Tag Archives: Gender

Review: ‘How I Tried to Be a Good Person’ by Ulli Lust

How I Tried to Be a Good Person by Ulli Lust

Autobiographical work is one of the most intriguing subjects and it is no wonder that it attracts creators of all art forms. Of course, auto-bio is a natural focal point for cartoonists and one of the best at this is cartoonist auteur Ulli Lust. Her new graphic novel, How I Tried to Be a Good Person, published by Fantagraphics Books, is what one could call an unflinching look at “the dark side of gender politics” or what used to be called, plain and simple, “abusive relationships.” It’s quite a challenge to take a chunk of one’s life and turn it into something else. Not too long ago, I viewed the Off-Broadway production of Accidentally Brave, a retelling by actor and playwright Maddie Corman of her discovery of her husband’s possession of child pornography, his subsequent arrest, and its aftermath. Can such an experience add up to something to put on stage? Well, sure, it’s called a confessional monologue and those rise and fall according to the limits of the genre. In a similar fashion, that’s what going on within the pages of auto-bio comics. And a lot is going well with this auto-bio graphic novel set in 1980s Vienna.

Georg and Kim size each other up.

How I Tried to Be a Good Person is 368 pages and in the tradition of more expansive graphic novels like Craig Thompson’s Blankets, which is 592 pages or Eddie Campbell’s Alec and Bacchus collection, which is a total of 1750 pages. Also, keep in mind, this new book is a continuation of Lust’s 460-page punk travelogue, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life. Why so many pages when a graphic novel is usually 100 to 200 pages long? Well, many reasons. Essentially, it is a way to truly get lost in the material. While the comics medium is inextricably linked to the art of brevity, it is just as closely linked to flights of fancy and stream of consciousness  writing. With that in mind, it is understandable how comics can rise to the level of the literary arts. Comics has the capacity to be as long or as short as the narrative demands. Comics is as much a literary art form as a visual art form. Lust’s previous graphic memoir has gone on to earn a Revelation Award at the 2011 Angouleme Festival as well as a 2013 LA Times Book Prize. Ulli Lust’s contributions to the comics medium are writ large with both of her graphic memoirs.

A happy time with Georg.

The core of the narrative to Lust’s new book is the abusive relationship that Ulli enters into with Kim, a refugee from Nigeria. Throughout the relationship, there are signs that Kim is not emotionally equipped to handle the polyamorous arrangement that Ulli has in mind. During the course of this book, the reader joins Ulli on what steadily becomes a perilous journey. Ulli Lust writes and draws her way toward making sense of events while leaving plenty of room for readers to reach their own conclusions. In some ways, the book brings to mind some of the most notable emotionally-wrought films focusing on sex, like Last Tango in Paris, from 1972, which has held up remarkably well. Lust offers up to the reader numerous pages of unbridled sexual pleasure between her and Kim. Undoubtedly, Kim and Ulli are good together in bed. At one point, Ulli even states that she wishes she could just have the good parts of her affair with Kim.

A complicated relationship.

The love triangle that Ulli finds herself in begins with a May/December relationship she started up with Georg, an older man who offered a lively bohemian spirit and intelligent albeit world-weary conversation. It is Georg who, in hindsight, wrongheadedly suggests that Ulli take another lover if that should help keep their relationship fresh. Ulli is 22 and Georg is 40. Ulli takes Georg up on his offer and, in no time, she becomes involved with Kim, a young man she meets at a club. Georg and Ulli are white. Kim is black. Race does not seem to be an issue at first but it’s not long before Kim repeatedly voices his unease with the racial dynamics at play as he sees them. He is convinced that he is only a racial treat for Ulli despite her denials. At many points along the way, Ulli has to make one choice after another, many of which only drag her further into the toxic relationship she has entered into with Kim. This is quite a compelling work that encourages the reader to perhaps have even more courage than the main character seems to have at times. It is definitely an absorbing work that will spark a great deal of discussion and lifts that discussion through the power of the comics medium’s unique synthesis of word and image.

