Wednesday, December 9, 2009


When I first started reading Cerebus, I though it was going to be like Don Quixote with an aardvark. It was more than a pleasant surprise to see that Cerebus is actually a skilled warrior.

The humor in the book is timeless and hilarious. Even in the early pages, I found myself laughing. Particularly on page 11, when the bartender gives in to serving Cerebus after he threatens him and Cerebus says, "I admire your cowardice, obese one." Because Cerebus' dialogue is over the top and he refers to himself in the third person, I often imagined that it is Cerebus, himself, narrating the story.

Although characters that have such an inflated ego usually annoy me, there is something lovable about Cerebus from the moment he graces the page. You really root for him to succeed.

The art has character but I wish it was in color. With such a humorous script, I wanted lots of color to go with it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This has been one of my favorite reads of the semester. Petersen has created a vivid world in "Mouseguard" that feels concrete and real. Each mouse has a clear personality and look. We only see Conrad for a few pages, but I was deeply saddened by his death. It is through these characters, each with their own strong beliefs, that carries the story and make a somewhat old plot original and interesting. Saxon stood out to me, in particular. His fearlessness and bravery defies the usual stereotype of a small mouse.

The one mouse that I did want more from was Midnight, the villain. The rest of the mice were so interesting, that he kind of fell flat even though before his reveal he seemed so mysterious.

The art fantastic and perfect for the story. Petersen has not only captured great emotion in the expressions of the mice but his action scenes and scenery is also extremely impressive. The snake fight had me on the edge of my seat. I literally gasped when Lieam was caught in the serpent's mouth.

All in all, Mouseguard is a fun, enjoyable read with lovely characters and beautiful art.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Charlie Patton

Unlike Yoshihiro Tastumi, who spent 800+ pages writing about a type of art as well as the tale of one person's life, R. Crumb fits a brief history of Jazz and the life of Charlie Patton all into 12 pages. And my main complaint is that this story does feel cramped.
R. Crumb tells this story mostly through narrative, with pictures to go along with the paragraphs. It is an overview, not an in depth day-to-day tale of Patton's life. I, personally, would have wanted a few of the scenes to be more detailed with more dialogue - as if we were living it with Patton. I would have particularly liked to see the scene where his father gives him the guitar, one of the fights with Bertha Lee, and a performance in this style.
Because there is hardly any dialogue and R. Crumb tells the story in such an objective, facts only, style, the reader doesn't really get a real feel for who Charlie Patton is as a person. The images are compelling, especially panel four page six where he is hitting a woman on the head with a guitar (looks violent and sexual at the same time) and the second to last panel on page 12, where you really can see the change in Patton's appearance and the fear he has of being to close to death.
Still, R. Crumb's artistic style and provocative images will keep this story in my mind long after I have finished writing this blog.

A Drifting Life

As a history of manga, A Drifting Life, is concise and more interesting than a text book. But as something to read for pleasure it's about 400 pages too long. I got through the first 100 pages pretty quickly but after that I found myself... well, drifting.
Starting around page 201, with the chapter Road to Success, a pattern sets in that repeats for the rest of the story. The protagonist, Hiroshi, has to make a decision between two avenues to move forward as a manga artist. In Road to Success, it's whether to try for art school or apprentice under Ooshiro Sensei like he promised. He always turns to his brother for advice (pg. 207), then argues with him, but then ultimately comes to a decision. This decision usually leads to some initial success before things start to go wrong and the pattern begins again.
My main complaint about this memoir is that Hiroshi is not very captivating as a main character. He often blends in with the other characters that he works with at Hinomaru. He seems to never make any real mistakes, runs away from confrontation, and only talks about manga as an abstract idea not any in depth details of his own stories.
But what Tatsumi does a great job of is showing the difficulties of being a writer/artist in a professional capacity. Hiroshi's story really shows how hard it is to stay creative and put out your best work on a deadline. How you can be so passionate about something but become distracted so easily (The manga camp in Tokyo is a great example of this).
Tatsumi's art style fits the narration. A Drifting Life reminded me a lot of blankets, not only because they are both memoirs, but because the art style is like a voice itself. It has personality and adds another angle to the character.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I sat down to start Asterios Polyp with the intention of reading a few pages then going to bed. Here is what I tweeted half an hour later, "planned on going to sleep 30 minutes ago but Asterios Polyp was too amazing to put down. What a beautiful book and story. Just Wow." Asterios Polyp is reminiscent of many other stories but what makes it different is the way that David Mazzucchelli tells it. Every character has their own word balloon, font and color scheme. They have distinct voices. The narrator is Polyp's unborn identical twin, Ignazio. These are just some of the things that makes the typical "Arrogant Old Man reflects back on his life and realizes he needs to change" story different.

