Duck Duck Book

67 – trugglemat
12.31.2010, 8:44 pm
Filed under: comix, zines

The trugglemat / by Neil Brideau.
[Chicago, IL] : N. Brideau, c2007.
[MCL call number: ZINE 741.5973 BRIDEAU 2007; nine copies, no holds]

There is a grotesque creature who sneaks into town and eats up little children.  Terrifying!  But that’s not the worst of it — the monster seems to have warm, friendly feelings for our our unwitting, rhyming narrator.  She is witness to the carnage, and the monster visits her regularly, but she is not eaten.  And of course all the adults dismiss her boogeyman stories as fantasy.

* * *

Neil Brideau, the author and artist behind The Trugglemat, is also responsible for the excellent minicomic Spitting Pennies, which, I’m pleased to report, introduced the Library of Congress Subject Heading “Vomiting — Comic books, strips, etc.” to Multnomah County Library’s catalog:

Spitting pennies / by Neil Brideau.
[Chicago, IL] : N. Brideau, 2008.
[MCL call number: ZINE 741.5973 BRIDEAU 2008; five copies, no holds]


66 – these yams are delicious
12.4.2010, 2:40 pm
Filed under: comix, fiction, zines

These yams are delicious / Sam Sharpe
Chicago, IL : Viewotron Press, c2009.
[MCL call number: ZINE 741.5973 SHARPE 2009; six copies, no holds]

A frustrated cartoonist is trying to work, but is interrupted at his drafting table by his cat.  And then he is interrupted again by his cat, this time wearing a space helmet and accompanied by, um, his cat.  The cartoonist and the cat and the cat with the space helmet are then joined by the cartoonist in a space helmet, who reveals that they’re visiting from the future.  Unfortunately, the frustrated cartoonist’s future self is a little cranky, and not very interested in giving counsel on what the future brings.

Sam Sharpe’s cartooning is beautiful, clear, and effective; and the story is so short, sweet, and odd that I found it merited re-reading several times, pretty much immediately.

56 – incognegro
10.6.2008, 12:03 am
Filed under: comix

Incognegro [comic book] / written by Mat Johnson ; art by Warren Pleece ; lettered by Clem Robins.
New York : Vertigo, DC Comics, c2008.
[MCL call number: GN JOHNSON; eight copies, no holds]

Over time, racism and white supremacy have given us many stories that white people like to forget, and people of color can’t help but remember. One very horrific example from the United States’s own history is the story of the lynching of thousands of people of color, mostly African-American men, mostly in the south, and nearly always with the tacit consent of law enforcement and the pillars of the local community.

Lynching was common as dirt in the 1920s, and perpetrators nearly always went free. The white press largely ignored news of lynchings, but Black newspapers often reported on it. Incognegro is set in this context: light-skinned Zane Pinchback, a writer for the New Holland Herald (an African American newspaper based in Harlem) uses his ability to pass for white to attend lynchings and report on them first-hand in his “Incognegro” column. As the comic opens, Pinchback is expressing intense frustration with his success that is not success. He wants to participate in the literary and artistic flowering he’s surrounded by every day in 1920’s Harlem — and although everyone who’s anyone (and lots of folks who are no one in particular) reads “Incognegro,” no one has heard of Zane Pinchback.

During a confrontation on this question with his editor, Pinchback learns that his brother has been arrested for the murder of a white woman in a small Mississippi town, and he agrees to go incognegro one more time to cover the story and try to save his brother’s life. And then the shit really hits the fan. Excellent detective/reporter skills, feats of stupid bravery, the brotherhood of man, happenstance, and straightforward luck help Pinchback to survive an intense couple of days, several plot twists, a bullet wound, and lots of chit chat with racists, Klansmen, and town fathers. Incognegro is a real page-turner, with beautifully expressive art and a completely human (though of course also ghastly) story.

