Tag Archives: First Second Books

Review and Interview: CANNABIS: The Illegalization of Weed in America by Box Brown

CANNABIS: The Illegalization of Weed in America is the new graphic novel by Box Brown, published by First Second. It is a most remarkable book in how it packs together a disparate clump of facts and myths and makes sense of it all. Here you find a detailed yet accessible answer to the question: How do you take something essentially good and make so many people believe the exact opposite–and why? The short answer: Because it is something running counter to the self-interest of those in power. The long and twisted history of how and why cannabis became illegal in the United States is the latest in the always insightful and informative Box Brown books. The following is my interview with the author of artist himself conducted via email:

Will we ever get back to a sensible approach to cannabis? Will cannabis ever lose the stigma attached to it?
It’s getting better every day and I think in states where it is legal we are seeing the stigma end.  They’re seeing that it’s a good, normal industry and the world has not in fact ended.  It’s more difficult for teenagers to get cannabis in legal states, people aren’t turning into sociopaths or anything.  I think people really need to live through things to really get used to them and understand the real truth about things.  My new mantra is that we need to legalize the whole plant.  There is still tons of stigma baked into medical cannabis laws.  As a PA medical patient you have to go to this special facility with all kinds of security and pay in cash, etc.  this is not helping the stigma.  It makes patients feel like they’re carrying some sort of radioactive material.  It’s going to be a constant push and pull for the next 10, 20 years or more!
In looking back at how a stigma was created over cannabis, you feature how Mexicans were turned into scapegoats during the Great Depression. The “over-immigration” of Mexicans was blamed for lack of jobs for U.S. citizens, the evil of marijuana and whatever else Mexicans could be blamed for. I guess everything old is new again, right?
This was what immediately stood out to me.  I knew cannabis was tied to race now.  It was disheartening, though unsurprising to find out it’s been like that since the beginning.  The first laws against cannabis were in places where Mexicans were butting up against Americans.  El Paso, TX had the first local ordinances and it was 100% just so they could arrest Mexican people, almost nothing has changed in these 90-100 years.  
The road to cannabis illegalization in the U.S. was secured when it became a matter of self-interest for the federal government to discredit cannabis. And you show how William Randolf Hearst promoted his own brand of “fake news” in the campaign against cannabis. That propaganda took its toll and has left its mark. Is it your hope that your book will help in rehabilitating how the general public views cannabis—or are you just reporting the facts?
I think my philosophy in this respect is that the facts themselves are so absurd that they make their own argument for legalization.  I want people to walk away from my book not only supporting legalization but realizing that this isn’t just a cash grab.  Ending cannabis prohibition is righting an 83-year-old wrong.  It’s not there simply for people to get rich.  We screwed up royally with prohibition and we need to fix it. 
What sparked your interest in pursuing this book? Maybe you can provide a window into what set the wheels in motion. It seems to me that it might be a case of the more you learned about the federal government’s misinformation campaign, embodied in Anslinger, the more it motivated you to document it.
I was arrested for cannabis possession when I was 16, 1996.  Since then this has been an extremely passionate interest of mine.  It just didn’t make sense to me that cannabis possession was treated with handcuffs, probation, possible juvenile detention, court, etc. and underage drinking was treated with a phone call home.  I found out in my research that in 1996, the year I was arrested the Clinton administration was looking to be tough on drugs and the number of people arrested for cannabis in the US in 1996 DOUBLED from the previous year.  I was caught up in Clinton wanting to be perceived as tough on drugs. 
What can you tell us about your process? I asked you once at some convention about your hand lettering and you said that you prefer to hand letter since you get the best kerning that way. I think you’re right. Share with us how you put a page together and what you do by hand and what you do digitally.
Okay, so I do most everything with traditional tools: pencils, bristol board, ink, micron pens.  Everything is hand-lettered.  Then I scan inks and do finishing in photoshop, this basically just means adding screen tones.  Although recently I bought a bunch of actual screentones from Japan and scanned those.  So now when I add tones in photoshop I’m adding in a scan of an actual screentone. 
Share with us anything you might like about the research involved. How long did it take for you to put this book together?
It’s kind of a never-ending process.  I feel like I’m still researching the book even though it’s been done for a long time and is now published.  I had to edit my bibliography for space, the book would have had 20 more pages.  Even still I feel there are things that could be updated but you have to call it a day at some point.  The whole process takes 1 to 2 years. 
You have certainly achieved an impressive level of excellence in creating graphic novel format work that manages to go into detail, finds just the right places to linger, while being mindful of being concise and consistent. Has your storytelling style come to you naturally or did you set out with a plan on how to tackle a subject, being it Andre the Giant or the story of Tetris?
I often think of it the way I think about comedy improv.  I think all of writing and creating is improvised.  There’s never a plan from the beginning.  Even people who do sit down and make a plan are improvising when they’re making up the plan.  You’re always making stuff up as you go along and then editing out the bad or irrelevant or inauthentic stuff.  I’ve definitely learned a lot since I made the Andre the Giant book.  I think I’ve matured a lot as a person and as a cartoonist.  Still trying to work on my drawing though!
What lies ahead? Please give us any final thoughts on projects up ahead, whatever comes to mind.
Very focused on cannabis right now, but I will say I’ve got two projects in the pipeline both concerning 1980’s television. 
CANNABIS: The Illegalization of Weed in America is a 256-page trade paperback available as of April 2, 2019. For more details, and how to purchase, go right here.

