Category Archives: Dover Publications

Review: BILLY BUDD, KGB by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq

Yuri and Stavrogin: It is a matter of trust.

In Herman Melville’s last novel, “Billy Budd,” we follow the fate of an orphan plucked from adversity and conscripted into the British Royal Navy. In the graphic novel by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq, the lost little orphan is carted off into the service of the Soviet Union. Like Melville’s main character, there is something special about this boy. As we find in much of Charyn’s work, we have a protagonist of limited means compelled to honor his great potential. However, as we begin, we have only an emotionally stunted, ignorant lad with a hideous harelip. It is 1954. Stalin is in power. Yuri cannot resist all that is offered to him by the Soviets. In fact, he has no choice. “Billy Bud, KGB,” originally released in France in 1990, has recently been re-issued, with a new English translation by Jerome Charyn, by Dover Comics and Graphic Novels.

Four graphic novels by Jerome Charyn, available from Dover Publications.

Mr. Charyn’s literary career began in America in 1964 with his first novel, “Once Upon a Droshky,” a story of underdogs fighting to remain in their tenement apartment. After 19 prose novels, including the Isaac Sidel crime noir series, Charyn decided to adapt one of his stories into a graphic novel. That led to more. It all began with 1987’s “The Magician’s Wife,” with artist François Boucq. They also collaborated on 2014’s “Little Tulip.” Another graphic novel by Charyn in a similar spirit is 1991’s “The Boys of Sheriff Street,” with artist Jacques de Loustal. All four of these stories have multi-layered plots, primarily set in New York City, and filled with offbeat characters.

Yuri encounters the spiritual realm.

Our main character, Yuri, seems to be a typical malleable cog but something burns inside him making him go astray. He is far too innocent and ignorant to be in command of his intuitive desire to rebel. All he knows is that there must be more to life than what his Soviet handlers are telling him. Luckily, Yuri stumbles into a friendship with an instructor that will inform the rest of his life. Comrade Grigori’s unique artistic skills and broad knowledge have made him an asset over the years at the KGB training camp. But that same treasure trove of knowledge makes him very dangerous to the Soviet agenda. As a tutor, mentor, and friend, he provides Yuri with a key to unlock his soul.

It’s not easy being a spy.

By fits and starts, Yuri emerges as material for a competent secret agent. The KGB arranges a few encounters with prostitutes in order to, in their view, make Yuri more worldly. And then he’s shipped off to America. His new identity, a knowing nod to Melville: William “Billy” Budd, the lost soul. It will be up to the newly minted Billy in New York City to struggle with his life’s purpose. Stavrogin plucked him out of a ditch and gave him a future. Grigori opened his eyes to life’s possibilities. And Red Eagle, a Native American mystic, may offer him the salvation he’s hungered for all along.

Yuri gains a deeper spiritual connection.

Both Charyn and Boucq work in such a synchronized and nuanced manner that was as rare a treat then as it is now. Such pairing can only happen when the time is right. Today, readers in America and in general, are far more receptive to this level of quality. While a unique challenge, some creators choose to control all aspects of their work alone. But, as this graphic novel collaboration makes clear, the results can be stunning when writer and artist work together. We can all thank novelist Jerome Charyn for being a true trailblazer in adding his unique literary talent to the pantheon of exemplary work in comics. This book is a mesmerizing story and comics of the first order.

BILLY BUDD, KGB by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq

“Billy Bud, KGB” is a 144-page full color trade paperback. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Dover Publications right here. You can find it at Amazon right here.

Also note a Kickstarter campaign going on now thru May 21st for a deluxe reprint of FAMILY MAN, a collaboration between Jerome Charyn and Joe Staton.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Comics, Dover Publications, François Boucq, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jerome Charyn, Russia, Soviet Union, Spies

Review: LITTLE TULIP by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq

LITTLE TULIP by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq

LITTLE TULIP, a graphic novel recently reissued by Dover Publications, by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq, is definitely not something that is cooked up overnight. No, on the contrary, like anything worthwhile, this is a work that is carefully constructed with meticulous precision. It only looks effortless, and it is the sort of comics that I prefer.

Paul, the master, teaches Azami, the apprentice.

This graphic novel immerses the reader in Soviet prison tattoo culture. Within the Russian underground community, these unique tattoos formed a service record of a criminal’s transgressions. Skulls denoted a criminal authority. A cat represented a thief. And, in the case of our story, a tulip represented a young person joining the ranks of a gang. Today, these same tattoos have become fashion statements because of their mystery and fierce beauty. They were, then and now, a way to step beyond the ordinary. For our main character, Paul, they were also a way to step beyond the horrors of the gulag.

