Peter Kuper is one of the great cartoonists and any book by him is a treat. In this case, you have a highly creative individual out and about for two years in a most stimulating environment, Mexico, specifically in Oaxaca. What could be better than his sketchbook journal of his two years there? The paperback version of his “Diario de Oaxaca” recently came out from PM Press.
Pages from “Diario de Oaxaca” by Peter Kuper
Kuper follows his heart and stream of thought to deliver page after page of enchanting work. He has a special multi-colored pencil that he uses. The lead in the pencil is made up of various colors. That allows much greater spontaneity as he can instantly shift the pencil to get a different color and then another and so on. He seems to have most fun with creating work that has that look of being on the fly–but can also be a mix of a long day, or night, of contemplation.
The sense of excitement and discovery is palpable. In a similar quick manner, he jots down numerous observations in prose as well. The joie de vivre takes a decidedly sober tone as Kuper finds himself covering a fight between strikers and government troops that left more than 20 people dead, including American journalist Brad Will. The end result is that Kuper manages to capture both the light and the dark of Oaxaca in an extarordinary collection of dispatches.
“Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico” is a 208-page paperback with full color artwork throughout. For more details, visit PM Press right here.
Book Giveaway: Be sure to visit tomorrow when the Comics Grinder Winter Giveaway kicks off. Among the items that will be available will be a copy of “Diario de Oaxaca.”
A war zone that may not be on your radar: the border state of Chihuahua and its city of Juarez. It is the site of more murders than war-torn Afghanistan. And ninety-seven percent of these killings remain unsolved. This is thanks to the inextricable link between drug cartels and official corruption. But thanks to human rights activists, these crimes will not fade away. Leaders like Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro won’t allow that to happen. “La Lucha,” published by Verso Books, is their story.
Edited by Adam Shapiro, head of campaigns at the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, the goal of the book is to put a face to a crisis. Written and drawn by Jon Sack, you have here a series of profiles and reportage that have the urgency of dispatches from the scene. And the art adds to the immediacy of each story.
Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro
There are all compelling stories to be found here. One example is the story of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and her daughter, Rubi Marisol. Rubi was murdered by her boyfriend, Sergio Barraza. It was a clear-cut case. However, Sergio Barraza would never be found guilty simply for the fact that he was a member of the Zetas drug ring and that made him instantly untouchable. Rubi’s mother, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, led a fight to bring Sergio Barraza to justice. She was able to repeatedly track him down when authorities were not. Sergio Barraza was eventually slain in a shoot-out in 2012 with the Mexican Army. But during Marisela’s struggle for justice, the Mexican authorities, from the local level to the federal level, would not get involved. In the end, Marisela was killed for her efforts. This is quite an involved story. An excellent examination of it from Borderland Beat is right here.
If Americans are sensitive to Iraq and Afghanistan, then they should surely take notice of Mexico. Yes, if you’re looking for the most bloody war zone, all you have to do is look south of the U.S. border. Marisela Escobedo Ortiz’s murder was captured on video (starts at 1:05). Trust me, you don’t need to know a word of Spanish to appreciate the above video. “Él le disparó en la cabeza.” translates to “He shot her in the head.” Just in case, you need that clarity. Cultural and language barriers should never be an excuse for not understanding. That is what this book breaks free from in a very compelling read.
In memory of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz
“La Lucha” is an exemplary example of the comics medium. A book like this one proves how complex issues can be presented in a clear and concise manner that can benefit people in a myriad of ways. It can jump start conversations that require a number of facts that are not always easy to follow. It can make a difference. It can even save lives.
“La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico” is published by Verso Books and is available as of March 31, 2015. You can find it here, here, here, and here.
What does the Mexican Revolution mean to you? It began in 1910 and raged for well over a decade. In the end, the great social experiment of the 20th Century wrought very mixed results. But it clearly had its heroes and at the top was Pancho Villa.
Here in the United States, we have gotten a lot of American Civil War books, graphic novels, movies, television programs, and re-enactments, observing the 150th anniversary of various milestones. Mexico is doing the same with milestones related to the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. One distinguished graphic novel you will want to consider is “Pancho Villa Toma Zacatecas,” written by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, drawn by Héctor de la Garza “Eko,” and published by Sexto Piso. This will appeal to readers interested in graphic and fine arts, history, and Mexican history in particular.
On June 23, 1914, the Battle of Zacatecas, the bloodiest battle of the Mexican Revolution, saw Mexico’s most iconic hero, Pancho Villa, and his rebel forces, defeat the Federalist General Barron. This graphic novel provides an inside look at Villa and his men. It is a story told in stark black and white which is becoming of the dark and gritty theme. The dialogue sounds authentic and is peppered with salty language which would not make it suitable for younger readers. This is something more appropriate for young adults and up. The artwork and the narrative are what adults would expect from any high quality graphic novel.
