“Locomotive / IDEOLO,” published by Centrala, is one beautiful and simple idea brought to life for all its worth: take a beloved famous Polish poem for children and then adapt it for adults. The poem is “The Locomotive,” by Julian Tuwim (September 13, 1894 – December 27, 1953) who is remembered for his satirical and subversive poetry. Listen to “The Locomotive” in Polish and, even if you don’t speak the language, it evokes the strains and struggles of the mighty steam-powered monster. What designer Małgorzata Gurowska and journalist Joanna Ruszczyk have done with this book is provide a unique format upon which to meditate on Tuwim’s poem.
I found this book to be a great form of therapy as I lingered upon each page. Gurowska and Ruszczyk provide an intoxicating mix of light and dark content. We have animals that appear to be undergoing an organized exodus while other animals have been neatly packed as surplus. And the same goes for humans. On the train cars, as we begin, it seems that we have everything we would ever need for anything: a celebration, a riot, the next all-out war. As we proceed from train car to train car, the stakes grow higher, the urgency more crushing. Countless suitcases are stored away never to be reunited with their owners. Troops are deployed. War is imminent or already unleashed.
And amid all the mounting tension, there is a cry for change. The political commentary is sly and well-placed challenging the reader to face difficult questions about national identity, racism, anti-Semitism, and attitudes towards ecology and animals. The design is impeccable and does a great job of evoking a highly regimented state of alert. The clean and sharp silhouettes of rabbits, soccer players, and suitcases will hit you with their significance. Contemplate each page and then spread out the entire book, just like an accordion, to fully appreciate it.
From Julian Tuwim’s THE LOCOMOTIVE:
A big locomotive has pulled into town,
Heavy, humungus, with sweat rolling down,
A plump jumbo olive.
Huffing and puffing and panting and smelly.
Fire belches forth from her fat cast iron belly
“Locomotive / IDEOLO” is a 188-page hardcover and is appropriate for ages 9 and up. Visit our friends at Centrala right here.
“Fertility” is a beautiful and strange graphic novel by Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński. The artwork is by Herba and, together, Herba and Pasiński create various work. This book is brought to you by Centrala, publishers of marvelous works from Central Europe.
Think of one of the darkest tales of folklore you’ve read and then read this. “Fertility” works on a highly uninhibited level. It’s brought to life by Herba’s bold drawing style and held together by a relentless pace. The subdued blue hues running throughout kiss the work with dark grace. Rabbits are being tortured as they fall into endless traps set by the young village women. But the women don’t notice this. They are too caught up in their fertility rites. They know rabbits are synonymous with fertility. And, they believe, that eating their entrails with lead to them birthing baby boys.
Once we’ve witnessed the rabbits’ terror, it’s time to reverse the roles. If the women were callous, the rabbits are beyond heartless. It’s pretty rough stuff but it’s all rendered with poetic fervor. Each panel ratchets up the tension. The rabbits, once in bug-eyed fear, are now the masters. The young women desired fertility, but the rabbits tear that dream to shreds and then some. Herba is completely in touch with sexuality, the macabre, and very dark humor. This content is for mature readers, 18 and up. It’s a powerful work and one you won’t forget.
“Fertility” is a 36-page hardcover published by Centrala. For some of the most unique works in comics, visit our friends at Centrala right here.
What does Belle Starr, Rosa Parks, and Ma Barker have in common? In “Tuff Ladies,” a new work in comics by Till Lukat, they are part of his kaleidoscopic tour of women in history. This is a most unusual book and quite a page-turner. Lukat has assembled 24 portraits of significant women. He calls his choices “remarkable” but, perhaps “colorful” is a better catch-all word. Or maybe “provocative.” It’s a fascinating collection.
Profile on Ann Boney, Pirate Queen
There is certainly a subversive sensibility at play here. It’s not so much that Lukat is glorifying each and every woman he’s profiled. It’s more like he’s presenting each figure as a compelling character from fiction. Each woman here is depicted in Lukat’s energetic woodcut-like style. Each profile has its own crazy urgency: a bold portrait followed by a brief comic strip and topped off with some brief text.
The most controversial inclusion is Ulrike Meinhof of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, a left-wing terrorist group that committed several murders, kidnappings, bank robberies, and bomb attacks. The overall theme is that all these women made a huge impact. Not all of them are well-known. In fact, Lukat pretty much avoids obvious choices. One of the more poignant ones is for Miep Gies. Thanks to her, the Diary of Anne Frank was kept safe from the Nazis to go on to be known throughout the world.
This book is a treat. It’s a perfect gateway for further exploration. It’s odd, artful, and most refreshing.
“Tuff Ladies” is a 64-page hardcover published by Centrala. For some of the most unique works in comics, visit our friends at Centrala right here.
Greetings from Central Europe. Did you know that some of the most intriguing comics are made in this region? Consider Polish cartoonist Maciej Sieńczyk and his latest graphic novel, “Adventures on a Desert Island,” published by Centrala. It brings to mind The Beatles’ 1968 animation masterpiece, “Yellow Submarine.” This is quite an oddball journey spiked with cerebral whimsy.
Maciej Sieńczyk offers us an average man, frayed around the edges. We don’t know much about him other than he’s middle-aged, with thinning hair, decidedly unathletic, and timid. We never learn his name. We spend most of our time inside his head. He’s supposed to be on a desert island for most of the story but it’s the internal monologue he is having with himself that is the main attraction.
Our main character is a stranger in a strange land. The strangeness comes to us from various sources including actual Polish history, folk tales, and local stories. There are, for instance, observations made on obscure Poish devices like a primitive military ferry that proved inefficient or an awkward farming implement that proved obsolete. In Sieńczyk’s hands, with his cockeyed ethereal drawings, the familiar and mundane become fanciful things more suited to a dreamy Neverland.
One strange story blends into another with jarring jolts along the way. For instance, there’s the tale of two men who fancied a drink of pine sap. One faired well. The other found his throat sealing up from the sticky sap. In the throes of his last gasps for air, he was miraculously saved by an old village woman who promptly sat on his face and peed into his mouth thus breaking the deadly pine sap seal.
This is also a story about life at middle age. You may still feel young. You may even still look relatively young. But Death is already nipping at your heels. Oh, it’s only little nips. But those nips weren’t there in younger days. Now, life seems more urgent and a greater attempt is made to grasp it in all its complexity and absurdity. That’s what our main character has been up to. He’s realized life for what it is, a bunch of adventures on a desert island.
Originally published in Poland by Lampa in 2012, “Adventures on a Desert Island” is now available from Centrala. Visit our friends at Centrala right here.