The first sequence of the story begins with no dialogue, only background noises. The color scheme before the lightening is purple, white, and blue. Mazzucchelli is showing us important items that will reoccur in the story as it unfolds - the tapes, Polyp's father's lighter, Hana's curved table, and the kitchen. When the lightening hits we lose the blue in the palette and for the rest of the sequence it's purple, white, and yellow. The yellow gradually takes over as the main color as the fire burns up Polyp's apartment. We are introduced to more important items: Polyp's watch and the Swiss Army knife Hana finds on the beach. We then see all of the spaces we were just introduced to burn in the fire until they are nothing but yellow. The past is being burnt away.

We are then given some basic information about Asterios in a lecture 101 freshman class style voice. And we are introduced to our unique narrator. The idea of having the story told by the unborn brother is genius. He is shadowing his brother's life but he is not alive and can be separate from the story as well. Subjective and objective at the same time.

One of the things that struck me is how each section begins with a picture of an item that will be essential to that section, like a promo for next week's episode. A lot of the narrative sections reminded me of Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics." The narrator uses images to explain ideas or concepts about Polyp in the same way McCloud does for writing and reading comics.

Color Scheme is extremely important. Pink represents women, not only in a sexual light but also when they become something Polyp cannot understand. When Hana and Asterios have one of their biggest fights the reader is hit emotionally because she turns the color pink. Also the drawing style changes. Besides having different word balloons, Mazzuchelli showed a visual difference in Polyp and Hana's makeups by drawing Hana as curved, scratchy, lines with shading while Polyp is made of geometric shapes. Hana's background story is told almost entirely in pink. To show when their worlds were connected, that they felt connected to each other, Mazzuchelli uses both styles of drawing together and both colors.

One of my favorite scenes of the book is when Asterios blacks out after losing his eye and he has a scene with Ignazio. Over the course of the conversation their word balloons, that are different at first (Polyp's are square and Ignazio's are cloud-like) begin to become one until they are both like Polyp's. It is the moment when he realizes they are the same. Mazzuchelli uses his art not only to create an image but emotion and symbolism. Even the inside covers have meanings. Blue for Polyp for the front inside cover and pink for Hana on the back inside covers.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I went into this documentary expecting something similar to the Eisner documentary we watched last semester. And although this documentary is powerful and interesting, I think Robert Crumb's role in comics is lost behind the story of him and his family. The first part of the documentary seemed to focus more on Crumb's incredible art style. Some of my favorite parts of the film were just watching Crumb draw people on the street. His ability to create satire as he is watching it is no less than genius.
Once we started diving into his issues with women and some of the comics he created as a result for this, I became more distracted by the ideas on the page than actually viewing them as comics. In a way, I guess it shows that comics can be a medium not only for traditional storytelling and political beliefs but also a therapeutic outlet. Still, in the end I felt this documentary was more about that person and his family than his work. In that way I enjoyed the Eisner documentary more. But as a study of a comic book artist/ writer, Crumb takes the cake.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Planetary is exciting, funny and full of mystery. I thought the set up of the story was like a TV show in that each smaller story was episode but that they are all interconnected. Like Mr. Snow, we are thrown into Planetary's world with not much information but we quickly get caught up in it and want to know where all of this is leading. Like Dr. Brass says on page 22 of Chapter 5, "You want to know everything at once, five seconds after taking your first look at it." And the fact that Planetary gives you just enough to bite into and be hooked makes it genius.

The characters are also interesting, unique, and shrouded in their own questions. All of them seem to be morally ambiguous in subtle ways. There seems to be many untapped layers of each character. Ellis gives you just enough to get a small sense of who Mr. Snow, Jakita, Dr. Brass, and the Drummer are but nothing really substantial, which makes you feel like you are apart of the group. Working with these people, knowing some of their abilities, but not who they really are. My instincts tell me there is much more to Dr. Brass and his story. Not all of the pieces fit. His story was probably my favorite mostly because I like the idea of the snowflake and a group of men in a cave trying to save the world during WWII.

Cassaday's art is flawless. It's sharp, clear and full of emotion. The moments betweent the characters without dialogue work because he is able to convey these emotions through small details and pacing (For example, the third panel of the last page of chapter 40.

All in all, this is a fantastic first issue filled with great ideas, mystery, and characters. I look forward to reading volume two soon!