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PG Tips - The Best Of 2010:

An International Perspective - Part 2

Although my 2010 Best Of The Year article was focused mainly on American, Canadian and British comics with a few other comics translated into English, we shouldn’t forget that there is a big, wide world out there. So for the third year running, I’ve asked some of my friends from across the globe to pick their favourite comics of the year just gone. In part 1 we heard from my friends in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Sweden who selected their favourite books. Now read on…

AUSTRALIA - CROATIA - NORWAY - JAPAN
SERBIA - SOUTH KOREA


Australia

Selected by Philip Bentley
Philip Bentley is a writer and editor who produces Word Balloons, a journal on Australian comics. Over the years he has also written, edited, published and retailed them.


Hamlet
adapted by Nicki Greenberg
Allen & Unwin

Following on from her inspired re-visioning of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (Allen & Unwin, 2007) Greenberg has now turned her attention to an even more highly regarded work. Like Gatsby this is no pale adaptation, but an even more audacious work that utilises a variety of visual elements to interpret the narrative. In Gatsby Greenberg envisioned the characters as a variety of cartoon creatures. Here they are anthropomorphic inkblots with animated, but detachable faces (something that works better than it may sound). The characters act out the drama against a polychromatic background constructed so as to give insight into deeper narrative elements, such as their emotions and thoughts. Whilst the words are as originally written, Greenberg has added a number of wordless pages between the acts showing the characters backstage, so emphasising the theatricality of the production.

It is perhaps not a ‘pretty’ work in the manner of classically rendered comic art, but it makes up for this with its undeniable verve. Whilst it could be argued that an all-original work is more ‘worthy’, the beauty of adaptations such as this is that they are more likely to come into the hands of non-comic readers where they will hopefully demonstrate the undoubted power of the medium to tell stories in a unique manner.



The Playwright
by Daren White & Eddie Campbell
Top Shelf/Knockabout

Another work that pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved in the comic medium is this graphic novel by these two British-born, but now Australian residing creators. Essentially a comedy, it still manages to walk a fine line between the humorous and the dramatic. Hence Whyte’s finely nuanced portrayal of a sexually repressed Englishman is both mocking and sympathetic, indicative perhaps of the author’s judgment on English sexuality in general. Further, by employing a droll commentary Whyte is able to deal with various touchy subjects, such as masturbation, mental retardation and bowel evacuation in a way that is neither silly nor offensive. But behind it all are issues of a more universal nature such as the search for affection and the origins of creativity.

Campbell’s artwork is a perfect foil for such a narrative presenting some lovely loose line work rendered with evocative watercolours. The rapport between the collaborators is evident in how Whyte has employed one of Campbell’s trademark techniques, that of ‘narrative shifting’, for want of a better phrase. This is where the visuals depict something other than what is described in the text, a technique that adds depth to the visual interpretation of the story. Campbell also uses blow-ups of parts of various panels to add to the overall mood of the piece. Whilst in some works I wonder whether it isn’t simply a ploy to cut down on the amount of drawing, at least here it is employed with such regularity that it does become a valid part of the visual storytelling.


Croatia

Selected by Zivojin Tamburic
Zivojin Tamburic is a long-time reader, collector, critic and historian of comics from Belgrade. His book, Comics We Loved (Omnibus, Serbia, 2011), is a selection of 20th-century comics and creators from the region of former Yugoslavia.


Zenski strip na Balkanu
[Female Comics from the Balkans]
Edited by Irena Jukic-Pranjic & Marko Sunjic
Fibra

A very special book, with nearly 400 pages filled with great comics by female artists from the Balkans. The category of female comic artists was almost nonexistent in the 20th century, but it is now a blooming category: Magda Dulcic, Helena Klakocar Vuksic, Helena Janecic, Dunja Jankovic, Maja Veselinovic, Irena Jukic Pranjic, Nina Bunjevac, Katja Avbersek, Ivana Armanini, Mina Zabnikar, Ivanka Apostolova, Ljubica Heidler, Zrinka Ostovic, Ines Dedovic, Branka Hollingsworth-Nare, Ivana Guljasevic Kuman, Sonja Gasperov, Neda Dokic, Evelina Daneve Rajninger, Tanja Komadina, Ivana Filipovic, Biljana Malesevic, Sara Divjak and Bojana Dimitrovski.



Vam
by Igor Kordej & Vladimir Colin
Fibra

An epic and mythic integral work (about 140 pages) by Croatian master Kordej, narrating the battle between Gods and people, based on an outstanding novel by Vladimir Colin, the Romanian writer. This work was originally published in black and white in Yugoslavia in the 80s, then adapted and coloured by Kordej in France in 1988-89, and finally re-adapted and coloured by Kordej for a second time to produce this final version for an impressive Fibra publisher.



