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Saturday, August 07, 2004 |
( 8/07/2004 09:22:00 AM ) Bill S.
O-E-O 'LEVEN – Steve Lieber has initiated a meme wherein comics bloggers are encouraged to come up with a list of eleven comics-related books that should be in libraries, an exercise that's guaranteed to appeal to the obsessive list-maker within me. So here t'is.
I tried to restrict my selection to titles that haven't already been listed by other bloggers, feeling that part of the point of this was to hold up varied titles worthy of being made available to the public. The bulk of my selections aren't very recent, in large part because I wanted to list books that'd held up to multiple readings on my part. (The ol' Test of Time thing.) The disheartening aspect about this approach was my realization that many of these volumes are currently not in print – one more argument in favor of a strong library collection:
Friday, August 06, 2004
( 8/06/2004 02:25:00 PM ) Bill S.
"BETTER PUT IT ALL IN PRESENT TENSES" – Thinking 'bout this 'n' that with a few quick bullet points:
(Background Music for This Round: The abovementioned Dylan elpee. . .)
Thursday, August 05, 2004
( 8/05/2004 08:47:00 PM ) Bill S.
"EVERYBODY EXPLODES. . .ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS FIND THE RIGHT PERSON!" – When we first see the trio of kids playing 'neath a huge sheltering tree in Ursula (AiT/Planet Lar), they could be any group of eleven-year-olds: two boys and a girl with large circles on her "strange, rosy" cheeks, fantasizing together and building a bond that'll hold into adulthood. It's only when the trio break from play that we realize one of the two boys, Miro, is heir to a powerful family – and even later when we learn that Ursula, that rosy-cheeked girl, is even more extraordinary.
Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba's Ursula is an unapologetically romantic fantasy about the endurance of young love. Packed with luscious allegorical imagery alongside smartly posed child and adult characters, it's the kind of story that either draws you in quickly or distances you with its unabashed emotionalism. It took me several tries, in fact, to get more than eight pages into this black-and-white graphic novella – all the stuff about a tree full of stars kept pushing me away – but once I actually succumbed to its storytelling rhythms, I found myself hooked. The two Brazilian graphic artists have created a simple love story, almost in spite of their occasionally overbearing poetic conceits, and in the end that's what carries the book.
The book opens with our trio of characters as story swapping children, introduces us to a "magic" talking bird named Pip (though at first we're unsure whether the bird is truly magical or if this ability is all in Miro's imagination), then we see this close-knit trio break up as Ursula is sent away to school. When next we see 'em, they're all young adults and Miro is being pressured by his traditionalist father to find a wife, so he goes off in search of Ursula. This doesn't take long: since Ursula, he reveals, is an "enchanted being," there's just one place she could be. He finds her and they kiss – but, unlike most fairy tales, that kiss proves to be just the start of the story. In a flash, Miro, Ursula and third wheel Boris find themselves in an uncharted landscape full of "emotions, longings, connections," once again in their eleven-year-old bodies.
Most of the scenes in this heavily symbolic land are handled wittily, with sprinkles of small visual jokes (a bit where Pip the Magic Bird, now chatting happily, goes after a "worm" that turns out to be a bit of dragon, is like something out of an old WB cartoon) and entertaining character poses. Clearly Moon & Ba (who swap art chores throughout the book) have more fun with their figures as whimsical children than as seriously pining adults. If Ursula falls down, it's through not making the adult versions as interesting as their young counterparts.
The story concludes with our trio finding their way out of this enchanted land and back to the world of pure adulthood: not the most complex of plot paths (even that dragon turns out to be pretty non-threatening), but Moon & Ba are less interested in story than they are in visually evoking emotional states. Despite a somewhat coy intro that depicts the two graphic artists discussing their story ("Does anyone die?" "Hum."), the outcome of Ursula's romance is never truly in doubt. For all its allegorical elements and regular thematic use of quotes from Brazilian novelist Guimaraes Rosa, the work's as driven by its single-minded need to get boy-&-girl together as any old-fashioned Silver Age romance comic. That is by no means a slam because I ultimately finished the book wanting to see more of Moon & Ba's work. A moderne romance comic that doesn't end with its sensitive hero feeling regretful and broken-hearted? We could use more of these. . .
( 8/05/2004 06:53:00 AM ) Bill S.
I GUESS WE'RE A BLUE STATE, AFTER ALL – How to react to the news that the Illinois Republican Party is offering the party candidacy for the position of U.S. Senator to Alan Keyes? Uncontrolled snickers aren't quite sufficient. And I'm sure that every Democrat blogger across the country has already pointed out the irony of the Grand Old Party bringing in a candidate who has never lived in the state of Illinois – when many GOPers yowled long and loudly about "carpetbagger" Hillary Rodham Clinton running for senatorship in New York. So how's about just linking to this great Peter Bagge article about Keyes, the Year 2000 Presidential Candidate?
