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ENDSWELL #4 by Peter Morey comics review

Peter Morey’s Endswell. We are up to Number 4.

Endswell. Peter Morey. 2022. PeterMorey.com

Alright then, a comic that begins with a chimera popping into existence. And all the character can think is to conjure up another one? Nice and weird. I love it! Welcome to another installment of Endswell. The last time we picked this series up I did a recap of the first three issues. Number 4 is an all-out cavalcade of wonderful nonsense. Let’s take a closer look.

Endswell is a comic that I find goes well if you don’t worry about how it ends. You just enjoy it in the moment as anything can and will happen and, before long, it’s done and all ends well! It’s a whimsical journey we’re on and I’m okay with that. I think one can learn a lot from its decidedly irreverent approach, whether or not you’re an aspiring cartoonist yourself.

Now, there is indeed a story going on here about a family estate involving a farm with assorted intrigue attached to it. And each issue follows a series of vignettes from various moments of family history from a different member of the family. In this issue, we’re looking back at a version of the author as a lad.

I am going out on a limb perhaps but I think what Morey is doing is a kind of pure comics where a reader can step in at any point, on any page, and have a bit of fun, without concern over the plot. I don’t think all comics are capable of that, not even all comic strips. Comics should lend itself to this, for sure, and it does. I’m just impressed whenever I see a fine example of crisp and clean work like this playfully working with the medium. As for the actual narrative, of course, follow along closely and you’re rewarded with a surreal family drama.

Hang on and dig deeper, and you realize that Morey has indeed created what I’m calling a “pure comics environment” where it seems anything can and will happen. I mean, to complete my point, where else but in such a loopy and fertile space can you give rise to philosophical pondering over the quality of life? Bravo, Mr. Morey on some compelling comics!

You can keep up with Peter Morey right here.

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QUEEN OF SNAILS by Maureen Burdock graphic novel review

On a snail’s journey of self-discovery.

Queen of Snails: A Graphic Memoir. Maureen Burdock. Graphic Mundi. 2022. pp 228. $25.95

Maureen Burdock has a delightful way of casting a spell upon the reader. It’s a slow and gradual process, much like coming from a snail’s point of view inasmuch as it is a refreshing way to see. What better way, really, to examine a life, especially when trying to connect all the dots and many of  the dots seem out of reach or are missing. Our guide knows this much: mother/daughter relationships are complicated as it is and, in Burdock’s case, she can trace a hard case of melancholia going back generations: mother and daughter at odds; or separated; or in pain. All of this, mind you, is being drawn, slowly or quickly (we tend to draw faster than we think) and the results bring the reader in. Each page simply left me wanting to know more and more.

Caught in a maternal web.

To have your own mother seemingly working against you. The ultimate betrayal? Well, it doesn’t cut much deeper than that. Burdock tosses and turns trying to figure out her mom because it sure didn’t feel like she was exactly looking out for her. It’s clear that she was distant and that she focused so much of her energy on her fervent devotion to worshiping Jesus. Ah, can you worship Jesus to excess? Was it worship or was it a mania that told Burdock’s mother that nothing else mattered since Jesus would provide? Of course, Burdock seeks answers in a gentle and steady way much like the metaphor of a snail she employs throughout the book. Burdock’s exploration reveals that her mother’s life was far from easy as she experienced her own series of trauma and displacement connected with growing up during World War II and its aftermath.

When one’s life is made so unstable by your parents (Burdock’s father wasn’t much help either) then you go into survivor mode and cultivate a sense of independence pretty young in life. Much of this book is about Burdock finding her way, on her own. During the course of the book, Burdock documents her childhood in Germany and subsequent move with her mother to the United States, to a small town in Wisconsin, only later to return to Germany. It was hardly a match made in heaven. Burdock struggles to fit in and never quite does fit in. Her mother remains as depressed and fervently religious as ever. Burdock provides a very honest and uninhibited portrayal of her coming of age, sexual awakening, and being molested by someone close to her family, which brings to mind the autobiographical work of cartoonist Phoebe Gloeckner.

There’s a moment in the book that seems to sum things up, says so much about inter-generational pain and sheds light on Burdock’s search to know her mother. Burdock cites a UNESCO report that estimated 8 million children were homeless after WWII, many alone and wandering the streets. These “lost children” stood in the cultural imagination for “the obliteration of European civilization, lawlessness and confusion, and unrestricted sexuality.” Burdock quotes writer Alice Bailey: “Those peculiar and wild children of Europe and China to whom the name ‘wolf children’ has been given . . . have known no parental authority; they run in packs like wolves.” In this same two-page sequence, Burdock concludes that her mother has perhaps confused Jesus with Somnus, the Roman god of sleep, and the protection that comes from just closing your eyes. Thankfully, it is Burdock who has chosen to not only keep her eyes open and remain alert but to also report back her findings in this landmark work.

