Tag Archives: Graphic memoir

Review: All the Answers

Joel Kupperman became one of the most famous children in America during World War II as one of the young geniuses on the series Quiz Kids. With the uncanny ability to perform complex math problems in his head, Joel endeared himself to audiences across the country and became a national obsession. Following a childhood spent in the public eye, only to then fall victim to the same public’s derision, Joel deliberately spent the remainder of his life removed from the world at large. With wit and heart, Michael Kupperman presents a fascinating account of mid-century radio and early television history, the pro-Jewish propaganda entertainment used to counteract anti-Semitism, and the early age of modern celebrity culture.

This graphic memoir is out in book stores now and comic stores May 16th. To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/Kindle/comiXology

 

Gallery 13 Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

Early Review: POS

Swiss comic book publisher and writer Pierre Paquet and artist Jesus Alonso deliver Paquet’s second graphic memoir POS (An abbreviation for “Piece of Shit”) about his early days as a publisher, his friendships, relationships, hangovers, party fouls, and most of all, his relationship with his dog, Sonny. This bond between Pierre and his mixed breed runt of the litter man’s best friend is the emotional anchor point for Paquet’s  episodic autobiographical narrative. But memories in real life are non-linear and fragmented, and Alonso’s quick and nasty pen strokes “fill in the gaps”. Paquet leans on his talents to tell a range of stories from a court room drama about Pierre suing one of his artists JD, who took out advances and didn’t finish his comics to a silly anecdote about Pierre and a friend going on their first online date with a tall German girl, whose height is shown by Alonso’s use of three gutters for her body.

The scenes in POS that Pierre spends with Sonny definitely left the biggest mark on me, and the story adds a layer of gravitas and feeling when the pooch is introduced as a problem dog that has had five foster families and is afraid of everyone. I think that Pierre (and Paquet by extension) saw a lot of himself in Sonny, and some of Paquet’s narration towards the end of the graphic novel and the use of a ghostly dog as a kind of framing narrative seem to confirm this. Throughout the comic, Pierre has romances and sexual relationships with different women and despite all the drama and legal stuff, finds success as a publisher, but Sonny is always on his mind. For example, there’s a scene where he’s sitting with Anna, a woman that he probably loves, and she asks what he’s thinking about, and Sonny pops up in his word bubble. Pierre is afraid to be vulnerable and real around her, taking an out of the way flight to see her in Zurich, Switzerland, and making no effort to get back with her. But, then, he starts crying around his new intern when Sonny has one of his many illnesses that always add a spike of drama to the narrative.

However, Paquet and Alonso pepper parts of the narrative of POS with well-realized relationships. In the early going, Pierre’s best friend is David, who I initially thought was going to be the butt of fat jokes and the physical comic relief by Alonso’s art style, but he ends up being a total hedonist. David got a big inheritance from his dead father and spends it on fancy wines, weekend trips to Florence, escorts, strip clubs, and basically being the lead of the Swiss version of Entourage. But, there is a tragic side to David’s pursuit of pleasure, and he ends up passing away early in the book leading to the second or third saddest page in the comic where Pierre thinks about his own father’s passing when he was 11 (The subject of his previous graphic memoir A Glance Backward.). He realizes that the fact that both he and David were fatherless sons helped get them through some tough times even though most of their “good times” ended up with Jesus Alonso doing cinematic dissolves of Pierre’s post-hangover Alka-Seltzer turning into strippers.

Possibly because Paquet himself is a publisher as a well as a comic book writer, POS  is sympathetic and realistic about the plight of a comic book publisher and has many scenes showing that Pierre is very serious about his job and about the comics medium. One of the first pages has him putting his phone away and reading a comic on a tablet for a second before running out with his dying dog’s leash and collar to throw in the water, and he takes a Greyhound bus from New York to Woodstock to meet one of his artist idols, a reclusive, cross dressing cartoonist, who lives in a trailer deep in the woods. Alonso uses thick lines to show the stress that Pierre has trying to get his publishing company off the ground and goes a little stir-crazy when Pierre is in legal conflict with one of his artists, who was ripping him off. This sequence shows that sometimes artists, not companies, are the unscrupulous ones and has some character growth for Pierre, who with the help of an old friend, endures through the trial and is vindicated even though some comics creators won’t work for him. And the margins of POS are filled with the trials of comic conventions, like the famous Angouleme Festival, including after-con drinking, weird sleeping arrangements, and of course, the all encompassing con crud, which allows Alonso to explore the more grotesque side of his color palette.

Pierre Paquet and Jesus Alonso have a gift for finding the funny, tragic, and just plain relatable in the life of comics publisher Pierre over the years in POS. They hold their protagonist responsible for his inability to form meaningful relationships outside while still making him likable and vulnerable and take their time digging into Pierre’s feelings via flashbacks, cartooning tricks, or well-placed caption box instead of moving him from dramatic to humorous situation. POS is naturally paced and has too many feelings for own (It’s the damn dog, guys.), and I really hope that Lion Forge continues to publish artistically brilliant and emotionally authentic graphic memoirs and bande desinee like it.