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Filed under Box Brown, Comics, First Second, graphic novels, Interviews

ECCC Interview and Review: KISS NUMBER 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

KISS NUMBER 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T Crenshaw

My new favorite graphic novel is Kiss Number 8, written by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw, published by First Second. This is a book that is about family, self-discovery and gender identity that requires that you  find a nice spot to read because you won’t want to put it down. Our main character is 16-year-old Amanda. Her friends call her, Mads, which is a fitting nickname for an exuberant personality. Mads is mad about life but struggling to find her way. And growing up in a conservative religious family adds to the complications. Conventional wisdom is telling her that she should be pining over boy-next-door Adam. But her heart is telling her that she wants to be kissed by girl-next-door Cat. Our story is set in 2004 which provides a whole set of pop culture references while also giving everything a timeless quality.

Venable has a wonderful way with evoking the trials and tribulations of young souls. She was telling me about her background in playwriting and I can clearly see that ability to lift up characters and events and have them dance upon the page. It’s about knowing how to craft one scene after another and one moment from the next. Consider the opening pages: a steady sequence of panels depict Mads bumping along as she gains experience in how to kiss and, when we reach Kiss Number 8, it’s enigmatic, something we’ll come back to. Then we proceed a few more pages in and we realize there’s a whole other mystery up ahead.

 

 

Page from Kiss Number 8

Ellen T. Crenshaw and Colleen AF Venable

Crenshaw is superbly matched with Venable as her artwork is so in tune with the thoughtful and gentle quality to this work. We chatted about process and the inevitable topic of how time-consuming graphic novels can be was discussed. Well, far be it from me to dissuade Crenshaw from changing anything about her methods. Each page is utterly beautiful. She has a perfect thing going with her use of hand-drawn ink and ink wash. It is a delight to the eyes. We also chatted about how First Second appreciates the beauty of black & white comics and how it is often the best way to convey more mature themes. It certainly works in this case.

Page from Kiss Number 8

No doubt, this is a book working on many levels and is sure to engage readers from teenagers on up. If you’re looking for a good book exploring LGBTQ themes from a teen perspective, this is a wonderful read.

Page from Kiss Number 8

Kiss Number 8 has the depth of a good play and the pace of an immersive work in manga. It is a queer story that will resonate with young readers as well as any reader who loves a good coming-of-age tale. This is a 320-page trade paperback that will reward the reader upon rereading it! Lots to savor in the way of word and image! Available as of March 12th, for more details and how to purchase, go right here.

 

 

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ECCC 2018 Interview: Sloane Leong

Sloane Leong at #208 at Artist Alley!

