Category Archives: Comics Anthologies

Review: ‘Colonial Comics: New England: 1620 – 1750’

“Colonial Comics: New England 1620 – 1750”

“Colonial Comics” is a trilogy of anthology comics, published by Fulcrum. The first part to the series sets the tone and covers the period known for the Puritans and Plymouth Rock; the iconic Native American guide Squanto; John Winthrop; Cotton Mather; and the Salem witch trials. Editor Jason Rodriguez is highly sensitive to what, for him, amounts to confronting a lot of New England factoids fed to him in childhood. A lot of cartoonists in and around the East Coast can relate to that view and it is this regional zest for fresh insight that powers this series. This is just the sort of book to spark conversation, excite readers of all ages interested in American history, and add a little spice to holiday gift-giving.

“Garden in the Wilderness”

Some fine examples include “Garden in the Wilderness,” story by Matt Boehm and art by Ellen T. Crenshaw. This comics follows the struggles of free thinker Roger Williams to create his own colony of Providence Plantations. He learns the detailed art of persistence despite his outspoken nature. Boehm and Crenshaw work well together in stitching together some very compelling scenes. In the case of Williams, it was a case of political maneuvering. This is in stark contrast to the fate of another free thinker, Anne Hutchinson, who was banished from her home for her strong opinions.

“The Missing Cheese”

Among a number of unusual tales, perhaps the most offbeat is “The Missing Cheese,” story and art by Sarah Winifred Searle. Here we follow the bumpy journey of Mary Huntris who must live down a youthful folly of petty theft. Later, once she is an established member of the community, circa 1675, she must deal with a thief after her own property: a boy who steals her prized packets of home-made cheese. As a woman, she is instantly blamed for setting up the child. If not for her husband defending her, Mary Huntris would have been arrested.

“The Press’s Widow: Elizabeth Glover”

What each story in this series has in common is that, in one form or another, it is addressing how those without power were mistreated, abused, and exploited–which included anyone who was not a white male. And, if not outright hurt, then the disenfranchised could expect less in life. Another moving tale in this book is “The Press’s Widow: Elizabeth Glover,” story by Erika Swyler, art by Noel Tuazon, and lettering by Jason Hanley. Here we follow the journey of Goody Glover. She inherits a printing press that will ultimately lead to publication of a number of celebrated works. But she can only stand by as the men in her life oversee its operation.

“Troublesome Sows”

Another engaging comic is “Troublesome Sows,” story by Virginia DeJohn Anderson and art by Michael Sgier. This comic features the struggle endured by Native Americans as settlers from the New World steadily encroached upon their lands and livelihood. In this case, the settlers have let loose their livestock to a free-range buffet of all the Native American crops. In this wordless comic, we follow the frustrated victims of sows run amok. Finally, in a familiar trail of tears, the Native Americans find no other solution but to abandon their lands.

This book, and the rest of this series, is highly recommended for any reader. “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750” is a 208-page trade paperback, in full color, published by Fulcrum Publishing. For more details, be sure to visit the Colonial Comics website right here.

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Filed under American History, Comics, Comics Anthologies, Native Americans

Interview: Paul Buhle and ‘Bohemians: A Graphic History’

Drawing of Paul Buhle by Steve Chappell

Drawing of Paul Buhle by Steve Chappell

Paul Buhle is busy these days with various comics projects. He is truly a friend to cartoonists. And, as we find out in this interview, there’s a good story behind that. In fact, there’s plenty to talk about when you engage in a conversation with Paul Buhle. Today, his latest book, co-edited with David Berger, is out and avaiable, “Bohemians: A Graphic History,” a 304-page comics anthology that explores the world of bohemians in America from about 1850 to 1950 (my review here). It is published by Verso Books and you can find it here.

Paul Buhle retired a few years ago from Brown University where he lectured on History and American Civilization. He has written and edited numerous books on labor, culture, and radicalism. Now, Mr. Buhle finds a good portion of his time devoted to editing books that tell their stories through comics.

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Puck Magazine aPUCKalypse CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN!

Puck-Magazine-Apuckalypse-2013

Puck Magazine, an impressive collection of some of the leading comix artists and much more, launches its crowd funding campaign today. This is truly an international collection. If you are a fan of offbeat humor and you’d like a taste of it from around the world, then this is for you. Join the campaign here. It runs from November 26, 2013 thru January 4, 2014.

What follows is an informative essay on the Apocalypse, the history of alternative comics, and how that relates to Puck Magazine:

Welcome to the Apocalypse

Historically speaking, the Apocalypse is always now. By that I mean that at every period in human history, someone somewhere was certain that the world was about to end. Whether it was the author of the Biblical “Book of Revelation” (or “Revelation to John”) — surely one of the most mischievous tracts ever written — or some Vedic bard predicting the Kali Yuga, or urban street corner prophets ranting that “The End is Nigh,” the human imagination has repeatedly fixated on the end of the universe and the end of life as we know it.

