November 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Such a simple concept, but with complicated results, all positive, “Nurse Rhyme Comics” is exactly what it says it is. That title might be an acceptable way of presenting what sort of material is contained within, but the level of the contributors is another thing entirely, and what they add to such brief and well-trod material shows clearly why they are at the top of their game.
Compiler Duffy has fashioned the sort of multi-faceted collection that finds alternative cartoonist Lille Carre lending a primitive version of her creepy style to “Song A Song of Sixpence” alongside Jules Feiffer’s frantic “Girls and Boys Come Out Play.” Hellboy creator Mike Mignola grimly realizes “Solomon Grundy,” while the always delightful Sara Varon imbues “Mary Had A Little Lamb” with a quirky sweetness.
Other highlights include Gilbert Hernandez’s “Humpty Dumpty,” David McCaulay’s “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” James Sturm’s “Jack Be Nimble” and Marc Rosenthal’s “Yon Yonson,” which is re-imagined as a tour de force of meta-absurdism.
The idea is to reframe these classics by offering them personalities and narratives that speak to a modern kid, particularly a funky one. Nursery rhymes don’t have to appear stuffy or outdated — they’re nonsensical, brutal, sarcastic, heartbreaking and harrowing, and the sequential versions here bring out all that and much more.
March 20, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Comic books have come a long way, but not as far as you think. On one hand, the creators who seized the medium in order to create literature comparable to any of its non-sequential cousins have garnered plenty of attention in the last decade. However, superheroes still exist and though companies try to grit them up, they’re still rather silly.
What is surprising, though, is that the superhero comics of yesteryear — we’re talking the pioneering first works from as far back as 1936 — hold much more in common with the literate graphic novels of today than their logical ancestors in the mainstream. Two new books give readers the opportunity to trace that path.
“Supermen” collects the earliest examples of lesser-known superhero comics from 1936 to 1941, the so-called first wave. No Superman or Batman here — instead, lost champions like Dr. Mystic, The Face and Sub-Zero seek to protect the Earth from bizarre villains bent on kidnapping, robbery, revolution, invasion and other efforts against the decent citizenry.
In pawing out the genre, there are areas of clunkiness that are charming — The Silver Streak lives in an apartment that anyone can visit, while The Comet’s house is easily found by criminals while he takes a snooze in his superhero get-up. The creators also have good humor revolving around the absurdity of the their chosen genre — suave man of mystery The Clock tries to calm a cop down after one-upping him, reminding him of his blood pressure.
Meanwhile, Marvelo — know as the Monarch of Magicians — starts off his adventure after the inconvenience of gangsters stealing a much-needed taxi from him. Marvelo retaliates by turning the crooks into pigs. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 14, 2008 § Leave a Comment
With the explosion of graphic novels into the popular consciousness, bringing acceptability to the form, there are plenty of pioneers in the field that shouldn’t be forgotten, especially when their work remains fresh. At the top of this list are the Hernandez Brothers, Jaime and Gilbert, whose series “Love and Rockets” has endured in one form or another for over 20 years, and has cemented the siblings as two of the most influential cartoonists of the last quarter century and easily the most important Latino cartoonists ever to appear.
When they first appeared in the 1980s, the brothers were telling stories about a population that wasn’t well represented in mainstream culture, let alone comics. Mixing tales of Latin Americans with slices of early punk and other alternative cultures — populated with real people rather than the stereotypes so often presented in other works — they built a literary world out a real one that mainstream America either ignored or derided.
With two recent releases — “Amor Y Cohetes” and “Love and Rockets: The New Stories 1″ the brothers present the past and the future of their creativity, revealing their work to be as vital as it ever was.
“Amore Y Cohetes” is a collection of short stories culled from work not related to their two long running serials, Jaime’s “Locas” and Gilbert’s Palomar stories. This collection pulls back from the very earliest published work by either and accentuates their differences — Jaime opts for cartoonish, personality-driven tales, while Gilbert specializes in surrealist dramatics that recall Fellini films.
The collection is a mixed bag — unavoidable considering the scope of the thing — but there are some real gems contained within. Gilbert’s “BEM” takes old monster movies and turns them inside out hilariously — imagine Godard directing “Godzilla” — while his story “Frida” casts the legendary painter’s life into a biography that unfolds through her own artistic style. Two of Gilbert’s first-person asides, “A True Story,” about his fascination with a wrestler, and “A Fan Letter,” about a punk band called Twitch City, are total charmers. Meanwhile, Jaime shines in his “Rocky and Fumble” story cycle, chronicling the adventures of a space-obsessed girl and her hovering robot friend. What begins as goofy fun transforms into a fairly riveting drama.
More accessible to new fans is the revamped “Love and Rockets” title, a yearly graphic collection that finds the brothers taking trappings from their old works and kicking them into new territory. At center is Gilbert’s “The New Adventures of Duke and Sammy,” which takes two lesser-known — and entirely real — Martin and Lewis imitators and giving them a crazy science fiction adventure. Gilbert contributes several other strong stories, including the remarkably dark and literate “Papa.”
Wrapped around the short stories is the Jaime epic “Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34,” which shifts characters from the very realistic “Locas” stories into a wild and comedic superhero fantasy that has rotating teams of super-ladies searching the universe for the long lost Penny Century, one of Jaime’s oldest and most enduring characters from his work. This is Jaime at his best, a total explosion of playfulness that allows him to show off his talent for drawing women and exploring their emotions — describing it as Pedro Almodovar drawing the Justice League of America is not far off. It’s a wonderful nexus point between extreme artistry and masterful goofiness, a testament to why Jaime is revered as a cartoonist.
The brothers’ publisher, Fantagraphics, offers a complete line of their work in various configurations — their serials, after so many years, are complicated works of intertwined stories and characters that are powerful and important, filled with creations that for many readers have transformed how they react emotionally to comic book characters — these two new releases are further proof of what makes these creators real literary treasures.