Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Hooded Utilitarian

Dear Readers:

I'm at The Hooded Utilitarian, now (I write a monthly column there titled Monthly Stumblings):

http://hoodedutilitarian.com/tag/monthly-stumblings/

I will continue to write at the ol' Crib though! More soon, I hope!...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fanta's It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi

It's always great when a publisher (Kim Thompson) agrees with me and publishes a book that is in my canon:

How Jacques Tardi does it:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

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(Note: this post is in Portuguese because it mostly concerns my Portuguese readers - all six of them.)

Duas notícias: uma excelente, outra nem tanto...
Diz-me textulmente Breixo Harguindey: "Uma empresa de produção editorial de Barcelona encarregou-me elaborar um projecto de colecção sobre BD Bélica e política para o jornal português I (http://www.ionline.pt/conteudos/home.html)". A lista de títulos que Breixo escolheu dificilmente poderia ser melhor:
- Watchmen - Moore e Gibbons;
- Maus - Art Spiegelman;
- Safe Area Gorazde - Joe Sacco;
- To the Heart of the Storm - Will Eisner;
- Selecção de Two Fisted Tales incluindo "Corpse on the Imjin": http://www.beaucoupkevin.com/imjin/index.html - Kurtzman et al;
- Poison River - Beto Hernández;
- Berlin - Jason Lutes;
- Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi;
- Les mauvaises gens - Étienne Davodeau
- Le cri du peuple/Varlot soldat - Jacques Tardi;
- Partie de chasse/Les phalanges de l'ordre noir - Christin e Bilal;
- Deogratias - Stassen
- MW - Osamu Tezuka;
- Hitler - Shigeru Mizuki (ou Operation mort)
- I Saw It - Keiji Nakazawa
- Perramus/El Eternauta/El Che - Sasturain, Oesterheld, Breccia - Ernie Pike - Oesterheld e Hugo Pratt;
- Paracuellos (I e II) - Carlos Giménez;
- El arte de volar - Antonio Atarriba e Kim;
- Las memorias de Amorós - Hernández Cava e Del Barrio;
- Salazar - Cotrim e Rocha;
- Estórias Gerais - Srbek e Colin.
Infelizmente a dita empresa não chegou a acordo com Breixo, mas, ao que parece, a colecção sempre vai p'rá frente. Aguardemos, pois, novos desenvolvimentos...
Se se confirmar a edição de El Eternauta estamos perante um grande acontecimento editorial!...

Imagem:
Cartaz da exposição "50/30: 50 años con El Eternauta... 30 años sin Oesterheld" (50 anos com o Eternauta... 30 anos sem Oesterheld), Francisco Solano Lopez, Hernán Cabrera, Pablo Maiztegui, 2007.

PS ...Back to English: a couple of people (or was it just one buyer?) spent one mil and one mil + dollars on two superhero comic books. My question is: who's an elitist now?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roberto Altmann's Zr + 4HC1 → ZrC14 + 2H2U + 3F2 → UF6 - Coda

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1., 2., 3., 4., 5., 6., 7., 8., 9., 10., 11., 12.,13. Zr + 4HC1 → ZrC14 + 2H2U + 3F2 → UF6 by Roberto Altmann in its entirety as published in Signos [mag] # 3 (Consejo Nacional de Cultura [of Cuba], 1970). Comics, as mixed media, is a perfect vehicle to practice hypergraphics. Roberto Altmann's drawing style is not far from psychedelia.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Roberto Altmann's Zr + 4HC1 → ZrC14 + 2H2U + 3F2 → UF6


