Eddie Campbell

Comics College reveals Essential Reading of Comic Book Masters

One of my favorite regular columns is the monthly Comics College by Chris Mautner at Robot 6, hosted by Comic Book Resources. Each entry is a great introductory overview of what’s best to read from the great comic book masters and why they are so good, making this a fantastic source for newcomers or people who’ve always wanted to expand their reading. It also covers their lesser known work and stuff that maybe should be avoided.

The great part of the column is that it is looking at masters from all over the art form of comics. It’s not just superhero creators, or just alternative comics creators. It’s both those, as well as manga, newspaper strips, underground comics, euro-comics, comics journalism and more.

This month’s subject is the Norwegian cartoonist simply known as Jason. This prolific creator tells funny genre mash-ups with a deadpan economy of dialogue and understated emotion with characters struggling over love and guilt. Next month, George Herriman will be featured. His classic comic strip Krazy Kat is among the most highly regarded in the history of comics.

The Comics College column debuted in August 2009 and has covered the following comics masters past and present (click on the link to be taken to the column):

  1. Los Bros. Hernandez (Love and Rockets)
  2. Jack Kirby (The Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World)
  3. Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Phoenix)
  4. R. Crumb (Zap Comix, Book of Genesis)
  5. Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Mr. Punch)
  6. Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Acme Novelty Library)
  7. Lewis Trondheim (Dungeon, Little Nothings)
  8. Harvey Kurtzman (Mad Magazine, Frontline Combat)
  9. art spiegelman (Maus, In the Shadow of No Towers)
  10. Eddie Campbell (Alec: The Years Have Pants, The Fate of the Artist)
  11. Harvey Pekar (American Splendor, Our Cancer Year)
  12. Kim Deitch (The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Shadowland)
  13. Kevin Huizenga (Ganges, Curses)
  14. Hergé (Tintin)
  15. Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts)
  16. John Stanley (Little Lulu, Melvin Monster)
  17. Seth (George Sprott: 1894-1975, Wimbledon Green, It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken)
  18. Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City)
  19. Joe Sacco (Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine)
  20. Jason (I Killed Adolf Hitler, Hey Wait…)
  21. George Herriman (Krazy Kat)
  22. Jack Cole (Plastic Man, Betsy and Me)
  23. Adrian Tomine (Summer Blonde, Scenes from an Impending Marriage)
  24. Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman, We3)
  25. Jessica Abel (La Perdida, Artbabe)

UPDATE: I’ll keep updating the list over at The Comics Observer as Robot 6 posts new entries.

New Graphic Novels, Comic Books for You – 12/23

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of December 23 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

Action Philosophers!: More Than Complete – $24.99
By Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey
320 pages; published by Evil Twin Comics; available at Amazon.com

Imagine Plato as a wrestling superstar of ancient Greece, Nietzsche as the original ubermensch, and Bohidharma as the grand master of kung fu. These are not just great thinkers they also make great comics. Action Philosophers details the lives and thoughts of history’s A-list brain trust in hip and humorous comic book fashion. All nine issues of the award-winning, best-selling comic book series have been collected into a single volume, making this a comprehensive cartoon history of ideas from pre-Socratics to Jacques Derrida, including four new stories. You’ll never have more fun getting the real scoop on the big ideas that have made the world the mess we live in today! Tom Morris (Author of Philosophy for Dummies, If Aristotle Ran General Motors, and If Harry Potter Ran General Electric).

I’ve got an issue of this that looks at Ayn Rand and it’s excellent. Fun and informative. This same team is working on a comic about the history of comics, which astoundingly has never been done before to my knowledge, called Comic Book Comics. Here’s an 8-page preview of Action Philosophers looking at Carl Jung.

The Great Anti-War Cartoons – $24.99
By various; edited by Craig Yoe
184 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

For centuries, cartoonists have used their pens to fight a war against war, translating images of violent conflict into symbols of protest. Noted comics historian Craig Yoe brings the greatest of these artists together in one place, presenting the ultimate collection of anti-war cartoons ever assembled. Together, these cartoons provide a powerful testament to the old adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” and remind us that so often in the 20th century, it was the editorial cartoonist who could say the things his fellow newspapermen and women only dreamed of, enlightening and rallying a nation against unjust aggression.

Readers of The Great Anti-War Cartoons will find stunning artwork in a variety of media and forms (pen-and-ink, wash, watercolor, woodcut — single images and sequential comic strips) from the hands of Francisco Goya to Art Young, from Robert Minor to Ron Cobb, and from Honoré Daumier to Robert Crumb, as well as page after page of provocative images from such titans as James Montgomery Flagg, C.D. Batchelor, Edmund Sullivan, Boardman Robinson, William Gropper, Maurice Becker, George Grosz, Gerald Scarfe, Bill Mauldin, Art Spiegelman and many more. The book also includes an Introduction by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus and a Foreword by Library of Congress curator Sara W. Duke.

This book is neither ideological nor parochial: The cartoons range across the political spectrum from staunch conservative flag-wavers to radicals and hippies, and span two centuries and the entire globe (Australia, Russia, Poland, France…). But their message remains timeless and universal.

What better way to celebrate the season of peace than this collection of anti-war editorial comics? Well, OK, maybe there are better ways, like donating to charities or volunteering with anti-war movements, but this is a good way, too. Here’s a 10-page preview in PDF. There are comics dating back to the 1800s. Pretty fascinating. I particularly like the one from 1915 by Luther Bradley and the one from 1920 by Jay “Ding” Darling.

