Readersforum's Blog

September 25, 2014

Too Graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week Celebrates Challenged Comics

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November 19, 2013

He who laughs last

CalvinBy Darrel Bristow-Bovey

One of the more agreeable aspects of ageing is that your list of heroes changes. When I was 16 top of the list was Jim Morrison. Now it’s Bill Watterson.

Watterson published the first Calvin and Hobbes exactly 28 years ago, on November 18 1985. Newspaper comic strips have always been a mysterious medium to me. Surely no one after 1936 has ever actually laughed at one: they’re just a place to rest your eyes a moment before it’s back to the grind of news and schmucks with opinions.

The Wizard of Id is about as funny as dropping a bottle on your bare foot; Andy Capp makes me cry a little inside; and I genuinely can’t fathom how anyone can get up each day and draw another Dagwood column without developing the funless kind of drug problem.

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May 7, 2013

How H.P. Lovecraft Was Made Into a Graphic Novel

loveI.N.J. Culbard’s graphic adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is his second, following 2012’s At the Mountains of Madness. Culbard walks us through the process of retelling Lovecraft, while still retaining the author’s trademark style and mood.

The book opens in space. We see a crescent of light. It is the earth, small against the dark ocean. And then, as we turn the page, we zoom in closer and closer to the personal level, to the heart of the story—a scene in which Charles Dexter Ward has seemingly escaped his room at an asylum.

One of the key things about adapting Lovecraft is the sense of scale. Lovecraft writes about cosmic horror, the horrors of the universe, which are far, far greater than us. We are small and we are insignificant, and yet Lovecraft manages to make those horrors significant to us. He writes about understanding, the lack thereof, and the horror in the darkness of our own benighted ignorance—things beyond our comprehension and beyond our control.

Lovecraft’s protagonists are often detached individuals, and there is an ever-present sense of fragility and futility. Minds aren’t able to correlate the secrets of the universe, there are a great many questions that go unanswered, and people go insane in their pursuit of forbidden knowledge.

With The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Lovecraft brings the cosmic right down to a very human and intimate level. The story begins with something as horrifyingly simple as a change of behavior, a change of personality. And that change of personality is just scratching the surface of much bigger horrors.

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April 19, 2013

Chris Ware’s Building Stories leads chase for Eisner awards

Drawing praise … Chris Ware's Building Stories, which is nominated for Eisner awards including best new graphic album

Drawing praise … Chris Ware’s Building Stories, which is nominated for Eisner awards including best new graphic album

Graphic novel in 14 parts nominated for five Will Eisner Comic Industry awards, known as the Oscars of comics.

By Alison Flood

Chris Ware’s acclaimed graphic novel Building Stories, which comes in the form of 14 “distinctively discrete Books, Booklets, Magazines, Newspapers, and Pamphlets”, is leading the charge in the Will Eisner Comic Industry awards, known as the “Oscars” of comics.

San Diego Comic-Con International unveiled the contenders for this year’s prizes on Wednesday, with Ware’s entry – which follows the lives of the inhabitants of a three-story building in Chicago – up for five awards: best new graphic album, best writer/artist, best colouring, best lettering and best publication design. Ware’s previous graphic novel, Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, won the Guardian first book award in 2001, the American book award and the French comics award L’Alph Art

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January 22, 2013

Ware’s ‘Building Stories’ Tops PW Comics World’s 2012 Graphic Novel Critics’ Poll

BuildingFile under the totally expected: Chris Ware’s amazing Building Stories has topped the seventh annual 2012 Critics Poll for best graphic novels of 2012. A visionary boxed collection of 14 separate books, pamphlets and fold-outs, Building Stories collected Ware’s last decade of comics to tell the stories of the occupants of a single apartment building. The central character—never named—is a disabled young woman who dreams of finding love. Ware’s precisely diagrammatic yet eloquent drawings follow her mundane activities and her inner torment. Meanwhile, an enervated married couple on another floor shows that even finding love doesn’t solve any problems, and the building’s owner, an older woman, reminisces over her life. Throwing it all into relief are the absurdly bright adventures of Branford, a bee.

While much of the material in Building Stories (Pantheon) had been printed before—the central narrative, if such a thing could be pinpointed, originally ran as a comics strip in the NY Times Sunday Magazine—when collected together the final product is a stunningly immersive experience with no beginning and end, as quotidian-focused as the lives of its characters.

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November 24, 2012

The graphic novel’s spectacular rise: from kids’ comics to the Costa prize

A scene from the film adaption of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Cartoonists Joff Winterhart and Mary Talbot gain accolades that once would have seemed like a pipe dream.

By Becky Barnicoat

Siting alone in his box room, Pritt-Sticking speech bubbles on to panels drawn in disposable fountain pen, Joff Winterhart did not dream of literary fame and glory. The 38-year-old community artist from Bristol was out of work and filling his time with a project that might turn into an animation, might turn into a book, definitely wouldn’t turn into a literary classic. “I kept thinking about what bad reviews it would get if it was ever published,” he said. “I thought people would say it was extremely amateurish.”

In the end, it turned into a 75-page comic book, Days of the Bagnold Summer, about a mother and her teenage son, and this week it was one of two graphic novels nominated for a Costa book award alongside Mary Talbot’s biography of James Joyce’s daughter, Dotter of her Father’s Eyes. They are the first graphic novels nominated for the Costa. Against all odds, Winterhart had made literary history.

