantalising yet satisfying anticipation of gustatory consumption. The Art of Sushi is simply delightful: an inviting comics divertissement that must surely whet the appetite for more…
© Editions Delcourt 2019. © 2021 NBM for the English translation.

The Art of Sushi will be released on December 14th 2021 and is available for pre-order now. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

Hubert Reeves Explains BiodiversitY


By
Hubert Reeves, Nelly Boutinot & Daniel Casanave, coloured by Claire Champion and translated by Joseph Laredo (Europe Comics)
No ISBN: digital release only

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Lasting Lessons Lavishly Limned and Laudably Learned… 9/10

It’s sometimes easy to forget that other countries have national treasures, too: popular spokes-folk sharing their passions for the good of us all. Living folk, that is, not pilfered artefacts taken into “protective custody” by most western “explorers” whilst visiting other people’s continents: that’s just shameful and unforgivable…

Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Professors Brian Cox, Lucy Worsley, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and many others have translated their passions into education, elucidation, mass entertainment and good works, but they are not alone and most nations have their own voices of wonder, reason and sanity. For French-speakers, one of those effulgent natural educators is Professor Hubert Reeves.

Born Quebecois in 1932, raised and educated in Montreal but now resident in Paris, the physicist and professional educator is a major name in Thermonuclear Reactions, Light Nuclei and “Positronium”; advises NASA and has – since 1965 – been Director of Research at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique.

In later life he became the go-to guy for science stuff on French TV and has contrived a series of bande dessinée detailing Earth’s rapidly dwindling and almost expired bounties. Following the translated book featured here – which started life in 2017 as Hubert Reeves explique: La bioversité – he turned his sagacious eye to Oceans and Forests, which I’ll probably get around to later, assuming we still have any next year…

Working with co-writer Nelly Boutinot (vice-president of the Humanity and Biodiversity Association) and publisher/illustrator Daniel Casanave (Shelly; Romantica; Une Aventure rocambolesque) the Man of Letters has here inserted himself into a gentle and laconic nature ramble with a group of school children exploring lush countryside which inescapably includes all our mighty works. Delivered with simple but strictly factual directness in a captivating cartoon style that enchants and seduces, the relationships and shared history of cities, suspension bridges and other technologies is deconstructed in terms of their impact on the natural world.

Clarifying and connecting the link between microorganisms and petrochemicals; weather cycles and climate change; the balance between prey and predators in healthy ecosystems; the impact of invasive species (both deliberately imported and free-roaming); the cost to us all of every extinction and the no-brainer importance and function of the oxygen cycle that keeps us all alive, Le Professeur makes his case and proves his points while exulting in the majesty and complexity of existence…

Explained with stunning clarity using powerful symbols and examples from all across the embattled globe, yet still able to end on an optimistic note, Hubert Reeves Explains Biodiversity affords a superb and satisfying life lesson that belongs in every classroom, library and boardroom. Get it for the kids, or maybe they’ll get it for you…
© 2019 – LE LOMBARD (DARGAUD-LOMBARD s.a.) – CASANAVE, REEVES, & BOUTINOT

The Chagos Betrayal – How Britain Robbed an Island and Made Its People Disappear


By Florian Grosset (Myriad Editions)
ISBN: 978-1-912408-67-2 (TPB) eISBN 978-1-912408-93-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Because Knowledge is Power and Shame is a Weapon… 9/10

Words wedded to images have long been a cheap and reliable tool of the functionally powerless in addressing injustice. When used to craft potent and damning testaments of authoritarian oppression and atrocity, they stand a pretty good chance of shifting balances of power, changing the course of events and auditing history. Let’s hope it’s still the case here…

Comics and Graphic Novels carry a powerful ability to whip up empathy, deliver damaging detail, summarise complex issues and events without lessening emotional impact, and visually embed nuance that dry reports and impassioned novels cannot, at a fraction of the cost of a live action documentary. That’s exactly what graphic designer and first person witness Florian Grosset has achieved here as she details how successive British governments have displaced, lied to and fatally ignored some of their poorest, weakest and most trusting subjects, simply to curry favour with foreign allies and obtain discount weapons systems…

The uprooting and forced relocation of thousands of mostly brown-skinned, generally poor and universally uneducated British citizens by the British government in London to lease America a strategically advantageous naval base in the Indian Ocean has been a shameful ongoing affair since 1965. The plight of the displaced people of the Chagos archipelago as they perpetually petition British and International Courts and struggle to return to their ancestral homes on the island of Diego Garcia is still a slowly unfolding current affair, not a done and dusted historical footnote.

Utilising beautiful imagery, blunt facts and beguiling personal testimonies Grosset has assembled a grimly unforgettable argument, detailing how the Chagos litigants were belittled, lied to, discounted, ignored and ultimately stalled in hope that they would die out or go away.

A tragically effective tactic still in use – especially by civilised First World governments – is to rewrite the terms rules and definitions. Great Britain is a past master of this: even today glibly changing the status of any troublesome citizen from “British” to “Somebody Else’s Problem, Now”.

