Lunatic, reviewed

Two recent positive reviews for “Lunatic.” In the Boston Globe, Nina McLaughlin wrote on December 17: “Moonglow. Cambridge native Dan Mazur’s magic new book “Lunatic” (Ninth Art) is an elegant, moving wordless story of a woman’s ardent relationship with the moon. The illustrations move from her infancy to her adulthood, as she tilts her gaze upwards, dreamy and yearning, to see a companion peering back down at her. She devotes herself to its study at university, and launches herself towards it in more literal ways. The atmosphere of illustration shifts as time moves; Mazur, a co-founder of the Boston Comics Roundtable and the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, uses ink washes, pencil and nib pen, acrylic paints, giving each lifestage a distinct energy. The main character has a force and vitality to her, and a solitude. There is ardor in her, and melancholy, too. Mazur takes her on an otherworldly journey, and opens us to the different incarnations intimacy and life meaning can take. He also offers a behind-the-scenes look at the process and decision-making that went into the making of the book, a compelling look at artistic choices for both artists and readers alike.”

On December 30, The Beat published “Everyone Should Be a Lunatic” by John Seven:

Pedro Moura revisits “Comics: a Global History”

Comics scholar Pedro Moura has posted an English-language summary of his 2014 Portuguese review of Comics: a Global History, 1968 to the Present. He describes the book as offering “an English-language map of worldwide comics’ production, and one which presents, as I wrote, ‘a smooth and broad sailing.’ Moura’s recap also includes a link to an interview he did with me and my co-author Alexander Danner.


BOOK REPORT: “Juliette: les fantômes reviennent au printemps” by Camille Jourdy

IMG_20170210_111255169Juliette: les fantômes reviennent au printemps (Juliette: the ghosts return in spring) is a 240-page French graphic novel, published by Actes Sud in 2016.  I don’t know much about Camille Jourdy : she’s done a lot of children’s books, and had a previous series of bd albums, Rosalie Blum, which I guess was successful, since it was adapted as a film as well. Continue reading “BOOK REPORT: “Juliette: les fantômes reviennent au printemps” by Camille Jourdy”

The Jernegan Solution… reviewed!

Jernegan 17 DETAIL

Whitey at Optical Sloth nimbly dances around the looming spoilers in The Jernegan Solution, concluding that:

This is a thoroughly engaging comic that details a bit of American history that I was completely unaware of, and what better reason is there for a historical comic than that?

You can read the whole review, in its natural habitat here.  And if his admonition to “check it out” moves you, just click on that cover image to the right.

God Bless anyone who reviews independent comics!!!

La revue dessinée #05

La Revue Dessinée #05, cover by Nicolas de Crécy

La revue dessinée is a quarterly French journal of comics “investigations, reportage and documentaries” (enquêtes, reportages et documentaires); in other words, comics journalism.  I subscribed to this magazine earlier this year, in time for the two most recent issues, numbers 4 and 5. This is an ambitious and jam-packed periodical (both issues contain 226 pages, at a trim size of 7.25 x 9.5 inches). The material covers a broad range, from politics, economics and social issues to popular culture and arts, along with humorous personal essays and features.

The quality of the art  is very high, and the stories are, for the most part, informative and entertaining.  The big challenge in making this kind of informational comics work best is, for me, avoiding the formula of “caption-illustration, caption-illustration,” an approach which doesn’t really make the best use of the comics medium’s sequential story-telling and word-image interplay. Inevitably, some of the stories in La revue dessinée fall into this pattern (it’s very difficult to avoid in non-fiction comics, I know from experience), but some succeed quite well, and the different strategies for using comics for journalistic purposes are interesting to explore.  Here’s a brief recap of the most recent issue:

La Revue Dessinée #04, cover by Stanislas
La Revue Dessinée #04, cover by Stanislas

First of all, each issue is very nicely designed and produced; an attractive object, starting with the covers, for which they seem to hire “bigger name” artists than most of the (excellent) ones for the interior content.  Number 5’s cover (see above; it’s actually a wraparound, but too hard for me to try and reproduce that here) is a strong image by Nicolas De Crécy  (Celestial Bibendum, Foligatto).  The cover for #04, by Stanislas (The Adventures of Hergé), was even more eye-catching.  Previous cover artists have included Gipi and Mattotti (the cover artists also do the inside-front cover and a frontispiece).


The first story in #05, “Yes Scotland,” by Olivier Hensgen and Daniel Casanave, shows the risks of practicing journalism in the time-consuming medium of comics: a background piece on the referendum on Scottish independence, which arrived in my mailbox shortly after the vote had taken place (I guess the French subscribers probably got theirs in time). Still learned a lot, mostly about the leader of the independence movement, Alex Salmond.

yes scotland 1
Yes Scotland  by Olivier Hensgen and Daniel Casanave

Well-drawn and well-written, this 29-page story still mostly fails my test for being a really satisfying use of the medium: you could learn pretty much everything from reading the text, the images are merely supporting illustrations.  Nothing wrong with illustrations, mind you, but I’m looking for a more interesting use of comics.  One major exception to this criticism, is when the “action” of the story shifts to the oil-boom Northern town of Aberdeen, and the creators devote a largely wordless double-page spread to a visual approach, through the countryside to the city.  I’m not sure the reason behind this choice, but it’s a nice touch.Double-page spread from "Yes Scotland" by  Hensgen and Casanave

