Tag: Fred Van Lente

The Best Comics of 2011

by on Dec.13, 2011, under Comics

The annual exercise. Please to begin the arguing.

#7 Amir, Zahra’s Paradise

Zahra’s Paradise begins on June 16, 2009, the day after one of the earliest and largest election protests in Freedom Square. Mehdi, a nineteen-year-old university student, was at that protest and hasn’t come home. His mother Zahra and his brother, the unnamed narrator, are worried about him and try to find out what’s happened. That’s it, but that basic motivation allows Amir and his artist collaborator Khalil to create a full portrait of the horror of daily life in Tehran during the repression that followed the protests.

#6 Fred Van Lente, Comic Book Comics

For a comic book buff it’s fascinating to read tidbits like the series of events that led from the Frankfurt School, to Fredric Wertham’s testimony before Congress, to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, to the death of EC Comics, to the birth of Mad magazine. Or how the increasing crackdown on drug paraphernalia in the early 1970s put head shops out of business and thereby killed the distribution network for underground comix artists like Robert Crumb. Issue #5 even manages to make interesting reading out of nothing but the many intellectual property ripoffs and lawsuits that have plagued the medium since its birth.

#5 Ted McKeever, Meta 4

I think (and this was never my strong-suit philosopher so I’m not sure, but I think) that Ted McKeever has written a Heideggerian allegory in comic-book form. Now available in a trade collection.

#4 Phil Hester, Golly vol. 1: Catching Hell

Golly feels as if someone took Garth Ennis’s Preacher and drained out all the meanspiritedness, sadistic jokes, and sexism. Golly Munhollen grabs the circus strongwoman’s ass one day, she knocks him out, and he’s visited by an angel who informs him that the Apocalypse has been postponed indefinitely due to lack of interest, and in the meanwhile he’s been appointed the clean-up squad for all those demons left running around the world. When Golly asks the logical question—why me and not someone smarter—the angel tells him that from a heavenly perspective the difference between him and a genius is negligible. “It would be like asking you to look into a puddle and select the smartest amoeba,” it says. “You will do.”

#3 Charles Soule, 27 (Twenty-Seven)

Will Garland has a repetitive stress injury in his playing hand, and in trying to cure himself accidentally makes a Faustian bargain that leaves him with a console implanted in his chest. Every time he activates it he gains a miraculous ability for three hours, but after the 27th time he does so, he will die. The ending is unexpected yet perfect. Now available in a trade paperback.

#2 Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, Daytripper

Every issue of Daytripper tells an episode in the life of the protagonist, Brás, at a different age. Brás starts his working life as an obituary writer, then becomes a novelist in his thirties; at the end of each issue he dies and we read the opening lines of his obituary. Though the episodes are told out of order, we realize very quickly that we are to read each one as if none of the preceding deaths happened, but everything else we’ve read about did. Brás has many loves in his life—a girlfriend, a wife, a best friend, a father, a mother, a son, a dog—and there are episodes touching on each of them. Brás is built up as the sum of these many loves and remembered in relation to them in each of his obituaries, in an extended meditation on loving in the face of death.

 

#1 Anders Nilsen, Big Questions

If Chris Ware is the comic book medium’s James Joyce, Anders Nilsen is its Samuel Beckett. Think Beckett meets Beatrix Potter, adorable little creatures on a bleak, featureless plain, staring into the abyss—but hopeful nonetheless, in its own way. “We can’t ever really know the outcome of our actions,” one of them concludes, “but if we act earnestly, and do our best, everything will turn out right in the end.” Of course the bird saying that happens to be responsible for the deaths of many others. And dead herself. Now available in collected form.

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Comic Book Comics

by on Apr.10, 2011, under Comics

For forty years Larry Gonick has had a nice little niche for himself writing well-researched, engaging comics about history and science. They’re thoroughly enjoyable and informative, and there’s no reason why he should have kept the field to himself for so long.

That’s why I’m so glad to have discovered Evil Twin Comics, the work of writer Fred Van Lente and artist Ryan Dunlavey. They have a previous collection out about the history of philosophy (which I plan to check out). I discovered them through their current project, though, Comic Book Comics, which recounts the history of the comic book industry itself.

Other such histories exist, of course, without pictures. Just like world histories existed before Larry Gonick made comics about them. It simply happens to be more fun to read about all this stuff with little figures and world bubbles.

For a comic book buff it’s also fascinating to read tidbits like the series of events that led from the Frankfurt School, to Fredric Wertham’s testimony before Congress, to the creation of the Comics Code Authority (which I’ve mentioned before), to the death of EC Comics, to the birth of Mad magazine. (See, the publisher of EC realized that a glossy magazine wouldn’t be subject to a code applying to comics.) Or how the increasing crackdown on drug paraphernalia in the early 1970s put head shops out of business and thereby killed the distribution network for underground comix artists like Robert Crumb.

The most recent issue, #5, even manages to make interesting reading out of nothing but the many intellectual property ripoffs and lawsuits that have plagued the medium since its birth.

When the collected version comes out I’ll certainly try to remember to mention it. In the meantime, though, these guys are doing great stuff and publishing independently (right in my neighborhood, coincidentally). The first two issues are available print-on-demand from IndyPlanet, the rest you can get through their website, where you can also find lots of previews. Or you can buy all their stuff even cheaper for your Kindle or iPhone or whatever from Comixology. Show them some love.

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