It is not difficult to figure out why this is. At some undetermined point in time, for each of us, the universe will end. Death awaits us all, whether in a sudden accident or heart attack, or in a long lingering illness. That this is so seems like a monstrous joke, and so we repress the thought or, for many of us, we project it upon the world at large, finding solace in the thought that if we must die, so must everyone else, preferably all at the same time.

And yet, life goes on. Every prophecy of the End Times is, in some sense, a false prophecy. Predicted dates come and go, and true believers’ expectations fizzle out, only to be succeeded by new expectations which will eventually fizzle out as well.

Much of this apocalyptic fervor has been driven by religion, especially fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, which share similar scenarios of a Final Judgment. But there are no lack of secular apocalypses to choose from: catastrophic climate change, nuclear war, the end of Capitalism (a particularly elusive apocalypse), an impending police state, and the list goes on.

All of which brings us to the volume you hold in your hands, a smorgasboard of personal apocalypses conjured up by a stellar crew of cartoonists from around the world. For most comic artists, apocalypse looms as the rent comes due at the end of each month, so this theme was one that the assembled artists could really get their teeth into. As you will discover, some took the challenge lightly, producing humorous strips (including the inevitable Mother In Law joke), while others dove into full-fledged horror and paranoia.

The result is a well-balanced collection of unique visions that you will not find anywhere else. The locations change from strip to strip, usually manifesting the apocalypse in the artists’ own locales. If you’ve ever dreamed of making an Around the World Tour, but know you never will, this volume is a suitable substitute, albeit with rather more demons, cannibals, black holes, and Avenging Angels than you would likely encounter in hopping from country to country.

Sadly, I am told that this is likely the last PUCK volume for years to come, so it represents an apocalypse of sorts for the whole PUCK enterprise. PUCK’s staff has beat all odds in uniting cartoonists from numerous countries in its group projects that are done for the love of free and uncensored cartooning.

The Underground Comix movement was launched in the U.S. during the Sixties and spread its influence to England, the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Italy (among others), in the following decades. PUCK has been one of the most energetic recent manifestations of the underground impulse and Ivan and the rest of the PUCK gang deserve a round of applause for keeping the torch held high.

The Apocalypse is always now. Enjoy it while you can.

–Jay Kinney

Jay Kinney was a participant in the Underground Comix movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He edited and co-edited Young Lust, Occult Laff-Parade, Cover-up Lowdown, and Anarchy Comics, and contributed to many others.

He has since been a magazine publisher, book author, and antiquarian bookseller. Recently published is: Anarchy Comics: the Complete Collection (PM Press), a retrospective anthology of the hard-to-find four originals issues, plus never before published strips and sketchbook pages.

Caption for Mavrides-Kinney Armageddon panels…

The “End Times” erupt in “Armageddon Outtahere” by Paul Mavrides and Jay Kinney in Anarchy Comics #4. This story and all others from the comic series can be found in Anarchy Comics: the Complete Collection (PM Press).

Press release follows:

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Review: ‘The Best American Comics 2013,’ Editor, Jeff Smith; Series Editors, Matt Madden and Jessica Abel

best-american-comics-jeff-smith-2013

“The Best American Comics 2013” pops out at you with we-mean-business cover art by Kate Beaton and zips right to it. I interviewed this year’s editor, Jeff Smith (read here). As he explained, he was looking for singular talent, whether new or established, “A story someone really needs to tell.” He took care with placement so that elements from one work flow into the next and compliment each other.

Smith starts with Alison Bechdel’s “Mirror,” an autobiographical piece about mother/daughter dynamics; and he ends with Paul Pope’s “1969,” a quirky inside look at the first human landing on the moon. These two works by cartoonist heavyweights anchor the top and bottom. In between, other top contenders lend a hand, like an excerpt from Craig Thompson’s “Habibi.”

Sophie Goldstein's "The Good Wife"

Sophie Goldstein’s “The Good Wife”

There are many new rising stars that get to sparkle amid the well know cartoonists. One such talent is Sophie Goldstein. Her work is placed right before Craig Thompson’s. The connection between the two is the focus on the female main character. In Goldstein’s “The Good Wife,” we view a woman who denies herself well beyond her limits in order to please her husband. That story gives way to Thompson’s “70 Nights of Pleasure,” an excerpt from “Habibi.”