The second major story in this issue is the cover feature “Death of a Judge,” by journalist Benoît Collombet and artists Étienne Davodeau. The longest piece in the book, at 59 pages, I found this the most successful as well.  The subject is the assassination of a crusading judge in Lyons, in 1975, against a backdrop of political violence and corruption. The creators use their ample page count to develop characters and atmosphere, telling the story with a flashback structure that follows the writer and artist as they travel from place to place interviewing various witnesses to the nearly 40-year old events.

le mort d'une juge
Le mort d’une juge by journalist Benoît Collombat and artist Étienne Davodeau

Davodeau’s ink-wash art is exquisite, and he beautifully creates the spaces inhabited by the interview subjects, as well as gestures and expressions; the differing social positions and personalities of the interview subjects become a part of the story.  Details like the artist’s accommodation of a character who doesn’t want to be drawn, but requests that Davodeau depict her as a young woman (the age that she was in 1975), show a playful use of the form (in the first panel of her interview she’s shown holding up an old photo of herself in front of her face; after that, she’s drawn as she appeared in the photo).  Overall this story is a great use of comics as a journalistic medium.

Le mort d'une juge by journalist Benoît Collombat and artist Étienne Davodeau
Le mort d’une juge by journalist Benoît Collombat and artist Étienne Davodeau

The third major piece in the book, at 40 pages long,  is “Emprunts Toxiques” (Toxic Loans), by Catherine Le Gall and Benjamin Adam, which deals with the causes and results of the 2008 financial crisis in France. Here the big challenge, especially in the first section of the story, is to explain the complicated (sometimes absurdly so) financial instruments and arrangements that led to the crisis. Although this falls to some degree into the “caption/illustration” format, I thought it was done effectively; the creators make extensive use of pictographic metaphors, which are actually quite helpful in making sense of the tortured financial logic (especially for a non-fluent French reader). It was interesting to learn that, unlike the mortgage-based derivatives that are blamed for doing in our economy, the toxic loans that pushed French municipalities and banks to the brink of doom were based on arbitrage between the Euro and the Swiss Franc.  I don’t know why they created derivatives like those, but apparently they did, with disastrous results.

Emprunts Toxiques  by journalist Catherine Le Gall and artist Benjamin Adam
Emprunts Toxiques by journalist Catherine Le Gall and artist Benjamin Adam

emprunts toxique 2
Emprunts Toxiques by journalist Catherine Le Gall and artist Benjamin Adam

The second part of the story becomes more narrative and character-based, following the efforts of a provincial Mayor to stand up to more powerful political and financial interests to defend his city from ruin.  This dramatic story is well told, and again it’s interesting to see the difference between the crisis’ aftermath in France and the U.S. – banding together, French municipal leaders seem to have had some success using legal means to resist paying the sky-high interest rates that resulted from the banks’ sneaky and short-sighted practices.

Besides these three long pieces (accounting for more than half the page count of the book), there are numerous shorter features., including:

— A sports feature, “Mi-temps” (“Halftime”) by Thibaut Soucié, in which the out-of-shape cartoonist-reporter takes a synchronized swimming class.

Mi-temps by Thibaut Soucié
Mi-temps by Thibaut Soucié

— A film comics-essay, La revue des cines, by Christophe Gaultier analyzing the set design and shot composition of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Passion Byte, by Hervé Bourhis, a history of the personal computer, which is basically illustrated chronological fun facts.

La revue des cinés by Christophe Gaultier
La revue des cinés by Christophe Gaultier

Passion Byte by Hervé Bourhis
Passion Byte by Hervé Bourhis

— A recurring humorous strip on language, La chronique langagière by James, this time about beaurocracy-speak (last issue’s was about crossword puzzle fanatics).

— An essay by/ interview with French clown Pierre Etaix (who worked with Jacques Tati), by Argnetinian cartoonist Carlos Nine.  This isn’t presented in comics form, but is copiously illustrated by Nine.

La sémantique c’est élastique by James
La sémantique c’est élastique by James

Pierre Etaix : né clown by Carlos Nine
Pierre Etaix : né clown by Carlos Nine

…and more!

We have some pretty good comics journalism here in the States (see the digital magazine Symbolia, for instance), but we still have to envy the French for figuring out how to produce such a classy journal as this. If you read French, and comics journalism interests you, I recommend a subscription.  If you don’t read French and comics journalism interests you, I recommend taking some French classes and getting a subscription.

Recommended reading from October ’14

october readingToo many times people ask me, “what have you been reading lately?” and I don’t even remember. So here’s a way to keep track of/share at least some of what I’m into these days. I’m going to see if I can do it on a monthly basis, starting with


Still working my way through the piles from SPX, MICE and Locust Moon Fest, among other reading sources. In fact a couple of these items  I’ve just caught up with after last year’s MICE!  Read more…

Comics: A Global History, reviewed


The book is reviewed on The Comics Bulletin website:

“in Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present, [Mazur and Danner] do an admirable job with a nearly impossible task: providing an encyclopedic overview of important comics throughout the world during that era – popular comics and alternative comics, comics from Japan, Europe and the United States, comics from different schools of thought and design, comics using diverse styles, comics presented sometimes in dramatically diverse ways – and Mazur and Danner do so with a smart focus.”