The Original Johnson, Volume 1 – $19.99
By Trevor Von Eeden
128 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com

At last – The Original Johnson, Trevor Von Eeden’s personal and heartfelt graphic novel biography of Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, international celebrity, and the most controversial American of his time. This is the artistic achievement of Trevor’s career (Batman, Black Canary, Black Lightning, Green Arrow), more than four years in the making and worth every moment.

Originally published online at ComicMix.com, this has been in the works for over 12 years. It is a passionate and unrestrained depiction of Johnson’s life and the racial tension of America at the time. You can read the first 100 or so pages at ComicMix. (Oh and by the way: IDW, update your online store.)

Marvels – $24.99
By Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross
248 pages; published by Marvel Comics; available at Amazon.com

“MARVELS is a giant leap forward in the evolution of illustrated literature.” — Stan Lee

Welcome to New York. Here, burning figures roam the streets, men in brightly colored costumes scale the glass and concrete walls, and creatures from space threaten to devour our world. This is the Marvel Universe, where the ordinary and fantastic interact daily. This is the world of Marvels.

Originally released in 1994 to much acclaim and enthusiasm, this new printing provides a great introduction to the world of superheroes and the superhero world of the Marvel Universe in particular. Looking back at it now, the painted art feels like it’s a little much (do superheroes really need to be that realistic and life like?) but with superhero movies now a pretty normal occurrence, maybe it was never that big of a leap. Either way, the story is told from the point of view of a normal guy in Marvel’s New York struggling through life as flashy dressed people with extraordinary abilities start running around the city and inevitably break things. There’s a small preview at the Amazon link above.

Footnotes in Gaza – $29.95
By Joe Sacco
432 pages; published by Metropolitan Books; available at Amazon.com

From the great cartoonist-reporter, a sweeping, original investigation of a forgotten crime in the most vexed of places.

Rafah, a town at the bottommost tip of the Gaza Strip, is a squalid place. Raw concrete buildings front trash-strewn alleys. The narrow streets are crowded with young children and unemployed men. On the border with Egypt, swaths of Rafah have been bulldozed to rubble. Rafah is today and has always been a notorious flashpoint in this bitterest of conflicts.

Buried deep in the archives is one bloody incident, in 1956, that left 111 Palestinians dead, shot by Israeli soldiers. Seemingly a footnote to a long history of killing, that day in Rafah—cold-blooded massacre or dreadful mistake—reveals the competing truths that have come to define an intractable war. In a quest to get to the heart of what happened, Joe Sacco immerses himself in daily life of Rafah and the neighboring town of Khan Younis, uncovering Gaza past and present. Spanning fifty years, moving fluidly between one war and the next, alive with the voices of fugitives and schoolchildren, widows and sheikhs, Footnotes in Gaza captures the essence of a tragedy.

As in Palestine and Safe Area Goražde, Sacco’s unique visual journalism has rendered a contested landscape in brilliant, meticulous detail. Footnotes in Gaza, his most ambitious work to date, transforms a critical conflict of our age into an intimate and immediate experience.

I’m a big admirer of Joe Sacco and his work, and here it looks like he’s going one step further in developing comics journalism, where he targets one specific story to investigate. Here’s a great preview (PDF) that pulled me right in. I need to get this.

Luke on the Loose – $4.99
By Harry Bliss
32 pages; published by Toon Books; available at Amazon.com

Luke looks on at the pigeons in Central Park, while Dad is lost in “boring Daddy talk,” and before you know it—LUKE IS ON THE LOOSE! He’s free as a bird, on a hilarious solo flight through New York City.

Harry Bliss, the renowned illustrator of many bestselling children’s books, finally goes on a solo flight on his own with a soaring story that will delight any young reader who has ever felt cooped up.

This looks very cute. Recommended for kids age 4-8, but I won’t tell anyone if you’re older and get this because it looks very charming and fun. Here is a preview of the kid running through the city with his new pigeon friends causing mayhem.

Alec: The Years Have Pants (A Life-Sized Omnibus) – $35.00
By Eddie Campbell
640 pages; published by Top Shelf Productions; available at Amazon.com

For the first time ever, the groundbreaking autobiographical comics of master cartoonist Eddie Campbell (FROM HELL) are collected in a single volume!

Brilliantly observed and profoundly expressed, the ALEC stories present a version of Eddie’s own life, filtered through the alter ego of “Alec MacGarry.” Over many years, we witness Alec’s (and Eddie’s) progression “from beer to wine” — wild nights at the pub, existential despair, the hunt for love, the quest for art, becoming a responsible breadwinner, feeling lost at his own movie premiere, and much more! Eddie’s outlandish fantasies and metafictional tricks convert life into art, while staying fully grounded in his own absurdity. At every point, the author’s uncanny eye for irony and wry self-awareness make even the smallest occasion into an opportunity for wit and wisdom. Quite simply, ALEC is a masterpiece of visual autobiography.

ALEC: THE YEARS HAVE PANTS (A LIFE-SIZE OMNIBUS) collects the previous Alec books THE KING CANUTE CROWD, GRAFFITI KITCHEN, HOW TO BE AN ARTIST, LITTLE ITALY, THE DEAD MUSE, THE DANCE OF LIFEY DEATH, AFTER THE SNOOTER, as well as a generous helping of rare and never-before-seen material, including an all-new 35-page book, THE YEARS HAVE PANTS.

I don’t know, that blurb kind of says it all. Here’s a 16-page preview.