Other Nexus Graphica Columns
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Love and Rockets
University of Texas event
Texas Book Festival
Writers League of Texas Agents Conference
The Cartoon History of the Universe
You Are There
Tom Strong the Deluxe Edition Book One
Recent Books of Interest
You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean Claude-Forest (Fantagraphics))
Originally serialized beginning in 1978 for the French magazine À SUIVRE,
the groundbreaking You Are There (Ici même) showcased the singular
talents of Barbarella creator Claude-Forest and legendary artist Tardi. Presented for the
first time in English, this nonsensical farce recounts the struggles of Arthur There and
his attempts to reclaim his ancestral lands of Mornemont of which he only owns the walls
that subdivide the area. Tardi's intricate, cartoony, and beautiful art perfectly expresses
Forest's ideas and words. The humorous You Are There masterfully satirizes French
society and politics unlike any comic before or since.
Tom Strong the Deluxe Edition Book One Written by Alan Moore Art by Chris Sprouse (DC/Wildstorm))
Mining the adventure stories of his youth, Doc Savage pulps, and the books of Edgar Rice
Burroughs, Alan Moore recounts the exciting exploits of the scientific action hero,
Tom Strong. Born in 1900 to shipwreck survivors, Tom Strong joins the mysterious Ozu after
his parents death. Very intelligent, extraordinarily strong, and nearly immortal, Strong
moves to America and sets himself up as the hero of Millennium City. He encounters a strange
array of villainy such as the Modular Man, Ingrid Weiss and her Swastika Girls, and the
diabolical Paul Saveen. The inclusion of an intelligent talking gorilla, a steam-powered
robot, Tom Strong of an alternate Earth, and the rest of Tom Strong's family, further
established Tom Strong as Alan Moore's most enjoyable comic. This handsome
volume reprints the first 12 exciting issues along with many of co-creator Sprouse's design sketches.
Pekar Project Written by Harvey Pekar Art by various (Smith))
For over 30 years, the curmudgeonly Harvey Pekar has recounted the surprisingly enjoyable
mundane aspects of his life. A self-professed technophobe, his decision to begin publishing
his further tales online, surprised and please Pekar's devoted and hardcore fan
base. The Pekar Project, produces original Harvey Pekar-scripted tales,
each illustrated a different artist. So far, eight stories of mostly exemplary quality
have appeared. Subjects vary from Da Vinci to IQ to sushi and all told with Pekar's customary
cynicism and wit. The initial tale, a phone conversation between Pekar and his good friend
Robert Crumb, remains the best of this excellent collection of stories.
What the Hell Happened? Part I
Copyright © 2009 Rick Klaw
"What is it again that you do?" asked my fiancée's aunt.
Roughly twenty years ago, those types of conversations were all too common. Clearly,
if I wasn't writing for children then I produced pornographic stories thus making me
a person of questionable character and morality. Jettisoning any argument about the
types of people who create erotic comics, the belief that there was only one type of
comic book for adults bothered me. Hadn't these people heard of Maus,
Watchmen, Love and Rockets, American Splendor, and
countless others that were being produced by the early 90s for more mature tastes?
"I write comics, ma'am."
She looked puzzled. "You mean like Archie and Veronica?"
"No. I write comics for adults."
The aunt flashed me a disgusted look and quickly changed the subject.
Thankfully, this perception has changed. Recently, I have spoken about comics at an
official University of Texas event, the Texas Book Festival, and Writers League of Texas
Agents Conference. All three events enjoyed enthusiastic and larger-than-expected
audiences. During that same period, The New York Times added a graphic novel
listing to their prestigious bestseller rankings. That same newspaper and most other book
outlets, both print and online, now routinely review comics. Major traditionally
prose-only publishers currently produce lines of graphic novels. Most libraries and
bookstores feature extensive graphic novel selections.
What caused this attitude shift? For starters Scott McCloud and his marvelous
Understanding Comics. Although McCloud created the award-winning series
Zot!, his fame remained primarily within the comic book field. Until he
introduced the idea that propelled him into the mainstream limelight. In Understanding
Comics, McCloud deconstructed the often misunderstood and esoteric universe of
graphic storytelling. He explored the medium's long history and its context within
contemporary art and literature. Using a non-confrontational and non-threatening
manner, McCloud related the entire 216 page book using only sequential art. The genius
of relying on comics to explain comics successfully engendered a greater acceptance of
the maligned media and created a generation of fans.
From the moment of it's 1993 publication, Understanding Comics created
a buzz1 with McCloud's contemporaries and comic book fans,
but little interest outside that narrow slice of pop culture aficionados. All of McCloud's
talent and insight might be for naught if not for Gary "Doonesbury" Trudeau's
February 13, 1994 The New York Times book review "Comics, Stripped," which
declared "Mr. McCloud's study ends up winning the very respectability that has always
been denied his subject." When The New York Times offers proclamations
like that, the literary establishment tends to notice. The word was out and most major
newspapers covered the phenomenal book.
To be fair, several comics established bookstores and even literary inroads before
1994. DC scored a financial success in 1991 with The Sandman: The Doll's House,
the first collection of Neil Gaiman's popular series. Maus, Art Spiegleman's
Pulitzer Prize-winning anthropomorphic account of his father's experiences in Auschwitz,
was long a bookstore staple and a critical darling. The first volume (1991) of Larry
Gonick's The Cartoon History of the Universe proved very successful. But these
were the exceptions and most stores struggled with graphic novel sales. Only a small
segment of the booksellers read or even respected them.
Then manga exploded into the American consciousness.
To be continued in thirty days...
Understanding Comics (along with other factors) influenced the decision to start
Mojo Press in late 1993. Publisher Ben Ostrander and I believed there was a burgeoning
graphic novel market in the mainstream bookstores. We were off by about a decade.
Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied
countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications
The Austin Chronicle,
The San Antonio Current,
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures
RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations
With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains
Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews,
and other things Klaw, Geek
Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.
He can often be found pontificating on Twitter
and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.