It’s like pulling teeth, isn’t it? And, of course, it’s going such interesting places.
Brunswick has been nominated for an Eric Award for Best Strip -New Zealand’s major comic awards… well, the only one that exists independently of a retail outlet or the Qantas Media Awards. Ironically the major competition I’m up against is… myself, for Jitterati. Let’s hope the plot’s gone somewhere by the time the judges (including Joe Sacco and Dylan Horrocks) take a look at it.
Mad Night by Richard Sala
Fantagraphics Books 2005
Collected from Richard Sala’s comic Evil Eye, where it was more logically titled ‘Reflection in a Glass Scorpion’. This is a long, noirish fable that could almost be cute enough to be an Archie comic if it weren’t for the large number of lovingly rendered stabbings. Girl detective Judy Drood investigates a series of grisly murders at Lone Mountain College, a gothic institution set in a strangely European-looking town. The male characters are grotesqueries and the women look vaguely alike, which is why their relentless extermination (studded throughout the complicated plot like raisins in a raisin biscuit) is so distressing. If you’d prefer Edward Gorey to have eyeball-eating rats and girl pirates instead of ennui, this is for you.
Punch and Judy: Twice Told Tales by Christopher P. Reilly and Darron Laessig
SLG Publishing 2005
An extremely curious book which retells the classic macabre puppet show. Mr Punch is a large-nosed sociopath who gleefully murders his family and numerous authority figures, and finally takes on the Devil. The book looks like a visual Goon Show, and although bloodless it is still extremely nasty, like most children’s entertainment since Charles II. The second half is an original story about Mr Punch trying to get off of Santa’s ‘Naughty’ list, and features some neat characters such as Polly Mannikin the stroppy elf, and the homicidal Palindrome Bears. The dialogue has an unusual syntax and is often excitingly chunky, like a witty Yoda: “God’s going to kill you? How?” “With strange voodoo God Magic”. If I wanted to show off my English degree I’d mention that it was ‘Joycean’, but isn’t everything in reviews? Suitable for JTHM fans and people who thought Shrek could have been a lot darker.
My local public library has an excellent graphic novel section, but there’s an awful lot of terrible stuff there as well. I thought I’d try some brief reviews, because a lot of people living in Wellington who are interested in comics and graphic novels may not realise this resource exists. So all the books mentioned are available for loan -which is good when you consider that a US$17 (NZ$26) graphic novel can cost NZ$50 (US$33) by the time it gets here.
Clyde Fans Book 1 by Seth
Drawn & Quarterly 2004
Seth fans know what to expect –Clyde Fans is a beautifully designed book leaden with quiet desperation. The first chapter features the retired son of the founder of a defunct fan company as he potters around the old premises, having breakfast, taking a bath, moving from room to room of the company and pointlessly rearranging old stock while relating the entire history of the company and telling old salesman jokes in a monologue that would make an excellent one-act play. He also tells of his agoraphobic older brother Simon and his withdrawal from public life. The second chapter skips back forty years to 1957, when Simon disastrously attempts a sales tour of a small town and fails every challenge. Reprinted from Palookaville, the stories are technically superb, but personally Seth has always left me cold. The duotone illustrations are more emotionally involved than the sterile precision of Chris Ware, but the emotions are still all so sad. Brief one-panel moments of joy exist only to be crushed. It’s taken seven years to collect this first book, so don’t expect the second any time soon.
Another gratuitous Zap!
Enderby clutching himself is meant to look like a Vaughn Bode pose, but I was too ill to draw it properly.
Enderby first appeared in 1999 in a strip called Ask Aunty Fitz! which ran beneath Brunswick and was printed separately in many student newspapers. It was an agony aunt column where real students would write in with their problems and be relentlessly mocked by Fitz. Enderby was a long-suffering researcher who was carrying on a secret affair with Fitz while publicly bearing her scorn. Not too autobiographical, then.
I like things that go ‘Bdjjung!’.