Page from LITTLE TULIP: New York City, 1970

Our present setting is New York City, 1970. There is a serial killer on the loose. Paul runs his own tattoo shop and is also a police sketch artist. His work with the police is more than just a gig but a calling, a way to seek justice. Not only does Paul have that uncanny ability to render a likeness based upon a witness’s verbal description, he also has a sixth sense about criminals. He will often act as a medium for hard to crack cases. There may be honor among thieves but, for Paul, there are crimes that compel no mercy.

Paul came from an American family that chose to live in Moscow for a while. The timing could not have been worse since this was the 1950s during the reign of Stalin and the secret police. One misunderstanding too many and the whole family gets shipped off to Siberia where they are immediately separated into a gulag. But, just as all hope may be lost, Paul, now Pavel, has inherited from his father an artistic sensibility that will help him endure the worst.

Page from LITTLE TULIP: Train Trip to Siberia

This is a story as much about one man’s journey among hardened criminals as it is a story about how life and art commingle, how art can save one’s soul. This is a multi-layered masterpiece of a script by renowned writer Jerome Charyn; and a breathtaking, bold, and completely enthralling work of art by renowned artist François Boucq. The structure of this graphic novel is just impeccable: a story told at a easy and natural pace with room enough for metaphysical musings.

More more details on LITTLE TULIP, and how to purchase, visit Dover Publications right here.

2 Comments

Filed under Comics, Crime, Crime Fiction, Dover Publications, François Boucq, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jerome Charyn, New York City, Russia, Tattoos

Review: THE BOYS OF SHERIFF STREET by Jerome Charyn and Jacques de Loustal

High Noon on Delancey Street.

High Noon on Delancey Street.

Jerome Charyn is one of our great American writers. I had the pleasure to review, “The Magician’s Wife,” a graphic novel illustrated by François Boucq and written by Jerome Charyn. Thanks to Dover Graphic Novels, a number of lost gems are finding their way back into print. For this review, we look at “The Boys of Sheriff Street,” illustrated by Jacques de Loustal and written by Jerome Charyn. This is a beautifully tragic love story–at an exquisitely high level of artistry.

Ida, ready to devour the world.

Ida, ready to devour the world.

Graphic novels are not always what some people may expect, not even aspiring cartoonists. One misconception is that they need to be unruly massive things which, outside of manga, is more the exception than the norm. While there are no set rules to this, a book that clocks in at roughly 100 pages is very likely to make for a satisfying experience. And so it is with this book which is 80 pages. That’s perhaps more of a European standard–but it works so well. Consider this work quite the treat with its theatrical and painterly flourish.

The emperor has returned.

The emperor has returned.

Our story revolves around twin brothers Max and Morris. This is New York City’s underworld during the 1930s, on the Lower East Side. And Max and Morris belong to the Sheriff Street gang. Morris is tall and jovial. Max is the brains and the head of the operation. He is shorter and has a hunchback. The dynamic between the two brothers, and the whole gang for that matter, is severely tested when Morris introduces everyone to Ida, his new love and fiancé. This proves to be a fascinating study in character. Is Ida really a femme fatale or is she simply trying to assert her position as best she can?

The size and scope of Charyn’s story leaves me thinking of what a great movie it could make. That said, everything adds up to a perfect graphic novel. Loustal has created a fully realized world that the characters smoothly move through. This all works flawlessly as classic tragedy with a noir bite. At any point, Max, Morris, and even Ida, could prevent the inevitable. But sometimes blood must spill no matter how careful the players.

"The Boys of Sherrif Street," by Jerome Charyn and .......

“The Boys of Sheriff Street,” by Jerome Charyn and Jacques de Loustal

“The Boys of Sheriff Street,” by Jerome Charyn and Jacques de Loustal, is an 80-page full color trade paperback, published by Dover Publications. You can find it at Amazon right here.

4 Comments

Filed under Comics, Dover Publications, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jacques de Loustal, Jerome Charyn

Review: ‘The Puma Blues: The Complete Saga in One Volume’

The Puma Blues Murphy Zulli Dover

The Puma Blues is essential reading. And now, after being out of print for nearly 25 years, here is this beautiful definitive collection of the ecological thriller published by Dover Publications.

Look out for those flying manta rays!

Look out for those flying manta rays!

Now, you know what manta rays are, don’t you? They are those large flat-bodied fish, black on top, white underneath, with a long thin tail, a big mouth, and those fleshy horns. Ech! How about a swarm of them flying above your head? There are many beautifully rendered pages of such things in the legendary comic book series, The Puma Blues, written by Stephen Murphy, and drawn by Michael Zulli, first released starting in 1986 and now with a definitive collected hardcover published by Dover Publications. It is safe to say that there’s nothing quite like it.

