Tag Archives: graphic novel

City of Seattle Commissions Graphic Novel To Promote Historic Steam Plant

Drawing by David Lasky

Has a major American city ever commissioned a graphic novel as a public art piece before? Seattle is on board! Cartoonist David Lasky and writer Mairead Case have been selected (from 71 applicants) by the City of Seattle to create a fictional graphic novel centered around the historic Georgetown Steam Plant. The goal is to increase awareness of this unique landmark with a graphic novel geared toward young adults.

Panel from “The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song”

David Lasky is the co-author (with Frank Young) of the Eisner-Award-winning graphic novel biography, “The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song.” Chicago writer Mairead Case is the author of the acclaimed prose novel, “See You in the Morning.” A story by Lasky and Case, “Soixante Neuf,” was featured in Best American Comics 2011.

West elevation exterior of engine room.
The Georgetown Steam Turbine Station, built in 1906 is now a National Historic Landmark. The plant is owned by Seattle City Light and has been working to restore the plant. It is open for tours the second Saturday of each month and is occasionally used as a teaching facility for steam power engineers and hobbyists.

Here is a brief email interview I did with Mairead Case today:

What went through your head when you got the news about being chosen for this special graphic novel project?

Well I was, am, sincerely grateful: to be from a city that celebrates public monuments with comics, and to have visibility and support for the creative relationship David and I have pretty much always had, even when nobody else was looking. Grateful to have work that includes time for oral histories and site-specific research (no screens!). And aware of the responsibility to accurately represent Georgetown’s diverse history—we want to use this platform to amplify and illuminate the stories that are already here, not co-opt them. For real. (Also, I was really happy to have news that would make my mom proud.)

Are you already envisioning what your routine will be like with the project?

David and I are both pretty focused, detailed nightowls so I expect we’ll have a focused, detailed, nightowl routine. That said, it’s amazing to have financial support for this project so it’s really exciting to think about how we might work in new ways with that gift. (We might even work in the daytime, ha!) But no matter what we’ll be collaborating closely. And we will probably listen to Bowie at some point.

Did you ever think you’d be creating a graphic novel about a steam plant?

I feel like I’m supposed to say no here, but why not? When I was a kid I wanted to be a tightrope walker so maybe this is not that far off.

What do you think this project might say about the role of graphic novels in America?

Ah, I think our role is to make the book and then other people can tell us! But it is terrific terrific terrific that Seattle is supporting a project like this—it’s really wonderful that an American city in 2017 is using art to build community, as defined and remembered by that community. I’m used to telling (maybe yelling a little too) at the government about that, and am still gobsmacked that this time the government was all “we know. Go.” I hope that other cities say “Go” too. The talent is here! American cities, if you want me to send you lists about the talented storytellers I know in your neighborhoods, just send a flare.

You can keep up with this intriguing project right here.

And, if you’re in Seattle this weekend, be sure to stop by and see David Lasky at the annual comic arts festival, Short Run.

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Filed under Comics, David Lasky, graphic novels, Mairead Case, Seattle, Seattle-Georgetown, Short Run, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival, Story, Storytelling, writers, writing

Review: BLACK RIVER

Fantagraphics-Josh-Simmons

There is no Black River to be found in Josh Simmons’s graphic novel, “Black River,” but that’s besides the point. The characters are all post-apocalypse survivors with nary a need to know one river from another. Nihilism prevails. For such a bare bones story, there are plenty of compelling moments, both grim and poetic.

People can be pretty hostile and dangerous even in the best of times, so it is quite something to have a group of youth running wild into the wasteland. No zombies to contend with, if that’s any consolation. It’s more the drip, drip, drip, of too many lost and rough souls wandering. All this Simmons depicts well. It’s something any hip cartoonist can revel in, if he or she chooses, and he does a good job of it.