For those heading out to Emerald City Comic Con on its last day, be sure to visit Sloane Leong at Artist Alley at Table #208!

PRISM STALKER by Sloane Leong

Sloane Leong is a self-taught cartoonist who has made remarkable progress with her compelling work. She has a comic book series, PRISM STALKER, with Image Comics. And she also has a graphic novel, A MAP TO THE SUN, coming out next year with First Second Books. What’s her secret? Like any hard-working and driven individual, Leong has a vision and cannot help but need to bring it to life.

A MAP TO THE SUN by Sloane Leong

I hope you enjoy this video interview. I begin with a little observation. Both of the main characters to Leong’s two big projects have monosyllabic names. And they both have an “e” in the middle. PRISM STALKER has Vep. And A MAP TO THE SUN has Ren. What to make of that? Watch the video interview to find out.

Let me add here a review of Leong’s mini-comic, A HOLLOWING:

A HOLLOWING

Here is a wonderful showcase of what makes Leong’s work so intriguing. With a confident and consistent tone running throughout, Leong takes us on a young woman’s tumultuous journey. Leong masterfully balances various ambiguous moments and images. She keeps the reader guessing by not spelling everything out. She takes the theme of horses, one of the great staples of girlhood in culture, and turns it on its head. You could say Leong is exploring deeper as she begins with a quote from Anna Sewell’s 1877 classic, “Black Beauty,” which resonates today with a fresh and relatively subversive vibe.

The dark and enigmatic horse.

In Leong’s hands, the horse is beyond mystery. This is a dark creature absorbing all of the young woman’s anxiety. In the course of the story, our main character, Casey, has been given a horse by her father. Now begins her training. This is symbolic on many levels, including the fact that Casey’s mother was an equestrian champion. Will Casey master the horse? That begs a more complicated set of questions. Leong’s gestural style and poetic narrative are simply mesmerizing. Discerning comics readers are looking for gems just like this mini-comic. If you’re at ECCC, you can get a copy for yourself.

Visit Sloane Leong.

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ECCC 2018 Interview: Nilah Magruder and M.F.K. and Diversity in Comics

ECCC 2018: Nilah Magruder

The original webcomic, M.F.K.

Nilah Magruder is a writer and illustrator of children’s books and comics. From her beginnings in the woods of Maryland she developed an eternal love for three things: nature, books, and animation. She is the author of HOW TO FIND A FOX (First Second Books) and M.F.K. (Insight Comics) among other works.

It all began, or a lot of things started to fall into place, with the M.F.K. webcomic. That’s a significant work in Nilah Magruder’s career which includes both the comics and the animation industry. It was a story she had to tell and embarked upon back in 2012. The underlying theme to Magruder’s work is giving voice to those who have not been heard in the past. As she puts it, her stories come back to what she would have wanted to read as a child. “I’m writing the stories that I wish I would have read as a young black girl growing up in a predominantly white community.”

M.F.K.

Nilah Magruder’s postapocalyptic story about a deaf girl crossing the desert to release the ashes of her grandmother would go on to be the first recipient of the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics. In the summer of 2017, Insight Comics would publish the first installment of M.F.K. as its first original graphic novel.

HOW TO FIND A FOX

Magruder is as busy as ever. Among her work, she is the first African American woman to write a story for Marvel Comics. She has just completed storyboard work for the Disney “Tangled” animated television series. She is just as adept at creating children’s books as demonstrated by the adorable HOW TO FIND A FOX. Well, the list goes on. This week, for instance, a new anthology of queer teen stories, including a story by Magruder was released by Harlequin Teen, “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages.” And looking out to Spring 2019, there is “Creeky Acres,” from Penguin Books, a graphic novel by Magruder and First Second editor Calista Brill.

Take a closer look at her professional journey and it follows an arc of determination to excel. “Comics and animation are highly competitive. It has to be a perfect storm of having the right skills and being at the right place at the right time. You have to have stamina. Success in this business is being the last person standing. What really drives you is the passion.”

It was my pleasure to get a chance to chat with Nilah Magruder and get a sense of her multi-faceted work. I hope you enjoy this video interview!

