Posts Tagged 'comics'

The Photographer

The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders

story and photos – Didier Lefèvre    writing and art – Emmanuel Guibert   layout and colors – Frédéric Lemencier

Alexis Siegel – English Translator              all images © 2009 by First Second

"Me? But I've Never Shot at Anything."

The Photographer plays around with the hoary trope that shooting guns and shooting cameras are roughly equivalent. But Guibert, Lefèvre, and Lemencier do not resurrect the trope for nothing; they frame the camera’s complicity as part of a larger narrative about Western responsibility toward the rest of the world.

Continue reading ‘The Photographer’

The Idea of North

sprott on the future

George Sprott (1894-1975) is easily my favorite work by the Canadian cartoonist Seth. Most of the text originally appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, but the book improves the project with additional material in an engaging package. It stands an impressive 12″ by 14″, which Seth ably uses to draw in and, at times, overwhelm the reader.

George Sprott is a biography/tombstone* for the title character, who embarked on arctic expeditions as a young man, and later in life recycled those experiences in a weekly lecture and a television show titled “Northern Hi-Lights.” Like all of Seth’s work, it’s abundantly nostalgic. In fact, the subject of the book is nostalgia: the novella examines the ways in which ideas of death and old age color the past and present, and the ways in which people live their lives according to how they think they will be remembered. Continue reading ‘The Idea of North’

What I’m working on, 6/14

So I’m currently drafting a research proposal about cartoons and religion.

Over the past decade cartoons depicting Muslims, especially those portraying the prophet Muhammad, have prompted harsh condemnations, property damage, and physical violence. Many Muslim denominations forbid the depiction of the prophet. Even those that don’t would find the orientalist, racist and reductive cartoons cause for anger. In 2005, the reaction in the U.S. was ambivalent. Two of the stronger impulses behind the first amendment butted heads.Free Speech advocates pushed for U.S. papers to republish the cartoons, while others believed that religious tolerance outweighed the need to inform Americans.  For many, knowledge of the existence of the cartoons wouldn’t suffice– they needed to be seen instead of described.

This cycle of provocation and controversy is nothing new. Long before 9/11 pernicious stereotypes about Muslims circulated widely in the West. Of course, it doesn’t seem like  we’ve learned much from these occasional controversies. These cycles seem to recur without much variation.

What has changed are the stakes.

The dominant explanations for the violence are insufficient. Part of the reaction may be explained by aniconity, the prohibition of visual representation. But religious groups that prohibit images usually do so because the creation of images is kin to the creation of idols. This was certainly not the case this decade; the cartoons are as far from idols as possible. Additionally, the hateful tenor of the cartoons may plausibly provoke a destructive response. But there’s no shortage of hateful things about Muslims being circulated in the media these days. The destruction of  embassies and the killing of artists remain rarer occurances.

Strong reaction to cartoons is nothing new, either. Although some would label cartoons as kiddie fare, cartoons often manage to exercise adult fears. In the 1950s many Americans believed comic books to be the cause of juvenile delinquence. Cartoons have been the subject of a supreme court decision, and frequently intervene in electoral politics. But people usually exaluate these cartoons strictly by their content, and fail to examine how the cartoon form, and the venues in which cartoons appear, help create meaning.

It’s my belief that the cartoons of the past decade depicting Muslims must be examined according to the media contexts they appear in, and the positions readers take toward those media, if we are to truly understand how they spurred violence and spread hate.

My Ecstatic Review: Batman & Robin #1

Gosh, I really enjoyed this one. Batman returns to Gotham City–but this time, it’s Dick Grayson under the cowl, with Bruce Wayne’s son Damian as Robin. Plotwise, there’s not a whole lot going on: Batman and Robin catch a Henchman, Mr. Toad, and grab his payment, a suitcase full of dominoes; Dick and Damian verbally spar as each makes his own attempt to follow in Batman’s footsteps; and the new villain Pyg sends his crew to rescue Mr. Toad and begins making some new “human dolls.”

What makes this soar, beside that flying batmobile, is a set of familiar Morrison and Quitely tropes, arranged with aplomb. The first issue figures out a few neat ways to ask the big vital question that has surrounded Batman for 70 years: what are the limits of humanity? Continue reading ‘My Ecstatic Review: Batman & Robin #1’

The Thesis & its Form

I’m trying to finish a Master’s Thesis in American Studies this semester. The subject is word balloons, or to be more accurate, speech balloons. I’m writing about changes in design and usage in the speech balloon in 1890s cartoons, and their connection with ideas about sound, voice ownership, and populism. A second subject concerns how this blend of meanings affects discourse surrounding immigration in the urban U.S. I’m using R.F. Outcault’s “The Yellow Kid & his New Phonograph” as my main example.

I am currently settling on eight chapters of about 8-10 pages each. The idea is to treat the subject of each chapter in full, with each chapter building on the last.

Should look something like this:

1. The Newspaper

2. The caption vs. the balloon

3. Balloons and Bubbles

4. The Phonograph

5. The Parrot

6. Theoretical Interlude

7. The Chinese

8. The Public Scare

I’ll go into these individual chapters at a later time.

My favorite stuffs of 2008

These were my favorite things in the past year. You’ll notice a criminal lack of tv–I probably would’ve included the end of the Wire or Mad Men’s “The Jet Set” in a longer or separate list.

Continue reading ‘My favorite stuffs of 2008’


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