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From Random House to Rehab: Julia Wertz, The Small Press, Auteurism and Alternative Comics by Paddy Johnston

Brooklyn-based autobiographical cartoonist Julia Wertz published her first graphic novel, Drinking at the Movies, through Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Random House, during a brief period which she depicts in her second book, The Infinite Wait, as something of a minor boom in interest in comics from mainstream book publishers. However, once this period was over and the sales of Drinking at the Movies had proved lower than expected (in the words of Wertz’s publisher, ’these numbers would be great if it was with a smaller comics press, but since it’s with a major publisher whose standards are much higher…’) (Wertz 2012: 91), Wertz found herself dropped from her publisher. The Infinite Wait was published in 2012 by Koyama Press, a Canadian small press. Wertz is more comfortable with this arrangement, as evidenced by her autobiographical stories’ portrayals of events. Drawing herself writing to Annie Koyama, publisher of Koyama Press, she says ‘I just want to be with my people,’ (Wertz 2012: 93) the implication being that mainstream book publishers, despite their ability to pay her enough money to enable full-time cartooning, are not a home for the work of an alternative cartoonist. This article will explore the relationship between small presses and alternative comics, with Wertz’s two graphic novels and their publishing background as a case study, examining Wertz’s above implication that her work is best suited to being published with a small press.

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Posted by on 2014/09/16 in Guest Writers

 

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Early manga translations in the West: underground cult or mainstream failure? by Martin de la Iglesia

The comic market in the Western world today is heterogeneous and complex. However, I suggest it can be divided into three main segments, or groups of readers (see also the American market commentaries Alexander 2014, Alverson 2013): the first segment are manga fans, many of which also like anime and other kinds of Japanese pop culture. The second segment are comic fans in a narrower sense, who, at least in America, read mostly superhero comic books, and other comics from the genres of science fiction and fantasy. These are the ‘fanboys and true believers’ that Matthew J. Pustz writes about in his book Comic Book Culture (Pustz 1999). Finally, the third segment is the general public. These readers are not fans, but only casual readers of comics – mostly so-called “graphic novels”, newspaper strips and collections thereof, and the occasional bestseller such as the latest Asterix album.

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Posted by on 2014/07/14 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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Navigating the Post-9/11 Mental Space Architecture and Expressionism in In the Shadow of No Towers by Aletta Verwoerd

On September 11, 2001, Art Spiegelman, son of Auschwitz survivors and renowned author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus (1992), found himself on a “ringside seat” to the attacks on the WTC (Spiegelman, 2004: p. 2). This was it; the moment his parents had anticipated when they taught him “to always keep [his] bags packed” (Spiegelman, 2004 [1]). Personal life and world history collided once again on Ground Zero and, after years of writing and illustrating for The New Yorker – though never combining the two disciplines – the cartoonist returned to the medium that he considers to be ultimately his own: comix.[2]

Spiegelman’s second opus In the Shadow of No Towers (2004) contains ten large-scale cardboard pages, each with an eclectic collection of images and frames: comic figures from the dawn of the twentieth century feature prominently in the autobiographical story that is further built on references to popular culture, including the author’s familiar ‘disguise’ as a mouse. Produced in the two years right after the attacks, the shape of the towers is frequently mirrored in both single panels and in page structures. All together, the book provides a nearly surreal report of life in lower Manhattan; the neighbourhood in which the absence of the Twin Towers was ultimately present. Further, in order to do justice to “oversized skyscrapers and outsized events” (Spiegelman, 2004) the templates are extraordinary in size; each of them designed to precisely fill a full newsprint page, in colour.

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Posted by on 2012/12/18 in Guest Writers

 

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Conference Review: The International Bande Dessinée Society’s Seventh International Conference by Matthew Screech

The Joint International Conference of Graphic Novels, Comics and the International Bande Dessinée Society’s Seventh International Conference

July 5-8 2011

Manchester Metropolitan University

The bande dessinée part of the joint conference took up the baton after two very stimulating days with GNAC and SIC. We too were pleased by the quantity and quality of papers and we ran parallel sessions. The morning of 7th July began with panels comprising two distinct strands: bandes dessinées and Francophone Africa, and BDs drawing upon the European Classics. The first strand began with Laurike in’t Veld’s insights into how the Rwandan genocide was represented in comics, and continued with Michel Bumatay’s study of Sub-Saharan African Francophone BDs. The focus on Africa continued with Mark Mckinney, who drew upon (post) colonial strips to argue that autobiography began in BDs earlier than is generally recognised. This was followed by Cathal Kilcline’s analysis of Boudjellal, who depicts an immigrant family in Toulon. The European Classics strand began with papers by Linda Rabea-Heyden and Matthew Screech on comic strip adaptations of canonical literary works: Goethe’s Faust and Voltaire’s Candide. Next came a re-examination of bande dessinée Classics with Bart Beaty, who closely scrutinised panels from Bravo’s re-make of the best-selling hero Spirou. Another strip to enter the pantheon of classics, Lieutenant Blueberry, was discussed by Martha Zan, who established its similarities with ss.

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The Reinterpretation of the superhero in Seagle and Kristiansen’s ‘It’s a bird’ by Esther Claudio Moreno

Steven T. Seagle’s It’s a bird is a comic that reflects on the figure of Superman and on the author’s life to pose a question: Do we need heroes? Through a personal story, Seagle provides the reader with a brilliant, meaningful and moving work, a cathartic experience that transforms him into the hero of his own epic.

With superb mastery and sobriety, the autobiography combines the deconstruction – a typical (but not exclusive) device of postmodern art – with traditional epic. One of the characteristics of postmodernity is the deconstruction of “meta-narratives” and myths. In It’s a bird we witness the deconstruction of, arguably, the greatest myth in comics –Superman, the symbol (among other things) of the American Spirit: “You’re as much America as jazz, baseball or comic books”(p. 41), Seagle says, and throughout the comic the validity of the superhero is challenged as the representation of the American way of life, as the personification of masculinity, of the exemplary citizen, of the immigrant who longs for the land of liberty, of “the metaphysical ideals – truth, infinity, faith…” (p. 42), etc. Superman presents himself as the self-made man, the winner, the embodiment of the American dream, and Seagle cleverly destroys it.

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Posted by on 2011/06/17 in Gender, Guest Writers

 

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