Be sure to visit Nilah Magruder at her website right here. And, if you’re in Seattle and heading out to Emerald City Comicon, be sure to stop by and visit with her in person! You will find her in Artist Alley at Booth P11 and on some very fun and interesting panels!

Nilah Magruder and ECCC

Nilah Magruder will be at Booth P11 in Artist Alley.

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Filed under Comics, Emerald City Comicon, First Second, Insight Comics, Nilah Magruder, Webcomics

Review: SPILL ZONE by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

SPILL ZONE by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

A young adventurous woman, her pro camera, her motorcycle, and a most top secret site bursting with supernatural activity. All these elements come together nicely in the new graphic novel thriller, “Spill Zone,” written by Scott Westerfeld, drawn by Alex Puvilland, colors by Hilary Sycamore, published by First Second Books.

You can’t stop a girl and her Canon camera.

One thing I do want to tuck in here: you rarely see a brand name in a graphic novel. But no harm in showing one on occasion. In this case, our main character relies upon a Canon camera. I say to that, bravo. You can’t stop a girl and her Canon camera.

Back to our story: something really weird happened to the little town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Was it an accident involving nano technology and the local nuclear power plant? Are space aliens involved? No one dares to enter the Spill Zone, except for the local thrill-seeking artist, Addison Merritt. She sneaks past checkpoints, takes photos, and sneaks back home.

Rules of the Game.

It’s now just Addie and her younger sister, Lexa, ever since the accident took the lives of their parents. Westerfeld’s script seamlessly brings in various details. Puvilland’s lean style sets the tone. Sycamore’s colors dazzle the eye as they match the story’s mood.

The best thing about this graphic novel is that it successfully takes a lot of crazy fun ideas and lets them run wild. For a while, we don’t know why Addie keeps risking her life to take photos within a toxic spill zone. A big part of it has to do with her stumbling upon a way to support herself and her sister. She sells her photography for top dollar to art collectors. But it gets more complex than that.

Addie and some toxic rats.

Both Addie and her troubled little sis Lex are being lured into something far more dark and sinister. By the end of this book, we have gotten to know these two girls fairly well. We have also gotten to know Verpertine, the doll that talks only to Lex. Vespertine dials up the creepy factor whenever she appears and is one of the compelling reasons to look forward to the next volume to this series.

SPILL ZONE is a full color 224-page hardcover available as of May 2nd. For more details, and how to purchase, go to the Spill Zone website right here.

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Filed under Canon cameras, Comics, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Photography

Review: ‘California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas’ by Pénélope Bagieu

CALFORNIA DREAMIN' by Pénélope Bagieu

CALFORNIA DREAMIN’ by Pénélope Bagieu

NOTE: If you are heading out to Emerald City Comicon (March 2-5), be sure to stop by the First Second Books booth #1602 on the exhibit floor. There you can meet such fabulous talent as Pénélope Bagieu, the author of the book I am reviewing here:

What a truly delightful book I have to share with you: “California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas,” written and drawn by Pénélope Bagieu, published by First Second Books. This is quite a smooth read. It sort of feels like a film shot in one continuous take. The story seamlessly moves along at a quick and steady pace. I could not put down reading this unique life journey and read the 272-page graphic novel in one sitting. Cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu has channelled the one-of-a-kind Cass Elliot!

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

Part of what makes this book a page-turner is the highly engaging art. Bagieu has fun with brining Cass Elliot to life, from an insecure but highly precocious little girl to a defiant young woman and, finally, to a confident artist. It all began with a quirky family that adored music. Before there was a Mama Cass, and the legendary band of the Sixties, The Mamas & the Papas, there was little Ellen Cohen being tucked into bed while her dad recited the story of the eccentric singer, Florence Foster Jenkins.

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

There is clearly a passion here for the subject that makes the narrative dance on the page. By the time we reach the point where Cass and her bandmates are crafting their first breakout hit, not yet even aware of the band they were destined to be, we feel that we really know everyone involved.

