Friday, 31 January 2014

Cartoonists protest Angouleme's association with Israeli drinks company, SodaStream

Cartoonists from around the world have put their names to an open letter to Frank Bondoux, the director of Angouleme, the largest and most renowned comics festival in the world, urging him to end all ties with the Israeli drinks manufacturer, SodaStream. SodaStream's main plant is located in the industrial zone of Mishor Edomin, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, and has been the subject of several, escalating international boycotts, which most recently saw actress Scarlett Johannson step down from her role as ambassador for Oxfam, after the charity expressed their concern over her sponsorship deal with the company. 

Over four dozen cartoonists have signed the letter, including  Joe Sacco and Ben Katchor amongst others, and have set up a Tumblr for any other cartoonists also wishing to endorse and put their name to the letter (or by writing to ). The letter reads as follows (letter via Comics Reporter)

'We, cartoonists and illustrators from all countries, are surprised, disappointed and angry to find out that SodaStream is an official sponsor of the Angouleme International Comics Festival.
As you must know, SodaStream is the target of an international boycott call for its contribution to the colonization of Palestinian land, due to its factory in the illegal settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, its exploitation of Palestinian workers, and its theft of Palestinian resources, in violation of international law and contravening international principles of human rights.
Angouleme has had an important role in the appreciation of comics as an art form for over 40 years. It would be sad if SodaStream were able to use this event to whitewash their crimes.
We ask you to cut all ties between the Festival and this shameful company.

Khalid Albaih (Sudan) Leila Abdelrazaq (USA) Avoine (France) Edd Baldry (UK/France) Edmond Baudoin (France) Steve Brodner (USA) Berth (France) Susie Cagle (USA) Jennifer Camper (USA) Carali (France) Chimulus (France) Jean-Luc Coudray (France) Philippe Coudray (France) Marguerite Dabaie (USA) Eric Drooker (USA) Elchicotriste (Spain) Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz (USA) Ethan Heitner (USA) Paula Hewitt Amram (USA) Hatem Imam (Lebanon) Jiho (France) Ben Katchor (USA) Mazen Kerbaj (Lebanon) Lolo Krokaga (France) Nat Krokaga (France) Peter Kuper (USA) Carlos Latuff (Brazil) Lasserpe (France) Lerouge (France) Matt Madden (USA/France) Mric (France) Barrack Rima (Lebanon/Belgium) James Romberger (USA) Puig Rosado (France) Mohammad Saba'aneh (Palestine) Joe Sacco (USA) Malik Sajad (Kashmir) Amitai Sandy (Israel) Sine (France) Seth Tobocman (USA) Eli Valley (USA) Willis From Tunis (Tunisie/France) Jordan Worley (USA)

Smushed against the looking glass: Guillaume Singelin's The Grocery

By now you know on Fridays, I prefer for postings to be reflect the weekend mood: relaxed, less text, more spectacular art to bask in. So here we go, a ten page preview of the third volume of French comic, The Grocery, written by Aurélien Ducoudray and gloriously illustrated by Guillaume Singelin. You may recognise Singelin's work from Tumblr, where he has a growing following. 

Published by Ankama Editions, The Grocery is described as a 'universe of social realism , violent and raw' chronicling the lives of the 'Cornerboys.' The main protagonist is Elliott, who moves to Baltimore, where his father runs a grocery store. Singelin's previously stated how The Grocery was inspired by The Wire, with turf and gang wars, neo-Nazis, drug cartels, and generally a whole lot of trouble. This third volume, released on the 7th of February sees Elliott's father in prison due to the events of the last book, with the grocery store now turned into the main HQ for drug trafficking. 

I know it's in French, so I can't understand it, but that's not going to stop me from appreciating the beauty of Singelin's art. Keep your eyes peeled though- I believe he's due to publish something in English this year with Swedish outfit, Peow! Studio. Meanwhile, you can find Singelin's Tumblr blog here, where there's plenty to keep you busy (and happy).