Craig Thompson's "70 Nights of Pleasure," excerpt from "Habibi"

Craig Thompson’s “70 Nights of Pleasure,” excerpt from “Habibi”

Again, we have a woman pushing her limits to satisfy one man. The artwork, and the narrative structure, for each of these pieces is quite different. Goldstein’s style is basic. Thompson’s style is ornate. However, both present confident, mature work. That’s saying a lot since Thompson is a seasoned veteran and Goldstein is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies.

If you’re looking for a cut-to-the-chase short list on the best comics in America, then this 400-page trade paperback is your book. There are 30 works featured here and they are all gems. This book is in full color. “The Best American Comics 2013” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and is available here.

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Review: DIGESTATE

Digestate JT Yost 2012

DIGESTATE” is a 288-page food and eating anthology, a veritable cornucopia of cartooning talent. You have fan favorites like Alex Robinson, Kevin Cannon, Noah Van Sciver, Marc Bell, Sam Henderson, and James Kochalka, just to name a few. There are 54 contributors in all and it is edited by J.T. Yost. It is great to see a food theme for a comics anthology and to see it done so well.

Alex Robinson Eating Disorder

Even when food seems to be just food, something to eat when you’re hungry, there is likely a story behind it, something to give it complexity. Cartoonists tend to be complicated too. So, it makes sense to mix the two together. Among a multitude of outlooks on food in this book, the one that stands out is from Alex Robinson who admits to having an eating disorder. Just like a true blue cartoonist, he lets the world at large know about his condition through a comics anthology. Mr. Robinson is one of those cartoonists who has succeeded in making an impression in the world with his best selling works, notably, “Box Office Poison.” Of course, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks when it comes to personal issues. And there’s certainly no shame or stigma to having an eating disorder. Mr. Robinson chose to share that part of his life with readers and that’s what matters. It is a very generous piece that provides insights into eating disorders that you may not know about.

Let’s consider this some more. Buried within this anthology is a significant admission from an important cartoonist, an important member of the pop culture. It is really a big deal as the issue of eating disorders continues to get short shrift in the media. It is like it is something from another planet for your average reader. We are another generation or two away from any real collective understanding on this issue. In Mr. Robinson’s case, the struggle for him is to get beyond eating comfort foods from childhood, such as peanut butter. In his piece, “That Peanut Butter Kid!” Mr. Robinson states that he believes his condition is a result of having suffered sexual abuse as a child. However, he continues to make progress in finding new foods to eat. With the support of his wife, he is eating more healthy foods. If this isn’t a theme for a book, I don’t know what is.

It seems like problems begin to stir when we think too much about food, turn it into something else than food, turn it into something symbolic instead of a means to an end. Ideally, humans want to look out for themselves and provide all the things they need to keep body and soul together. But what do us humans do? We can complicate things. We can be educated about nutrition but, for any number of reasons, we can take another road. Our saving grace is that humans tend to want to improve themselves more that they tend to want to hurt themselves. And we all have our own ideas on how to improve ourselves which range from the sensible to the self-righteous. Such is life. Let’s take a closer look at some samples from this intriguing book.

Jeff Zwirek

In the down to basics category, there is “Caveman Eat,” by Jeff Zwirek, which is an exquisitely rendered silent comic about a caveman hunter. This 8-pager, two panels per page, plays out like a nice piece of animation. Zwirke’s composition and line is very clean and his humor is spot on.

Jonathan Baylis

For something light and fun that might whet your appetite, there’s, “So Brisk,” written by Jonathan Baylis, known for his comic, “So…Buttons,” and drawn by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg. It’s nicely paced and holds the secret ingredient for making a tasty brisk.

JT Yost

Cartoonists often find themselves taking on the role of the canary in the coal mine. J.T. Yost does an impressive job of providing the facts about the meat industry with illustrations that strike the right balance between restraint and urgency.

Keith Knight

Keith Knight‘s one-pager, “My (Hammy) Vice,” is a very funny ode to bacon.

Noah Van Sciver

Cartoonists are also prone to be subversive. Even your most passive cartoonist can be a powder keg ready to blow. So, there’s some stuff here that pushes the envelope. Your best bet on that front is Noah Van Sciver‘s 3-pager, “3 Bowls of Rasin Bran,” which, as the title implies, is about when things go decidedly south.

Victor Kerlow

And in the simply cute category, Victor Kerlow‘s “Rat Boy” follows a little rat as it forages for dinner.

“Digestate” is a handsome trade paperback, 8.25″ x 10.75″, published by Birdcage Bottom Books. Cover art, with more of her comics inside, is by Cha. This is truly like a cartoonist phone book, a Who’s Who of comics talent. “Digestate” ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and will stand as a shining example of what Kickstarter can help bring about. You can own your very own copy for only $19.95 at Birdcage Bottom Books.

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