U zoni sumraka
[In The Twilight Zone]
by Igor Kordej & Nenad Mikalacki Dango
Kvadrat

Several stories, some of them originally published in the 90s in the US Heavy Metal magazine, beautifully drawn by Kordej and developed with an astonishing imagination by Dango. It is a shame that they have not finished their most ambitious work together, The Five Seasons; only one album has been published, the brilliant Autumn (Dargaud, France, 1990).

 



Opake price
[Vicious Stories]
by Perovic Darko, Osvaldo Viola & Enrique Abuli
Libellus

These stories were originally published in Spain in the early 90s, when Perovic, like many other artists from ex-Yugoslavia, tried to work abroad. He is now having a successful career as an artist of Magico Vento (Sergio Bonelli, Italy). These very cruel and very dark-humoured stories, written by Spanish script writer Sanchez Abuli, are brought to us by the excellent Perovic (Serbia) and equally impressive Viola (Argentina).



Papak
[The Hoof/Loser]
by Frano Petrusa
Fibra

Petrusa is a talented young artist from Croatia, whose album The Hoof/Loser is destined to become a world bestseller, if translated to English. It has already been translated into French by Dargaud under the title Guerre et Match. This is a story about basketball and the recent war in Yugoslavia, with a strong and genuine anti-war message.

 


Norway

Selected by Tor Arne Hegna
Tor Arne Hegna has written about comics in newspapers, magazines and websites in Norway over the last 25 years. He has also published comics and books about comics, been a Sproing-prize committee member and received the Raptus Festival Price of Honour in 2004.

In a year dominated by reprints and collections a few new Norwegian comics stands out from the crowd. Here are some of them:


Weltschmerz #9
by Christopher Nielsen
No Comprendo Press

Veteran underground rascal and lowlife chronicler Christopher Nielsen returned to his title Weltschmerz after a more than 10-year hiatus. While the original Weltschmerz was a magazine in comic book format, this is a European Album-sized book, filled with all new stories. As usual Nielsen show us the grim side of society, always sharp satire, never leaving the reader untouched by the regular bunch of underdogs and looser. Jason calls Christopher Nielsen Norway’s best comic book storyteller, and I have no problem supporting that opinion.



Blokk
[Tower Block]
by Andrew Page
Jippi

British born Andrew Page won last years Sproing Award in the category Best Newcomer for Kunsten å knyte en knute (The Art Of Tying A Knot), and followed up with Blokk in the autumn. Like in Eisner’s The Building, a residential apartment building is the glue that keeps the stories together in Blokk. His minimalistic, slice-of-life stories of suburbians with nothing more in common than the same address may be compared to both Jason and Pushwagner, but Page have an originality that make him an artist to follow in the future.



Matjemania
by Lars Fiske
No Comprendo Press

Matjemania collects the first two Matje-stories: Matje - Debutanten (Matje - The Newcomer, 1996) and Matje-ismen (Matjeism, 2000), and in addition the third and last instalment of the series: Matje - guruen (Matje - The Guru). Lars Fiske’s distinctive cubistic style, combined with a biting satire, makes this story of the rise and fails of a poet a classic, that finally gets a grand finale unlike anything else in comics. A must have for anyone who love great art and good stories.



Da jeg reddet verden
[When I Saved The World]
by Lene Ask
Jippi

In 2008 Lene Ask was sent to Tanzania by a Norwgian Foreing Aid organisation to make comics about child and womans living conditions in those parts of the world. The result was 7 short stories. In Da jeg reddet verden Lene Ask tells about this experience, from her initial enthusiasm to her frustrations over how to tell those stories.



Museum
by Rui Tenreiro
Jippi

A hommage to the old classics, Museum, is actually written in English by Mozambique born Rui Tenreiro for his Master studies. Inspired by old full format newspaper comics like Little Nemo, Museum, is a beautiful piece of art with pages that could easily be framed on walls.

 

 


Japan


Complied by Otona Fami Magazine (February 2011)
The best manga as recommended by sales-clerks from three thousand book stores all over Japan, compiled by Otona Fami magazine from asking each sales-clerk to name three of his or her favorite manga in 2010.

 

 



Kurage hime
by Higashimura Akiko
Kodansha

A group of Fujoshi, or female Otaku who live together at Amamizukan is in danger of losing their accommodation due to demolishing plans for new city developments. Led by cross-dresser Kuranosuke, the group decides to set up a fashion brand in attempt to compete and interfere with the developments. Winner of the 2010 Kodansha Manga Award for Shojo Manga. Six volumes published to date. A total of over 11 million copies sold.