(more pages after the jump)

News, Views & Oddities #26

News, Views and Oddities, a fortnightly feature where we link to various bits and bobs which have grabbed our attention, encompassing comics, books, illustration, design and film. Clicking fingers at the ready.

The Thought Bubble annual charity auction is now live, hosted on Ebay, where you'll find original art by Fiona Staples, Fabio Moon, Meredith Gran, Ming Doyle, Declan Shalvey and more. The festival have made a tradition of having guests donate art to auction off with the proceeds going to children's charity, Barnados. Bidding closes next Thursday. 

A reminder that the Youth in Decline annual subscription closes on Saturday (tomorrow) I know there are a few of those around, and it can be difficult choosing where to put your limited money, but Youth and Retrofit are the two I've decided to go with, simply because their line-ups have been too good to miss. Go here if you fancy some sure-to-be-gorgeous monographs from  Sascha Hommer, Sam Alden, Ping Zhu and Emily Carroll delivered to your door this year.

Derf Backderf's signed a new book deal with the Abrams, the publisher of his award-winning book, My Friend, Dahmer. The book will be a new iteration of Backderf's long-running Trashed! strips, with a more fictionialised slant.  

TCAF (Toronto Comics and Arts Festival) have announced their Canadian and international programming and guests, and if you're attending this year, you're in for a treat. Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac, Jeff Smith, Darwyn Cooke, Luke Pearson, Latvian comics outfit Kuš are all amongst those attending. Blain and Lanzac will be there in support of the English language release of Quai d'Orcy- Weapons of Mass Diplomacy, from Self Made Hero. Christophe Blain. Man.

Inio Asano's Umibe no Onnanoko (the girl on the shore) gets a Spanish language release, and it looks pretty gorgeous. Luckily Fantagraphics are releasing the author's Nijigahara Holograph in English, so I'm not feeling too envious. 

Comics you should read:

Steve Morris interviews Steve Orlando about his new comic, Undertow- I love underwater/ beasty world scaping narratives, so this take on the mythology of Atlantis, where a higher class/breed of beings exist in the underwater realm, with knuckle dragging, less evolved humanites as earth-walkers sounds right up my alley. 

Oni Press are giving James Stokoe's Wonton Soup a collected edition release this July. The first 2 volumes of the earlier Stokoe work have been out of print for a while, so Oni are putting them together and publishing it as one book. You can check out the first 39 pages of the series for free here, or you can just look at this lovely, shiny new cover Stokoe's drawn- valid choices both.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Uncivilzed Books announce spring 2014 catalogue

Uncivilized Books have released their spring line up of books: 3 titles- from Iranian editorial cartoonist, Mana Neyestani, the previously announced Sam Alden , It Never Happened Again, which will print Alden's Hawaii 1999 and a new, previously unseen story, Anime. A new collection from Gabrielle Bell, whose Voyeurs Uncivilized published in 2012, rounds up the season. That's a pretty solid catalogue: Bell is relatively established, Alden's book marks his first 'major' publication and the Neyestani offers an intriguing subject matter. No news yet on the highly anticipated Pascin biography from Joann Sfar, which I believe has been pushed back a couple of times now, but is likely to do well whenever it releases.

Below you'll find the cover image and short synopsis for each book. You can visit the Uncivilized Books website here.

An Iranian Metamorphosis by Mana Neyestani
(May 2014)

'Can a cartoon cause riots? It seems unbelievable but for Mana Neyestani it's true. One of his cartoons sparked riots, shuttered the newspaper Neyestani worked for, and landed the cartoonist his editor in solitary confinement inside of Iran's notorious prison system. Mana Neyestani story, which can only be described as Kafkaesque, is vividly brought to life in An Iranian Metamorphosis.' 

It Never Happened Again by Sam Alden
(June 2014)

'Two exquisite stories drawn in Sam Alden's signature, flowing, and lush pencil style. In “Hawaii 1997,” few words are spoken, but Aldens imagery evokes the magic of a night-time encounter at a Hawaiian resort. In “Anime” he explores the complicated dynamics of pop culture obsession.'

