“Tree of Consanguinity,” 1471, by Loyset Liedet (1420-79)
Roy came in late to the Comics Grinder offices and dropped off his latest offering. He smiled his wry little smile and said, “You and your ontology issues!”
What about my ontology issues? When did I tell him?
Issues about ontology don’t get discussed much outside of certain circles. Stray away from these rarefied circles that are invested in such discussion and you could go years, maybe a whole lifetime, without ever needing to concern yourself ever again with that tiresome chit chat often foisted upon someone who enjoys reading by someone who fancies themselves no mere book lover but someone superior, someone who regularly uses the word, ontology!
This type most likely wears a beret, or perhaps a cloak, maybe nurtures an odd facial expression, or sports a baffling attempt at an English accent. Where are the true believers, sans the affectation, that make me want to go back to thoughts of ontology? Well, how about Manuel Lima? Yeah, how about Manuel Lima!
“Mounthaven” is the story of a man on a journey of self-discovery stymied by his own personal set of blinders. Those blinders prove to be a costly problem for him. He seems to be aware of them. He wants them off. He is certain he can see the blinders others wear. That alone is the stuff of novels. This is also the stuff of life which makes this biography, thinly veiled as fiction, all the more remarkable. Throughout the book, there is a narrator leading you through a family history intertwined with the family estate, Mounthaven. By the last third of the novel, it is revealed that the narrator is the main character. And the main character happens to be my father. If that’s not remarkable, at least in my world of reading, I don’t know what is. In fact, out in the world at large, this book should find many interested readers.
“The Best American Comics 2013” pops out at you with we-mean-business cover art by Kate Beaton and zips right to it. I interviewed this year’s editor, Jeff Smith (read here). As he explained, he was looking for singular talent, whether new or established, “A story someone really needs to tell.” He took care with placement so that elements from one work flow into the next and compliment each other.
Smith starts with Alison Bechdel’s “Mirror,” an autobiographical piece about mother/daughter dynamics; and he ends with Paul Pope’s “1969,” a quirky inside look at the first human landing on the moon. These two works by cartoonist heavyweights anchor the top and bottom. In between, other top contenders lend a hand, like an excerpt from Craig Thompson’s “Habibi.”
Sophie Goldstein’s “The Good Wife”
There are many new rising stars that get to sparkle amid the well know cartoonists. One such talent is Sophie Goldstein. Her work is placed right before Craig Thompson’s. The connection between the two is the focus on the female main character. In Goldstein’s “The Good Wife,” we view a woman who denies herself well beyond her limits in order to please her husband. That story gives way to Thompson’s “70 Nights of Pleasure,” an excerpt from “Habibi.”
Craig Thompson’s “70 Nights of Pleasure,” excerpt from “Habibi”
Again, we have a woman pushing her limits to satisfy one man. The artwork, and the narrative structure, for each of these pieces is quite different. Goldstein’s style is basic. Thompson’s style is ornate. However, both present confident, mature work. That’s saying a lot since Thompson is a seasoned veteran and Goldstein is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies.
If you’re looking for a cut-to-the-chase short list on the best comics in America, then this 400-page trade paperback is your book. There are 30 works featured here and they are all gems. This book is in full color. “The Best American Comics 2013” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and is available here.