Monthly Archive for March, 2007

BLÆK Selected Amongst the Books of the Year by Danish Bookbinders

There was some nice news waiting for me as I arrived here in Boston today: Rackham’s big Danish comics anthology BLÆK, published almost exactly a year ago, has been selected amongst the books of the year 2006 by the Association of Danish Bookbinders! Every year, the Association singles out a number of books published in Denmark that year for special praise as works of art/craft and mounts an exhibition of them at the Danish arts and crafts museum, Kunstindustrimuseet, in Copenhagen. These books will later in the year go on to the book fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig where they will compete in an international selection of book design.

It gives us, the editors, great pleasure to receive this honour, which we primarily see as a recognition of all the beautiful work delivered by the 29 contributing artists, as well as designer Frederik Storm. Good looking out! Continue reading ‘BLÆK Selected Amongst the Books of the Year by Danish Bookbinders’

Marshall Rogers RIP

marshall_rogers_batman.jpgIt is sad to learn that somebody who brought you joy in your childhood has gone before his time. I dug Rogers’ work on Batman, and later Silver Surfer, a whole lot when I was a kid. On Batman he had a lot of the same appeal that Todd McFarlane would later have on Spider-Man: A fresh, dynamic and decorative style. Not great draughtsmanship, but lots of attitude and mood. The grand architectural framework he provided for Batman’s antics, the long ears and impossibly extensible/retractible cape of his costume, and his sultry love interest Silver St. Cloud – all pretty effective to this 10-year old. Later, his elegant classicism on the Silver Surfer offered a calming refuge from the frenetic style of McFarlane and his ilk, which I by then had encountered, enjoyed immensely, and was beginning to have my first second thoughts about. No, none of this work has aged particularly well. Went back to Rogers’ Batman a couple of years ago and had a hard time even recognizing it – the images I had in my head were so much more potent than the enthusiastic, but rather inept comics that had provoked them. Here’s to those images!

Thank you Mr. Rogers.

Boston Bound

boston_dog.jpgTime to head to Boston! Looking forward to seeing the city again — it’s always a pleasure! Looking forward to trekking along Beacon Street, basking in Brookline and trawling the Harvard Square area, and dropping in at one of my favourite comics stores, Million Year Picnic. Looking forward to seeing Europa at the Isabella Stewart Gardner again, and there’s a certain Titian drawing at the Fogg that always lifts my spirits. Here we go. Continue reading ‘Boston Bound’

Re: A Certain Tendency in French Comics

blutch_mitchum.jpgComics critic Xavier Guilbert (of the excellent du9) responds to my recent critique of aspects of contemporary French cartooning, I answer him, and we have a conversation. Read on!

Hello Matthias,
I’ve read with much interest your latest note on the Metabunker blog, and while you make an interesting point, I beg to differ.

As a reader, I do look forward to reading the next book of an author I admire, and I have been disappointed when that next book didn’t prove as breathtaking as the previous one. Novelty wearing off, sometimes, but also sometimes the author going in another direction that does not resonate as much with me as the previous one. I think it is in the nature of authors to try different things, and it is in the nature of readers to be sometimes put off by this.

Trifles, you say? I could reply by saying that Baudoin, of whom you say that he is “fueled by a genuine ambition to convey something about the world” has become increasingly boring to me, while I was very enthusiastic about his work in the first place. Yes, unintentional self-parody, to the point that a Baudoin book sounds, well, like another Baudoin book. Beautifully crafted, but predictable, with the consequence that it ends up leaving me unmoved. In this light, I much prefer reading Gus or the most recent Blutch. Continue reading ‘Re: A Certain Tendency in French Comics’

A Certain Tendency in French Comics

gus_t.jpgJust read Christophe Blain’s latest comic, the western romance Gus. Beautifully drawn, well-told, cool 70s-style colouring, nice poetic mood, utterly unambitious. Blain is one of the most naturally graceful draughtsmen of current French-language comics and amongst the prime movers in what has been regarded as the revitalisation of the traditional album format over the last ten years or so. His award-winning series Isaac le Pirate has been one of the more significant successes of the kind of genre comics for adults that has characterised this “nouvelle bande dessinée.” Yet, his works – for all their grace and charm – are essentially trifles. Why bother putting such wonderful energy into work of so little consequence? Continue reading ‘A Certain Tendency in French Comics’

Lost Girl

inland_empire_dern.jpgSaw Inland Empire by David Lynch yesterday. I loved it. Probably my favourite since Blue Velvet (no shit). A sprawling spectacle stretching over three hours, and not letting up for a second, it is so loaded with bewildering imagery and ambiguous motifs that one might initially feel distracted from its deceptive simplicity. In a way, it is Lynch’s clearest resounding work since, well, Blue Velvet. Sure, it has all the mindfuck we have come to expect of him post-Lost Highway in spades: analog circularity, dissolution and transformation of identity, ontological sundering of veils, time out of joint, plenty of scotophobic appeal, a Polish Bob, and, uh, rabbits in suits, but at its heart it is a straightforward film about living with the unknown.

While it is obviously carefully structured and surely rewards repeated viewings, I ultimately think it would be a misunderstanding to treat it like a puzzle to solve. Part of the point is that the pieces seem to, but do not quite fit, leaving our imagination to deal with whatever it is that lurks in those incessant murky doorways or beyond the insistent close-ups that fill so many of the frames. The formidable, and puzzlingly underused, Laura Dern acts as our proxy on the prolonged journey into fear that is the heart of the film. If there is one weakness in all of this, it is that she is such a cipher that you are not as invested in her emotions as you perhaps should be for the terror to become fully internalized, but individualising her more than is done would be besides the point: she is us. And in any case, the moment of catharsis, when it occurs, packs a punch.