Truth is Fragmentary by Gabrielle Bell
(May 2014)

'Raw, bare-boned, scathingly funny dispatches from the renown comic diarist Gabrielle Bell, with biting cultural commentary mixed with her signature introspective, self-deprecating humor and surreal digressions (From car driving bears, through Zombie Apocalypses, to cute babies, and… more bears!) as she visits France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Colombia, back to Brooklyn and finally landing in Upstate New York.'

Ernest and Celestine: the making of

Benjamin Renner, director of the Osacr-nominated Ernest and Celestine, an animated film based on  Belgian artist and author Gabrielle Vincent's books, has started a blog about how the feature came about and his involvement in it. I know what you're thinking: process blogs- dime a dozen now-a-days, some good, some not so great, but trust me on this and go visit Renner's Tumblr now, where he's been uploading the most delightfully, funny comics, along with portions of his beautiful, simple animation. There's 3 installments so far: the first detailing how he came to be hired for the project, the second explaining who Gabrielle Vincent is, her work on Ernest and Clementine and beyond, and the third on finding the right kind of animation style that would befit Vincent's characters and the story- that final one carries some gorgeous looping gifs.  

I've put some chunks of the first comic (which made me laugh out loud twice) below for you to see; Renner's depicted himself as the nervous-looking little pig as he arrives for his appointment with Mr Didier.

And his return (a snippet from comic no 3):

Here's some stills from the film itself- which follows the friendship between an orphaned mouse, Celestine and  Ernest the bear who become friends under unusual circumstances, though they find that people are not as accepting of their bond as they are of each other. The English language version of the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, with the DVD now available to buy- I'll be picking this up, I think.

Comics Shelfie: Thomas Wellmann

Here it is: the last comics shelfie of January- but don't worry, there's still more to come, one every fortnight, as promised. This instalment of Comics Shelfie sees us welcoming one of my favourite cartoonists, Thomas Wellmann- a brilliant and hugely talented comics artist from Germany, to talk us through his comics collection. Wellmann released his first major English language work towards the tail end of 2013- Pimo and Rex, a gorgeous  book about the adventures of the two best friends, who seem unable to keep themselves away from mysterious goings on, alluring magic ladies and villainous bad guys. I loved so much it made it onto my best of the year list. His work is generally stunning: most noticeable for it's glorious use of colour, but also for its detail and characterful-ness. I've no doubt we'll be hearing a lot more about Wellmann in the future, but for now, you can find his website here, and his Tumblr blog here, the perusal of either one I'd urge.

Here's Thomas to talk about his collection:

'I started buying comics pretty late, during my time studying 'Kommunikations Design' in Düsseldorf. Before that I only hat a handful of randomly aquired single books, which, by now I have almost all sold. I purge my library from time to time, getting rid and selling books that I don´t really like anymore. Nonetheless, my library is constantly growing, mostly when I return from comic festivals where I like to buy books and swap comics with other comic artists who I admire.

So, these are mostly my books with a back, additionally, I store a whole bunch of zines, postcards, posters and the like in a drawer in our basement. I also have a small collection of books just for showing around when doing a workshop or seminars.

This is my main collection, currently sorted by the country of origin and loosely by their release date. I got into comics with the newer generation of French comic authors: Sfar, Blain and Trondheim, and then got quickly very invested into all the great young talent from the USA and Canada. Also comics from Flemish artists are hot at the moment; I just finished Die Amateure from Brecht Evens, which is amazingly unique and honest in art and story.'

American/Japanese books

German comics

European /French books

French books

More French books!

European/Canadian books

GUS – Christophe Blain.
Discovering Isaac the Pirate from Blain was my ignition point of wanting to draw comics. It was so different from what I'd seen before, so well drawn and so fluid and effortless. The Gus-series are my favorite comic books.

LOSE Series – Michael Deforge
Michael Deforge is from the future.

