Monthly Archive for March, 2007

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du9 in English!

The premier French site of comics criticism has now launched an English-language version, containing selected content in translation. This means, for example, that you can now read Xavier Guilbert’s review of Shigeru Mizuki’s masterly NonNonBâ (which I also reviewed a couple of days ago), as well as interviews with Edmond Baudoin and Lorenzo Mattotti, amongst other things.

Also, and completely unrelated, the high and low-discussion continues at the TCJ message board.

High and Low

clowes_murder.jpgOver on the TCJ message board, Noah Berlatsky replies to my criticism:

“Hi Matthias. You raised some interesting points in your review. For myself, though, when I was six or seven I thought Peanuts was hysterically, fall-down-on-the-floor funny. Still do, for that matter.

I didn’t talk more about Chris Ware in the Schulz essay in part because, at the time, I’d just written a piece sneering at him. It was a review of the Comix Chicago issue from a couple of years back, and it used to be on the now-defunct Bridge magazine website. Anyway, I thought I’d reprint it as well, since there seems to be some interest. It’s now on my blog here:

http://eatenbyducks.blogspot.com/2007/03/boredom-on-infinite-earths.html

I’m not quite as high on Alan Moore as I was when I wrote this. I still think he’s pretty great, though.

And finally, in totally trivial and pointless quibbling, the Schulz essay was the first thing I wrote for the Journal, but it was actually published second. (It was in #265; the Spiegelman review was in #264.)” Continue reading ‘High and Low’

Ghosts of the Past

azuki-harari.jpgMy first exposure to the work of Mizuki Shigeru was indirect, in the form of Miike Takashi’s wonderful 2005 film Yôkai daisensô (eng. The Great Yôkai War), which I saw last year. Amongst the most impressive aspects of that thoroughly enjoyable movie was the often iconically simple and inventive character designs given to the host of yôkai appearing throughout. Yôkai is the common term for the multitude of spirits and demons of Japanese folklore and author and mangaka Mizuki is probably their most significant ambassador to the world of 20th-century popular culture.

Mizuki being such a strong, simple stylist whose stories are celebrated widely in Japan, it was only natural that Miike would be drawing on his ideas and designs for his delirious yôkai epic. Now, however, Mizuki’s own work has at long last come to the west, and to great critical acclaim. His autobiographical masterwork NonNonBâ to Ore, in French just plain NonNonBâ, was recently recognised by perhaps the finest distinction a comic can be granted in the West – the Angoulême book of the year. And let it be said immediately: Mizuki, though far from epic in scope, does not let down the promise provided by Miike. Continue reading ‘Ghosts of the Past’

Puppy Love

anxiety_snoopy.gifThe most consistently readable, if also frustrating, new writer at the Comics Journal the last couple of years, Noah Berlatsky, has just put his first and best piece for the magazine, on the reception of Peanuts by today’s alt-cartoonists, online at the blog he contributes to. I often find myself disagreeing with Berlatsky, as will become apparent in the following, but the point is that he is worth spending some effort disagreeing with. Continue reading ‘Puppy Love’

Petition to Maintain a Pluralistic Copenhagen

adrian_ungdomshus_nedrivning.jpgI have received this petition re: the closure and demolition of Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen, earlier in the week (as written about here and here). Thought I would pass it on to the readers:

The County of Copenhagen has deserted the occupants and users of ‘Ungdomshuset’ by not accepting responsibility for the city’s youth culture and leaving the future of the latter in the hands of private foundations.

By signing the petition, I urge the County to represent all adolescents, not only the adeptly adjusted.

I denounce the violent riots led by a small group of criminal elements.

Sign Here: http://www.mangfoldighed.underskrifter.dk/

Spread The Word. Take Care of Our City

In Danish:

Københavns kommune har svigtet brugerne af Ungdomshuset ved ikke at tage et fuldt ansvar for deres ungdomskultur og ved at overlade deres fremtid til private fonde.

Jeg opfordrer med min underskrift Københavns Kommune til at repræsentere alle unge og ikke kun de veltilpassede unge.

Jeg tager afstand fra de voldelige optøjer anført af en mindre kerne af kriminelle elementer.

