Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
West Coast Blues
You Are There
It Was The War of the Trenches
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec Volume 1: Pterror Over Paris/The Eiffel Tower Demon
Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec (movie)
CR Newsmaker: Kim Thompson On Fantagraphics Publishing Jacques Tardi
The Sixth Gun Book 1: Cold Dead Fingers
Dick Briefer's Frankenstein
Recent Books of Interest
The Sixth Gun Book 1: Cold Dead Fingers Written by Cullen Bunn, Illustrated by Brian Hurtt (Oni)
The second series collaboration from the creators of the excellent supernatural noir
thriller The Damned offers a creepy, magic-infused Western complete with terrifying
beasts -- living and undead -- gunfights, and the occult. Confederate General Oleander Hume seeks
out the Sixth Gun, the key to unlocking an unstoppable power. Mysterious gunslinger Drake Sinclair
protects the young Becky Moncrief, current owner of the powerful Sixth Gun, against Hume and his
magically-enhanced henchman. Bunn's pitch perfect script, combined with the unique artistic
talents of Hurtt, deliver the finest horrific western since the best of the Lansdale-Truman stories of the 90s.
Vampire Boy Written by Carlos Trillo, Illustrated by Eduardo Risso (Dark Horse)
Best known in the United States for co-creating (with Brian Azzarello) the popular crime
series 100 Bullets, the Argentinian Risso previously established a reputation
during the 80s and 90s in his native country and throughout Europe. Vampire
Boy (Boy Vampiro) first appeared in 1992 and features the culmination
of the many millennia confrontation between the unnamed son of Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) and the
Pharaoh's favorite concubine Ahmasi. Not traditional vampires, the immortals only occasionally
require blood and the sun actually replenishes them. The Prince, physically trapped at the age
of ten since the time of his transformation, reawakens after 50 years buried under the streets
of New York to challenge his eternal nemesis. Risso's moody, graphic work and Trillo's nuanced
characters elevate this unusual horror tale beyond the typical vampire story, collected here
for the first time in English.
Dick Briefer's Frankenstein by Dick Briefer Edited with an introduction by Craig Yoe (IDW)
Continuing the early 21st century trend of repackaging largely forgotten comic book classics
in affordable handsome editions, historian Craig Yoe re-introduces Dick Briefer's
horror-cum-comedy-cum-horror-again Frankenstein. Briefer's tale of a monster's revenge against
his maker initially appeared in Prize #7 (1940), spawning the first ongoing
series of horror comics. This incarnation of Shelley's creation proved to be very popular,
largely thanks to Briefer's intelligent scripts and ghastly illustrations. In
Prize #45 (1945), Briefer re-imagined the series as a humor strip. Proving he
was as adapt at comedy as terror, Briefer hilariously lampooned popular culture, horror, and
social conventions. Following an editorial edict, the stories returned to their spooky roots
three years later in Frankenstein #18. With the advent of the Comics Code
Authority in 1954, the long running series ended. In Dick Briefer's Frankenstein, Yoe
collects the finest Frankenstein tales from all three epochs. Yoe's introduction recounts
the creator and series history alongside rare art including an example of Briefer's Daily
Worker strip Pinky Rankin (someone needs to collect those Communist
action hero's stories) and Alex Toth fan doodles.
The Martin Scorsese of European Comics
Copyright © 2011 Rick Klaw
Before my discovery of the French artist Jacques Tardi, how did I enjoy comics? The three
reprints from Fantagraphics all appeared on my previous two best of the year lists: You
Are There and West Coast Blues in 2009 and It Was the War of the Trenches
last year. If I had read their most recent Tardi publication (The Extraordinary Adventures
of Adèle Blanc-Sec Volume 1: Pterror Over Paris/The Eiffel Tower Demon) in time,
it would have joined its brethren.
Initially set in pre-WWI Paris, Les Aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec
relates the unusual escapades of the novelist title character as she uncovers plots involving a recently
hatched pterodactyl, demonic cults, seedy underworld characters, and murder. First appearing in the
1971 issues of the anthology Pilote, the quick-witted, inquisitive Adèle Blanc-Sec
quickly emerged as Tardi most popular creation. She has starred in nine albums, five of which have
English-language editions, and the 2010 Luc Besson film, Les aventures
extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec. Originally translated by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier
for Dark Horse's Cheval Noir, NBM eventually collected the quintet of stories into
four graphic novels. I vaguely remember looking at the NBM editions, but nothing clicked. Apparently,
I wasn't alone as the books didn't sell well and went out of print. The same holds true for nearly
every previous attempt to offer English editions of Tardi work.
