Friday, December 24, 2010

Absence

Dear Fans,
I'm going to be on break this week and the next, but don't worry! You have some great posts to look forward to.

Love,

Claire

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If I Were a Writer: Yiddish Literature and Comics

In my last semester of college, I took a Yiddish Literature and Culture class. We read the classics, watched movies, and listened to Klezmer music. As you all know, I am obsessed with comics, so when I found some with Yiddish themes, I sent them immediately to my teacher. After being inundated with a few emails (each recommending another comic), he wrote me back saying “These will come in handy when I teach my Jewish Graphic Novel course!” To this day I am not sure if he was mocking me or is actually going to teach that class.

So if he WERE going to teach that class, I would want him to include these comics in his Yiddish section:

Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East by Joann Sfar

Lubavich, Ukraine, 1876 by Sammy Harkham (This comic is online, so check it out!)

Market Day by James Strum

I would go back to college to take that class, mark my words.


As a side note, I think The Dybbuk, a play about Jewish mysticism, love, and possession, would be the best graphic novel ever. The darkness of a small shtel, the flashbacks, fast forwards, and history, the ghosts and death! I would just become a writer/artist to translate The Dybbuk to comic form.

Here are some scenes from the movie of The Dybbuk:

The Dance of Death

The whole movie is also online.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Macanudo Part Deux




Liniers’ abundant imagination and capacity for turning aspects of daily life into something fantastical makes Macanudo one of the most interesting comics I’ve ever read. He takes a perfectly normal situation and shows us a new perspective. For example, one strip features two tennis players hitting a tennis ball back and forth, observed by two pigeons. In the last panel, one pigeon says “poor egg,” referring to the ball. Liniers reinterprets a tennis match from the point of view of birds. The charmingly na├»ve view that the characters have of their surroundings makes the comics funny as well as endearing.

It is extremely difficult to describe this comic strip in a blog post because there are so many plots and characters. There are dwarves, frogs, robots, lice, penguins, tomatoes, pigeons, sheep, dogs, ghosts, radioactive toys, and human beings. The strips are set in generic cities and the countryside as well as various regions of Argentina. Liniers features a few regular strips: “Oliverio, the Olive” where poor Oliverio avoids being eaten in a number of cruel ways; “The True Adventures of Liniers” where Liniers, drawn as a human with a rabbit’s head, recounts the mundane, but oddly fascinating things that happen to him; “People Around Here” a strip that focuses on the innermost thoughts of a few people (see above). One of my absolute favorite tropes is his portrayal of emotions as physical creatures. Endorphins are tiny, small oval-shaped creatures. Envy has fangs and weighs people down by standing on their shoulders. Melancholy is a spotted yellow creature that follows people around, harassing them.

There are so many themes I want to explore in Macanudo that writing generally about this comic is disappointing. I taught a class about Argentine graphic novels during interterm last year and we read excerpts for a discussion of portrayals of the city. I might come back to that theme later in my posting.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Macanudo: An Argentine Love Story

The front cover of Macanudo issue #1

I was fresh off the plane, only three days in Buenos Aires when I first read Macanudo by Liniers. I decided to study abroad in Argentina for three reasons:

1. It is a Spanish-speaking country

2. My Spanish teacher in college was from Argentina, and we read a lot about it

3. The cartoonist Quino.

I decided to spend 11 months in a country partially based off comics, so it makes sense that one of the first things I would do is try to find something to read. Macanudo was recommended to me by one of the young, hip language tutors when I told him about my love of comics. When I first started reading it, I understood some of the jokes. They were filled with slang and referenced aspects of Argentine culture I hadn’t encountered. I began to truly appreciate Macanudo after I had lived in Buenos Aires for a few months and acquired an Argentine boyfriend (a great cultural reference).

So I’ll write more about this story in a bit because I am falling asleep. I’m feeling under the weather and took a Tylenol PM about 20 minutes ago, which is extremely poor planning because right after I decided I wanted to write a blog post.

Suggestion of the moment: read Ivan Brunetti’s Misery Loves Comedy. It is simultaneously disgusting and hilarious. I laughed, felt nauseous and physically dirty, and laughed again. I wish I could describe some of the things I read in this post, but merely writing about some of the things he draws would get this blog a “NC17” rating.

My absolute favorite comic was “HRRLFK! 1,784 Things That Make Me Vomit” where Brunetti describes things from “Soporific, bland, lifeless, sub-moronic, sickeningly cute, unfunny ‘comic’ strips” to “Every single human being who has ever lived, is currently living, and/or will someday be born.” He states, oddly enough, that “Graphic cartoon depictions of vomiting” also makes him sick. Brunetti’s comics make him out to be a self-loathing, sexually perverse jerk, but he lives in Chicago (with three cats!) so I hope I get to meet him.

A relatively tame panel from Brunetti's "Everything Sucks" in Misery Loves Comedy


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Comics Birthday

I celebrated my birthday this past weekend. And although I did not specifically plan to do anything comics-oriented, they infiltrated the most important day of the year!

I spent some of the morning reading comics. (Note: this picture was not staged. My mother took it when I was distracted....the only time she can catch me off guard)

And then my dad bought me Owly pins! All my favorite characters are represented on these pins. I also wore three of them the next day and got a compliment....from a ten year old.

The gift package came with a hand-drawn picture and signature.

Also, I bought myself a birthday present -- four issues of Dykes to Watch Out For-- and one of the copies was signed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oh, Avery

My friendship with Avery happened because of comics. To date, it is the only relationship to arise purely because of an interest in comics. We lived in the same house for part of the summer and would go to the library together to read comics. As we went to the library more, we got to know each other better, finding a true bond through recommending and reviewing comics. Avery is the perfect friend because, he, like me, believes that reading together is a perfectly acceptable activity. We once went on a mission to explore the comic collections at every library in the Pioneer Valley. We made it to two. When Avery came to visit me in Chicago, we spent hours in the comics section at the Harold Washington Library. Although we haven’t seen each other since August, we talk a few times a week on the phone. Our conversations quite often turn to comics—what we checked out of the library, interesting finds, and reviews. I often call him ranting about women’s motives in comics or bad comics journalism and he often helps me clarify my views and find my point of argument. He once proposed to me. It was not a matter of love, but a union…of our comic book collections. He said: “I have a lot of superhero comics, and you have a lot of art comics, so if we got married we would have a really awesome collection!” It was a very tempting offer.

As you might gather, we have a very supportive and interesting relationship. So, imagine my disappointment when he returned to school without his phone charger and has been unable to talk for the past few days. I checked out four amazing comics yesterday and have been unable to tell him about them! This is a short version of what I would say if we were talking on the phone:

West Coast Blues by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette
“Comic noir (is that even a thing?)! I want them to turn it into a movie so I can experience it again.”

I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets by Fletcher Hanks
“Reprinting of a lost comic from the 1920’s and 30’s. My favorite series is Fantomah, ‘Mystery Woman of the Jungle.’ When she gets angry and goes after evil-doers, her head turns into a frowning skull and she gets all blue and muscled. Also, at the end, the editor, Paul Karasik, wrote his own comic about finding these comics and talking to Fletcher Hanks’ son. It’s crazy and will blow your mind. He uses comic panels from Hanks’ work to show the contrast between his work and personal life.”

Dykes to Watch Out For: Split Level by Alison Bechdel
“Awesome. I laughed out loud a few times while reading and now my dad thinks I’m insane. I also just bought 4 more issues on Amazon.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, I.N.J. Culbard, and Ian Edginton
“Why do we even read books any more when they can be turned into amazing graphic novels?”