With all the jailhouse craziness that ensues, Simmons is a careful artist. He has a deft way of creating just the right amount of detail to evoke a landscape or a town that has been left in ruins. And I really enjoy his rendering of the Aurora Borealis. It comes up a number of times in panels, enough to add to the spacey energy that charges this work.

Much like a good old-fashioned horror movie, a comic such as this, to be any good, relies upon setting up an interesting mood and environment. Without a doubt, Simmons succeeds in this. He gives us some compelling characters among his ragtag group of hardened misfits. And we’re left wanting to turn the page as a morbid sense of curiosity sets in. Of course, things will get darker, as well as more disgusting. This is raw stuff, kids. Mature content. Those familiar with it, will not be disappointed.

Josh-Simmons-Black-River

And if you’re in Seattle, be sure to visit the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery this Saturday, April 25, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm for a reception for the publication of Josh Simmons’s new graphic novel, Black River, and the release of the latest issue of Intruder, #15. Simmons will be joined by his colleagues from the Intruder comix collective. Simmons contributes a story in the latest issue illustrated by Joe Garber. Festivities include a display of Simmons’s original drawings, a black light room, short film screening, a book signing, and complimentary refreshments.

Black River is a 112-page trade paperback, priced at $18.99. For more details, visit our friends at Fantagraphics Books right here.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror, Josh Simmons

Review: ‘Here’ by Richard McGuire

Here-Pantheon-Random-House

What if that snarky comment that you thought was so clever was preserved forever, and not on some server, but in the very room that you first gave thought to it? What if every thought, every act, everything, in that room, were saved forever, beyond deletion? That is what this graphic novel is about. “Here,” by Richard McGuire, invites you to observe one particular spot through hundreds of thousands of years. Often, we see that spot as a room, a living room, in a house. But, at other times, it’s wide open to the forces of nature, both in the past and in the future.

Considering that all of time is fair game for this story, with all the vast possibilities, we do spend a considerable amount of time, a relatively brief speck of time, in a room. It’s that space, when it once was a room, that would seem to be significant. We relate to a room best, especially one in or around our own time. The ability to dwell, just dwell, in a room is the cornerstone of civilization. And the last one hundred years or so have been a golden age for room dwellers. That’s the lifespan of our main character, a living room. It helps to anchor us, being in a relatively familiar room. In this narrative, we observe a cast of characters also anchored, biding their time, wasting their time, anchored by conformity, domesticity, and convenience. What is anyone really doing? They’re dwelling.

Here-Richard-McGuire-Random-House

It’s the little things that count, we are told. But it’s the big things that really get our attention, once a myriad of little things have taken place. Little. Big. Lives are made up of both. As McGuire observes, there sure are a lot of little moments. Even the big moments aren’t so big. We see a lot of accidents take place among the characters. Accidental moments that go off with a bang. A man slips from his chair. Another man falls from a ladder. The biggest incident seems to be a man struggling to breathe, perhaps having a stroke. In all that time, that space has one noteworthy moment, a visit from Benjamin Franklin. And that, my friend, is life, in a random little space, and is par for the course.

McGuire finds the compelling within what seems quite the opposite. A random little space, what does it really matter? Ah, well, humans have loved and lost and lived over many generations upon this stage. And, if you observe the flickering images long enough, you find patterns and you find something of a story, a universal struggle. McGuire’s style is wonderfully lean, low-key, and pared down. It has as much to do with comics and it does with painting, easily evoking the world of Alex Katz, peopled with lost souls floating along in the suburbs. In the end, though, it’s all about comics as the interplay among panels heats up and we learn all sorts of things all from the vantage point of one spot somewhere in New England.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What is impressive about this book is that McGuire took a clever concept and fully followed through. As you open up the first pages, you know what may follow. Will he pull it off? I mean, look, he’s set up a premise, a room with a year in the caption box above. Is he going to really take us for a ride and have the years change in interesting ways and have us see that space in interesting ways? Yes! That is what McGuire accomplishes. And, if that’s not enough for you, then you’re one cold snarky so-and-so. The premise is ambitious and the vision is sincere. These are not things to take lightly.

