Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Blog of the week: Montague Projects Blog

Linked from last weeks blog of the week, the Montague Projects Blog is another non comics blog but fantastic non the less. This blog offers a fantastic array of vintage book design including some great books linking insects and architecture, and some great psychology, philosophy, and science books.

Click on the picture below.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Book cover of the week

I came across this little beauty in Oxfam although it has been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time. Penguin always being at the forefront of good design decided to recruit a host of fantastic comic book artists to design the covers for their deluxe classics range. So we get Charles Burn's cover for Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Chris Ware tackling Candide, Tony Millionaire taking on his big white whale etc. And then there's this.

Anders Nilsen is an alternative comic artist known for a lot of abstract work, including book lenght abstract monologues, and experiments in shapes, such as The End, Dogs and water, and Monologues of the coming plague.

His cover for Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tales is so textured, so economic and elegant with its use of line and shading, that I decided to scan in the details of the back page and the book ends just to give you an idea of how perfect the whole package is.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Find of the week: Teddy Kristiansen

The graphic novel that brought this artist to my attention is a self-indulgent affair written by Steven T Seagle that focuses on his existential crisis with being asked to write a Superman comic and his families struggle with Huntington's Disease. Despite the families struggle with Huntington's Disease the semi-autobiographical main character of Vertigo comics 'It's a bird' isn't a likable person instead he is self centered, ungrateful, moody, and irrational. His whole issues with the implausibility of the Superman myth and his propensity to over intellectualize it tends to grind on me a bit. Accusing Superman of being a fascist who gets what he wants through force is hardly new and is a theme Alan Moore tends to to exploit heavily for his superhero rewrites. (However as this is Vertigo, a notably more alternative offshoot of DC Comics, there is a certain 'Vertigo style' present in the artwork, which I don't see as a bad thing.)

Danish artist Teddy Kristiansen was awarded an Eisner award for Best Comic Painter for his work on this book and its easy to see why. He uses a very subtle range of colours (turquoise, red, burnt umber, greens and browns) and he manages to paint in a style that evokes a use of oil pastels and charcoal in to the mix. He flips between simple yet abstract geometric shapes skewed through a childhood lense to the kind of pale distorted life drawing that would make Ashley Wood proud.

The majority of his work has been collaborative and other titles he has worked on include Sandman Midnight Theatre and House of Secrets, both of which exploit his darker more Gothic potential.

For another interesting re-imagining of the Superman myth see Mark Millar's Superman: Red Son which is a what if story that lands Superman's boyhood spacecraft not in the farmlands of Smallville but in Soviet Russia instead, where Superman becomes the upholder of the proletariat struggle amongst other things.

Visit Teddy's blog here.

(more pictures coming soon)

Review: Ouroboros-Ben Newman

When asked to talk about his breakthrough UK talent anthology Solipsistic Pop, Tom Humberstone fondly recalled people congratulating him on getting the smell right, something Humberstone had put great effort into. There may be some of you out there who think I'm a bit weird, but I love the smell of books, especially that new book smell, and the first thing I can say about Bristol illustrator Ben Newman's comic debut is that it satisfies my nostrils. Thankfully the books pleasure doesn't end there. Ourobouros is a 24 page silent slapstick comedy adventure printed in a bold three colour design that reminds me of Jazz album cover artist Jim Flora as well as The Powerpuff Girls. Less subtle than the silent work of Jason (and thankfully less pretentious) Ouroboros is a lovely little package that falls on the right side of kitsch with it's nod to 50's sci-fi and cartoons. Probably the least twee book in this mini comic series as well.

Ben Newman's site is here and Nobrow is here.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

James Jarvis and Richard Kenworthy animation

OK so it may be a cunning advert for Nike which reminds me a bit too much of the awful moment in What Women Want where Mel Gibson pitches his female jogger advert and the music is a bit too indie, twee and uplifting (even if it is Caribou) but these animated James Jarvis drawings by Richard Kenworthy are great.

click here

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Date for your diary: UK Web and Mini Comix Thing 27th of March (Saturday) 2010, London

A chance for you to explore the cream (or sour milk?) of the UK small press scene at this annual event. Held in the Great Hall of Queen Mary University, Mile End, London, it will be home to 82 exhibitors, various panel discussions, film screenings, and a reading and a drawing room. Open from 10am to 5pm. Click here to take a look at the list of exhibitors, and if you want to know how to get there, follow the instructions below.
Mile End station is not open for exit/entry until after 12.30pm on the 27 March due to planned works, full information can be found on the Transport for London website at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/livetravelnews/realtime/tube/station-closures.pdf

Stepney Green station, served by the District and the Hammersmith and City Lines, is open; upon leaving the station you would turn left and continue straight along Mile End Road until you reach the Clock Tower turning into the college at this point and the Great Hall will be on your left; it is approximately an 8 minute walk.