Shingeki no kyojin
by Isayama Hajime
Kodansha

A sci-fi action manga, the story revolves around the invasion of monstrous giants into the human world. For over a hundred years, the humans had shielded themselves with a massive wall to protect their peace from the giants. But when mega giants large enough to destroy the wall raid in, they are faced with a hopeless battle. Packed with all the thrills of a quality manga, it is critically acclaimed for its unique concept featuring curious creatures and grippingly powerful battle scenes. First serialized in 2009, three volumes have been published to date. A total of over 15 million copies sold.



Giant Killing
by Tsujitomo
Kodansha

A new audacious coach saves a struggling soccer team called ETU with his outrageous tactics and eccentric training methods, leading them to ‘giant killings’, or victories against big teams. The manga also features behind-the-scene drama off the pitch, at times focusing on fans and others involved with the team. Winner of the 2010 Kodansha Manga Award for General Manga. 17 volumes published to date.

 


Serbia

Selected by Zivojin Tamburic
Zivojin Tamburic is a long-time reader, collector, critic and historian of comics from Belgrade. His book, Comics We Loved (Omnibus, Serbia, 2011), is a selection of 20th-century comics and creators from the region of former Yugoslavia.


Ubice kao ti i ja
[Murderers Like You and Me]
by Rajko Milosevic Gera & Oscar Aibar
System Comics

Gera (or Guera, as he is known away from his native Serbia) is a well-known artist in the world of comics thanks to his dusty and greasy work on the current series Scalped with script writer Jason Aaron (Vertigo, USA). However, he was prominent even before this in Serbia (western comics), France (Howard Blake, comics with script writer Patrick Cothias) and in Spain (comics with script writer Oscar Aibar). These “Spanish” short stories are collected here, drawn by the masterly hand (and brush) of Gera and the plot is about the unintentional murders committed by mistake by ordinary people.



Crvena trava
[Red Grass]
by Dorde Milovic & Boris Vian
Komiko

Milovic is a unique artist, thanks to his drawing style, but even more because of his poetic stories about the lives of sensitive souls in the hostile world around us. This time he has found his match and inspiration in an enigmatic novel by the deeply-disturbed and early-deceased French writer and musician Boris Vian.

 



Osveta crvene vestice
[Red Witch Revenge]
by Zograf
SKC Novi Sad

Zograf is already famous outside Serbia for his striking black and white drawings and dreamlike stories, the autobiographical diaries from the recent war in Yugoslavia. This time, Zograf takes a more realistic approach and his storytelling is second to none. This book compiles his short, documentary stories about people and places in Serbia, published originally in a weekly Serbian magazine Vreme (Time).


South Korea

Selected by Kim Nakho
Nakho Kim is a Korean comics researcher. He writes reviews and columns for book journals and other periodicals, and has worked as the editor-in-chief for the comics critic webzine Dugoboza, curated the special exhibition on Korean comics at the Angoulême Festival 2003, and has been participating in drafting several public policies on comics.


With Gods
by Homin Joo
Anibooks

Many traditional stories in several parts of the world describe an afterworld, where you will be awarded or punished according to how you lived your life. With Gods is a story about ordinary middle-aged office worker Jahong who died of overwork. With the help of trusty hell-lawyer Kihan, he goes through the legal processes in 7 levels of hell. With Gods re-imagines the afterworld to reflect the modern industrialized and bureaucratic Korean life with its mundane goodwill and wrongdoings, while seamlessly blending elements of traditional folklore.



Yongsan, Where I Lived
by Hongmo Kim with 5 others
Bori

In January 2009, several local residents in Seoul’s Yongsan district were accidentally burnt to death while the riot police tried to suppress their protest against forced evictions. Yongsan is an anthology of short stories which look into the life story of each deceased person. The stories reveal that they were just some less-fortunate but ordinary neighbors who had no other choice than fight to protect their living. It is a masterful semi-documentary which ignited interests in comics journalism in Korea.



Too Vague To Cry
by Kyuseok Choi
Four Seasons

A ‘cinema verite’ style realistic work about the Korean youth of the lower-income classes, Too Vague To Cry is a story about high school students preparing for art school entrance exam. Most of the classmates always worry about whether they can afford to pay for their education, and more often than not romance is a mere luxury. Without resorting to overly dramatic tragedy and even with a distinct sense of humor, Choi manages to reveal the real-life hardships of the majority of Korean youth.



Murderer Toy
by Nomabi
Naver (web comic)

Lee Tang is a vigilante serial murderer by coincidence. No matter whether by accident, to cover things up or strictly intentional, all the murdered victims turn out to have committed serious crimes and ‘deserved to die’. Morality is always in a grey spectrum, some amount of evil lurks in every person, and the society is not good enough to deal with it. The cold and hard themes become even more striking, as it is carried out with cuddly cute drawing styles. It is a must-read for fans of Korean crime movies.

Posted: February 6, 2011

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