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

I’ve often said that the right biography can make the best subject, and is most suitable, for a graphic novel. There is a wonderful opportunity to speak to everything under the sun, guided by a specific purpose, and allowing for at least a hint, maybe more, about the author. This is a book that will appeal to many a music lover and student of the counterculture. It is essentially an all-ages book but just keep in mind there are some discrete drug references more suitable for older readers. This is rock ‘n’ roll, after all. That said, it is highly recommended and will prove an engaging read on many levels: coming-of-age, rock history, and just a plain fun read.

When we think back to the Sixties, we inevitably associate the powerful music that grew from that tumultuous era. Folk music, springing forth from the 1950s and the Beat Generation, would give way to the Sixties and bolder and more audacious pop and rock. It was Cass Elliot, with her sublime singing, and overall exceptional musical talent, who would ride this new wave of music with a style all her own. Pénélope Bagieu’s graphic novel gives us a compelling look at the rise of this singular talent.

“California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas” is a 272-page hardcover, black & white with gray tone graphic novel, available as of March 7, 2017. For more details, and how to purchase, visit MacMillan Publishers right here.

Emerald City Comicon celebrating its 15th year!

Emerald City Comicon celebrating its 15th year!

And, if you are heading out to Emerald City Comicon (March 2-5), be sure to stop by at the First Second Books booth #1602 on the exhibit floor. This will be the place to meet authors, attend free signings and find giveaways of books, advance reader copies, and exclusive print posters.

Some of the authors First Second will be hosting include:

Gene Luen Yang (Reading Without Walls Program)
Penelope Bagieu (California Dreamin’)
Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Leviathan, Spill Zone)
Nidhi Chanani (Pashmina)
Falynn Koch (Science Comics)
Mike Lawrence (Star Scouts)
Jessixa Bagley (Before I Leave, Boats for Papa, and Laundry Day)

First Second will also be hosting a number of panels, including one offsite at the Seattle Public Library:

Off-site event @ Seattle Public Library on (3/3) featuring Gene Yang, Scott Westerfeld, Box Brown, Penelope Bagieu, and Matt Loux, 7:00–8:30 pm, Microsoft Auditorium

Departing Neverland: In-Conversation with Five Fantastic YA Creators (3/3) featuring Scott Westerfeld, Nidhi Chanani, Natalie Riess, and Ashley Poston, 2:45-3:45 pm, WSCC 603

From the Screen to the Page… and Beyond (3/4) featuring Box Brown, Holly Conrad, Matt Loux, and Ben Blacker, 2:45-3:45 pm, WSCC 603

Mirrors & Windows: Reflecting Diversity (3/5) featuring Nidhi Chanani, Gene Luen Yang, Mike Lawrence, Ngozi Ukazu, and Jessixa Bagley, 12:00-1:00 pm, WSCC 603

Drawn That Way (3/5) featuring Penelope Bagieu, MK Reed, Nidhi Chanani, G. Willow Wilson, and Thi Bui, 3:45-4:45 pm, WSCC 603

If you’re into books and graphic novels, then First Second has something for you!

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Filed under Comics, Counterculture, Emerald City Comicon, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Seattle, The Sixties

ECCC 2016: Interview with Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks is one determined and dedicated cartoonist. She has created a remarkable output of work which includes the graphic novel, “Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong,” with Prudence Shen, which began as a webcomic later to be published by First Second as a graphic novel. And “The Adventures of Superhero Girl,” also a webcomic turned into a graphic novel, published by Dark Horse Comics.

Faith Erin Hicks Nothing Possibly Wrong

A lot of Faith’s work began as webcomics. In fact, that is how it all began. She just drew, and drew, and drew, and posted her work. In this interview, I chat with Faith about her work in webcomics and we also focus in on her current title, “The Nameless City,” just published by First Second Books.

Faith Erin Hicks Nameless City

There is more to this story so be on the lookout for “The Stone Heart.” I hope you enjoy this conversation which took place today at Emerald City Comicon.