52 – tintin
03.24.2008, 8:03 am
Filed under: art & entertainment, comix

Tintin : the complete companion / Michael Farr.
San Francisco : Last Gasp, c2002.
[MCL call number: 741.59493 H545f 2002; 6 copies, 2 holds]

When I was a kid, my older brothers set the standard for comics-reading. They were dedicated, they were opinionated, and of course they were older than me so I spent a good deal of time trying to be like them. One brother read mostly superheroes: Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, and the Batman; the other generally preferred war and horror comics: Sgt. Rock, House of Horror, and Tales from the Crypt. I diligently read their hand-me-downs, even though most of the time I couldn’t quite see what the thrill was, except that I really liked Daredevil and anything with a girl superhero. However, I was never fully satisfied with superheroes, G.I. Joe, and horror stories, so when I could get to the bookstore that sold used comics for 10 cents a piece I bought Archie, Betty & Veronica, Richie Rich, and 50s-vintage Katy Keene, brothers be damned.

But we all read Tintin. I read all the Tintins I could get my hands on, and I read them as many times as I could. I borrowed them, begged them for presents, and occasionally when I was unusually wealthy, I bought one for myself.

We knew that Tintin and his author/cartoonist Hergé were Belgian, although I always thought Tintin himself had a sort of English flavor. I don’t recall ever once thinking about how Tintin was created, or wondering whether there were any substantive differences between the French-language originals and the translations I read. Little did I know, not only have these and many other Tintin-related questions been seriously studied, but there are enough people firmly dedicated to this work that they have a special name: Tintinoligists.

In Tintin: The Complete Companion, Tintinoligist Michael Farr endeavors to tell the story behind the creation of each and every one of the Tintin books. Farr focuses partly on Hergé’s life; partly on analysis of the Tintin stories as literature and the story of Hergé’s source material for characters, plots, and images; and partly on the history of Tintin publishing. Although Farr’s prose is a little uneven, this combination of subjects makes very interesting reading, especially for anyone familiar with some of the Tintin books. In particular, the juxtaposition of finished Tintin panels and clippings from Hergé’s extensive source files sheds clear light on how the comics were made.

For example, page 32 is entirely taken up with a photograph of the Chanin Building in Chicago, reproduced, the caption says, in the periodical Le Crapouillot. Page 33 shows two versions of the scene Tintin in America when Tintin slips out the window and balances on the teensiest ledge on the outside of a building to escape detection, to listen in on the bad guys’ conversation — the black and white panel from 1932, and the color version from 1945. The book is filled with similar comparisons of source material to finished product: airplanes, automobiles, trains, ships, clothing and jewelry, religious artifacts, exotic fruit, whiskey bottles, city skylines, street scenes, houses, machinery, working harbors, and even people who were the physical models for characters in Tintin’s adventures. The story of how each book was created, the details of the transformation of early books from black and white to color and all the books from French to various translations, and the bits of Hergé’s biography are all interesting, but the evidence showing Hergé’s incredible commitment to accuracy in all the details of illustration is what I found most fascinating.

Each of Farr’s chapters discusses one or two books, and as you have by now gathered, each is liberally illustrated with panels from the early newspaper strip, the revised color edition that came out later, and source photographs and clippings from Hergé’s extensive picture files. Tintin: The Complete Companion has a modest index, but no other supplemental material. In fact, it suffers rather sharply from the lack of any bibliography of Tintinology or Tintin comic books. Despite this lack, I recommend it highly, especially for fond readers of Tintin.

49 – bookhunter
09.17.2007, 12:04 am
Filed under: comix, fiction

Bookhunter [comic book] / Jason Shiga.
[Portland, OR] : Sparkplug Comic Books, 2007
[Multnomah County Library does not yet have this book, but it has been ordered and should have the call number GN SHIGA; eight copies, one hold]

Imagine that crimes against the library were taken more seriously than they currently are, and you might picture a world in which a crack team of special agents guards the physical and institutional integrity of the Oakland Public Library. In Jason Shiga’s Bookhunter, the library’s police force fills this role amply and well. After an introductory story of a short encounter with a censor (who has stolen all eight copies of The China Lobby in America), Bookhunter follows Agents Bay, Walker, and Finch as they track down an accomplished and slippery rare book thief who has switched out the library’s priceless Caxton bible for a fake.