The idea is that McGuire has taken us on a new kind of ride. That was the goal when this graphic novel was first just a six-page work of comics in 1989, in “Raw” magazine, volume 2, number 1. That was certainly a postmodernist shot in the arm for comics. “Here” articulated an intriguing storytelling tool with how it arranged a number of panels on a page all taking place at different times. Of course, it’s not completely new. Comics, after all, by its very nature, involves panels playing with the notion of time. Still, McGuire was introducing something new into the comics landscape. He was offering up some original ideas on points of view. He was also playing with tempo. And, he was most certainly fascinated with the quotidian, an almost morbid fascination with the minutiae of life. It was something new and in step with a rising sensibility to celebrate the mundane and everyday. His particular take on things would be taken into other directions by Chris Ware.

“Here” is a beautiful realization of an intriguing concept. It is a pleasure to read.

“Here” is a 304-page full-color hardcover, published by Pantheon Books, an imprint of Random House. You can purchase it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Chris Ware, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Pantheon Books, Random House, Richard McGuire, Time Travel

Review: HENNI by Miss Lasko-Gross

Z2-Comics-Henni-Miss-Lasko-Gross

With characters and settings removed from everyday reality, Miss Lasko-Gross has set out with “Henni,” published by Z2 Comics, to tell a fable about faith in a most stripped down manner. Henni, our main character, like all the rest of the characters, is some sort of feline creature. She lives in something like a grim version of a Dr. Seuss world. The rules of society are cut and dry: obey and don’t ask questions. And, by all means, especially if you’re a female, follow orders. Your eye is directed to a graphic novel with a distinctive focus in a pared down surreal landscape.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Miss Lasko-Gross, Z2 Comics

Kickstarter: Taking Graphic Novel THE CHAIR To The Screen

The-Chair-movie-Alterna-Comics

“The Chair” is a great example of the offbeat horror you can find at Alterna Comics. You can read my review of the graphic novel here. Both the book and the movie project have a rabid following. A lot of people want to see this movie become a reality but we’re not there yet. Check out the Kickstarter campagin in support of this movie project right here. The campaign ends on Saturday, June 28, 2014.

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Filed under Alterna Comics, Comics, Comics News, graphic novels, Horror, Kickstarter

Allen Rubinstein’s Comics Juice Celebrates The Graphic Novel

Allen-Rubinstein-Comics-Juice-Graphic-Novel-Tribute

Allen Rubinstein, over at Comics Juice, has created a special tribute to the graphic novel. He is not only a longtime supporter of the graphic novel. In 2005, Mr. Rubinstein founded the Los Angeles Graphic Novel Book Club, which has grown to a membership of 200. He is doing his part to spread the word to the world at large about the multifaceted world of graphic novels. This had led to his website, Comics Juice, which includes a dazzling display of 1,000 graphic novel covers.

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Graphic Novel Review: WORTH

Worth-Roddenberry-Entertainment

When we last checked in on WORTH, we took the first issue for a spin (review here). Now, let’s take a look at the first full length graphic novel of WORTH. As you’ll see, we have a whole new kind of hero we’re dealing with here. Grant Worth is a new “old school” kind of hero. The print edition of the WORTH graphic novel is available now.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Roddenberry Entertainment, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Comics Grinder’s Guide to Graphic Novels 2013

Black Paths by David B, published by SelfMadeHero

Here is Comics Grinder’s Guide to Graphic Novels for 2013. Don’t know much about graphic novels? Well, don’t you worry about that. This is the place to be. I love comics. If you were to cut me, I’d bleed ink. I know what it’s like when people claim to not understand comics in general or even my own work. You then approach someone else, and the difference can be like night and day. That panel above comes from a graphic novel that really stuck with me by one of the greats, David B. What makes him great? Just take a close look at the above couple. He’s truly developed the heart and soul of a first-rate cartoonist with such a distinctive style at work creating a beautiful world. That’s nothing to sneeze at. That’s why his “Black Paths” had to be included in this list.