Story: Pierre Paquet Art: Jesus Alonso Translation: Jeremy Maloul
Story: 9.0  Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3  Recommendation: Buy

Lion Forge provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Nothing Lasts Forever

NothingLastsForever-1Reading Nothing Lasts Forever is like sitting across writer/artist Sina Grace at a table at one of the coffee shops in L.A. that he frequents and watching him slowly pull his still-beating heart out of his chest and show it to you with Jenny Lewis playing in the background. On that creepy, visceral note, this is Grace’s third graphic memoir after the very relatable ode to retail hell Not My Bag and the relationship/pop culture-driven Self-ObsessedNothing Lasts Forever is written and drawn like it’s a literal page in Grace’s sketch journal. It’s rough (The lettering is sometimes hard to make out in a digital copy.) , but it’s an unfiltered look at his relationship to Sina’s comics work, love life, the death of his grandmother, his battle with achalasia, global politics, and much more. (For the purpose of this review Sina is the character in the story, and Grace is the creator behind it.)

Just like Just My Bag and Self-Obsessed , Nothing Lasts Forever is relatable to me as a queer man, who is adjacent to the comics industry even though I don’t write, draw, color or letter them. Writing and drawing is therapeutic for Sina, but he doesn’t know what he should write and draw about. Throughout the comic, Sina has conversations with friends, fellow creators, and editors about projects, or whether he should do monthly comics or standalone works like Self-Obsessed. He likes doing autobiographical work, but also is a fan of doing genre stuff. This push and pull is one of the secondary sources of conflict throughout the graphic novel. Nothing Lasts Forever also features the first time I’ve seen a comic journalist interview a creator in a comic book. It’s kind of reassuring to know that the writers and artists I interview might be just as nervous as me about their answers…

One of the most powerful and amusing images in Nothing Lasts Forever was Grace making his exes into doo-dads (It’s a Southern thing, I swear.) , or “baubles” as he calls them. It’s start out about a funny line about boys being toys that Sina tells Amber and then turns into a profound, vulnerable page about Sina having feelings for all the men that have come into his life romantically and sexually. They each brought him NLFInteriorsome happiness for a time and then became someone else’s toy. I feel similarly about the men and women that have come into my life. Sometimes, I’ll have vibes about someone I dated or kissed years ago, feel kind of wistful about it but then cherish the time we spent together. Sina Grace nails that exact emotion throughout Nothing Lasts Forever when he discusses and describes relationships.

Structurally, Nothing Lasts Forever skips through time and place in a way that makes a Timelord look like a tortoise. It’ll go from a story about Sina having a crush on his 9th grade teacher to a pitch meeting with Image or a musing about his grandmother. Grace’s art style shifts and swerves too. On an artistic level, one thing that I loved about Nothing Lasts Forever was how the look of Grace’s art and the type of his color palette matched his feelings about each vignette that makes up his comic.

Grace can do fantasy/horror style art, caricatures, or rich, representational work like when Grace depicts Sina’s pitch for He and Him, an unrealized romance graphic novel not-so-subtly based on his relationship with his ex, Cash. One of his good friends, writer Amber Benson, makes several appearances, and Grace colors her with gorgeous pinks and blue that makes her memorable in a book full of faces. (And dicks depending on the story.) Grace uses wispier linework in a flashback about having a crush on his teacher and switches to stark black and white when he really starts to open up about his depression. There’s a touch of primal horror to these pages as Grace fits his feelings and thoughts into narrative form.

Even though it’s a collection of tenuously connected autobiographical shorts instead of a straight (*chuckles*) narrative like Craig Thompson’s Blankets or Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Nothing Lasts Forever is an enjoyable and emotionally resonant read. There are many genres in Sina Grace’s approach to graphic memoir , including gag strips, portrait pieces, some metafiction (Li’l Depressed Boy makes several, key cameos, and Erik Larsen appears as his creation, Savage Dragon.), and a fun queer take on the fantasy/Magical Girl genre that gets very personal very quickly.

In Nothing Lasts Forever, Sina Grace goes into depth about his depression, his painful struggle with a disease that made it virtually impossible for him to keep down food, and his true feelings about the men he’s dated and slept with. And he does it all in a varied visual style and with his sense of humor intact. I won’t stop smiling and laughing at the all the forms that Sina takes in the comic like some kind of cartoonist Mystique going from a bad mushroom trip to being sad in the shower to even becoming Sailor Moon herself.

Story: Sina Grace Art: Sina Grace
Story: 8.9  Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.7  Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Recent Entries »