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November 8, 2012

Alan Moore debut single released by Occupation Records

Comic book author, whose V for Vendetta mask is an Occupy symbol, likens today’s stark economic divides to work of killer

By Peter Walker

Alan Moore, the comic book author whose stylised Guy Fawkes-type mask from his V for Vendetta series became a global symbol for Occupy protesters, has cemented his support for the group’s aims by writing and recording a record for the UK arm of the movement.

The Decline of English Murder is a gloomy and at times opaque ballad that likens the stark economic inequities challenged by Occupy to the work of a killer. It is released by Occupation Records, the musical spin-off from the protest group, which has already collaborated with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and members of Massive Attack, among others.

Moore, 58, is one of the most famous names in modern comics. The bulk of his titles, which include Watchmen, From Hell,and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the bulk of which, have been made into Hollywood films of varying quality, many of them in turn disowned by the irascible writer.

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November 5, 2012

A Life in A Box: Invention, Clarity and Meaning in Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’

By Calvin Reid

Chris Ware, the author of Building Stories, a new graphic novel to be published by Pantheon in October, is likely the most famous literary comics artist—graphic novelist if you prefer—that isn’t Art Spiegelman. He is the author of such works as The Acme Novelity Library, a critcally acclaimed continuing series of hardcover graphic anthologies he often uses to introduce characters and stories that eventually evolve into larger standalone graphic novels. He’s also the author of the equally critically acclaimed 2000 graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (Pantheon). Both Acme Novelty Library and Jimmy Corrigan have received numerous prizes and awards including winning Eisner awards, the National Book Awards of the comics industry.

His works offer powerfully emotional stories, created through the slow accretion of physical detail, emotional incident and memory, all elucidated through complex visual layouts and inventive and engaging ways to insert text into them. Building Stories is no different. The “book” is actually a large box with 14 different kinds of archetypal print formats—among them a hardcover book, a paperback book, a children’s book, newspapers and magazines, mini-comics, a board game and more—all of which carry a story focused deeply on the life of a young women, an amputee, and her sense of herself, her past and her future. Readers can pick up any publication and enter the character’s story at any point—there is no strict sequence. Like all of Ware’s works, he manages to peer deeply into the life of his characters while offering readers new ways to embrace his narrative.

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October 20, 2012

Comic books embrace gay characters as readers hope it’s just the beginning

Archie’s happy ending: the gay wedding issue sold out.

Marvel and DC featured high-profile plot lines this year, but many gay readers are wondering where the industry will go next.

By Amanda Holpuch

The comic-book industry has earned billions over the years with variations on one very simple story: do-gooders helping the oppressed defend themselves. It’s a tale that resonates strongly with the medium’s fans – especially gay readers, who have often faced oppression in the real world and sought solace in superheroes.

This year, finally, the industry embraced those readers as mainstream publishers offered prominent gay plot lines. Archie Comics’ first gay character, Kevin Keller, was married in January; Marvel’s X-man Northstar was married in May; and DC Comics reintroduced the Green Lantern as gay in June.

“I think any large industry responds more slowly than the culture it feeds, so I think that the prevailing attitude in society are leading popular culture in that direction, towards acceptance, towards embracing all members of their community,” said Jono Jarrett, the co-founder of Geeks Out, a group that celebrates the overlap between geek and LGBTQ culture.

The perceived geekiness of comic book culture can be mark readers out as somehow odd – and for young gay people coming to terms with a sexual preference that goes against the mainstream, that can be yet another thing that identifies them as different.

“We’re trying to address the sense that if you are a gay geek, you are not doubly doomed, you are doubly awesome,” Jarrett said.

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May 24, 2012

Gay superheroes: Holy cow! Why is everyone in a hurry to out Batman?

Kapow … Will Batman become one of DC’s ‘most prominent gay characters’? Photograph: Jerry Robinson/AP

As comic book rivals go to battle over gay superhero plots, it’s Batman’s sexual orientation that has tabloids in a spin.

  By David Barnett

Gay is apparently the new black for comics superheroes as rival publishers Marvel and DC duke it out over who’s got the best pink credentials.

First off this week, the Daily Mail got its knickers – worn outside of its trousers, presumably – in a twist over the possibility that one of the superheroes in the DC universe inhabited by Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman is going to be unveiled as gay.

Then, yesterday, Marvel shipped editions of its Astonishing X-Men #50 a day early to comic shops so fans could read about Northstar – mainstream comics’ first openly gay character – asking his partner to marry him.

But it’s the two-fisted heroes of DC who have the Mail in a kerfuffle, and the paper even goes as far as to point the finger (without a shred of evidence) at the Dark Knight himself – possibly DC’s most masculine character, ever. While it’s – rightfully – unlikely that any jury these days would accept accusations of homosexuality as defamatory (as they did in the case of Jason Donovan v The Face magazine in 1992), by the same token the goddamn Batman has spare vials of testosterone in his utility belt, just in case his outrageously high levels dip, right next to the shark repellent (not really).

“Is Batman gay?” shrieks the Mail, deftly ignoring the more mature-audience-targeted versions of the character that have graced movie screens and comic books in recent years, in favour of illustrating the story with a shot from the kids’ cartoon Justice League. Who knows? Not the Mail, which says only that DC co-publisher Dan DiDio revealed at the weekend’s London comic convention, Kapow, that “an existing character – who was previously assumed to be straight – will become ‘one of our most prominent gay characters’.”

But the Bat-family has form for this sort of thing, the Mail – almost sadly – acknowledges in its closing paragraph: “Batwoman, a DC favourite, made her comic book comeback as a lesbian in 2006.”

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