Category Archives: Comics

Graphic Content – Delirius

List Item: Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
106/501Title: Delirius
Creator(s):
Philippe Druillet and Jacques Lob
Year: 1972
Country: France

I did not need to see the year and country of origin to know that Delirius was a French comic from France. The art style is somewhere between Fantastic Planet and The Incal with a pitstop in underground comics and Escher. This makes for a comic that is really interesting to look at with a setting that is pretty insane – however the story does not live up to the incredible setting.

Let’s walk it back a bit. Delirius is story in a longer running series featuring the character Lone Sloane. I didn’t know this until I tried way too long to find a suitable picture for the top of this blog post. He is meant to be some sort of powerful space mercenary, but you wouldn’t exactly know it from this story. Instead he is just a red-eyed man who has been charged to rob the Governor of Space Vegas on crystal meth.

As I said, the story of Delirius is a pretty paint-by-numbers affair, the interesting part of this coming from the visuals and the world building done for this planet of ultimate sin. It throws in so many ideas that are, in some cases, so twisted that it would never be adaptable into a moving format. Like, can you imagine an animation featuring people being blinded by technology and fighting to the death? Let alone doing it live action.

Thing is, as the story was a bit generic even the weird world and visuals just life it enough to make it good-to-okay. I think there is another Lone Sloane comic on the list, so I guess I’ll see if the other story is any different and actually goes into the backstory which, at least according to Wikipedia, looks pretty interesting.

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Graphic Content – Achille Talon

List Item: Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
105/501Title: Achille Talon
Creator(s):
Greg
Year: 1966-2001
Country: France/Belgium

Achille Talon is not a series that has had many editions translated into English. In fact, that number is still set at a single story which, presumably, didn’t sell enough to warrant further translation work. This is despite the children’s cartoon version of this series, known as Walter Melon in English, having been translated and aired in English speaking countries.

So, my thoughts on Achille Talon – a pun on Achille’s Tendon – has to be based purely on the story available to me where the protagonist travels to Central America(ish) as follows the object of his wooing on her trip to find a diamond mine that her uncle discovered 25 years earlier. 

It’s a pretty standard type of character really, this slightly bourgeois man with a distinguishing feature bumbles along and the foreign surroundings are weirdly racist. Like, I appreciate the joke in the native people of this area making the most out of their home to tourists as it puts the power in their hands – but it also isn’t exactly the most flattering. 

The rest of the edition was pretty blah and it makes me wonder if this was the best on offer or whether this is the story they thought had the best chance of connecting with an English-language audience. In either event, I am pretty glad this is the only Achille Talon I have to read – it’s not exactly riveting or particularly funny stuff.

Graphic Content – Logicomix: An Epic Search For Truth

List Item: Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
104/501Title: Logicomix: An Epic Search For Truth
Creator(s):
Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou and Alecos Papadatos
Year: 2008
Country: Greece

Graphic novels are a great way to tell stories about history, especially one where graphical representations are going to only help it. So, Logicomix which is meant to be an exploration of the concept of ‘logic’ via the framing narrative by logician Bertrand Russell (itself framed in a meta narrative of the people writing it) you think that there is going to be a lot that can be taken from this. I’m not actually sure how much I actually did.

First things first, the meta-narrative is ultimately meaningless and it really disrupted the flow of the main narrative. Like, sometimes it is interesting to peer behind the curtain of the writing process and who they got as consultants, but in Logicomix it so often came across as self-indulgent. Then you have the main narrative itself which, ultimately, is about a man’s work that seemingly peaks and then is washed away.

There are hints of greater and more interesting stories here, like how so many logicians and their progeny end up succumbing to some form of madness. Like how the World Wars shaped the path of mathematics and logic to the point where we ended up with computers via Alan Turing (who gets a passing mention). Instead we have a biography of Russell where, thanks to a Wikipedia dive, I know some liberties were taken.

So at the end of reading this, I just don’t know what I got out of this. It was interesting to see a path of logic research live and die, but there was more I wish I could have found out that was outside the scope the writer set themselves. Oh well.

Graphic Content – One Piece

List Item: Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
103/501Title: One Piece
Creator(s):
Eiichiro Oda
Year: 1997-now
Country: Japan

Four years ago I tried my hand watching the anime adaptation of One Piece knowing that it was ridiculously long, ended up having a lot of filler arcs and needed a long time to get into. Obviously I didn’t stick with that, but I had hopes that with the manga things may be different. Well, it wasn’t.

The volumes of One Piece that I managed to get through covered less ground than than the anime that I ended up watching, but I ran into the same issues again which were more pronounced given that it was in the written form. Some of the arcs in the anime were way too long for the content that they were meant to be covering, so when these are stretched across multiple volumes it is just tiresome. Especially when, with this being a more comedic tone, the odds are never quite dire enough for there to be real suspense.

One thing I have to say I did like, and liked from the series, is the drawing style. It’s more pleasing in the early anime episodes as it is in full colour, less so in later when it looks like they are moving to a more shoestring budget. Overall though, the exaggeration in the character models are fun to see and make for some variation in the read – but I cannot see how, if I read this from the beginning not knowing where it would go, I would actually become a big follower of this story.