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Filed under China, Comics, ECCC, Emerald City Comicon, Faith Erin Hicks, First Second, graphic novels, History, Manga

Review: THE NAMELESS CITY by Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks Nameless City

“The Nameless City,” the new graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks, published by First Second Books, is a fun and spirited adventure that is pretty breathtaking. Meet Kaidu, part of the Dao dynasty, and Rat, a “skral,” someone deemed less than human. The two of them could not be farther apart in the scheme of things. And yet they both end up crossing paths in the ancient Nameless City. If they listened to their elders, they would stay as far away from each other as possible. But sometimes you just have to break the rules.

Nameless City Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks is one of the most organized and precise cartoonists that I have come across, and determined too. That’s what I gather from doing some research and from just looking at her output, from her first attempts with her very first webcomic begun while still in high school, “Demonology 101,” (1999-2004) to right about when she fell on my radar with one of her more recent graphic novels, “The Adventures of Superhero Girl,” published by Dark Horse Comics in 2013, all the way to her current work. Looking at the artwork to this latest book, I marvel at how Hicks brings her characters to life. Her action scenes are totally believable. It feels like the characters literally jump from page to page.

Faith Erin Hicks First Second Books

Just take a look for yourself at the two page samples above. It has been said that a cartoonist may toil away for many hours only to have a reader spend mere seconds actually looking at the work. I don’t believe that really holds true when the art is of a certain caliber. When the art is a true visual treat, it can pull the reader in, make those scanning eyeballs slow down just a bit, cause the reader to go deeper. Much of what is going on in “The Nameless City” is a slowing down of time. The characters are caught in a cycle, one that has corrupted their logic and compromised their souls. Who wants to live in a nameless city, one forced to a fate of endless conquerers? The adults are living in a perpetual stupor. But the children yearn for more.

Hicks has been building up to this ambitious work. She has already created numerous graphic novels in her still young career. A story of this scope is remarkable for a cartoonist at any stage in their career. Hicks has honed her skills and picked up many lessons from her careful reading of manga. She includes among her favorite manga, “Monster,” by Osamu Kurosawa; and “Fullmetal Alchemist,” by Hiromu Arakawa. Well, her dedicated study has paid off. This is quite a sophisticated, accessible, and entertaining work.

“The Nameless City,” is a 240-page trade paperback available as of April 5th. For more details, visit MacMillan Publishers right here.

If you are in Seattle this Sunday, be sure to stop by and visit her at Emerald City Comicon at Booth I-04.

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Filed under Comics, Faith Erin Hicks, First Second

Review: MIKE’S PLACE, published by First Second

Mikes-Place-First-Second

Jack is a journalist in search of a story. It’s 2003 and Iraq is grabbing all the headlines. However, a set of circumstances finds him considering a story set in the Middle East that does not involve conflict. Enter Mike’s Place, a haven for the young and young-at-heart to unwind and enjoy good spirits and great rhythm and blues right off the beach in Tel Aviv. It will be a decidedly odd twist of fate that places Jack in what proves a most compelling story of conflict, and unbridled optimism.

Building upon their work on the documentary, “Blues by the Beach,” Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem have taken what they placed on the screen and reworked it for the comics medium. Along with the thoughtful and energetic art of Koren Shadmi, you have a narrative that naturally flows with a life of its own. Shadmi has carefully developed believable characters that the reader hooks into. This is a story, as the cover makes clear, about a bombing. But not only about a bombing.

Mikes-Place-First-Second-2015

With countless acts of violence and terror in the world, it can all seem a blur. As the characters in this story often say, you have to create your own way of coping amid terror. Throughout, the regulars at Mike’s Place are being interviewed for a documentary exploring the real Israel. One standout is Dominique, a beautiful and lively waitress. Her story, on and off camera, is pivotal. When asked about how she copes with bombings, she says that you need short-term memory as an “immune system.” You deal with it at the time and then move on. She proudly states, “That’s the Israeli way.”

But, how then do you make sense of it all if you’re constantly moving on? Well, you don’t completely forget. It seems that a story like the one about Mike’s Place becomes more powerful with each revisit. It seems that Baxter and Faudem had to process what they experienced and recorded into two separate mediums, as a documentary and then as a graphic novel. You sift through the details and sharpen the focus. What happens, once you have a graphic novel of this caliber, is that you find a greater truth.

