Everything I do... I do for the sake of Potok Power.



The World Below #3 (of 4)

followed by

The World Below: Deeper and Stranger #1-4 (of 4) (it's Paul Chadwick's Freudian spree of a adventure series, with important lessons and odd symbols for all - bonkers yet utterly compelling work from the man behind "Concrete")

Seven Soldiers - Klarion the Witch Boy #1 (of 4), Hate Annual #5

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities #1 (of 4) (not at all bad stuff from Eric Powell of "The Goon" with able art by Kyle Hotz)

Filler (the new one from the "Teenagers From Mars" team, and the art outstrips the plotting by a score)

Gulp them down but chew! Chew!

*I’m on a bit of an anthology kick these days; sometimes I get ‘em cheap, and sometimes they just turn up out of nowhere. An example of the latter is the inexplicable stack of copies of “Drawn and Quarterly” Vol. 1 #8 from 1992 that my store got in the other week. It was good reading, and it reminded me of talents that I hadn’t heard from in a long while. Carol Tyler, for example, whose works I only even seem to encounter in aged anthologies. She’s got a collection of shorts coming soon from Fantagraphics, including material dating back to “Twister Sisters 2”, that formative independent comics experience of my youth, and maybe the first shell dropped in my campaign of anthology obsession. Also a great trait of older “Drawn and Quarterly”: the ads. “Yummy Fur” (serializing “I Never Liked You”) and the earliest D&Q issues of “Peep Show” and “Palooka-Ville”. And never mind Joe Sacco being introduced as the talent behind “Yahoo”.

Maybe it was that sort of reading experience, infused with some queer nostalgia for a time when I was largely into Marvel and Image comics and only heard about books like these in the shady corners of “Wizard”, that prompted me to look into a more recent book: “Drawn and Quarterly” Vol. 5, from 2003. I really can’t believe this book came out two whole years ago; then again, I refuse to accept that 1992 was thirteNONONONONONONONO. “Drawn and Quarterly”, you’ll recall, switched to stand-alone deluxe softcover semi-annuals with Vol. 3; Vol. 5 is thus far the latest to be released. I got it used (but genuinely ‘like new’) for under $10 post shipping. It’d have been worth it at its full $30 retail price. This book, you see, is infused with its own strange nostalgia: one for the recent past, of projects announced then skipped from the brain and the collective radar.

D&Q the publisher are not above using their premiere anthology to hype upcoming projects: collected in here is a full-length “Monsieur Jean” album from 2001 by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian (enjoy their homepage, if you can read French or feel up for a little Babel Fish), and a 1970 short from Yoshihiro Tatsumi. D&Q was planning a deluxe hardcover series of books presenting the complete “Monsieur Jean”, the first of which was to debut in 2004. They were also cooking up an ambitious plan to translate and collect the complete works of Tatsumi, to be edited by Adrian Tomine, also due to commence in 2004. But financial concerns interceded, and neither of these projects have seen the light of day, though I assume that they’re still scheduled for some point in the future. The material presented in “Drawn and Quarterly” certainly whets the appetite.

“Monsieur Jean” is always a miraculous work (prior exploits have appeared in prior volumes of this anthology): the product of a ‘blended’ team (in that both parties handle both writing and art), it’s a hugely cohesive piece of work, with subtle and carefully conveyed themes of responsibility and family. It’s basically a gently comedic slice-of-life story about a writer named Jean who goes about his life with girlfriends and family and relatives and the like, but it’s amazingly well-written, structured like a fine novella, though each album informs the next, forming a genuine life path. Even the hoariest of situations (Jean and his roommate pal are mistaken for homosexuals OH NO) becomes strangely compelling and fresh in these books. It may be the introspection and stoicism of the lead character, or the willingness of the creative team to totally eschew sentimentality. And that art is mighty gorgeous. Too bad the only place to read this stuff in English is through “Drawn and Quarterly”. So far.

Ditto for Tatsumi’s work; he’s a devout disciple of Tezuka, no doubt, but his vintage manga stylings are put to the use of human drama. In the story presented here, a young woman works a bar, nearly selling her body to help her writer paramour achieve that breakthrough success. She escapes delicate situations by claiming that she has to care for her dog; the symbolism is already apparent, and disappointment waits at the end for each of these urban youths. It’s easy to see why Tomine would be attracted to such material, and I believe that a lot of North American readers would appreciate some old Japanese comics that don’t deal in fantasy at all; it’s that hallowed diversity of genre that we’ve heard so much about, but so rarely see in today’s translations of Japanese material. The world will be better once D&Q has this stuff in English. EDIT 9:36 PM: And it looks like the world will be better as of this September! Info found totally at random in a Friday post at Christopher Butcher's site which I didn't register the first time around. And while I'm at it, happy 3rd birthday Chris!

There’s more. Over a third of the book’s nearly 200 pages are turned over to ultra-obscure Quebecois cartoonist Albert Chartier, a man in possession of a strange sense of humor and a gorgeous curvy line. There’s the usual rich R. Sikoryak pastiche, joining the works of Bronte to “Tales from the Crypt”. There’s work from Rutu Modan, of the Israeli comics collective Actus. There’s another tale of Michael Rabagliati’s Paul, itself soaking in 70’s Canadian nostalgia. But the most potent nostalgia is for those projects that I can hear scratching at the back of my mind, so lost now. Maybe we’ll find them yet.