This was a banner year any way you look at it! Where to begin? Well, I began the process by whittling down to a top ten list of titles. Then I went back and focused on more books that would make the list more useful. Considering all of the books that hit my radar, I considered categories that they might be filed under: historical, political, offbeat, personal, and so on. Of course, some titles may fall under more than one category or might elude easy classification. Categories are open to interpretation. “Personal,” for instance can just refer to a life’s journey, not necessarily autobiographical.

I first stuck with books that fell well within the definition of a graphic novel: works in the comics medium that tell an extended story using sequential panels. I wanted to have the focus on work that truly added up to a cohesive whole. And then I considered work that wasn’t totally a graphic novel, per se. And that brought in a few more books that were collections of work.

On the whole, what I look for in what I review during the year is a compelling vision from one independent creator or an exceptionally strong team of writer and artist. Anyway, what I intended to do with creating this list is to give a good sense of the general thinking about contemporary graphic novels and a decent sampling for 2013. You’ve got an overview of 20 titles from 2013 that I had the pleasure to review. You can’t go wrong.

HISTORICAL

From "Jerusalem"

From “Jerusalem”

1. – Jerusalem (First Second) – by Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi. This is historic fiction that truly engages you in a rolling narrative about family and nation. Review here.

2. – March: Book One (Top Shelf Productions) – by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. The American Civil Rights Movement comes to life in this first book in a trilogy. Review here.

3. – The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (Harper Collins) – by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell. A beautiful keepsake and most enlightening book on the Gettysburg Address. Review here.

4. – Boxers & Saints (First Second) – by Gene Luen Yang. If you want to better understand China, take a look at the Boxer Rebellion. Yang’s narrative is exhilarating. He knows how to tap into myth, strip away sentimentality, maintain an exciting pace, and gain insight. Review here.

5. – Black Paths (SelfMadeHero) – by David B. This is a very different window into history. This is a quirky love story set in the netherworld after World War I. We follow the strange activities of a little mouse of a nation state that roared under the leadership of an eccentric poet. Review here.

OFFBEAT

From "RASL"

From “RASL”

6. – RASL (Cartoon Books) – by Jeff Smith. Leave it to the creator of “Bone” to create one of the most satisfying graphic novels of the year. Here you have elements of mystery, mysticism, and science fiction in support of a most unusual love story. Review here.

7. – Strange Attractors (Archaia Entertainment) – by Charles Soule and Greg Scott. Soule marveled over the fact that, within a year after the tragic events of 9/11, New York City was back on its feet and functioning while, years after Katrina, New Orleans continued to struggle. What was so special about NYC? Review here.

8. – Fran (Fantagraphics Books) – by Jim Woodring. If you want a graphic novel you can become hypnotized by, then look no further than Jim Woodring’s latest masterpiece. Review here.

9. – Complex: Ways of Life, Volume 1 (Alterna Comics) – by Michael Malkin, Kay, and Dekara. The cover to the first volume of “Complex” grabs your attention and makes you want to see more. It’s a dude screaming holding a crystal ball of a dude screaming ad infinitum. Intriguing, no? Review here.

10. – The Encyclopedia of Early Earth (Little, Brown & Co.) – by Isabel Greenberg. What Isabel Greenberg does with her debut graphic novel, “The Encyclopedia of Early Earth,” is tap into the joy and spirit of storytelling. She does this with a good-hearted determination and a well-reasoned integrity. Review here.

PERSONAL

From "Failure"

From “Failure”

11. – The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story (Dark Horse Comics) – by Vivek J. Tiwary and Andrew Robinson. Essential reading for any Beatles fan, and who isn’t, right? You will go on quite a magical mystery tour as you see how the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, turned a ragtag band from Liverpool into the most famous band in the world. Review here.