In the case of the former Chagos Archipelago islanders, redefining their centuries-old home as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and its British-citizen inhabitants as “migrant workers” before summarily shipping them off against their will to imminently independent Mauritius probably seemed a “cunning wheeze”, but what it was – and remains – is damning proof of how elites regard the rest of us…

This staggeringly moving account – broken down into understated but powerfully enthralling chapters ‘You must leave and never return’, ‘Life in the slums’, ‘A troubled history’, ‘We must be very tough about this…there will be no indigenous population except seagulls..’, ‘There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ And ‘…any person who enters BIOT without permission may be liable to imprisonment for three years and/or a fine of £10,000…’ – summarises the current state of play and offers a chance for us all to make ourselves heard about the things done in our name but without our knowledge or consent.

Fully backed up by a ‘Sources’ section and grateful ‘Acknowledgements’ this is a superbly designed weapon of enlightenment no concerned citizen of our dying Earth should miss.
© 2021 Florian Grosset. All rights reserved.

Putin’s Russia – The Rise of a Dictator


By Darryl Cunningham (Myriad Editions)
ISBN: 978-1-912408-91-7 (TPB)

Artist and journalist Darryl Cunningham was born in 1960, lived a pretty British life (didn’t we all back then?) and graduated from Leeds College of Art. A regular on the Small Press scene of the 1990s, his early strips appeared in legendary paper-based venues such as Fast Fiction, Dead Trees, Inkling, Turn amongst many others. In 1998, he & Simon Gane crafted Meet John Dark for the much-missed Slab-O-Concrete outfit. It is still one of my favourite books of the era. You should track it down or agitate for a new edition.

Briefly putting comics on the backburner as the century ended, Cunningham worked on an acute care psychiatric ward: a period which informed 2011 graphic novel Psychiatric Tales, a revelatory inquiry into mental illness delivered as cartoon reportage.

When not crafting web comics for Forbidden Planet or working on his creations Uncle Bob Adventures, Super-Sam and John-of-the-Night or The Streets of San Diablo, he’s been steadily consolidating his position at the top of the field of graphic investigative reporting; specifically science history, economics and socio-political journalism through books such as Science Tales, Supercrash: How to Hijack the Global Economy, Graphic Science: Seven Journeys of Discovery, The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality and the Financial Crisis and Billionaires: The Lives of the Rich and Powerful.

His latest offering is his boldest yet, particularly as the subject of these investigations and revelations has a scary track record of suddenly outliving every critic, commentator, judge and denouncer. Of course, part of that murderous mystique also includes ludicrous gaffes, fumbles and cock-ups, so perhaps it’s a fair risk for a potential big reward…

Simply put, what’s on show here is another sublimely forensic and easily digestible dissection of one more major cause of global concern, in the form of a mediocre Soviet spy who became the biggest crook on Earth.

Cunningham methodically traces the path of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin from childhood in a St Petersburg (then Leningrad) communal apartment to the world’s most tasteless billionaire mancave (“Putin’s Palace” at Gelendzhik), translating dry facts and shocking atrocities into irrefutable, easily assimilated data snippets, tracing the Dictator-in-Chief’s cunning rise in the shadow of and on the coattails of far more flamboyant and unwise would-be leaders until suddenly he’s the last man standing…

A much-curated personal life is unmade and remeasured against a historical yardstick as the Soviet Union stumbles into oblivion: broken up and its riches redistributed by pirates and brigands in suits amongst a cabal of soon-to-be Oligarchs only marginally less unsavoury than their notional leader.

Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Sobchak and a flurry of Western appeasers and greedy bankers are all indicted for their failings as Putin climbed a greasy pole soaked in the blood of opponents, competitors and particularly journalists and critics. Especial attention is rightly paid to manufactured and proxy wars, terrorist acts and inept interventions; modern imperialism and global calamities, weaponized bigotry, harnessed ancient grudges and sheer unrelenting opportunism at every possible juncture. That’s a big bill to lay on one person, but the arguments are all there in black and white and magenta and green and…

You will also be sagely reminded of assassinations as acts of petty spite; western money laundering of a nation’s pilfered assets, the suborning of national leaders (and we’re not just talking about orange hairpiece #45, here!) and the sadly pathetic ongoing quest for validation of a self-described hard man…

A heady mix of cold fact, astute deduction and beguiling visualisation, this deft examination of a bandit who stole a nation and how at last his comeuppance is at hand is a delicious blend of revelation and confirmation, and Cunningham even has the courage to offer bold – and serious – suggestions on how to rectify the current state of affairs, all backed up with a vast and daunting list of References from print, media and other sources for everything cited in the book.

Comics have long been the most effective method of imparting information and eliciting reaction (that’s why assorted governments and militaries have used them for hard and soft propaganda over the last century and a half), and with Putin’s Russia you can see that force deployed against one of today’s greatest threats…
© Darryl Cunningham 2021. All rights reserved.