Skriv Under Her: http://www.mangfoldighed.underskrifter.dk/

Spred ordet. Pas på vores by

Photo once again from Politiken, Joachim Adrian.

Support Fantagraphics!

harlan_ellison.jpgIt seems like everyone in the comics blogosphere by now knows about Fantagraphics’ new Defence Fund, launched to help them through the bullshit lawsuit they are facing from cranky has-been SF writer Harlan Ellison (pictured). However, I still gotta plug it here, just because. Concerning the merits of Ellison’s case, I’m sure Kim and Gary have not exactly been diplomatic in their dealings with him over the years (nor has he in his with them, I’m equally sure). In fact, they have probably been quite the pain in the ass, even probably unnecessarily so. However, this lawsuit is clearly crap, and potentially a threat to the 1st Amendment rights of publishers.

I won’t go into details, merely refer you to this news story on the Comics Journal website, from which several of the pertinent documents can be downloaded, this thread discussing the matter on their board, this thread on the Harlan Ellison board (where the man himself, amongst other things, compares Kim and Gary to “serial child molesters” – nice chap), and this repository of documents from his end. Continue reading ‘Support Fantagraphics!’

CelebriDays

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By Emma Firestone

Samuel Beckett’s austere existential vision of the loneliness of the individual facing the inevitable—death—has become familiar. Not cosy, exactly, but familiar. For revivals of the best-known plays (Endgame, Happy Days, Krapp’s Last Tape ), I reckon, the consequences of this familiarity have mostly been positive: conceived for an audience not just prepared but eager to engage a bleakness once thought distasteful or performance-averse, these productions are free to explore the great range of tones and tenors present in Beckett’s marvelously variable prose. It is now standard, for example, for directors to articulate the humour and farce inherent in his character’s inexplicable conditions, as well as the anticipated tragedy. Continue reading ‘CelebriDays’

In Defense of Negativity

steve_bell260603.jpgAttended a talk by Tony Blair’s former Press Director, the Alastair Campbell, at Pembroke College tonight. It was, unsurprisingly, a bravura performance – one of the most impressive displays of seamless rhetoric I have witnessed in a long time. Possibly best known, at least abroad, for his involvement in selling the Iraq War to the British People and his direct responsibility for the embarrassing concoction that was the so-called “dodgy dossier”, given to the press in February 2003 in support of the government’s claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to international terrorism. Smartly, Campbell immediately diffused potential criticism from the audience by humorously outlining how he had garnered something of a reputation for being the Anti-Christ in person. Continue reading ‘In Defense of Negativity’

Yvan Delporte RIP

schtroumpf.jpgJust learned from Thierry Capezzone that Belgian comics writer and legendary editor of Spirou magazine, Yvan Delporte passed away this morning, at the age of 78. My impression of him is that he was always something of a cantankerous, and very vocal, character on the Belgian comics scene, and his merits as editor of Spirou during what must be described as its most important period, from 1955-68, are well known: he introduced the special section for more mature readers “Le Trombone Illustré” in 1977 and collaborated with a number of the staff artists regularly, both as idea man – for example on Franquin’s “Gaston Lagaffe” whose 50th anniversay we are currently celebrating, as well as his darkly caustic swan song “Idées noires” – and as bona fide writer.

In this last capacity his most notable contribution is to Peyo’s Smurfs, and his most significant work is certainly Le Schtroumpfissime (1965) a good-natured but nevertheless pointed political allegory that tells the story of the egalitarian ur-communist society of the smurfs descends into tyranny when their benevolent patriarch leaves on a long research trip. A both funny and chilling story of the precarious nature of human civilisation, and a minor masterpiece of the Franco-Belgian tradition.

À votre santé, M. Delporte!

Delporte’s on Wiki and Lambiek. The image is from Le Schtroumpfissime, naturally.

Something Is Rotten

christianhavns_gym.jpgA couple of days ago, I wrote a post lamenting the closure of Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen. Since then, the city has seen rioting on a scale unprecedented for over a decade, with property damage in the millions, but thankfully no serious injuries (as far as I have been able to ascertain). I am not in Copenhagen, but talking to people there and following the news stories paints the picture of a situation gone seriously awry.