Graphic Content – Doraemon

List Item: Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
102/501Title: Doraemon
Creator(s):
Fujiko Fujio
Year: 1969-1996
Country: Japan

So I have been looking forward to reading some Doraemon for a good while. Back when I was in the office, I had my own pair of Doraemon chopsticks which I still have been unable to go in and retrieve (similar story for my Pugsheen plush and a bunch of other toys). I only had these chopsticks because I thought Doraemon himself was incredibly cute, but I had never read any of the manga or seen any of the many anime adaptations. When I go back to Japan I will probably end up getting myself a little plush of him – this is how cute I find him.

Imagine my joy, therefore, when I started reading Doraemon and I was actually enjoying it. A bit of a relief after Lupin III I must say. This isn’t the most complex of idea as it’s a kids comic, but there is still a lot of joy to be farmed out of it as long as you don’t binge it like I did – this is definitely one of those things that works better when read it spaced out like the original publishing.

The story is simple – Doraemon is a robot from the future whose inventor sent them back to change the fortune of a wimpy ancestor. This is the classic wimpy Japanese manga protagonist: bad at school, bad at sports, pushed around by the neighbourhood kids… you get the picture. What makes this a fun read, however, are all the stupid future gadgets that Doraemon brings along to solve a problem e.g. a lipstick that when applied makes you compliment people and a robot genie who gets things done in as unmagical way as possible.

I think that I will probably find the anime for this now as I can only imagine just how much fun this would be in moving colour. Hopefully I’ll also be getting those chopsticks back soon… once they have been heavily disinfected after over a year of not being used.

Graphic Content – Lupin III

List Item: Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
101/501Title: Lupin III
Creator(s):
Monkey Punch
Year: 1967-1969
Country: Japan

Lupin III is one of those manga series I have been semi-looking forward to reading as part of this specific comic book challenge. I have seen Hayao Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro and will be watching the anime series as part of my other list. From the film, I got a certain impression of Lupin as being this slightly goofy and gawky anti-hero that also happened to be a world-class thief that was always on the run from some sort of law enforcement. Now that I have read some of the source material… I can see how much of a liberty Miyazaki took with the character.

To be fair, when reading Lupin III there isn’t a whole lot that is easily available in English translation. Also, we are talking specifically about the version of the comic from the late 1960s, so there is going to be a bunch of problems around content. Like, there is section where there is a needless attempted rape scene – not by Lupin – and just a lot of female nudity because, according to the comic, it’s what you would expect from the author.

You also had a real issue where it would tell and not show. Like Lupin is meant to be this genius thief – fine – but so often he would just get out of a scrape with no explanation other than a deus ex machina or we would have a long explanation of how he did it where a visual of it would have been a lot more satisfying. I also did have the problem of the artwork being so scratchy that it was hard to work out who was who despite being named in an earlier panel.

So, in the end, you had a comic with a not that likeable protagonist, with very outdated attitudes, poor art and not great storytelling. The idea of Lupin himself is really interesting and I can see how just the idea of this anti-hero thief based on the original French books would bubble around until he found a new lease of life in later manga and anime forms. On the whole though this was a massive disappointment. 

Graphic Content – Blacksad

List Item: Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
100/501Title: Blacksad
Creator(s):
Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
Year: 2000-now
Country: Spain

Continuing a run of some rather different comics in the 1001 list, I have ended up with Blacksad – a French-language Spanish neo-noir comic series set in America where the characters are all humanized animals. Think Zootopia but even human-like to the point where there are scenes where I am so glad that I was not reading it on a train as there is some nudity which very much would feed into furrydom.

The five volumes I read, there are more but these aren’t currently available in English, are great. The fifth story, ‘Amarillo’, was probably the weakest of the bunch, but that is more a comparison issue than something particularly bad about the issue itself. All volumes follow John Blacksad, a private investigator, as he undertakes various contracts – except in ‘Amarillo’ where he is embroiled in a murder investigation after someone steals his car and it is found with a body dumped in it.

For the most part, the series likes to choose the animals based on certain stereotypes. Like it makes sense that a private detective would be a black cat with enough lives to get out of scrapes. You have dogs and other cats as cops, figures in power tend to be larger animals like lions and tigers and the scientists in one issue were various types of owl. 

The drawing style of these animals are stunning – especially in the owls, which is a bias thing because I love owls but they brought so much human emotion to them that I found it especially impressive. Then again, all the animals are incredibly well done to the point that I really think an animated film from the company that did Ernest et Celestine would be potentially brilliant.

Aside from the animal artwork, the thing I loved about Blacksad was how much they delved into difficult topics. In one volume set in the Arctic Circle, the whole story is a race parable with the rich white animals like Siberian tigers, wolves and polar bears are part of an animal KKK movement and are being investigated after the kidnapping of a black ungulate (cannot remember the species right now) child.

Was I reading this and constantly thinking of it as a film or animated series? Absolutely and I think it is ridiculous that it hasn’t happened yet. I guess I’ll just have to look forward to when Volumes 6 and 7 receive their English translations.