How I Tried to Be a Good Person is a 368-page trade paperback, published by Fantagraphics Books.

Editor’s Note: If you happen to be in Seattle, go see Ulli Lust at the Hot Off the Press Book Fair on July 13th  or at Goethe Pop Up Seattle on July 15h.

And, if you’re in Portland, go see Ulli Lust at Floating World Comics on July 17th.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews

Kickstarter: Janelle Asselin Fires Back With FRESH ROMANCE

Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada

Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada

It was one year ago that comics professional Janelle Asselin was in the middle of a raging storm regarding the comics industry’s ongoing problem with the distortion of women. Catch up and/or refresh your memory on that right here. So, to find Ms. Asselin undertaking a whole new way of addressing this issue is quite inspiring. Sometimes, you just gotta go out and show them all how it’s done, right? Enter FRESH ROMANCE.

FRESH ROMANCE is a new generation’s answer to romance comics. This is part of a new imprint, Rosy Press, brought to you by Janelle Asselin, Senior Editor of ComicsAlliance.com and former DC Comics editor. If funded through the now-live Kickstarter campaign, Asselin’s new imprint Rosy Press will debut FRESH ROMANCE in May 2015. This Kickstarter campaign ends April 22. Visit it right here.

The first issue of this monthly digital comic magazine features sundry stories ranging from a clandestine, queer high school love affair to an impeccably researched and illustrated Regency-era romance. In addition to three forward-looking romances, each issue of FRESH ROMANCE delivers a relationship advice column by a quartet of divorced writers, behind-the-scenes art coverage, and a fashion report.

Full press release follows:

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Filed under Comics, ComicsAlliance, DC Comics, Feminism, Fresh Romance, Janelle Asselin, Kickstarter, Romance, Romance Comics, Rosy Press, Women

Interview: Tim Hanley and ‘Wonder Woman Unbound’

From "Wonder Woman Unbound"

From “Wonder Woman Unbound”

Wonder Woman can lead the way out, above and beyond our current state. Wonder Woman commands respect. That respect can carry over to other female characters. It can carry over to respecting all human beings.

That respect is the key to Wonder Woman’s success and popularity. You just don’t mess with Wonder Woman. She is bigger and more powerful than any one person or corporation. With that in mind, it is my pleasure to share with you my interview with Tim Hanley, author of “Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine.” You can read my recent review here. You can visit Tim Hanley’s site here. And you can definitely pick up his comprehensive study of Wonder Woman right here.

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Filed under Comics, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Gender, Interviews, Janelle Asselin, Sexism, Tim Hanley, Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Women, Wonder Woman

WE ARE COMICS

Fantagraphics Books shows support for We Are Comics

Fantagraphics Books shows support for We Are Comics

In the aftermath from a recent incident that rocked the comics industry, something good emerges. Welcome to We Are Comics.

Here are the details from Metafilter.com:

We are comics. When former DC Comics editor Janelle Asselin wrote a scathing critique of the art on the company’s new “Teen Titans” book, the response she got was depressingly predictable: a deluge of insults, some anonymous rape threats and even one (less predictable) attempt to hack her bank accounts. But after much of the online comics community rallied around Asselin, a tumblr-based project to show off the true diversity of comics creators and fans took off.

We Are Comics is the brainchild of writers/fans/editors Rachel Edidin, Arturo R. Garcia, and Elle Collins.

An epilogue: In the wake of Asselin’s abuse, Comic Book Resources – the Eisner-winning news site that hosted her original article – has locked its community forums and started over fresh, with a brand-new civility code.
posted by Holy Zarquon’s Singing Fish

We keep making inroads to a better world. It takes effort. We Are Comics is on the right track. You are welcome to join them.

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Filed under Comic Book Resources, comic books, Comics, Comics News, DC Comics, Diversity, Janelle Asselin

Furor Over Basic Comics Criticism: Janelle Asselin and the Attack on Women

teen-titans-janelle-asselin

As many of you can imagine, there is a lot of cheesecake that makes its way into comics. As a critic, this is a can of worms that you open when you’re ready for the shit storm that follows when daring to criticize a major comics title. This is what just happened to Janelle Asselin, a seasoned professional in the comics industry after she dared to criticize the above cover for “Teen Titans #1,” published by DC Comics, home to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Can you guess what Ms. Asselin may have taken issue with?