"At one time Roberto Altmann was a famous artist. Who remembers Roberto Altmann now?" asks another Roberto (Bolaño) in the book Last Evenings on Earth (New Directions, 2006 [Anagrama: 1997, 2001]: 173; translation by Chris Andrews). If you thought, reading this post's title, that the name is a typo exclaiming something like: "-Hum, Robert Altman did comics?! Who knew?", I must inform you that Roberto Altmann is a Cuban artist who adhered to the Lettrist (or Letterist) aesthetic movement in Paris. (To muddy the waters a bit more "Roberto Altmann" is also an Italian painter.) Altmann did comics inspired by the Lettrist idea of hypergraphics.
Lettrism was created in Paris by Romanian émigré Isidore Goldstein (aka Isidore Isou) in 1946 (his Manifesto was published in 1942, when he was still in Romania though). "Lettrism" played an important role as one of the first neo avant-garde aesthetic movements. "Lettrisme" comes from the word "letter" (or "lettre" in French). Isou defended a poetry in which the visual aspect of signs and sounds were more important than conventional meaning. You may hear some of his poems, here: http://www.ubu.com/sound/isou.html. Lettrists wanted to create a revolution in all the arts, they didn't want to confine themselves to literature. Isidore Isou, for instance, did avant-garde films starting in 1951 with Traité de bave et d'eternité (Venom and Eternity).
As Craig J. Saper put it: "Maurice Lemaître coined the term hypergraphics to describe the puzzlelike works, including his "Memory aid" [his crib sheet] [...]. These works drew on comics and a pop art tradition in their effort to produce a new language system. They mark the emergence of a tradition of producing a language from signs without phonetic equivalent." (Networked Art, University of Minnesotta: 101). Stephen C. Foster defined hypergraphics as "communicating through the union of various forms of communication, as an "ensemble of signs capable of transmitting the reality served by the conscienceness more exactly than all the former fragmentary and partial practices (phonetic alphabets, algebra, geometry, painting, music, and so forth)." (Lettrism: Into the Present, Visible Language, 1983: 7).
This is, briefly, the creative context of Roberto Altmann's Zr + 4HC1 → ZrC14 + 2H2U + 3F2 → UF6.

Images and Sounds:
Self-portrait by Isidore Isou published in the original cover of Amos ou Introduction à la métagraphologie (Amos or introduction to the metagraphology - Arcanes, 1953 -, "métagraphology" is "hipergraphics"' first name); part of Isou's first film Venom and Eternity in which Daniel (Isou) discusses his ideas about cinema.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp - Coda

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Images:
1. Couples by Saul Steinberg with men and women drawn differently to match their respective selfs (or, as I said below, the viewer's perception of their personalities; my reading - from left to right-: formless, insipid; childish; rational, stiff, imposing; creative, a little affected - Ursula Major? -; blunt, imposing; undistinctive, feeble, but not deprived of rational thought; airy, gaseous; brainy, but unimposing; The Passport, Harper & Brothers, 1954); men are more imposing and rational than woman; a cliché or a relic of the fifties?
2. this particular drawing (ditto, above) is a perfect example to describe the relationship between Hana and Asterios: David Mazzucchelli used a spotlight shifting from Hana to focus on Asterios as a metaphor of the latter's egotism and the former's wishy-washiness; here, Steinberg (besides attributing rationality, etc... to the man) drew the woman on the verge of being pushed out from the page;
3. Hana and Asterios are separated after a quarrel; they're radically different now; the blending is over...; the void space conveys Hana's loneliness;
4. Ignazio's theory: our self seriously constrains our worldmaking, our perception of the world; (and vice-versa, I would add?);
5. the "blockhead" nose (Scott Bukatman) in Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf, 2003);
6. New Yorker cover by Saul Steinberg (March, 29, 1976): it's a satire of New Yorkers' parochialism...;
7. in David Mazzucchelli's version time substituted space, memory is "a recreation, not a flashback" (Asterios Polyp); the latter is also highly selective, of course...;
8. David Mazzucchelli extended Saul Steinberg's expressive technique to the lettering (typography) and the balloons' shapes; here we can see both linked to three characters: Kalvin Kohoutek (a musician), whose speech balloons and lettering vaguely remind a musical notation; Asterios Polyp (an architect) whose lettering and square speech balloons underline geometry and rationality (modernism); Willy Ilium (a theatrical producer and director) whose fluid forms are an allusion to post-modernism; another fine touch in this particular page is Hana's face in panels one and two, looking left and right, conveying her disorientation among such competitive and egotistical male egos (this fact is underlined by her quasi-wordless participation in the sequence: if one inflated male ego - Asterios Polyp - is more than enough, what's there to say if her problem is multiplied by three?);
9. harmony arrives again at the end, but, this time, David Mazzucchelli didn't use the blending of her form and his structure (he did blend what they're saying - meaning that they've talked at the same time - and the speech balloons' shapes): he also used the same color for their faces (yellow; see below); plus: Asterios approached Hana by being yellow; Hana approached Asterios by becoming blue; the three primary colors are also a sign of a unified situation.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp



This isn't a review or a criticism of David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp (Pantheon Books, 2009; I'm not a reviewer, god forbid!)... I'm doing a bit of metacriticism instead, again... Reviewing the reviews, I suppose, but it's not even that... It's just a brief note stating my amazement...
I am perplexed because, once again, I realize how comics are truly an art form almost without memory. I say this because only two critics and a reporter (Matt Madden: http://tinyurl.com/yfh9rdk) mentioned Saul Steinberg in the reviews of Asterios Polyp that I read on the www and only one noticed how "Mazzucchelli’s visual quotations of comics history, too, allow him to adapt techniques innovated by other artists, and explore these approaches to their limit. So he nods to Saul Steinberg’s pioneering use of diverse styles to convey subjectivity" (Sean Rogers at http://tinyurl.com/mr3sqn; Pedro Moura mentions an homage to a famous Steinberg New Yorker cover: March, 29, 1976 - more about that later - in Portuguese: http://tinyurl.com/yb2oh6t). Apart from Rogers' and Moura's reviews Saul Steinberg's name can't be seen in reviews by: Hillary Chute (http://tinyurl.com/ycdntjp), Ng Suat Tong (http://tinyurl.com/ye379bd), Charles Hatfield (http://www.tcj.com/?p=2568; who cites comics artists' names left and right...), Derik Badman (http://tinyurl.com/yagzcfz; but he just wanted to talk about the graphic novel's ending), and others... like Scott McCloud (http://tinyurl.com/ksjkf3)... Not even in the very exhaustive Stumptown Notes (http://tinyurl.com/mmkhxo) is Saul Steinberg's name seen anywhere.
Matthias Wivel (http://www.metabunker.dk/?p=2134) pointed out a problem with this visual short cut: "To the uncharitable eye, this might be considered reductive, and thus a weakness of a work that ultimately seeks to convey truth." Agreed, it is a short cut, so, on the one hand it's truly a great visual find, but on the other hand it can't go beyond the surface (it's how others see us in a social situation, not what we really are at a particular point in time - if it's possible to pin down such a thing). (That's how I read Saul Steinberg's drawings, anyway...) David Mazzucchelli copied Steinberg's idea to use it from the other side: "What if reality (as perceived) were simply an extension of the self? / Wouldn't that color the way each individual experiences the world?" In other words: that's not how others see us, that's how we see ourselves and the world around us (enter: Matthias' problem). Mazzucchelli solves it, in my humble opinion, when he states that "[...] these constructions [...] are not immutable." The same characters are identified by different colors and different shapes throughout the book: their mood changes, their behavior changes too (Besides, Asteryos Polyp is the story of a personality transformation: colors being also symbolic, "enlightenment" Asterios is cold cyan blue, but the "new" Asterios is warm primary yellow, the color of death, but also the color of renewal - among the Aztecs, for instance... More importantly though, because of some visual allusions to the Tai Chi in the graphic novel, in ancient China everything in the nuptial bed was yellow to guarantee the fertility of the couple: at the end Hana and Asterios were suposedly on the verge of finally becoming parents.)
Polyp's geometrical shape reminds me of an exhange of opinions at The Comics Journal Messboard, eons ago, about Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf, 2003) between yours truly and Scott Bukatman: he thought that the shape of the main character's nose looked strange sometimes (all geometricized and all... I told him that it was a visual metaphor and, then, he said something like: of course, he's a blockhead). That's what I think our Asterios is too...
Anyway, I'm sure that you read enough about dualities and Platonic polyhedrons and whatnot, so, I won't bother you with that. I just want to add that those reviewers above are some of my favorite comics critics. Their reviews are in no way less accurate or less good because they failed to see from where David Mazzucchelli came from. It's a bit of a left field comics-wise, I have to concede...
Oh and, is Asterios Polyp going to be part of my canon? Sure, why not?, even if I have to admit that I continue to prefer his shorter stuff in Rubber Blanklet. Even if, again, his best story also came from somewhere else: http://www.metabunker.dk/?p=690.
By the way: did I mention that both Asterios and Saul were architects?...

