Shoujo Club Supplement, 1949

A small (approx 4″ by 6″) stapled pamphlet, this is an illustrated story called Satsuki Hime 五月姫, which seems to translate as “May Princess,” written by Manabe Kureo 眞鍋呉夫, with pictures by Watanabe Ikuko 渡辺郁子. 42 pages long on newsprint.

I would have guessed it to be pre-war, but it’s an early post-war publication. Though I’m not able to read the Japanese, the illustrations have a very classic shoujo look, reminiscent of artists like Hiroshi Katsuyama and Junichi Nakahara. Continue reading “Shoujo Club Supplement, 1949”

“Cu-cut,” Catalan political cartoon journal

When I was in Barcelona in 2013, I bought two copies (dated 26 November 1908 & 7 December, 1910) of Cu-cut, the Catalan satirical magazine at a flea market. I didn’t realize until much later that the language was Catalan, as I mostly just looked at the cartoons.  I won’t pretend to understand the early 20th century Catalan politics, except to conjecture that probably many of the issues linger to this day.  For more on the journal:!

The journal was published between 1902 and 1912, and featured as a mascot this character, known as “The Catalan” (on the covers his hat, bow-tie and nose are bright red).

Cu-cut's mascot, "The Catalan."
Cu-cut’s mascot, “The Catalan.”

Cu-Cut, which is Catalan for “cuckoo,”  was at the center of civil unrest in December 1905 when, after publishing a cover satirizing the military, its offices were attacked and trashed by some 200 army officers.  The incident resulted in curtailment of freedom of the press and had a major impact on Catalan politics and on the power of the military in Spanish civil affairs.   Continue reading ““Cu-cut,” Catalan political cartoon journal”

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.


“Hoshizora ni uta e ba” by Masai Akiyosha

A 1950s shojo manga I bought online from a Japanese auction site, a relic of the era of kashihon, inexpensive rental libraries through which many manga books were distributed in impoverished, post-war Japan..   “Hoshizora ni uta e ba (If You Sing to the Starry Sky”) by Masai Akiyosha. Here are select pages, and my  non-Japanese-reading commentary/ guesses at what’s going on.   First, the cover and page one of the story.


The cover appears to be by a different artist than the interior.  Perhaps 勝山ひろし – KATSUYAMA Hiroshi?


Continue reading ““Hoshizora ni uta e ba” by Masai Akiyosha”

Comics Workbook Magazine: article on Chantal Montellier

Montellier - Les Damnes de Nanterre p1 2005 detailI recently wrote an article about French cartoonist Chantal Montellier, for Comics Workbook Magazine #10, edited by Whit Taylor.

comics workbook cover Comics Workbook is probably the smartest and most interesting journal about independent comics, and appears only in print! I highly recommend ordering a copy from Copacetic Comics. besides my article, there’s comics by Aatmaja Pandya, Hannah Kaplan, and Nicholas Offerman, an interview with Rob Kirby, Keiler Roberts and Scott Roberts, and a converbetween Sara Lautman and Scott Longo.

Since there’s no online edition, here’s a look at the article. (And I will point out that this actually came out BEFORE the Angoulême Festival’s problems with women cartoonists… so don’t think I was just jumping on the bandwagon!)

montellier 1

Montellier 2

Montellier 3montellier 4

And here’s how that page from Damnes des Nanterre looks in color:

Montellier - Les Damnes de Nanterre p1 2005

Comics: a Global History, new reviews

Two new reviews of the book have appeared this week: one by Pascal Lefevre in the online journal Image and Narrative, and one in by Cefn Ridout.

These are both well written and perceptive pieces, and follow the general pattern of most of the book’s reviews, in terms of both positives and negatives:

Gratifyingly, the critics express admiration for the scope of the task and our success at achieving it. Lefevre says,

Even with these limitations [that is, narrowing the “global” scope down to Europe, Japan and North America, for the most part], it remains an impressive achievement to tackle the three major comics-producing cultures, North America, Francophone Europe and Japan. Not only the most popular or acclaimed titles of the three regions are succinctly presented, but also lesser-known but historically important works. So, I guess that every reader from every part of the world will learn about several new interesting titles or artists.

And Ridout: “Where the authors undeniably succeed is in distilling their extensive research into a single volume that places the development of comics in five continents across five decades into a wider cultural context, revealing fascinating parallels, divergences and cross-pollination between the disparate histories.”

Both Lefevre and Ridout also mention specific points they agreed with.

Lefevre liked that “the authors rightly state that demographics played an important role:
the postwar baby boom created a mass of children’s comics readers in the 1950s and one they became teenagers and young adults, in the 1960s, they were accustomed to reading graphic narratives and they were ready for graphic narratives with more adult aspirations.

Ridout mentions a few “enjoyable discoveries” of previously unknown work, such as Pazienza, Oshima, Neaud. That, for me, is what it’s all about!

On the negative side, there’s been pretty much unanimous critical agreement, of course, that the ambitions of the project necessitate some omissions, and each critic will point out those that they feel are the most egregious. In almost all cases, these complaints are perfectly valid. For Lefevre, it’s the thin coverage of newspaper strips, and also the relatively small number of source citations.

Ridout points out that our acknowleged focus on artistic rather than commerical importance “creates a somewhat skewed, auteurist history that overlooks writer Stan Lee’s equally pivotal role alongside artist Jack Kirby in attracting college-aged readers to Marvel Comics in the 60s and the impact of mainstream publishers embracing non-anglophone artists and writers since the 70s.” Fair enough.

Ridout, with a sensitive ear for tone, also catches the uncharacteristically “sombre” mood of the final chapter, in which Alexander and I succumbed, perhaps, to a little bit of a “good old days” quality in musing on the decline of the fictional graphic novel in recent years. That’s a criticism that hits home, since I don’t think either of us really feels, or wishes to convey, a negative judgment on contemporary 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.

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.”