The Puma Blues Gavia Immer

With its driven protagonist, conspiracy theories, and philosophical musings, The Puma Blues held its own with other ambitious works of the time like, Watchmen. It is both a thriller and a weird mystical journey for our hero, Gavia Immer. Sort of like Special Agent Mulder, Immer is a government agent tasked with investigating a myriad of ecological anomalies, like flying manta rays. Set in the not-too-distant future, Immer is equipped with a transducer gun able to transport endangered wildlife from their natural habitats to government facilities.

The Puma Blues-Dover-2015

Weighing in at 560 pages, this hardcover is aimed to please. Among its extras, is a 40-page epilogue written by the original creators. This work is in the tradition of some the greatest graphic novels and has made the short list of many critics. It will bring to mind Barry Windsor-Smith, Moebius, and Dave Sim, who happens to provide the Introduction. Another great, Stephen R. Bissette provides the Afterword.

For more details, be sure to visit our friends at Dover Publications right here.

1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Dover Publications, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels

Review: THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

Velvet Verbone warms up to the case.

Velvet Verbone warms up to the case.

Ever since its publication in 1986, it has developed a cult following. It’s been out-of-print in English for 30 years. And THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE has not lost any of its magic. This is a prime example of what is possible in comics in the graphic novel format. Thanks to Drew Ford and Dover Publications, it is back! As your guide through comics, I strongly recommend that you put aside everything, your morning coffee, your late-night rendezvous, whatever, and seek this book out. It will change your life.

THE MAGICIAN'S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

All these French masters who took an American art form, the comic strip, and transformed it into the graphic novel: Bilal, Boucq, Blutch, Tardi, Masse, Liberatore, and Loustal. I was in Paris in that heady time, circa 1988, and I most vividly recall as a very young aspiring cartoonist and writer that something very different and exciting was happening. In that same year, Drew Ford, as a youth, would stumble upon a copy of “The Magician’s Wife” in a secondhand shop in upstate New York. Drew Ford would go on to see that book get a proper reprint at Dover Publications after being out-of-print in English for oh too long. So, what is so exciting, and magical, about this particular comic? Well, it speaks to that desire for a truly ideal and satisfying entertainment. It manages to actually realize that dream of a comic that is perfect down to each and every panel. A fantastical story that strikes you with its poetry and poignancy. And there’s supernatural things going on to boot. Rita, the magician’s wife, could quite possibly be a werewolf.

Our story makes its way to New York City.

Our story makes its way to New York City.

Much in the irreverent and artistic French spirit, this is a story that simply is. In some sense, is it both a complex and straightforward visual treat. It is also a splendid work of surreal, absurd, whimsy. And, in the end, it is a very well-structured, undeniably tightly-knit story. It feels like a dream that goes on forever and yet you sense that it is also quite a lean and determined piece. Silly, fun, but also deadly serious. Full of symbolic impact. With a squarely-in-the-eyes shot to the deepest recesses of your mind. Graphic novels come from the city and this is very much an urban story full of gritty elements. Yes, this definitely has mature content. But, like in the best work of this kind, there is a certain level of restraint that makes this suitable for young teens and up.

Verbone continues to track down clues.

Verbone continues to track down clues.

Edmund, the magician in this story, is a cross between an amazing wizard and a cowardly ne’er-do-well. It is a struggle that will consume him and those that come into his orbit. Things move at a relatively steady clip in a work of comics. However, there a number of reasons to slow down the pacing: to convey a mood, to reinforce an idea, to thoroughly establish a setting. This comic manages to keep things moving while seeming to have all day to do it and all in a tidy 82 pages. I maintain that a comic need not run longer than 80 or 100 pages. You find your sweet spot and you don’t need to pad things up.

Edmund futilely attempts to show everyone who is boss.

Edmund futilely attempts to show everyone who is boss.

Consider the above page. Not too much obvious movement but you can quickly sense a rapid energy at work as well. This is a pivotal moment for Edmund: he is momentarily in full control and in the process of consolidating his position, and then he must confront a huge setback and a taste of what’s to come. We first find him emerging from a restful pose; then a full-figure attentive pose; followed by arm raised in confrontation; right in the center, an indignant look; his former lover defies him; he escalates the situation; finally, his new lover puts him in his place.