Images:
At last: after citing Saul Steinberg so many times I posted one of his cartoons (as published in The Passport, Harper & Brothers, 1954) on The Crib: the characters are drawn according to their personalities (or, as we perceive them); we see in the outside (ocularization) what the characters are inside (subjectivism); we can even imagine that Asterios Polyp and Hana Sonnenschein are right there, on the center-right, calmly seated on the couch; David Mazzucchelli didn't copy Saul Steinberg's work faithfully: he used Steinberg's device as a starting point, but, after that, he explored his own ideas (as Sean Rogers put it above): in Mazzucchelli's version of the heterogeneous party Asterios and Hana are really connecting, his blue structure and her red form creating a united morphology.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Anke Feuchtenberger's Somnambule - Coda

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1. Les Demoiselles D'Avignon (the young women of Avignon) by Pablo Picasso (1907); demoiselles two and three (if we count left to right) are usually linked by art historians to Picasso's inspiration in two 5th century Iberian idols stolen from the Louvre by his friend poet Guillaume Apollinaire's lover Géret Pieret and probably sold to the painter; I don't say that they're wrong, but I also say that these figures are caricatural, highly simplified drawings; are these the first example of "serious caricatures" in the history of art?;
2. another giant of 20th century art, Paul Klee, did these caricatures of birds (Zwitschermaschine - the twittering machine -, 1922); if you look closely you'll notice that Saul Steinberg is not very far away;
3. A Woman on the Beach Holding a Starfish in Her Outstretched Hand by Nuria Quevedo (2009, methinks);
4. "The blood colors the water red." "Die see jungfrau," Die kleine Dame, Jochen Enterprises, 1997; the young woman from the sea cuts her fish tail in two halves; Anke Feuchtenberger's graphic style is wonderfully textured, her compositions are elegantly balanced;
5. If you find yourself in a relationship with a snowman, you’re the one who’s running the risk of melting down: "Barmi und Klett IV Schneewehen" (Barmi and Klett IV snow pain, according to a www translator again): Die kleine Dame - the little lady -, Jochen Enterprises, 1997;
6. there aren't many stories by Anke Feuchtenberger translated into English; as far as I know there are: two stories published by Actus Tragicus from Israel: "The Crossing" (the beautifully colored image above belongs to this story; Happy End, 2002); "Old Rose: Rose's son wants to go abroad" (Dead Herring, 2004); and two W the Whore books published by Bries in Belgium: W the Whore, 2001; W the Whore Makes Her Tracks, 2006;
7. an haunting image (to me it refers to hidden desires or hidden fears, most likely) from Der Palast (the palace), Jochen Enterprises, 2000; someone should study what the twins mean in Anke Feuchtenberger's oeuvre;
8. 9. after reading (yes, seeing a comic is reading it especially if, to quote Timothy Callahan here: http://tinyurl.com/yb44kg2 , the artist used "images that mean and don't simply show.") "Somnambule2" (published in the catalog of the Mutanten exhibition: Hatje Cantz, 2000) I doubt that the moon in "Blind Schleich song," (blind creep song) loves the bunny rabbit; maybe it had no escape and this is its revenge (?): when we fly too high on the wings of imagination madness eats us up...