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mercoledì 25 giugno 2014

Nowt/Aktion #4

Gabriel Corbera, Miedo Publicaciones, Spain, April 2014, 20 pages, black and white, 2,50 euros.

Printed in a hundred copies and already sold out, the fourth issue of Nowt/Aktion is a new effort by Gabriel Corbera, the Spanish cartoonist well-known for his web-comic Monday Sucide and for his books published in the United States by Space Face. With Miedo, the imprint founded with his girlfriend Eva Monleón, aka Misako Mimoko, Corbera creates a lot of self-published comics. In this series we witness the performer Nowt in some reckless actions as jumping, grasping the wings of a plane, hanging to chains, breaking a glass with a fist and so on, while images and objects typical of Corbera's art - cobwebs, destroyed buildings, desolate landscapes, shotguns, tigers and caves  - recur.
Beyond the author's undeniable ability to build his own narrative universe with perseverance and dedication, mixing references to contemporary art with manga influences, there is much more in these comics. The last pages are in fact dedicated to the clash between Nowt and The Sad Machine, a device which manages to wear down and then to give up even the inexhaustible Nowt thanks to its "supersonic moans". This is only one of the situations in which Corbera's characters have to deal with something bigger than themselves, be it a machine, a conspiracy or a villain. The Spanish author is good at conveying this sense of oppression, usually vague but that sometimes becomes clearer, acquiring a social and political dimension, as it happens for example in Heroisch, a one-page story published earlier this year in Mould Map #3.
If you still don't know Gabriel Corbera and you want to get familiar with him, you can take a look at his Tumblr and keep an eye on Miedo website and on that of Space Face, that will publish soon a 120-page book with one of the best titles of the year, Days Longer Than Long Pork Sausages.

sabato 14 giugno 2014

It Never Happened Again

Sam Alden, Uncivilized Books, Minneapolis (USA), May 2014, 164 pages b/w, softcover, $ 11.99. 

I've talked about Sam Alden several times and I recently tried to introduce his work in this Wicked Chicken Queen review. Now I'd like to come back on the Portland-born author, currently based in Montreal, in the occasion of the release of his first book, It Never Happened Again, published by Uncivilized Books, a label that month after month is building an impressive catalog.
The book contains Hawaii 1997, already seen online, and a new piece, Anime. If you've never looked at Sam Alden's comics, at first glance you'll be impressed by the drawings. His pencils show the very nature of the medium and in their purity they give the feeling of looking at the original art. The pages are full of lines, marks, gray and black spots. The line work is neither realistic nor naturalistic. When in Hawaii 1997 the two children are running on the beach, they turn into two abstract figures. The representation of the night sky recalls instead the Impressionists. Alden isn't seeking the verisimilitude but the emotions of the reader. The emotional and communicative aspect is at the heart of his cartooning. The relationship between artist and audience is incredibly direct and even by merely looking at his panels you'll have the feeling that they've been drawn only for you.

Then there are the stories, both of the highest standard. The first, Hawaii 1997, is autobiographical and tells a nighttime encounter on the beach with a little girl. In the young, awkward and scared protagonist, portrayed with eyeglasses almost bigger than he is, there are already the subjects that Alden would have developed in his more mature stories, such as the excellent Household and Backyards. The same themes come back in the new Anime. Janet is a young tour guide, alienated and unhappy. At home, in the evening, she watches Japanese cartoons along with her boyfriend. Her manic obsession for anime pushes her to organize a trip to Japan, but the holiday will not be the breakthrough she had imagined. The plot and some situations remind of Adrian Tomine, but Alden has his own unique approach. His propriety of language is most evident in the mute sequences, which are placed in a central position and have the task of disclosing the key events of the stories, as well as provide an element common to both comics, giving uniformity to the book. So in Anime there is a sequence showing the two characters and then only Janet from behind. Alternating between night and day, it makes us see the development of their relationship and Janet withdrawing in herself. And when the characters speak again, the dialogues are simply strengthening what the author already showed only with the drawings.
I found the endings very fitting. In Hawaii 1997 the last sentence told by the girl to the author as a young man is symbolic, and it encompasses the same concept of melancholy. Anime has instead a more enigmatic closing, which leaves a hint of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. It Never Happened Again shows how it's possible to create comics loaded ​​of feelings and emotions without being rhetorical nor banal and confirms Alden as one of the greatest contemporary cartoonists.

sabato 7 giugno 2014

Felony Comics #1

Various Artists, Negative Pleasure, Brooklyn (New York), May 2014, 32 pages, full color, $ 6.