Fantagraphics editor Kim Thompson in a March 10, 2009 Comics Reporter interview with
Tom Spurgeon ventured a theory on the lack of sales: "[T]here's something so inherently European
about Tardi that American audiences might find him hard to digest. I've found some American fans
seem to like his work better in principle and theory than actually having to read it." Of course this
didn't stop Fantagraphics from producing their own line of Tardi publications.
I reviewed their first two books in these very pixels. This time, Tardi managed to worm his way
into my consciousness. Rather than re-write, I'm reprinting my impressions, which haven't changed.
West Coast Blues, Adapted by Jacques Tardi from the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette (Fantagraphics)|
From the opening panel until the final words, Tardi's adaptation of Manchette's crime novel Le Petit
bleu de la côte ouest sizzles with a dazzling graphic intensity. Salesman George Gerfaut unknowingly
becomes embroiled in conspiracy and murder when he stops to aid the victim of a car accident. Much like
the 50s American crime novels they emulate, Tardi and Manchette offer a impressive display of
destructive violence, wanton love, and disregard for life. Showcasing Tardi's singular artistic
talents, the brilliant West Coast Blues emerges as one of the best crime graphic novels ever produced.
West Coast Blues, Adapted by Jacques Tardi from the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette
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.
You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean Claude-Forest
What changed between the Tardi exposures? His masterful handling of the difficult crime genre
revealed a new depth of his artistic talents, which were further re-enforced by the radically
different You Are There. Another factor may have been the Fantagraphics approach to the
material. "Ninety-eight percent of the lettering will be done using a Tardi font we're
creating -- actually, two Tardi fonts, one for his earlier work and one for his later, looser
work," says Thompson. "The other two percent, 'effects' lettering, people yelling, longhand
correspondence (a chunk of You Are Here's narration is done that way) which can't be
done convincingly using fonts, will be hand lettered by Rich Tommaso." Unlike previous
translation attempts, the lettering compliments the art and appears organic, making for a
far more pleasurable reading experience.
It Was The War of The Trenches that cemented Tardi's place in my pantheon of French
masters alongside Moebius and Philippe Druillet. Again, my original review.
It Was The War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics)|
This extraordinary collection of World War I tales offers perhaps the finest work from the
lauded Tardi. Each story, based on actual accounts from French soldiers, relates the
often-horrific realities of trench-warfare. Disturbing yet compelling images abound: a
dead, mangled horse hanging from a tree serves as a warning; rats feasting on corpses;
amputations; executions; countless dead. Far more memorable are the impassioned stories
themselves. Betrayal, deceit, mistrust, murder, hope, and even humor run throughout these
tales. Painstakingly researched, the amazing Tardi perfectly captures the everyday despair
of the World War I trench soldier. Visceral, powerful, and effective, the flawless It
Was The War of the Trenches blazes a new standard for the war comic.
It Was The War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics)
Employing yet a third artistic style, Tardi's haunting visions of war agonize while granting
an insightful tour of the world of the average World War I grunt. He doesn't glorify or
trivialize warfare, but expertly tells it like it was.
Considering the European success of Adèle Blanc-Sec, it seems odd that Fantagraphics chose
her adventures as their fourth Tardi book. Thompson explained, "I wanted to start out with
something fresh and previously unseen in the U.S. and the first couple of Adèle books have
been published here. You can still find them on Amazon." Additionally, Thompson, who provided
new translations for the Fantagraphics editions, suggests a more esoteric reason. "[T]here
is what I call the popularity paradox, which is that sometimes the most popular French work
is the hardest to sell as compared to the 'art' comics because the more mainstream work
loses some of its 'alternative' audience without replacing it with a 'mainstream'
audience. So Adèle, with its playful Euro-adventure tropes, is in some ways less accessible
to American readers than, say, Trenches."
Primed by the first three offerings, I eagerly devoured The Extraordinary Adventures of
Adèle Blanc-Sec Volume 1. Tardi thrilled and excited me with his skillful melding
of the cartoony style that dominated You Are There and the darker, more menacing
representations from West Coast Blues into a wholly original creation. Volume 1
collects the first two adventures. I eagerly await the next volume and all future Tardi products.
Tardi is considered one of the grandmasters of his generation, someone of such commanding
skill and breadth of achievement that he's sui generis. I'd almost have to go outside
the world of comics and say he's maybe like the Martin Scorsese of European comics. He not only
draws beautifully but draws with tremendous effectiveness as a cartoonist, which is a rare
combination -- his work is beautiful but not necessarily pretty. Many cartoonists who draw
what I'll call "realistically" as opposed to "cartoony" lose the punch and efficacy of the
best "funny" cartooning, but he manages to combine the best of both.
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.