You have here a straightforward cadence as the story is presented in comics. The layout foundation on the page is two panels on three rows with variations as needed. This is classic comics storytelling and it works quite well. You don’t need much else in many cases. For this story, this framework sort of mimics the camera in a documentary and evokes reportage in general. In fact, you don’t really notice the panel structure as you are immersed into action. Again, Shadmi does a remarkable job with bringing to life these characters. And, as you’ll see yourself, this graphic novel does a remarkable job of clearing away the clutter and getting to the heart of the matter.

You see here Mike’s Place become the center of conflict. A happy-go-lucky gathering spot, seemingly existing out of time and place, comes crashing down. This is the story of such a place. And how people come together once the unthinkable has happened.

“Mikes’ Place” is a 192-page hardcover published by First Second Books. For more details, visit our friends at First Second right here. You can also find this book here, here, and here.

If you are in the Seattle area, be sure to stop by Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery this Saturday, June 13, and meet the book’s cartoonist, Koren Shadmi. This will be a fun event which includes the debut of a new book by local cartoonist, Greg Stump, “Disillusioned Illusions,” published by Fantagraphics. For more details, go right here.

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Filed under Comics, Documentaries, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Israel, Middle East

Review: ‘The Sculptor’ by Scott McCloud

The-Sculptor-Scott-McCloud

“The Sculptor,” the new graphic novel by Scott McCloud, published by First Second Books, has an appeal linked to the author’s passion for his subject. Let’s say you’re a struggling artist. You moved to New York City and vowed to make it big. Once there, you learn that merit alone is no guarantee of success. Like Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” where an idealistic young man must come to terms with real world politics, another Mr. Smith, in this case David Smith, in McCloud’s story, must come to terms with not only the machinations of the real art world, but with just about everything else to boot! This, dear friends, is a true coming-of-age tale in the best sense of the word, full of questions, magic, and wonder.

First-Second-The-Sculptor-Scott-McCloud

For those who appreciate the details that go into creating a work such as this, an involved comics saga that you usually find in the pages of manga, this is quite an achievement. McCloud brings his A game to this ambitious work. You’ll find an impressive attention to detail in characters, backgrounds and compositions. It’s all condensed into a most pleasing style. We get a nice clean three rows of panels per page as a base from which to detour from. Lots of fun use of bleeded panels and interplay with screens. McCloud makes many interesting choices with fading out backgrounds and text in order to underscore various elements. And McCloud is no doubt sensitive to pacing and, at times, you’ll find panels taking on the tempo of animation.

Layer upon layer of immersive storytelling reveals a compelling relationship between our hero, David, and a young woman, Meg, who stumbles upon his path. But first, before the girl, there’s the deal that David makes that he probably could never truly regret since it’s his main reason for existence. He makes a deal with Death to gain, what he believes to be, his rightful place in art history. He’s obsessed with making his mark on the world and nothing else matters more than that. McCloud has a great time with the Faustian fable. David is doomed right from the start. He gets 200 days with the power to create all the sculptures he’s ever dreamed of creating. After that, it’s curtains for David. Whether or not David was ever cut out for immortality is sort of besides the point. His wish has been heard and granted. He never expected to meet someone like Meg so that complicates matters. The story that unfolds finds us on a journey with a young man still discovering the meaning of life while already with the power to achieve his wildest dreams.

A healthy distrust for the contemporary art world and the story of an idealistic young artist are certainly things that Frank Capra would have agreed with. That’s not the whole picture to what McCloud has to say even though it is easy to see him just rooting for honest forthright artists like his main character. It turns out to be more complicated than that. McCloud also sees one very mixed up kid in his main character. It all adds up to a satisfying read. It has a sentimental quality that’s appealing in its own right.

“The Sculptor” is a 496-page trade paperback available as of February 3, 2015. It is published by First Second Books and you can visit them here. You can find “The Sculptor” at Amazon here.

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Filed under First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Scott McCloud