Graphic Content – The Adventures of Luther Arkwright

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
99/501Title: The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
Creator(s):
Bryan Talbot
Year: 1978-1989
Country: UK

You know those works where, for a long time, you are just going through the motions by engaging with it and then, suddenly, it just gets good. I think I have had a lot of them doing the various parts of these blog challenges and The Adventures of Luther Arkwright is just the latest one. As this was a nine-part miniseries, there was no way I wasn’t going to make it to the end – but wow until everything flips on its head in issue six, it was pretty rough going for me.

Taking place over multiple parallel universes, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, tells the story of an agent, the titular Luther Arkwright, who traverses universes in order to find some sort of tech that is adversely affecting everything in the multiverse. He is unique in that he can control his own phasing between universes and we mostly see him in one particular universe – an alternate London where the royal family never took back the throne and the Civil War never ended.

I enjoy alternate universe fiction, especially when it is so far extrapolated from events that I know about i.e. The English Civil War. One of the things that I probably liked the most in this publication were the sporadic updates about the disasters being wrought in other dimensions – such as it suddenly raining frogs or that Mexico was under control of the Prussian Empire.

The thing that kinda got me was just how dense it was in places in order to make all the exposition. I get that, with this being a predominantly one man operation, there is a desire to keep the issues down – but so much small text world-building happens regularly that so often I was taken out of the story and the visuals in order for it to be an suddenly be more flavour text than something of real consequence. 

By the ending, I really had gotten into the story and everything was just accelerating towards some sort of ridiculous fever pitch and I was starting to really groove along with the character design. I just wish it hadn’t taken me to song to get there that, as soon as I was enjoying it, it was basically over. Still though, it’s nice to get another of these miniseries crossed off.

Graphic Content – Destiny

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
98/501Title: Destiny
Creator(s):
Otto Nückel
Year: 1926
Country: Germany

Something quite different in the world of the comics list. Going by what has come before it on the list, Destiny is one of the earliest instances of a ‘graphic novel’ that I am likely to see – and a 95 year old one at that. Granted, I know that this is not going to be anywhere near the earliest ‘wordless novel’ ever created, but it is still so interesting to see that this is an artform we were doing a century ago. 

Given the processes of mass producing illustrations, versus printed type, I can see why a full book made just of images may not have too common, but it is hard to deny the beauty of this particular work. Unlike the reprinting of ink illustrations that I have mostly seen so far in these early comics, Destiny is all done via prints – in this instance lead block printing, which is similar to woodblock printing. I guess that by doing it in lead, you are more able to use the blocks before they begin to get warped? I assume, I literally have no idea about printing processes.

As stories go, Destiny is a bleak one – but so was life in many parts of Germany in 1926. We follow the story of a woman from birth to death – as she goes through any number of hardships that, in a regular novel, would have likely made me want to stop reading it unless it was exceptionally well-written. She has a drunk for a father, ends up in prison for an illegal abortion and eventually dies at the hands of the police after she is caught for the murder of her psychologically abusive husband.

Many of the prints themselves are individual works of art that you could imagine being framed and hanging in someone’s hallway – which makes sense as author Otto Nückel was primarily an artist. It’s a shame he didn’t delve into the wordless novel genre again as there was a talent here. I could see him coming up with something similar to The Arrival albeit less fantastical but still rooted in the idea of what it is like to be a stranger in a new land. A quick read, but definitely a good one.

Graphic Content – Scalped

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
97/501Title: Scalped
Creator(s):
Jason Aaron, R. M. Guéra
Year: 2007-2012
Country: USA

All the time I was ready Scalped I was wondering how it was that FX had not optioned this comic book as a TV series. It would have made for an excellent counterpoint to Justified with it’s bleak setting, but from the very different setting of a Native American reservation instead of the Appalachians. Then I saw that another channel, one I had never heard of, did just that but dropped it after seeing the pilot. What a shame.

Scalped is one of those comics that I know I want to get back to. Reading 20 issues in very quick succession is a bit much. This isn’t a comic that is easy to digest in long sittings. The setting is bleak, being set in a reservation that has major issues with drugs and alcoholism where the chief is opening up a casino and running a corrupt police force. Like, there is very little hope to cling to – which is the point of the series to be fair.

We start out with the return of Dash Bad Horse who, unbeknownst to everyone on the reservation, is an undercover FBI agent who has been strong-armed into finding those who shot down two FBI agents some 15 years earlier. Many of the comics fall into a ‘crime of the batch’ style storytelling with some character development happening in the background.

What makes this different to a number of comics I have read so far is that Native American element and how much Dash struggles with his own sense of identity. This is a man who is 100% Ogala Lakota, but has chosen most of his life to reject his heritage and is now in a position where he is having to face what that means to him through the murder of his mother, the rekindling of an old flame and just general osmosis.

It makes for an interesting read that is permeated with other characters who bring the more traditional side in through folk stories and ritual that have had to adapt to being surrounded by the white man. Like I said, I read too much of it in too little time so am now a little bit burned out – but I am interested to see how everything progresses.