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PG Tips No. 5:

Paul Gravett's Recommended Reading

In a regular series of PG Tips articles, Paul Gravett reviews books of and about comics from his recommended reading list.


Le Gun Vol 2
by various
Le Gun,
£8
Re-armed and extremely dangerous, this second “spattering Uzi of narrative illustration [that’s comics to you and me] and absurd wordage…” is loaded with emerging international talents gathered by editorial triumvirate Robert Greene, Bill Bragg and Neal Fox. Their generously oversized, squarebound anthology also offers works by Peter Blake, Glen Baxter, the Brothers Quay, Richard Cork and George Melly.


Bone Sharps, Cowboys & Thunder Lizards
by Jim Ottaviani
& Big Time Attic
G.T. Labs,
$22.95
From the gilded age of paleontology - that’s dinosaurs to you and me - comes this 160-page, sepia-toned, landscape-format hybrid of fact and fiction about big lizards, big egos and even bigger scams. Sharp art team Big Time Attic features Zander Cannon of Top Ten fame, while the supporting cast includes Buffalo Bill and Alexander Grahan Bell. What more do you want?


Electric Girl
by Mike Brennan
AIT Planet Lar
$13.95

Sparks fly in this charming all-ages, Eisner-nominated comedy about Virginia coping with growing up and acquiring odd electro-powers and a mischievous gremlin. This latest volume comes with almost 100 new pages. Meet her online at www.electricgirl.com.


Spaniel Rage
by Vanessa Davis
Buenaventura Press,
$13.95
“Well, you know… little things make a life.” Her unfussy, direct diary comics and drawings take you inside this 26-year-old American woman’s daily"little things” that make her life. Endearing, uninhibited journals from May 2003 to January 2004 and five short stories.


Monster
by Naoki Urasawa
Viz Media
$9.99
I’ve been waiting for this to appear in English for eons. It is simply one of the finest horror-thrillers in modern manga. A doctor risks his career to save a critically injured boy, only to find that the child grows up to be a murderous “monster”. Get in on the ground floor for an 18-volume masterwork.


Rocketo Vol 1: Journey To The Hidden Sea
by Frank Espinosa & Marie Taylor
Image Comics,
$19.99
As well as designing for Disney and Warner Brothers, Cuban-born Frank Espinosa needed to let his brimming imagination spill over into something all his own. Thinking big, he imagined a whole future history of our planet, shattered beyond recognition and then reformed into uncharted continents and oceans, populated by amazing creatures and men adapted to these profound global changes. Among these are the Mappers endowed with biological compasses, vital because this new world needs new maps. Espinosa relates the life and travels of one Mapper, Rocketo Garrison, square-nosed like Dick Tracy, garbed like Flash Gordon in a red chainmail top. He chooses a sideways format to blow the comic book spread wide open for dazzling lifeforms and landscapes in bravura brushstrokes and bold swathes of colour. True, the exposition co-written by Marie Taylor gets a little flowery at times, but persevere and you’ll find some verbal flourishes as well. This voyage of discovery should put Espinosa on the map.


Honey Talks
by various artists
Stripburger
€22
If you were a proud Slovenian beekeeper, one sign of your status would be to decorate the panels of your skyscrapers of stacked hives with lurid paintings of Biblical parables, history, daily life, mocking satires and bizarre animal fables. This tradition dated back to 1758 but disappeared during the Second World War. Now nine surviving examples of this apicultural folk art have inspired modern comic artists to give them all kinds of fresh interpretations, either in English or wordless. Hamburg’s visionary Anke Feuchtenberger gives a feminist twist to a moralistic painting about a woman who steals a hive from her husband, while the Latin-spouting medieval nuns of Dutchman Marcel Ruitjers revert to a violent ape-like state in the Garden of Eden. This sort of “world upside down”, for example showing the roles of human and animals reversed, is a common theme here. Rutu Modan of the Israeli collective Actus starts her timeless folktale of The Hunter’s Daughter from a painting of a huntsman having his throat cut by the animals he usually kills. In other cases, Danijel Zezelj, Jakob Klemencic and Matthias Lehmann shift their sources to present-day urban paranoia. Each of these nine landscape-format booklets, 28 to 44 pages long, has a narrow slit cut out of the bottom of the front cover, like the entrance to a beehive. All of them are housed inside a neat cardboard container with an historical introduction. Quite apart from raising awareness of this heritage, virtually unknown outside Slovenia, this is a richly rewarding selection box of the graphic storytellers who may be the folk artists of today.


Girl Stories
by Lauren J. Weinstein
Henry Holt & Co,
$16.95
Let her introduce herself: “Lauren (me). Strengths: I like to draw! I am creative (?). Weaknesses: I am too weird. I try too hard to be cool.” Weinstein reveals these and way too many other personal secrets in her refreshingly frank, frequently embarrassing autobio comix. She admits to customising Barbie dolls at age 13 and dreaming of a date with Morrissey (celibate of course). Her book takes us into the highs and lows of contemporary Jewish-American girlhood from eighth grade through to freshman year of high school: the crushes, food fads, first kisses, raging hormones, inflamed pierced belly-button, exam hell and dysfunctional Thanksgiving. She created these 240 colourful pages over a period of seven years, many of them for the site www.gurl.com, changing her media and materials as she went. You might have also come across her Xeric Grant-awarded adult collection Inside Vineyland. Here her expressive voice proves that she deserves to join that fine American tradition of women’s self-deprecating cartoon confessionals pioneered by Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Lynda Barry.

Posted: September 24, 2006

PG Tips is a monthly sidebar to Paul Gravett’s Novel Graphics column in Comics International providing shorter reviews of the latest recommended books of and about comics.

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Lauren J Weinstein
Mike Brennan
Naoki Urasawa
PG Tips
Vanessa Davis

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Featured Books

Le Gun
Le Gun Vol 2
by various

Bone Sharps, Cowboys & Thunder Lizards
Bone Sharps, Cowboys & Thunder Lizards
by Jim Ottaviani
& Big Time Attic

Electric Girl
Electric Girl
by Mike Brennan

Spaniel Rage
Spaniel Rage
by Vanessa Davis

Monster
Monster
by Naoki Urasawa

Rocketo
Rocketo Vol 1:
Journey To The
Hidden Sea

by Frank Espinosa
& Marie Taylor

Honey Talks
Honey Talks
by various artists

Girl Stories
Girl Stories
by Lauren J. Weinstein