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Recent BD raves & the Crumb show

MARCH 7, 2011
I was accosted at the Wellesley Library recently by the librarian in charge of the BD (bande dessinée) section. I've been working my way through the collection trying to educate myself on my tastes in graphic novels. We chatted and he begged me for suggestions for additions to the collection. I suggested Christoph Blain, Joann Sfarr and Gipi (all recommended to me by Leo Espinosa). The librarian thrust a Blacksad collection and, when he understood that I was focusing on European authors, he gave me Jacques Tardi's "It Was The War of The Trenches" to read. Below are a few scans.
To the left is a panel from "Isaac The Pirate" by Christoph Blain. Isaac is an aspiring marine painter who leaves his fiancée and Paris and ships out on what turns out to be a pirate ship. As you can imagine, he's the odd duck in the crew. The captain begrudges Isaac's independence (before fulling losing his own mind) and rages at the artist for not working. I guess you could find a lot of useful metaphors in the tale.
A page from the Blacksad collection. All translated from the Spanish and available from Dark Horse (or, if you're lucky, your local library).

I love all this rendered stuff. It's so different from the style I'm currently working in.

Taking anthropomorphism to a new level: "Blacksad", illustrated by Juanjo Guarnido, author: Juan Díaz Canales
Available from Dark Horse

I'm that guy… can't you feel it? The numb desperation that makes your mind only only on the insane task.

Hell… on Earth :-)

from "It Was The War of the Trenches" written & illustrated by Jacques Tardi.
I had to skim through this classic a few times because the horror of the imagery was too intense. Yup, I'm a serious wimp.

I love the storyboarding and cinema-feel. I imagine that I'm actually watching a movie and am somehow actively involved in the plot as it develops. But I'm very ill-informed about graphic novels and I don't see a lot of movies but I am in awe of this special art form that fuses draftsmanship, composition, drama, graphic wit and power, and the fourth dimension: Time. AND, the time it takes me to come up with sketches for a spot illustration, guys like Tardi have scoped out a whole sequence of war, mayhem, disaster and a resulting terrible truth.
I love the little boxes and how the artists work with them. Sometimes it's big and bold and other times the change is as subtle as a glance around a poker table as the cards get begrudgingly revealed. Blain's "Gus and His Gang" is full of these moments of exquisite timing and revealing hilarity:
from "Gus and His Gang" by Christoph Blain. This is a very complicated and hilarious send-up/love poem to Westerns.

In the midst of chain-reading these books, I found myself in Brunswick, Maine visiting colleges with my daughter. The Bowdoin College art museum has mounted an exhibit of Robert Crumb's "Book of Genesis" original drawings. Crumb is banal and profound at the same time as befits his stature. The 200+ drawings are arrayed around the small-ish gallery and you really must take the time to slowly follow the narrative. Submit. The enormity and uniqueness of his effort slowly sink in. Basically, and contrary to so many readers of scripture, he has actually read it and asked the basic questions an illustrator has to ask to do the job. Page after page, his unstinting hammering and cross-hatching mounts up from the big guy with the beard creating form out of chaos (another artistic metaphor!) to Joseph (who looks nothing like Donny Osmond) and Pharoah and Potipher's lovely wife. The show closes May 8th, 2011.
If you do get up there, you might look up fellow drawgerite Calef Brown. I spent a few hours with him talking poetry, his upcoming books, Art in general & blogging. What a nice guy!