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Filed under Autobio Comics, Autobiography, Comics, Comics Reviews, Graphic Novel Reviews

¡Brigadistas!: An American Anti-Fascist in the Spanish Civil War

From Brooklyn to the Spanish Civil War

¡Brigadistas! Monthly Review Press. by Miguel Ferguson Edited by Fraser M. Ottanelli and Paul Buhle. Art by Anne Timmons. 120 pp. 2022. $18

The Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) may bring to mind Ernest Hemingway and his 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. This is a war that pitted a new leftist government elected in 1936 against Fascist and extreme-right forces. Freedom was on the line, a harbinger of what lay ahead in Europe. Outside of Hemingway, this graphic novel provides a stirring recount of events sure to stay with the reader. It features the true story of Abe Osheroff, a lifelong activist, along with two of his friends, who joined the fight.

The look and feel of the book evokes wholesome family movies from the 1930s, spiked with a decidedly leftist view; or vintage comic books imbued with an earnest propaganda. I think that is a great way to go to get readers into the mindset of that era and especially the players in this drama. The first few pages steadily set the tone. Page One depicts Woody Guthrie singing an activist ballad. This is followed by a few pages with Abe and a couple of his friends helping a neighbor lady who hasn’t paid her rent. They move her belongings back into her apartment after her landlord threw them out. This leads to a scuffle with a brutal local police officer. Followed by Abe falling in love with Caroline, a local activist. In no time, these lads will be fighting Franco in Spain.

The immersive quality of this graphic novel is, as I suggest, due to a compelling narrative (the fictionalized true story) putting to use many of the tricks of the trade employed by the war comics and romance comics of yesteryear. All in all, this method proves to be an excellent educational device. The reader isn’t expected to look for too much in the way of subtext to distract from the prime account. There are some artful flourishes to be found in dialogue, the flow of the narrative, and the overall clever use of the vintage comics format. And there are certainly moments within the comic that feel as lively and relevant as anything today. Lastly, I must point out that the art is dazzling. Timmons isn’t just reworking old comics but she’s channeling them and making them her own. Any student of history will find much to be engaged with. This graphic novel proves to be an excellent portal into a bygone era and makes the case that history is always sitting on a shelf awaiting to be rediscovered.

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THE LEGEND OF PINKY (1 of 6) comics review

An epic in the making.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Crime Fiction, Graphic Novel Reviews, New York City

Anna Haifisch Interview: Comix and the Art World

It’s not easy being an artist. We discuss this and much more during our chat.

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Filed under Comics, Comix, Interviews, Museums

Paul Buhle on Comics: World War 3 Illustrated #52

Tragedy and Hope

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Hurricane Nancy: Here’s to the GOOD EGGS!

‘Good Eggs’ by Hurricane Nancy. Color by Henry Chamberlain.

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Story: ‘The Egg Cream, an Excellent Portal to the Past’

 

A story drenched in pop culture and featuring the egg cream.

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Filed under Comics, Fiction, Henry Chamberlain, Story

Short Run Comix Festival (11/05/2022)Debut: WOMP WOMP #3

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Filed under Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Seattle, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival

SILVER creator Stephan Franck interview – A Meta Pulp Universe!

Silver: Of Treasures and Thieves, Book I is out as of October 25, 2022, published by Abrams. It is a deluxe hardcover edition and quite the immersive treat for anyone who loves a good yarn, especially one that takes much of the good stuff from pulp fiction and gives it a good tweak, a veritable mashup of adventure lore and vampire gore.

The meta pulp universe of Silver.

There’s no doubt that Stephan Franck has created something very special with Silver, a graphic novel set in a pulp noir universe of misfits, criminals and, of course, vampires. During our interview, I drive home the theme that much of the charm of this story is the journey and in the telling. This is absolutely an adrenaline-fueled adventure tale while also simply being a dazzling and mesmerizing play of words and images. The beauty of it all is that Franck has created a set of characters that you can really root for while, at the same time, is playing with tropes and just having fun. You can care about the characters or you can just curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the style.

Stephan Franck at the drawing board.

Part of the pitch to this book is a comparison to the vibe you get from Bram Stoker’s Dracula or the original Ocean’s Eleven. These are two very different animals but, at the end of the day, we’re talking about a high level of entertainment, be it high or low art or a mashup of the two. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never gone out of print since it was first published in April 1897. It was a bestseller in its day and is regarded as high art literature. Ocean’s Eleven was a big hit when it first appeared in movie theaters in 1960. It is an American heist film directed by Lewis Milestone and made the stars of the movie famous as the Rat Pack. It is one of those movies with a high level of irony that seemed to want it both ways: not to be taken seriously and yet leave you guessing. In a word, it was all about atmosphere. Take these two entertainments and roll them up into a fine paste and you’ve got yourself a gooey and frothy mix of the sinister and the ambiguous. Just the sort of clay to play with when looking to create the next pop culture mashup.

Think about pop culture in the last few decades, starting with, say, the treatment of Batman by Frank Miller, in The Dark Knight trilogy. There’s one of your finest examples of what has come to be accepted as working in an “elevated genre.” That’s the whole point. As Franck states, the idea is to “tell the most universal stories in the weirdest way possible.” And that’s what Silver is all about. You’ve got soldier of fortune types at odds with vampires. What could go wrong, right? Except for a roller coaster of a story for your delight.

Be sure to keep up with Stephan Franck here and here. And seek out SILVER, published by Abrams.

I hope you enjoy this video podcast. And, as always, a LIKE, SUBSCRIBE and/or COMMENT is always appreciated.

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