Ça va derrière  Oriane Lassus
I found this on my first visit to the Angouleme Comic Festival in 2013. Angouleme is devastating, in terms of the vast amount of talent you're exposed to, most of who are almost unknown outside of France. But for me, this wonderful story about a family on their road-trip to vacation was by far the most wonderous thing I saw there. Oriane Lassus has such a charming and unique way of teeling her stories. She´s able to even make the reader feel what the fabric of the car seat feels like. There are so many wonderful ideas of how to make the reader experience whats going on. I read this one with a friend from front to back, together behind a festival booth and it had us giggling like little girls.

And the most boring shelf of 2014!' :

Monday, 27 January 2014

Cartoonist Morrie Turner, creator of Wee Pals, dies

Cartoonist Morrie Tuner, creator of the Wee Pals newspaper strip passed away this Saturday in California. Turner had been undergoing treated for dialysis and kidney-related problems. He was 90 years old.

Turner was the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist, creating his best known work, the Wee Pals comics strips in 1965. When it first began running, the strip was carried by only 5 newspapers, but by 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, it was more widely embraced, appearing in 100 newspapers nationwide. His aim was to portray a more positive and diverse world, in which differences were accepted and celebrated, and in doing so he created one of the first strips featuring a multi-racial cast: 'All the kids [in my neighbourhood] were different,' Turner told the the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009. 'White, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, black. It was a rainbow. I didn’t know that wasn’t the way it was other places. Oakland was that way before the war. We were all equal. Nobody had any money.'

Tuner continued producing the Wee pals strips even as his health declined, and was recognised for his contribution to the medium by a number of awards: the Inkpot, the Anti-Defamation League’s Humanitarian award, the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, the 'Sparky Award,' named in honor of his mentor  Charles Schulz,  and the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, amongst others.

In praise of: Boulet

Let me tell you what is significant about 2014 in terms of comics: this year will mark 10 years of Boulet's (real name Gilles Roussel) comics online. Like many others, I must admit to the arbitrary nature of keeping up with web-comics resulting in a haphazard reading of those I am interested in, but over the last 12 months in particular, Boulet's work has shown more innovation, imagination, range and technique than some do in an entire career (and I offer that statement minus hyperbole), that  a daily vigilance has been imperative.

Most web-comics seem to fall into two categories: the daily stand alone short strip, pithy, often humorous, e.g. Cyanide and Happiness, or the ongoing narrative offered in parts, e.g. John Allison's Bad Machinery. Neither really explore or push the limits of the web-comic platform specifically, in that these comics could easily translate into print- there is little that is tailored to the web reading experience. And this is where Boulet stands largely alone: he seems to have an innate understanding of the online platform, taking an ingenious multi-media, mixed materials approach to produce comics that are unrivalled in breadth and scope. Take for example, New York Again. It's a diary/travelogue comic where Boulet visits the Big Apple. Etched in his usual black and white and infused with his trademark humour, it narrates aspects of his journey, laid out in traditional 3-panel strips. He breaks out of these to offer some observational portraiture of New Yorkers that have caught his eye. More strips and then we get this:

He cuts through the ambling of his narration by the sudden incorporation of a huge gif, thrusting the reader into a unexpected, hyper-coloured sensory experience- a gif that actively demonstrates how he felt visiting this night-club- the assault of noises and people and visuals, the strobing lights, with an overwhelmed and dazed Boulet rotating in confusion like a disco ball. It conveys the atmosphere, warmth and oppression of the room in an instant, through movement and colour. Gifs in comics aren't new, of course- Zac Gorman uses them in his Magical Game Time strips to similar effect: animating aspects that build atmosphere: a crackling, glowing fire, curtain blowing eerily- elements that aren't integral to the working of the comic as such, and that translate easily into print. But in doing so the comic loses much of what made it special in the first place: imagine the above sequence sat static on the page; striped of vitality and essence, and greatly muted.

