Ciao my Comic Book Cognoscenti,
Sorry June’s musings are a little late but I was lost in a field somewhere near Pilton discussing the famous West Country superhero CiderMan and how he could capitalise on the fact that Jesus visited Glastonbury at some point before he made a book out of gold and buried it in North America. CiderMan & Jesus tackling sobriety, scurvy and the injustices of using fruit in salads! It sounded much better after a few festival strength Brothers…
So onto the independent and lesser known comic books which have tickled my fancy last month. Comic books which aren’t being made into blockbuster movies or having their likenesses used to sell watches and cars, comic books which challenge the mind, comic books which squeeze your larynx with emotion and comic books where women’s figures aren’t based on Lola Ferrari! Join me in our journey to the Leftfield, it’s going to get deep.
1. The Underwater Welder – Jeff Lemire (Published by Top Shelf Comics)
There’s something about good stories which feature fatherhood issues, troubled fathers, father and son relationships and broken homes that always raises a question in my head, did the author have a troubled childhood? Having a great relationship with my own Dad it takes an emotional story with the right amount of heft that allows you to relate to the characters and empathise with a situation you’ve not experienced before. I suppose this is the case with all great literature and I think Jeff Lemire’s story of alcoholism, responsibility and family falls into this category as well as including some absolutely stunning artwork. The story could be contrived and get lost in its own tragedy but Lemire’s ability to allow the visual location of Nova Scotia and the drama of undersea welding full reign across whole pages gives you time to savour the emotional heft of the story. The main narrative is compelling and not an obvious tale of father and son woe with enough pathos to keep it grounded as well as a mysterious and enchanting encounter that keeps it exciting and powerful. I’ve read Jeff Lemire’s previous work ‘The Nobody’ which, although stunning to look at, lacked on structure and felt somewhat empty as a whole book and I wasn’t sure if it was a case of exceedingly talented artist trying to be a writer. I can safely say upon reading ‘The Underwater Welder’ that I’m very excited to see what Mr. Lemire has up his self-penned sleeve next as long he keeps his exquisite pencilling going on other titles alongside it too!
2. Beta Testing the Apocalypse – Tom Kaczynski (Published by Fantagraphics Books)
I love short story collections. Whether it’s Jeff Noon’s ‘Pixel Juice’, Roald Dahl’s ‘Switch Bitch’ or Neil Gaiman’s ‘Fragile Things’ I find the short story medium absolutely compelling when done well and powerfully influential when looking at characterisation, world building and scientific concepts in writing. I also love comics but until now hadn’t realised there are very few short story collections within the comic medium and even fewer that are clever, witty, insightful and completely insane. ‘Beta Testing the Apocalypse‘ is all of those things and so much more as well as being realised with a simple, elegant and colourful art style to boot. Quite simply, this book is magnificent. Influenced by JG Ballard’s observations with a wry satirical streak and an eye for dystopian situations this collection of 10 (I think?) short stories roams from eco-terrorism through consumerism, acoustics and urbanisation down to more personal conflicts we face in our uncertain future. The power of this book is that it actually works better due to the sum of all its parts (Words, Visuals, Short Stories) than some normal literature would in educating you, entertaining you and giving you the impetus to seek out more information about the issues we may face in our future. I cannot wait to read this title again, like a lot of great literature it’s a challenge to read with its intricate, weaving take on how we’ve shaped the planet around ourselves. If you love ideas, if you enjoy futurism, if you want to be challenged and if you love Ballardian science fiction with a focus on our own influence then pick this book up now. Here’s a peek inside courtesy of Fantagraphics themselves!
Next month we’ve got some brand new treats for you & if you have any self-published comics or zines you want us to feature let me know, see you in July for more Monthly Musings,
PEACE, MK x