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
( 8/04/2004 04:19:00 PM ) Bill S.
"OH NO, I CAN'T FIND MY MONEY!" – Between recent CD reissues of the Camper Van Beethoven catalog and a new release of the Mekons' Honky Tonkin', it's a good season for lovers of good ol' shambolic art/roots rock. I was able to latch onto a copy of the latter disc this week, and I've been rediscovering its plentiful dark pleasures. When the record was first released back in 1987, many fans thought its country-punk tone was an affectation (Christgau on the album back in the day: "I await the next phase.") Yet the years – and head Mekon Jon Langford's immersion in Bloodshot Records and the Waco Bros. – have shown that in Honky Tonkin' the band was test driving a sound they truly loved and would enthusiastically embrace. (See their 2002 reunion disc OOOH!) Today, the disc's assertive low-fi countrifyin' sure sounds both prescient and satisfying.
( 8/04/2004 08:15:00 AM ) Bill S.
"HEY KIDS! COMICS!" – When you're right, you're right. And Michael Chabon – in his call for more comics that’ll appeal to a kid readership – is the rightest. What's surprising is the splenetic response of some otherwise bright comic book writers to this simple proscription. Does delivering an address in a simply eloquent speaking style and alluding to comics history make one an "elitist"?
Re-reading Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba's Ursula this a.m. (review soon to follow), it struck me that, while not strictly following the rubric of those Silver Age works that Chabon cites as kid-welcoming, it's an example of what would be familiar comic book fare in the best of all worlds. A romantic work written for an adult reader that's accessible and appealing to pre-teen girls with an eye for fantasy: is it really elitist heresy to suggest there should be more books like this?
(Thanks to Grim for alerting me to this exchange, though I've gotta admit I sure as heck didn't have the patience to wade all the way through it.)
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
( 8/03/2004 02:21:00 PM ) Bill S.
I'M A SHOTTY PRIIFREADER – So I'm over at Johnny Bacardi's house, and I get in a brief discussion about all-time-faves, the Kinks, and in a burst of bloggish self-advertisement, I drop mention that I have a couple of tribute pages to Ray Davies and the boys (something Johnny already knows, but someone else might be following the conversation, right?) I bop over to the Kinks page to copy the link, and when I do, I notice a glaring typo in the text. Where I meant to say "could do no wrong," I've written "could to do wrong."
Now, these pages have been up for several years. They were not something I dashed off in a fit of web log gadding: they were crafted as labors of love that I read through repeatedly before posting, both as Word and as html documents. So I've proofread these rascals. I know the tricks for self-editing (read it backwards), though I admittedly don't consistently utilize 'em. And, every so often, I'll come across something I've written with a boneheaded typo or grammatical error that starts flashing at me like the oil light on my car.
I blame the American public school system. . .
Monday, August 02, 2004
( 8/02/2004 09:20:00 AM ) Bill S.
GIGGLING TO BYZANTIUM – Fave quote from "Hector Reeder"'s look-the-emperor's-nekkid! Ninth Art commentary on the "insatiable" comics blogosphere:
The blogosphere hates everything, and even the best examples score higher on insight than sense of humour.So. . .it's better to score higher on sense of humour than insight?
( 8/02/2004 08:53:00 AM ) Bill S.
"MANOS!" – See from the official Mystery Science Theater 3000 site that a new two-disc set entitled Essentials is being released by Rhino this month. This will make the third time I've purchased a MSTified copy of the Manos, the Hands of Fate, but I'll likely be buying it, anyway, since the set also includes Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Pia Zadora's best performance 'til Hairspray), which has not to my knowledge previously been issued on VHS or DVD. Hey, guys, any chance of sneaking out a DVD version of The Amazing Colossal Man?
UPDATE: Fellow MSTie Franklin Harris notes in the Comments section that if you purchase Essentials through direct order from Rhino, you also get a bonus disc of "Shorts, Volume Three," which collects more of those priceless edutainment films from the fifties and sixties ("Speech – Using Your Voice") as filtered through the snarky critical orbs of Joel/Mike and the bots. Where'd I hide my credit card?
Sunday, August 01, 2004
( 8/01/2004 08:12:00 AM ) Bill S.
"LOAD UP, LOAD UP, LOAD UP, YER RUBBER BULLETS" – A few quick bullet points for a weekend jam-packed with household crap:
(Background Music for this Round of Bullet Pointing: DCG's two-on-one CD reissue of 10CC and Sheet Music. Do the "Wall Street Shuffle"!)