I will hopefully be attending and reviewing a pick of comics from the event, as well as the event itself.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Book cover of the week

The book which the Roman Polanski film was based on, this creepy Magritte style cover (you know the one with the man in the bowler hat and suit with an apple floating in front of his face) was done by the author himself Roland Topor. Topor was a French illustrator, writer, painter and filmmaker known for his surreal imagery who also made the brilliant animation Fantastic Planet alongside Rene Laloux.

This new edition of the book features a hefty introduction, some short stories and original artwork by Topor, and an essay on the Polanski film.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Never mind the Banksy...

I recently came across the Italian graffiti artist Blu and thought I would share some of his globe trotting exploits with you. A lot of his work is much larger in scale than Banksy and he is not afraid to collaborate with other artists on his wall work. His drawings and his wall work are surreal with a pinch of humour and the stark cool whites he occasionally uses also work well against the sunny colours of the crumbling mediterranean buildings he paints on. He is also the first graffiti artist I have seen to experiment with animating his work and the results are pretty interesting. Click here to see a recent experiment from the Fame Festival with fellow artist David Ellis.

Check out Blu's website here.

Friday, 5 March 2010

An exhibition of obsessive list makers

Psychologists say that obsessive compulsive list makers are trying to create an illusion of control in otherwise chaotic lives.

Sounds familiar. Pity this is in Washington DC.

Around the world in eighty comics: Croatia

Like the pink elephant in the room the fact of Croatian born comic artist Dunja Jankovic's gender really shouldn't really be up for discussion. We like to think we no longer live in the boys club world of underground comix's which the Wimmens Comix movement fought back against. This movement was refreshing because it fought back against the ridiculous notion of a 'feminine' style of art, by producing ugly explicit and overtly sexual and violent art,(*1) much in the same vein as the male underground artists, except this time around the males became the victims, or worse still, they had their male virility and power deconstructed, it was a kind of empowerment through ridicule (Take for example the famous cover of female produced comic Wet Satin where a handsome Marlon Brando type walks down the street and the female on the page is too engrossed in her book (A streetcar named desire) to notice him).

But surely things are different now? Female cartoonists are not nearly as rare as they were back then. The category 'female cartoonist' is a bit of a problematic one in itself, as this kind of lumping together of all women artists/writers etc could be seen to imply that the very fact of their biology has a profound effect on the type of art they are able to produce. I would only argue that women's marginalised position culturally, much like other marginalised groups, has had an impact on the art they make, but it doesn't have to be the be all and end all. I am interested in comics by females that transcend gender as a subject, and to a certain extent this is what Jankovic's work does.

Jankovic tells me that her reasons for creating comics are purely an ego thing, she enjoys doing it, although she wishes she could somehow make a living out of it. Her work doesn't seem to posses an agenda, and although I think an agenda in a lot of cases is a good thing, its possible a stronger statement could be made by not feeling the need to make a statement. Political comics, although important, are often in danger of preaching to the converted. Her stories seem to be about childhood, memories, dreams, and other states of consciousness, as well as more mundane things such as shopping bags, The childhood theme shows itself through an obsession with the sea adventures, sea-creatures, and diving which could be construed by some close minded people as part of a slightly unorthodox tom-boyish upbringing.

Visually, her comics are stunning, some of them in an abstract stream-of-consciousness vein (sometimes wordless) that would sit comfortably in Andrei Molotiu's Abstract Comics anthology. The artist she has a closest affinity with in my eyes is German artist Anke Feutchenburger whose visual abstractions are similar to those of Jankovic and whose representations of the female body, and maternity cause her to be labelled as a feminist artist quite often. Which is probably the reason I went on a bit of a self-conscious apologetic rant at the beginning of this post about categorisation and feminist comics. Jankovic is unafraid to use any and all techniques and styles to create her work, which creates a visual melting pot often within the space of a single strip. She employs collage, charcoal, watercolour, pen and ink, and photographs Unlike Feutchenburger however, her comics are bold, colourful, and a bit more cartoon-ish in some ways, and posses a more whimsical, innocent humour about her.

She was also another artist was brought to my attention through the fantastic portal of comic unknowns that is Komikaze (who she became involved with while studying art in Belgrade) although she is now living in Portland, Oregan, in the USA and has been picked up by Sparkplug comics. Check out her website here and her blog here.


(*1) I'm thinking here of the violent fantasies of Julie Doucet's comics (along with the cluttered frames and mock cute anthropomorphic beer bottles) and the angry erratic line of Roberta Gregory(*2), along with the unconventional casting of a less than perfect female lead in Pudge: Girl Blimp by Lee Marrs

(*2) Although though the very words irratic and cluttered could be seen as negative against women

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Blog of the week: A Journey Round My Skull

Not really comics, but this fantastic and frequently updated blog offers graphic design, art, and illustration weirdness from all from around the world. From off the wall and quite frightening children's books, to Japanese baseball cards, poster art and beyond, A Journey Round My Skull is the perfect blog for the collector who doesn't want to leave the house. Check it out here.