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Filed under Comics, Essays, Janelle Asselin, Sexism, Women, Wonder Woman

Review: DRAG BANDITS #1 by Betsey Swardlick and Colleen Frakes

Drag-Bandits-Colleen-Frakes-Betsey-Swardlick

“Drag Bandits” sounds like one of those titles resulting from a game of free association. But, no, it’s more to the point. This story features Stephen, a 17th century aristocrat, who enjoys robbing coaches in drag, thus the title. I’ve followed Colleen Frakes’s mini-comics for years and have always found them to be quite intriguing and reveling in whimsy. For this latest work, she teams up with Betsey Swardlick, who writes the story. Both are graduates from The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, led my master cartoonist James Sturm.

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Filed under Box Brown, Comics, mini-comics, Retrofit Comics, The Center for Cartoon Studies

Review: ‘Transposes’ by Dylan Edwards

Transposes-Dylan-Edwards-comics-2013

Dylan Edwards has written and drawn a graphic novel, “Transposes,” published by Northwest Press, that helps us all better understand and embrace the transgender community by exploring a specific group within it, “queer-identified female to male transpeople,” or “QFTMS.” If that sounds a little too Otherly, rest assured that this collection of stories is warm and heartfelt. Through his skills as a cartoonist, Edwards brings to life six distinct true stories of transgender men.

What is apparent from the start is the enthusiasm that Edwards has for sharing with you what he’s learned and, inextricably linked to that, his faith in his skills and the comics medium, itself, to tell these stories. Edwards is not afraid to depict himself in a few pages of introduction. He makes clear this book is not going to be about him but his direct presence sets the tone: we’re going to be irreverent and have fun; and we’re also going to get to the point and be honest. The artwork will be a nice, spare, cartoony style but with a human touch. The narrative will be accessible with some inventive use of form to keep it interesting.

Transposes-Northwest-Press-2013

Once we’ve got that covered, we’re all set to delve into a variety of stories about love, sex, relationships, and journeys of self-discovery. As we learn in life, sex is fabulous, exciting, mind-blowing, but it’s only a part of one’s life. Love, compassion, and understanding will rule the day, and days, months, and years in the long-term. Each character in this collection is searching for something greater than themselves.

Even if there’s a desire to remain single and play the field, there’s still a need to reflect and contemplate. In the case of these stories of transgender, of course, the emphasis is more sharply upon the body. However, what we appreciate from this book is that issues of the body are as vital and universal as you can get. Instead of these stories being about just one particular group, they truly speak to anyone.

Dylan-Edwards-Transposes-Northwest-Press

“Adam,” for example, is a heartbreaking love story about the struggles of one couple to come to terms with not being right for each other. It’s Marni who is quick to pick up on the problems that lie ahead: her girlfriend would much prefer to be a man but just doesn’t know it yet. Bit by bit, Marni helps Adam find his way. As they sit on the couch and have the “we need to talk” talk, it’s clear that Marni’s love for Adam is great and she’ll miss him.

“Henry” is a fine example of Edwards tweaking the traditional narrative. We are presented with Henry’s story as if it were a museum exhibit, due to his fastidious need for proper documentation. We walk through the rooms and display cases to find one person’s struggle with identity. But it’s not all struggle. In quiet safe moments, it’s just learning about one’s self. And then it’s refining what one’s learned, editing as you go, all the way through the rest of your life.

Transposes-Northwest-Press-comics-2013

“Transposes” is a book that readers can warmly embrace. It presents specific, as well as, universal truths with art and writing that is inviting and accessible.

“Transposes” is a 115-page graphic novel, priced at $19.99. Visit Dylan Edwards here. And visit our friends at Northwest Press here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Gay, Gender, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, LGBT, Northwest Press, Sex, Transgender