Eko’s woodcut style evokes a feeling of blunt urgency. Taibo breaks up the narrative with informative passages alternating with extended scenes such as Pancho Villa with his men on the battlefield. If you don’t happen to speak Spanish, don’t let that stop you. It never stopped me from buying comics by Tardi before Fantagraphics Books translated the French. There’s an idea. Perhaps Fantagraphics would be interested in translating this book. It would definitely be well worth it.
For the convenience of some our readers, you can purchase “Pancho Villa Toma Zacatecas” through Amazon here.
Comics Grinder welcomes all our Hispanic readers to provide any feedback, if you’ve already had a chance to read this book, or anticipate reading this book. You can learn more at the Sexto Piso website here.
If you go to Comic-Con, in San Diego, you are likely to notice other forces at play besides comics and pop culture: the Pacific Ocean, the United States Navy, and the nation of Mexico. Writer Sam Humphries, with artist Dalton Rose, taps into the last on this list with great results in his self-published comics series, “Sacrifice.” Humphries has gone on to launch an impressive career (Ultimates, Uncanny X-Force, Our Love is Real). And now what started it all, “Sacrifice,” has been collected into a gorgeous hardcover published by Dark Horse Comics. The book will be released on August 21 in comics shops, and on September 2 in bookstores.
When you’re a teen who just wants to hide from the San Diego sun, curl up with a Joy Division song, and then suddenly finds himself thrust back some 700 years into the age of the Aztecs, there is no time to hesitate about anything. Sam Humphries is the John Hughes of comics. He is totally in tune with youth angst. He has taken Hector’s rage, his struggle with epilepsy, with fitting into high school, with debilitating anxiety, and he’s shouldered him with the fate of the Aztecs. Humphries doesn’t provide any easy answers. Hector is not going to get away with a simple life lesson.
Check out that front cover art and the art throughout. Dalton Rose is right in step with this over-the-top tale. The driving force is Hector. As Rose describes in the notes at the end of the book, Hector is “a nice cocktail of angst, insecurity, and courage.” Much like the other characters, and even the background to some extent, Hector is rendered in energetic, sharp lines in keeping with the story’s high energy. Rose also praises another character, Itzcoatl, a foil to Hector, who Rose keeps mysterious under his costume. And then there is Malin, a hell on wheels, who is the driving force behind, and in front, of Hector. These are all bold, yet very vulnerable, characters trapped by, but fighting against, forces leading to a very real end to the Aztec nation.
“Sacrifice” is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is all the history it so neatly packs into this story. It cleverly handles the classic time travel theme of attempting to alter fixed points in time. Are some things simply unalterable? Hector struggles with his role, his fate, among the Aztecs. At first, he simply wants to go home. Hey, he’s just a kid who somehow fell through a fast food parking lot and is now just way over his head. It is the beautiful young princess/warrior, Malin, who talks some sense into him. Before long, Hector finds himself totally immersed in the Aztec culture. In the end, should he even try to alter history and attempt to have the Aztecs overpower their Spanish invaders?
Humphries and Rose do a great job of taking a story with a lot of fantasy and science fiction elements and keeping it both quirky and grounded. We know that Hector has issues he’s dealing with back in the present day. What we also know is that Hector is a Mexican-American. He does struggle with that dual identity with one foot in each culture and no balance. And we also know that Hector’s family lived near the Black Mountain, which plays a significant role in Aztec history. Not only that, Hector’s father was fascinated with Aztec folklore and regularly recited stories to young Hector about gods, warriors, and Spanish invaders. Is it any wonder then that, when Hector’s life began to crumble, he sought higher ground, all the way up to Aztec temples?
“Sacrifice” gained much praise as a self-published comic series. For those who are already familiar with Sam Humphries and the work he is capable of (a tribute to Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock was a turning point, quirky, but a point on a significant turn, nonetheless!), well, it just makes complete and utter sense to celebrate the collected “Sacrifice.” So, keep in mind, the book will be released on August 21 in comics shops, and on September 2 in bookstores. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics for more details here. And plan to order you copy from Things From Another World here.
Michael Dooley, at Print magazine, has a two-part interview with C.S. Pego, who has been called, Mexico’s “graphic novel diva.” She has certainly carved an impressive niche for herself. She began as a political cartoonist, evolved into doing a noir comic strip and is now writing a fantasy series with exquisitely hypnotic artwork. The first book in the series is “Exilia: The Invisible Path” and you can find it here. Her art is, at turns, mysterious, sexy and quintessentially Mexican.
Mr. Dooley’s interview is an in-depth look at a respected artist in the graphic arts as well as an artist to make Mexico proud. For the interview, this is part one. And this is part two.