12. – Look Straight Ahead (Cuckoo’s Nest Press) – by Elaine M. Will. This one I really like. LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD brings to mind Nate Powell’s SWALLOW ME WHOLE. It has its own distinctive style and voice with that same quality that Nate brings to the game. Review here.

13. – Pompeii (PictureBox) – by Frank Santoro. Santoro maintains the spontaneity of sketchbook drawings in a well orchestrated narrative. This is a story about learning how to see the world as it really is and perhaps gaining solace from how it may have been. Review here.

14. – Battling Boy (First Second) – by Paul Pope. It’s up to Battling Boy to help save Acropolis, a city under siege by all kinds of monsters. If you’re sensing that this is a way cool superhero story, one with a fresh new energy we could all use more of, then you’d be right. Review here.

15. – The Lengths (Soaring Penguin Press) – by Howard Hardiman. Howard Hardiman has written and drawn a graphic novel about a youth out of control and in conflict. It is a very rough story about a rough subject that Hardiman navigates quite well. Review here.

COLLECTIONS

“Foucault’s Pendulum” adaptation by Julia Gfrörer from "The Graphic Canon, Volume 3"

“Foucault’s Pendulum” adaptation by Julia Gfrörer from “The Graphic Canon, Volume 3”

16. – Beta-testing the Apocalypse (Fantagraphics Books) – by Tom Kaczynski. “Beta Testing The Apocalypse” brings together, thanks to Fantagraphics Books, an impressive collection of social satire with a distinctive voice. Review here.

17. – The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide (Seven Stories Press) – by Stephanie McMillan. For everyone who questions capitalism, this is a good place to start. Review here.

18. – Failure (Alternative Comics) – by Karl Stevens. This collection shows growth but it’s consistent growth. There isn’t a weak page in the whole lot. It’s more an evolving viewpoint: the angry young artist keeps pushing and pushing until he gets what he wants, a reaction; afterward, he finds he’s pushed his way into new terrain and he finds himself breaking new ground. Review here.

19. – Delusional: The Graphic and Sequential Work of Farel Dalrymple (AdHouse Books) – by Farel Dalrymple. This is such a keeper. You too will believe in all sorts of urban legends and myths once you’ve entered the world of comics genius Farel Dalrymple. Review here.

20. – The Graphic Canon, Volume 3 (Seven Stories Press) – Edited by Russ Kick. A veritable cornucopia of literary comics. Review here.

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

Review: THE LENGTHS by Howard Hardiman, published by Soaring Penguin Press

The-Lengths-Howard-Hardiman-2013

“The Lengths” is a graphic novel about addiction, published by Soaring Penguin Press. The title refers to the lenghts to which a young man, Eddie, will go to feed his desire. Howard Hardiman has written and drawn a graphic novel about a youth out of control and in conflict. It is a very rough story about a rough subject that Hardiman navigates quite well. His character, Eddie, is a 24-year-old art school drop out who is gay and unsure about what he wants. He may want a relationship but he is also attracted to what he gets from his role as Ford, an escort. It’s a pretty lurid and gritty premise. Something like this could easily fall apart, as can happen with any story that deals with sex. But sex is only part of what Hardiman has to talk about. And to create some distance to better address and understand the content, he represents all his characters as dogs. It may seem odd at first, but it turns out to be a wonderful narrative device.

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Filed under British Comics, Comics, European Comics, Gay, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, LGBT, Soaring Penguin, Soaring Penguin Press

Jim Woodring Debuts New Graphic Novel, FRAN, at Fantagraphics Bookstore, October 12, 2013

Fran-Jim-Woodring

If you’re in the Seattle area this Saturday, October 12, do yourself a favor and stop by the Fantagraphics Bookstore for a big Jim Woodring event. Jim Woodring debuts his latest graphic novel, “Fran.”

Press Release Follows:

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comics News, Comix, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, graphic novels, Jim Woodring, Seattle