Sieze the Moment! An Interview with El-P & Aesop Rock pt. III of III

def_jux_live_rf2003.jpgThis concludes my 2003 interview with El-P and Aesop Rock. Here’s part I and here’s part II. Continue reading ‘Sieze the Moment! An Interview with El-P & Aesop Rock pt. III of III’

Charlie Hebdo Acquitted in Muhammed Caricature Suit

val.jpgThis just in: Philippe Val, editor-in-chief of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, who published the notorious Muhammed cartoons from Danish daily Jyllands-Posten – along with a number of others, produced for the occasion – in February of last year, has just been acquitted of any wrongdoing by the Parisian Correctional Court. The court stated that the most infamous of the cartoons, the one showing the Prophet with a bomb in his turban, seen on its own is an offensive image, but that it needed to be judged in the context in which it appeared, and that the publication as such is protected by the freedom of the press. Val could, if convicted, have faced up to six months in prison and fines of up to €22.500. Of the plaintiffs, the French Union of Islamic Organisations (UOIF), the International Islamic League and the Great Mosque of Paris (GMP), the former have announced that they are appealing the ruling. Continue reading ‘Charlie Hebdo Acquitted in Muhammed Caricature Suit’

Sieze the Moment! An Interview with El-P & Aesop Rock pt. II of III

aesop_rock_live.jpgThis is continuing my 2003 interview with El-P and Aesop Rock. Here’s part I and here’s part III. Continue reading ‘Sieze the Moment! An Interview with El-P & Aesop Rock pt. II of III’

Sieze the Moment! An Interview with El-P & Aesop Rock pt. I of III

el-p_aesop_rock_live.jpgTo mark the release of New York hip hop veteran, innovator and impressario El-P’s second solo album, and first solo effort in nearly five years, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, the Metabunker re-presents an in-depth interview yours truly conducted with El-P and fellow innovator and Def Jukie Aesop Rock in El-P’s home/studio back in the winter of 2003, originally used for an article in the Danish weekly newspaper Weekendavisen and published in edited form and translated into Danish at Rapspot. This, however, is the works – word for word, part I of III (here are part II and part III). Continue reading ‘Sieze the Moment! An Interview with El-P & Aesop Rock pt. I of III’

In the World

petits_riens_paris.jpgI hope you are reading Lewis Trondheim’s comics blog “Les Petits riens” – while at first sight perhaps seeming slight, it marks an exhilarating departure for his drawing and, by extension, his taking in of the world around him. As always laconic, he says he started the daily strip journal to teach himself watercolour, and that’s actually as good a rationale as any: while in terms of narrative content it is a continuation of his Carnets de bord, he allows himself more time with these journal entries. Always having focused on clear and effective narration, it is wonderful to see him spending more time observing things and rendering them in his well-known vivacious line, enriched by his much less expected lush watercolouring.

There’s already a book out, collecting a lot of these strips – check out du9′s review of it here.

Prototype or Parallel?

michelangelo_titian_madonnas_t.jpgOne of the discontents of art historical connoisseurship is how we, the practitioners, have been trained to hunt for the prototype of any given invention. We are so used to seeing precedents everywhere, even when dealing with some of the most original and inventive artists ever, that we sometimes forget how unpredictable art, and creativity, can be. If an earlier likeness of a given detail in a work of art can be identified, it seems the latter has to derive from it. This sometimes results in daring feats of historical contortionism on the part of scholars trying to establish how the artist can have seen and copied, or at least internalised, the prototype. As if coincidence is impossible and he could not have come up with it himself. Continue reading ‘Prototype or Parallel?’

Mark on the Streets

ihjel.jpgIn the wake of the closure and demolition of Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen almost two weeks ago, the streets of Copenhagen have been hit with a wave of political graffiti and street art. Rapspot impressario and photog Klaus Køhl has been around, trying to take it in – check his reportage here.

Check earlier commentary on Ungdomshuset here and here, sign the petition put out there for a pluralistic Copenhagen, get the other side of the news at and check this resource page, linking to a large number of news stories relating to Ungdomshuset.

High and Low II

dream_lie.jpgBecause I think at least bits of it are worth a second look, this is just to follow up on the discussion about modernism, high and low in art, and how all of this pertains to comics that Comics Journal critic Noah Berlatsky and I, amongst others, have conducted here and on the Comics Journal messageboard. Noah answered my critique of his article on the Chicago comics scene with the following message board post:

“It’s not the rise to prominence among the artistic elite, but modernism itself that’s screwed over the novel (somewhat) and poetry (thoroughly and completely.)

I think you’re right when you say that high vs. low culture is a strawman; I just don’t think it’s my strawman. It’s modernism and its bastard children that are obsessed with the distinction; I’m just reporting. Continue reading ‘High and Low II’

Arnold Drake RIP

stradv205_t.jpgOne of the great originals of the American Silver Age, Arnold Drake, has passed away. Mark Evanier provides a both informative and touching obituary. To me, Drake is significant for the creation of a number of characters and stories that showed the obverse of the four-color universes of other superhero comics of his time. “The Doom Patrol”, a group of freaks doing their best to act the superhero bit, is a bizarrely unsettling series, as if Drake was taking the bourgeois weirdness of things like Mort Weisinger’s Superman dead serious. It is funny and entertaining, but not comforting in the same way most of the other DC stories done at the time were. And then there is of course “Deadman.” This is the original angsting “superhero”, and, again, his endless The Fugitive-like search for his faceless, prosthetic-fitted killer – a search which promises no redemption – was not your usual superhero yarn. To this eight-year old it was positively haunting. As if all bets were off.

Say hello to Boston Brand for me, Mr. Drake!