This is Issue Four of Comics Squee. Each month our podcast panelists,imbued with the power cosmic, squee about the comic books, graphic novels, and general sequential art geekery that excites them.
I’m your host, Chriss Cornish. Joining me are regular squeesters John W Oliver and April Taie. Taking the revolving 4th chair this issue, is our guest Jackie Estrada. Jackie’s been involved in comics fandom for quite a long time, as well as being an editor, writer, and co-publisher of the Supernatural Law graphic novels. She also edited Comics: Between the Panels. And co-wrote the book Comic-Con: 40 Years of Artists, Writers, Fans, and Friends.
This issue of Comics Squee we’ve got: an Eisner Award winning exploration of the creative process; a satirical, Jules Verne-esque tale from the 1970s; special agents hunting illegal chicken; and alien space horse Thor.
We rolled two D6 (size-sided dice) to see who goes first and our guest, Jackie, won.
Jackie Estrada: What It Is by Lynda Barry
We weren’t sure exactly what to call Lynda Barry’s What It Is. The book’s not a graphic novel in the typical sense; no storyline or single narrative, etc. However, it is a collage-base exploration of what creativity is and how to approach the creative writing process. Lynda Barry herself is an instructor at a Mid West university and teaches writing courses. And Chriss found reviews on Amazon from teachers saying they were using the book for their Creative Writing 101 class.
What It Is is visually textural, with layouts and lettering that engages the ‘reader’ and makes them participate in the book.
John was impressed and added What It Is to his collection of writing books the week we squee-corded this issue.
April Taie: The Artic Marauder by Jacques Tardi
Jacques Tardi is a living national treasure of France who’s worked in comics and collaborated in film, books, and many other media.
The Arctic Marauder graphic novel came out in 1974 and is proto-steampunk. This is a fun pulpy adventure story, not meant to be taken seriously, and is very much in the vain of the old Victorian penny dreadful stories. The prose is very purple and melodramatic and there’s lots of “SCIENCE!”.
Tardi executed this comic on scratch board, a technique that involves painting the art board white, then black. You create the artwork by scratching the black paint away to reveal the white. It’s a labor intensive reductive art form where the artist is essentially drawing the white/negative space. The style gives The Arctic Marauder an antique etching aesthetic. The backgrounds are very photographic and heavily detailed, but the characters are very cartooney; much in the same way of modern manga (Japanese comics).
John W Oliver: Chew series by John Layman (writer) and Rob Guillory (artist)
All of the panel had read this Eisner winning series, and loved it. Tony Chu can ‘read’ the past of everything he eats. If he eats an apple, he experiences how it was grown, harvested, the pesticides, etc. When he eats ham he feels how the pig was raised. And slaughtered. The only food Tony can’t ‘read’ is beets. Tony eats a LOT of beets.
This is a fun and dark series with a veneer of silly awesome that keeps you from realizing how dark it is. The writing is fabulous, as is the art and coloring. In three panels they can make you care about a character’s pet rat, to the point that you’re sad a page later when the villain casually kills it.
Chew is an ongoing series and, as of air time, there are currently 7 collected trade volumes.
Chriss Cornish: Thor Visionaries – Walter Simonson, vol 1
This is the first volume collecting classic Thor stories by comics legend Walter Simonson (pronounced SIMON SON, Simon as in Simon Says – something Chriss didn’t realize as she’d only read the name and never heard it pronounced).
Walter Simonson did a superb job of carrying on the mythic adventure feel Jack Kirby created when he developed the character. That mix of science and sorcery, the grand and heroic adventures. Indeed, Walter Simonson’s Thor run is mythic fantasy adventure at it’s best; manly men, epic warrior women, crisis of honor, sacrifice and duty, nobility and clever villainy.
What’s interesting, is Chriss wasn’t a fan of Thor before reading volume 1 of Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson. She never would have picked it up if it wasn’t for an article on Comics Alliance about the book.
This volume of Thor Visionaries introduces Beta Ray Bill, who’s basically space horse Thor. It also has the warrior maiden Sif being an amazing bad ass in practical armor.
Question Time: What is the comic or cartoon that you are most thank full that someone recommended?
Since this issue of the podcast airs in November, this seemed like a good question. What everyone came up with was:
- John: Chew, recommended to him by John Perkins – a fellow author who will be joining us on a future issue of the podcast.
- Chriss: My Little Pony, recommended to her by the various write ups of it by Chris Sims on Comics Alliance. Chriss’ love of MLP has been pretty well documented on every podcast issue to date.
- April: Maus by Art Spiegelman, recommended by a friend in college. This is the work that got April into graphic novels.
- Jackie: Criminal by Ed Brubaker.
We took a break to thank our media hosting sponsor, Greta C.
What We’re Looking Forward to Reading Next
John: The next issue of Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja from Dynamite Comics.
Jackie: Our guest is looking forward to Primates by Jim Ottaviani. Chriss has this graphic novel on her to-read list as well.
April: Locke & Key volume one.
Chriss: The first volume of Lady Saber and the Pirates of the Ineffable Ether, by Gregg Rucka and Rick Burchett. She supported their Kickstarter to collect the first group of the webcomic and should have it in hand soon.