Edmund. Rita, Detective Verbone. Ah, all the misbegotten jockeys from Saratoga Springs. The gals at the diner. The regular group of cops too concerned with hamburgers. And the hoodlums from the Lower Eastside led by the monstrous Ross. And, for an added literary touch, Dolores, a name that keeps floating in and out of the narrative. At varying times, it belongs to someone’s sweetheart, an animal, and a maid. If only Dolores could be pinned down for just a moment, she might have something quite insightful to reveal. But, not to worry, perhaps the jockeys will carve up another horse. And everything rendered in this glorious semi-realistic style that floats along perfectly with great distinction–and such vivid color. Yes, this is it. This is the graphic novel you’ve been waiting for all your life. Get it at our friends at Dover Publications right here.

9 Comments

Filed under Bande Dessinée, Comics, Dover Publications, François Boucq, France

Review: THE BOZZ CHRONICLES

The-Bozz-Chronicles

THE BOZZ CHRONICLES is going to appeal to those who love an offbeat story with an ooey-gooey weirdness rolled into a droll misadventure. Does that sound like you? More cheezburger, perhaps? Yes, you. And you’ll dig the vintage quasi-steampunk vibe too. We have been enjoying a comics reprint renaissance in recent years. And Dover Publications is doing its part by bringing back ole Bozz which was originally a six-issue series published by Epic Comics from December 1985 to December 1986. Set in Victorian era England, we follow a space alien as he solves crimes with the help of prostitute Amanda Flynn and American Salem Hawkshaw.

Bozz-Chronicles-Dover-comics

Written by David Michelinie (The Amazing Spider-Man) and drawn by Bret Blevins (New Mutants), this is a comic ready to regain the spotlight. The one thing I can’t help but focus on is how effortlessly quirky this comic is. And, of course, it’s steampunk before there ever was steampunk. It takes its cues from a long tradition of bawdy and oddball British humor going all the way back to Chaucer, and you thought I was going to say, Alan Moore. Funny, but there is a Moore connection. There usually is one if you dig far enough. Mr. Michelinie wrote for “Swamp Thing” before and after Alan Moore. Pretty cool, huh?

The-Bozz-Chronicles-Dover-Epic-comics

“The Bozz Chronicles” is one of those eccentric comics that goes all out and then sadly comes to an end, like a dazzling magic act. Not every weird and wonderful comic needs to become a perpetual series or franchise. Some of the best just do their unique bit of magic and that’s more than enough. That’s comics at its elusive and ephemeral best.

And if you like this reprint gem, you’ll dig other Dover titles like “A Sailor’s Story” by Sam Glanzman, originally published by Marvel Comics in two volumes in 1987 and 1988. “The Bozz Chronicles” is a 208-page trade paperback and will be available as of September 16, 2015. For more details on Dover graphic novels, visit our friends at Dover Publications right here. You can also find “The Bozz Chronicles” at Amazon right here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dover Publications, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror, mystery, Steampunk

Review: MERCY: SHAKE THE WORLD

Mercy-Shake-The-World-Dover-2015

A man of means, with everything to live for, finds himself in a coma. At 54, he’s had a stroke that has left him in limbo. He floats along, out of his body, amused and perplexed by all the fuss still being made over him in hospital. While in limbo, he becomes ever more familiar with an entity of great power. He observes. He gives it a sex and a name, Mercy. He concludes that Mercy is fully self-contained and yet she repeatedly ventures back down to Earth to help. It’s totally altruistic. But why do it?

Written by J.M. DeMatteis, and artwork by Paul Johnson, “Mercy: Shake the World” is the sort of graphic novel that Will Eisner would have appreciated. As was his understanding, since life really begins after 50, many a graphic novel will be created with a more mature and worldly reader in mind. This is just that kind of work. “Mercy” is unafraid to let it all hang out when it comes to asking the big questions and not caring so much for the answers. It’s like we’re somehow past that, so beyond just seeking wisdom here.

Our main character is totally free to see as much of the big picture as he chooses. He doesn’t gorge himself on insight. He’s along for the ride, has all the time in the world. Enlightenment is inevitable. So, he takes it slow and easy. He’ll take Mercy any way it comes.

This is a beautifully rendered work. Johnson’s artwork is in touch with the ethereal just as much as DeMatteis’s script. Nothingness. Emptiness. You can go anywhere from there. From nothing to everything. Graphic novels are a perfect venue with which to ponder and expound upon the metaphysical. And here you have a fine example of just that. Our Everyman, with one foot in our world and the other in the netherworld, is neither hero nor villain. He’s just trying, before too long, to find out what all the fuss is about.

“Mercy: Shake the World,” a 128-page trade paperback in full color, with extras, is published by Dover Publications, and available as of June 17, 2015. Visit our friends at Dover Publications right here. And you can also find “Mercy: Shake the World” at Amazon right here.

6 Comments

Filed under Comics, Dover Publications, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Will Eisner