Take Our Toyota Was Fantastic. It's a fairly short comic in which Boulet reminisces about childhood trips taken in the family's Toyota, the feeling of safety and warmth that they induced. A young Boulet lays inside the car on a night-time journey, the orange glow of the streetlights washing over him as they pass through a tunnel. The shadowy outline of trees, the moon, a neon 'Esso' sign reflected on the window, all work to evoke the thrum and movement of the car. It's a beautifully resonant comic, anchored by the final panel of an older 'present' Boulet in a taxi leaning contently against the window, as off-panel someone wonders 'I wonder why you always insist to take a taxi... The subway is far less expensive.' Boulet is a superb comics maker, but that narrative, the emotions it expresses and relays, is absolutely reliant on those interactive facets.

Let's look at another of Boulet's 'banner' comics from last year: The Long Journey. The Long Journey showcases, for me, Boulet's mindset: what can web-comic do that print comics can't? How does the platform differ? How can that be used to create comics that are web-unique? The Long Journey, rendered in a pixellated old-school video game style, see the cartoon Boulet persona in endless free-fall, through strange and exotic lands, various weathers, down, down, down. The Long Journey hinges on the reader's use of the endless scroll, the movement mirroring Boulet's trajectory, with the reader following. There's no way it could work in print: the pages breaking up the endless one-ness of the fall, and the horizontal turning of the page at odds with the continuous 'down, down, down' feeling that's harboured in the original.

Boulet was one of the first purveyors of the online comic, so it's perhaps fitting that he's 5 steps ahead of what everyone else in web-comics is doing, but it would be nice to see the parameters of the platform tested more by others, too.Where people still seem unsure or even afraid to play around or test the web-comic platform, Boulet is having a ball- producing every kind of comic you could conceivably think of. His range of art style and techniques, and the manner in which he manipulates them to show a shift in tone or feeling, a movement from place or time, via colour or layout, is astounding. Here's a quick look at a few:

Nostalgic, cutesy anthropomorphism:

More pixellated gaming influences:

Watercoloured paints:

'Classic' Boulet- the black and white sketch style with his hair proudly orange (this is taken from a hilarious CSI spoof):

Digital sci-fi art:

And there's a tonne more: photo-realism, as well as the incorporation of actual photos, videos, various painting styles, penciled art, digital, and on and on. The New York Pittsburgh diary alone has photograph, video, watercolour paintings, drawings, digital- seriously, just go look at it now. And it all works as one whole piece. Ostensibly, Boulet's comics are diary/autobiographical with a strong fictional slant, but over the years the man has written and illustrated every genre under the sun in longer and shorter length narratives: crime, sci-fi, fairy-tales,  an amazing pirate story that cuts between memory and imagination and past and future tenses, fantasy, time-travel, travelogues, wordless comics- he's done it all. Boulet's spoken of how for him 'the key is to always link the drawing to an emotion, a memory,' which is probably why most of the time, he'll insert himself into these scenarios, providing the reader and himself a point of recognition and familiarity- it's meaningful to him because he's in it, and it's meaningful to us because the Boulet person is essentially who we transpose ourselves onto. Joe Decie's comics are similar in nature: the quasi autobiographical thoughts a jump-off into the fantastical and imaginary.

The only other person who has come close to using the digital platform with a dexterity matching Boulet's is Emily Carroll; her horror comics require the reader to click on page elements to reveal plot facets and move the narrative further, giving them a choice to go on and making them a complicit participant.

Web-comics are getting more recognition, but it's a laborious process and the chase for attention and readers constant. Boulet, I would imagine, benefits from having built his base of readers over the years, and thus perhaps feels freer to experiment more, with his efforts paying off as his work gets wider attention. However, I don't think it's a stretch to say that on the whole, web-comics are still generally overlooked, under-appreciated and viewed as inferior to print- which would explain why he is yet to be recognised for his oeuvre. People talk about new ways of telling story, the evolution and progress of the medium, changing discourse and language, and Boulet is a perfect example of an innovator in the field. Let's, in this 10th year of Bouletcorp being online, celebrate and savour his mastery.