Hello and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew talk about the comics and graphic novels that they’ve been enjoying lately. Our special guest this week is comics journalist and critic Dirk Deppey of Journalista and The Comics Journal fame.
To see what Dirk and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, read on …
Sean T. Collins
A couple of let-downs bookended a pleasantly unpleasant surprise for me this week. Click the links for full reviews…
Fallen Angel by Nicolas Robel (Drawn & Quarterly): This modern-day fairy tale never quite makes the leap from the personal to the universal.
Kaspar by Diane Obamsawin (Drawn & Quarterly): I’m not necessarily nuts about some of the lo-fi visual choices here, but this true story of a young man who may or may not have spent his first 17 years kept in a dungeon in total isolation hit me hard.
Rambo 3.5 by Jim Rugg (self-published): A disappointingly one-note Dubya parody from the talented artist behind Afrodisiac.
I’m used to Osamu Tezuka’s peculiarities by now—the juxtaposition of the cute and the brutal, his oddly sociopathic main characters and his simplistic psychological explanations for their behavior, even his splintered layouts. And Apollo’s Song still struck me as the oddest Tezuka manga I have ever read. It starts with a young man, Shogo Chikaishi, who kills animals for fun, because, apparently, his promiscuous mother rejected him (and he walked in on her with a guy). His psychiatrist subjects him, with grim relish, to shock treatment, during which he hallucinates a goddess who tells him he is condemned to fall in love with the same woman over and over, but each time, one of them will die. This seems kind of harsh when we have just learned that poor Shogo isn’t really responsible for his condition, but that’s Tezuka for you. Anyway, he starts cycling through these new lives, but after two, the story takes a different turn altogether. It’s almost like Tezuka was making it up as he went along. Still, it’s entertaining enough to keep me reading (and guessing) all the way to the end of this first volume, and anxious to see the conclusion in volume 2.
I haven’t gotten too far into Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon’s Broadcast yet, but I’m impressed with Tuazon’s loose style and the care with which Hobbs is setting up his story. The characters have all emerged as individuals with strong personalities, and good and evil are sharply delineated. Tuazon’s art is washy and atmospheric, and he does a great job of setting the scene, including small details such as a set table or a scarecrow on a rainy night. Sometimes his art is too loose, and it’s like looking at the drawings through a rain-streaked windshield. I was afraid I would have trouble telling the characters apart, but somehow distinct sets of features emerge from the haze for each one. It’s a book to linger over, not one to read in a hurry, so I’m enjoying taking it slow.
I’ve started reading a collection of superhero short stories called Masked, edited by Lou Anders and featuring prose by Matthew Sturges, Paul Cornell, Gail Simone, Mike Carey, Bill Willingham, Peter and Kathleen David, Chris Roberson and many others. I downloaded a sample of it to my iPad a few weeks ago and became so engrossed in Sturges’ fun-yet-kind-of-gruesome story that I ended up downloading the whole thing so I could finish it.
For the past few years, most of what I’ve read has come from a computer monitor, so I’ve lately been forcing myself to return to printed books. I began with James Ellroy’s Underworld trilogy — American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s a Rover. They’re basically crime-noir novels, except that the setting is the turbulent events of the 1960s political stage, and the cast of characters includes JFK, RFK, J. Edgar Hoover, Jimmy Hoffa, Martin Luther King, Howard Hughes and a violent blend of mobsters, Cuban exiles and semi-rogue FBI and CIA agents. It’s trashy, politically dubious and utterly gripping work, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m now digging into the first volume of William Patterson’s Robert Heinlein biography, after which I’ll probably go back and dig up some Christopher Hitchens to hold me over until the end of the year, when the first volume of Mark Twain’s unexpurgated autobiography finally hits bookstore shelves (after an author-imposed, century-long embargo). Twain is one of my favorite writers, so this new book is going to make for a really good Christmas present to myself.
Comics: I was happy to finally get a chance to read Daren White and Eddie Campbell’s The Playwright, a droll sex comedy about not getting laid. It’s brilliant stuff. There’s a stack of manga sitting several feet high next to my desk, which I’m slowly working my way through — new volumes of Suppli, Mushishi, Nana, Twin Spica and Black Jack, as well as several Jiro Taniguchi books that I’ve been putting off until I can go back and re-acquaint myself with the story in previous volumes. (This is particularly necessary with The Times of Botchan, which is a dense and complex read even without the delay between books.) Also sitting in the stack is a reprint of Dino Buzzati’s 1969 proto-graphic novel, Poem Strip. I’ll be damned if I can remember where I first heard about it, but the New York Review of Books translated and reprinted it last year, and just flipping through the pages, I can tell it’s going to be interesting stuff. I ordered Kevin Huizenga’s The Wild Kingdom before realizing that it was essentially a reprint of Or Else #4 (which I already own), but the larger size and excellent production values are a gold-ticket invitation to read it again, so I can’t get too worked up about buying the same book twice. Finally, I recently ordered a copy of Howard Cruse’s collection of gay-themed comics, From Headrack to Claude, from the author’s website. It’s a print-on-demand softcover — one of the first I’ve ordered — and I’m almost as impressed with the quality of the printing as I am with Cruse’s daring, trailblazing work. This’ll be a fun one to read, I’m sure.
Oh, and someone at Fantagraphics finally got around to sending me a copy of Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, a week ago. I’m an employee of the publisher and played a minor role in bringing it to print, so I’ll spare you yet another round of Dirk’s Company-Shill Ego Cavalcade… but I would like to note that just holding the damned thing in my hands is by and of itself a deeply satisfying experience. Thanks, Matt! So when are you going to start translating the next one…?