Bookhunter makes a few erroneous technical assertions that may annoy librarians and other bookish people, but on the whole the world of the library is faithfully articulated in the story, and especially in Shiga’s realistic-cartoon-y drawing style. An early scene follows Agent Bay as he wanders the public and private areas of the Oakland’s Main Library, pondering the methods used by the Caxton thief. The twelve pages of Bay’s quiet library tour are perhaps the most beautiful in the entire book — the circulation desk, the periodicals room, a microfiche reader, the massive 1970s-era catalog in its cardfile, the reading room, the restrooms, the bookmobile; and everywhere patrons, seemingly endless bookstacks, and the gracious spaces that make up the large public rooms of the main library.

The story is action-adventure at its best — the thrill of the chase, the grind of nuts-and-bolts police work, and lovingly related details of setting, personality, and plot make Bookhunter worthy of the attention of comics lovers, library lovers, and undoubtedly many other folk as well.

[thanks, Kristian]

44 – kurosagi corpse delivery
04.8.2007, 12:02 am
Filed under: comix, fiction

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service [comic book series] / story, Eiji Otshuka ; art, Housui Yamazaki ; translation, Toshifumi Yoshida ; editor and English adaptation, Carl Gustav Horn ; lettering and touch-up, IHL.
Publication info. Milwaukie, Or. : Dark Horse, 2006- .
[MCL call number: GN OTSUKA; number of copies and holds vary for each volume]

As you no doubt know if you pay attention to popular culture, anyone who has a special, secret gift is in danger of finding himself starring in a comic book. It’s just one of those things.

Kuro Karatsu is a relatively uninspired student at a Buddhist university who is in need of a job. While looking at the university career center’s bulletin board, he hooks up with a group of fellow students who volunteer to chant prayers for the dead. Of course, it turns out they all have unusual abilities that combine to make them especially suited to the work of moving dead bodies around so that their restless spirits can find peace before shuffling off to the afterlife.

Karatsu’s secret turns out to be an uncanny ability to communicate with the recently dead, if he touches them. The rest of the crew have interesting talents as well: Numata is a dowser — only instead of locating water underground, he zeroes in on hidden dead bodies. Sasaki is a computer hacker who makes small change selling pictures of dead bodies on the internet. Makino spent some time studying abroad and learned the embalming trade (rare in Japan, where most people are cremated), and Yata channels a perky alien through a vaguely fish-shaped hand puppet.

In the first episode, Karatsu and his comrades attempt to reunite a suicide victim with his lover, who has also killed herself. They find that the work is both fulfilling and lucrative, and so their de facto mastermind, Sasaki, sets them up as a business concern: Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, “your body is their business!” And more adventures ensue in good time. The story is told with a light hand, and even though many of the details are grim, the overall feeling of the comic is upbeat. It is definitely low-impact reading, but I found it just weird and charming enough to hold my interest.

* * *

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is translated from the Japanese, but in a way, it is not completely translated. Comics are a visual medium, and since one of the systems for writing the Japanese language is in vertical lines, read right to left (the other way is written just like English), the panels of the comic are laid out accordingly — right to left, top to bottom. The book’s front cover has the spine on the right side to accommodate this. I found it fairly simple to acclimate myself to the visual structure (maybe I’m used to being confused; I often have trouble figuring out which panel comes next in comics that were composed in English), but it did feel weird at first.

In any case, don’t worry: if you open the book backwards, you will find a helpful set of manga-reading instructions inserted by the U.S. publishers. The back of the book also contains an explanation of the history of the different Japanese writing systems and their use in manga, and a very thorough and helpful glossary to sound effects (which are mostly written in the text in Japanese, outside the word bubbles). There readers will find, among other things, that “batan” is the sound of a headless body hitting the floor; and that when Yata’s puppet’s mouth flaps it makes the noise “paku paku,” which is the sound that the video game Pac-Man is named for.

41 – art out of time
01.17.2007, 4:52 pm
Filed under: art & entertainment, comix, fiction

Art out of time : unknown comics visionaries, 1900-1969 / [compiled by] Dan Nadel.
New York : Abrams, 2006.
[MCL call number: 741.5 A784 2006; three copies, one hold]

This beautiful coffee table-sized book reproduces complete comic books and strips from the best cartoonists, artists, and writers you never heard of. Nearly three hundred pages of riveting, weird, and fantastic comics are laced together with short, intelligent essays describing how, where, and by whom these comics were produced.

There’s not much more for me to say; you really should take a look for yourself.