Four paranoid crime stories in full-color, a cover by the excellent Benjamin Marra and a back cover with a single-page strip by Karissa Sakumoto. This is Felony Comics, the new comic book published by Harris Smith's Negative Pleasure, of Jeans anthology fame. A lysergic and manic version of Mickey Mouse is the star performer of the colorful Crime Chime Noir by Alex Degen, a short story in the psychedelic cartoon genre. Lale Westvind in Slippery Seats shows a fetishist car seats thief in a world ruled by blue-skinned policemen: the absurd turns into logical and Westvind's intense line completes this amazing work. Pete Toms has a clean style, almost ligne claire: The Disguise Inside is a spy story worthy of the Nikita tv-series, emphasizing the paranoid element of the book. Benjamin Urkowitz's The Facts is still cartoon style, revised with an underground feeling, and it shows with sense of humor the adventures of a "good" detective. Felony Comics depicts with smug sarcasm a world where everyone is monitored, there is a thin border line between crime and justice, the authority figures lack credibility and transgression has an unavoidable appeal. This is a solid and coherent anthology, with four comics able to mix brilliant plots, pop art and visionary features: a must read.

martedì 3 giugno 2014

On Your Marks #1

Various Artists, Short Run, Seattle (USA), November 2013, 32 pages, black and white, $ 4.

The next event organized by Eroyn Franklin, Kelly Froh and Janice Headley in Seattle gives me the opportunity to mention with considerable delay On Your Marks, an anthology released last November during the Short Run festival, which brings together the small indie press from Seattle and the surrounding area. Founded in 2011, the festival has gradually expanded to a series of initiatives, such as this anthology edited by Max Clotfelter. Behind a cover by Chris Cilla, On Your Marks contains one-page comics by Aaron Mew, Aidan Fitzgerald, Andrice Arp, Asher Craw, Ben Horak, Bobby Madness, Darin Shuler, David Lasky, Elaine Lin, Ian Sundahl, Jack Hayden, James Stanton, Jason Fischer (with two pages), Jason T. Miles, Jennifer Parks, Julia Gfrorer, Kaz Strzepek, Kinoko, M. "Moseley" Smith & Reuben "W." Storey, Marc Palm, Michael Litven, Pat Moriarity & Rick Altergott, Patrick Keck, Robyn Jordan, Sean Christensen, Tim Goodyear, Tim Miller, Tim Root and Tom Van Deusen, in addition to the aforementioned Clotfelter, Franklin and Froh. As for the contents, they range from Horak's typical and irresistible humor to Van Deusen's small and detailed panels in Herman and Lucy, from the seance described by Julia Gfrörer to Strzepek's romantic sci-fi, from Lasky's superheroes to Altergott-Moriarity's cats.

The event I mentioned in the opening of the post is Gridlords showcase. Gridlords is a collective of artists from Portland, who is reaching Seattle the next 21st of June for a night presented by Short Run. The showcase will include readings, music, screenings and a lot of other performances by Andrice Arp, Theo Ellsworth, Asher Craw, Daria Tessler Ross Jackson, Zach Erickson, Lillie Craw, Alex Chiu and Mediums (Elysia Avery Nason, Daria Tessler, Sean Christensen A.B.T. & Aaron Dischner, with a "space disco opera"!)And then November 15th there will obviously be a new edition of the festival, with John Porcellino as special guest: the deadline for applications is the next 31st of July.