I am still saddened by the closure of Ungdomshuset, and of learning that the owners, the unsavoury religious sect Faderhuset, have now decided to demolish it. An erasure of symbolic proportion. However, I am equally saddened to learn that sympathisers of Ungdomshuset last night broke into the library of my old high school in my neighbourhood of Christianshavn and practically razed it, throwing a large number of its books into the street where they burned them along with other material at hand. A senseless act of equally symbolic proportion. Are these so-called anti-fascists so blinded by their own sense of victimisation, or whatever it is that motivated this, that they are completely blind to the precedent they are following here?

Of course, the violent acts of a few idiots do not detract from the legitimacy of the general protests against the closure of Ungdomshuset, but it nevertheless hurts their legitimacy seriously. The events of the last couple of days prompt two interrelated questions: What the fuck were these people thinking? And How the fuck did we get to a stage where people think whatever it was they were thinking?

Photo of the windows of the library at Christianshavns gymnasium being boarded up earlier today, from politiken.dk. Check out Berlingske‘s slideshow of the events of the day of the closure here. See video recordings of the vandalisation of the school building here. The school has set up a support fund – read more here.

Rindom Redux: Barks i 70erne

djaevelens_tand.jpghugtand.jpgI forbindelse med mine undersøgelser af danske udgivelser af Carl Barks’ Anders And, dengang bølgerne gik højt i forhold til den stadigvæk skandaløst ringe tilrettelagte Carl Barks Samlede Værker (CBSV) fra Egmont, fik jeg bekræftet hvad jeg havde hørt: at de danske oversættelser af historierne fra førsteudgaverne i Anders And-bladet mellem 1946 og sen-60erne, udført af den skattede Sonja Rindom, blev justeret på ganske markant vis i løbet af 70erne, i forbindelse med genoptrykningen af dem i Anders And & Co. og måske også med deres udgivelse i den enestående grimt tilrettelagte, men i det mindste folkelige samleudgave i albumformat, serien ”Bedste Historier om Anders And” (BHAA).

Det der med det samme slog mig var, at oversættelserne ofte var bedre efter denne justering. Ofte, men ikke altid, vil jeg straks tilføje. Der er også er den del eksempler på unødvendige ændringer og til tider endda forringelser. Justeringerne repræsenterer gennemgående en mere fri fortolkning af originalteksten end den i førsteudgaven, hvilket fra en puristisk synsvinkel er problematisk, men rent faktisk ofte rammer historiens nerve bedre end den mere tekstnære tilgang, førsteudgaven bød på. Continue reading ‘Rindom Redux: Barks i 70erne’

Angoulême 2007: The Flix!

We admit that we’re rather late here, but here are our photos from the Angoulême festival, about 5 weeks back.

rackham_crew_sm.jpg

Enjoy!

Ungdomshuset 1982-2007

ungdomshuset.jpg

Yesterday, the police vacated one of Copenhagen’s most significant bastions of alternative culture of the last two decades, Ungdomshuset (the “Youth House”) in the borough of Nørrebro. While the community of Ungdomshuset has not always behaved in ways that helped their cause, or just plain made any social sense, this is nevertheless emblematic of certain worrying tendencies in Denmark.

In this particular case, the responsibility primarily lies with the Copehagen city government who sold the building to the fringe religious sect Faderhuset in 2000. Justifying their purchase in a command from God, these people have – despite numerous, generous offers – refused to resell it to various bodies wanting to preserve Ungdomshuset. The blasé attitude of the city government is mirrored in decisions of national policy taken by the present government, to “normalise” one of the most unique alternative communities in Europe, the Copenhagen Free Town of Christiania. In the new Danish society proposed by the government and supported by the people who vote for them, there is little room for the different, the “antisocial”, and generally people who do not “contribute” in the same, measurable way as everyone else. A sad, though unfortunately unsurprising state of affairs in a country whose latest attempt at homogenisation is a 40-question pop quiz on Danish society and culture to be taken by anyone applying for citizenship (no shit!).

These are depressing times in Denmark. Here’s to the hope that things will change for the better in the future. A hope kept alive at Ungdomshuset for more than two decades.

Here is Ungdomshuset’s website, and this is the very up-to-date wiki entry, for those who would like more information. The photo belongs to Scanpix.