Putin’s Russia will be released on September 16th 2021 and is available for pre-order now.

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/

Positive


By Tom Bouden, translated by Yves Cogneau with Charles “Zan” Christensen (Northwest Press)
ISBN: 978-0-98459409-2 (PB)

Here’s something short, sweet and utterly, comfortingly satisfying. Please enjoy.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a Lentivirus that attacks the jbody’s immune system. If untreated, the infection usually leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome – commonly known as AIDS. For the longest time, the condition was a killer, but can be controlled quite successfully now through a variety of medications, treatments and lifestyle modification.

At its height, the disease ravaged the world, and has killed approximately 38 million people and completely changed global society.

Sadly, how those testing positive for HIV were treated also revealed a lot about the people around them…

This powerful but truly uplifting graphic tome was created in 2008 by Belgian cartoonist Tom Bouden (Max and Sven; The Importance of Being Earnest; In Bed with David & Jonathan; Queerville): a means of exploding idiotic myths and explaining how a positive diagnosis actually changes the life of a someone with the disease and affects those around them.

Subtitled “A Graphic Novelette of Life with Aids”, the charming tale is rendered in a traditional and welcoming Ligne Claire (like Tintin or Blake and Mortimer) style, and laced with plenty of warm humour to balance the tension, fear and pain, and begins eight years ago as young marrieds Sarah and Tim’s latest row is interrupted by a visit from their doctor…

He has results that explain Sarah’s recent bout of assorted maladies, but needs her to take a second, confirmatory test…

And so begins a methodical discourse as the couple carefully share her diagnosis with friends, family and past intimates, delivered with compassion and sensitivity and braced with actual facts throughout. Navigating various treatments, dealing with work issues and living as normal as life as feasible, Sarah and Tim build support networks, while moving ever onward, embracing bucket lists and pill packs, discarding despair and fostering hope until they reach the stage where they can consider the next positive step… having a child…

Fronted by an emphatically positive Introduction from activist and Gay League executive Joe Palmer, this is a lovely, sensible and above all straightforward examination of HIV in the real world, but parents might want to police these pages if young children are around, as it contains forthright depictions of nudity and lovemaking.
© 2013 Tom Bouden. All rights reserved.

The Secrets of Chocolate: A Gourmand’s Trip Through a Top Chef’s Atelier


By , translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-278-6 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-279-3

It seems there’s nothing you can’t craft compelling comics about if you’re talented and inspired, as this spellbinding catalogue of the chocolatiers’ art proves. Originally released au Continent as Les Secrets du Chocolat in 2014, it’s a combination history, travelogue, docudrama and recipe book wherein Bande Dessinée star Franckie Alarcon is invited to spend a year shadowing a celebrated chocolatier at the Jacques Genin Chocolate Workshop. In a scintillating and oddly moreish manner he imparts his sheer joy at discovering how new sweetmeats are created; subsequently learning the history of the wonder stuff and even travelling to South America with a maker to source a new supply of the magic beans…

It all kicks off in December 2013 as the artist s recaps his recent past, detailing moments in his lifelong love affair with chocolate and revealing how he landed his ultimate passion project. Offered exclusive all-access to a literal chocolate factory, Alarcon began at Genin’s glamorous store/outlet, meeting dedicated apprentices and journeymen and absorbing the basic skills of production while being subtly retrained in how to eat and appreciate the subject of his dreams…

With positively lascivious renderings of classical chocs, and the secret recipes for making Candies, Truffles, Pralines,Chocolate Tart, Ganache, Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Mendiants, Alarcon learns under a true inventive master in ‘Chocolates’ with each new taste sensation triggering a positively Proustian Madeleine moment in the gobsmacked artist…

The next phase of the journey of discovery follows in ‘Stephane Bonnat, From Bean to Bar’ as Alarcon explores the history and processes of chocolate production from France’s most prestigious manufacturer before celebrating with elan an industry holy day in ‘Valentine’s Day: Love in the Form of Chocolate’

Another big deal demanding the mastery of new skills is covered – or is that “enrobed”? – in ‘Easter: Art on Chocolate’after which May 20th 2014 sees the artist become fully-fledged as an ‘Intern: A Difficult Learning Experience’ mastering ‘Taste: The Source of Pleasure’ under Genin’s patient tutelage…

Making good on an earlier offer, Alarcon then joins Bonnat on a resource-hunting trip to the Amazon rainforest in search of a new kind of bean in ‘Cocoa: The Origins of Chocolate’ before the voyage of gustatory discovery concludes in September 2014 with some laudatory thoughts and even more tantalising visuals in ‘Parting Words: An All-Consuming Passion’

Beguiling, seductive and simply delightful, this is an inviting comics divertissement that will surely be to practically everyone’s taste…
© Editions Delcourt 2014. © 2021 NBM for the English translation.

The Secrets of Chocolate: A Gourmand’s Trip Through a Top Chef’s Atelier will be released digitally on June 15th2020 and published in hardback on June 17th. It is available for pre-order now. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/