söndag 14 oktober 2012

Back from the comics store, October 2012 edition

I also got my monthly comics package down at my comics shop, Prisfyndet, a couple of weeks ago. With my editors throwing work at me, it'll be a while before I get to read this stuff (worst part is, I suspect they're giving me work not because they think I do a good job, but because they want to stop me from having time to read and enjoy myself).

I get all the Showcases; it's comics history in cheap packages – if not always all that great comics history – much like the Marvel Essentials. James Robinson's Starman is excellent and the omnibuses are a cheap-and-easy way of getting them. I love Peanuts, so I'm getting the new (kids) stuff even though it's nowhere near Shultz's truly magnificent strip. Barbara is by manga legend Osamu Tezuka, and thus pretty much mandatory. Mark Waid (Daredevil) is a good, solid superhero writer – not quite as outré as superstars like Grant Morrison, but delivering solid stories with good twists. Girl Genius is by almost-always-funny Phil Foglio, who holds the distinction of having created practically the only pornographic comics worth reading (Xxxenophile Tales). Neil Gaiman's Death stories are among the best stuff he's done, it's pleasantly free from the slight hint of pretentiousness that sometimes creeps into his Sandman stories, and the art by Chris Bachalo is excellent. Get it if you haven't already.

This lot is a quartet of classic newspaper strips. For the archives-I-hope-to-read-soon shelf.

Finally, in IDW's great-but-damn-it's-expensive Artist's Edition series, one of the truly great: Joe Kubert. It's gorgeous, but maybe you should settle for a somewhat cheaper collection instead of this oversized one. This one hurt...

Back from the comics store, September edition

So anyway, I got some stuff at the Gothenburg book fair, now that I have a house to put it in.

Li Österberg's stuff is always good. I prefer when she writes her own stories, but Patrik Rochling's scripts are very good, and make the people depicted in the stories people, instead of just characters in a story. Norwegian Jason is likewise always good, but I tend to only buy his stuff when it's on sale, as the hardcover editions are quite a bit on the pricey. Kvarnby serier contains comics by people who're studying a two-year course in the art/trade of making comics. And Den mystiska ön is and excellent adventure story for kids, reviewed here.

I bought some regular books as well; the Italian Renaissance is almost always enjoyable stuff, and I've always like the classical Dutch paintings. You can't go wrong with a huge book on evolution (unless, perhaps, if you're a teacher in some southern U.S. states), and I don't know much about horses, so why not get a book about them? Döda rummet is a pun on August Strindberg's classic novel Röda rummet, and an enjoyable fantasy by Per Demervall and Ola Skogäng about an alternative present where a cult has grown around the dead Strindberg... Or is he really dead? And Corto Maltese is of course a classic (although in my honest opinion, a somewhat overrated one).

This pic turned out crappy and does no justice to the four first volumes of the collected Duck works of Don Rosa, the brilliant writer-artist who unfortunately isn't doing any more stories because he's fed up with the lousy renumeration from the Disney juggernaut (I should add that the Swedish publisher of his works treat him pretty decently, though, as far as I know). Seriously, if you haven't read his stuff, you should – he's more or less the modern (or post-modern) Barks. I got these ones signed, and a sketch in one of them too – ha! Valhalla is an excellent album series by Dane Peter Madsen and his collaborators – though to be honest, it's just good a couple of albums into the series, and only excellent from about album 5-6 or so. This is the fourth collection of three albums, so it's well into the "excellent" phase. You gonna start reading this series, and you should, collection 3 containing albums 7-9 is the place to start, and you can expand your collection from there. Kiki of Montparnasse has received quite a lot of accolades, but I haven't had the time to read it yet.

Uti vår hage is a brilliant mixture of inspired silliness and crazy slapstick, sort of the Marx Brothers on steroids and in comics format. Well recommended. Zits is a modern classic (and I got my copy for free for having translated it). Elvis is also a bit of a modern classic here in Sweden, looking askance and through the eyes of a somewhat obnoxious anthropomorphic tortoise at the daily drudgery of modern (family) life. It's done by real-life couple Tony and Maria Cronstam, and you have to wonder exactly how much of it is from their own life, and to what extent they're just inspired by and/or extrapolationg from their own life. The strip is mainly played for laughs, but does occasionally delve into social commentary as well – which on one occasion seemed to flummox some less-than-competent critics who actually believed that the Cronstams were laughing at wife abuse, when it was simply the critics who were too stuck in their own prejudices about the Elvis strip to understand that particular strip. (I mean, good grief – seriously, a critic owes the works and artists/writers he reviews the courtesy of actually trying to understand what they're trying to say.) And finally, Norwegian Arild Midthun is a talented artist whose duck art reminds me quite a bit of the old master Vicar.

torsdag 11 oktober 2012

Johanna Kristiansson and Joakim Gunnarsson: Katten Nils & Morris – Den mystiska ön ("Nils the Cat & Morris – The mysterious island")

Yes, there hasn't been much happening on this blog for quite a while now. The main reason for that is that I moved and was rather worn out after moving about 140 shelf meters of comics, 60 shelf meters of books, and assorted other stuff that tends to accumulate as the years pass, and then trying to fit them into my new home in some sort of working order. (Haven't really succeeded with that part yet, I must confess.)

But having done at least the most necessary parts of getting the new house functional for my needs (se enclosed pictures at bottom of page), it is time to get some blogging going again. We'll start with an excellent children's comic by Joakim Gunnarsson and Johanna Kristiansson: Katten Nils & Morris – Den mystiska ön. If I understand things correctly, Gunnarsson is mostly responsible for the script and Kristiansson for the art.

Katten Nils – or, Nils the Cat – is a very popular comic strip in the Swedish children's magazine Kamratposten. Nils himself is not very intelligent, to say the least, but the strip's exploring of themes important to kids (mainly friendship and love, judging from the sample strips I've seen from it) has mightily endeared both him and the strip to Kamratposten's readers. Now, Gunnarsson and Kristiansson have staked out new ground with a book-length story about Nils and his best friend Morris joining cat-girl Semlan (who is in love with Morris and quite a bit bothersome, in Morris' opinion) on a ship to Semlan's aunt's coffe bean-producing island. The island is home to a volcano that threatens to erupt, so it's important to save as many coffee beans as possible. Semlan doesn't really want Nils coming along to disrupt her plans for some quality time with Morris, whereas Morris wants Nils coming along to disrupt any plans Semlan may have for quality time with him. And the adventure moves briskly along from there...

I was just a little bit wary of the depiction of Semlan at first, what with her being more interested in boys (well, Morris, at least – Nils seems a bit too loutish for her) and relationships rather than adventures. Now, I do think it's perfectly OK for both girls and boys to have different preferences, whether it's for adventure or for relationship stuff (and that it's more than a little bit stupid to try and force them to change their preferences based on what's the current fashion in society for what they "should" prefer), but I was a bit worried that Semlan come off as merely the classical girly stereotype – of which I've seen enough in many, many comics and movie stories already. Fortunately, I was proven wrong.

Not only are Semlan's feelings for Morris depicted with a lot of respect and compassion, both for the character and for those feelings, but she gets to show herself to be brave and knowledgeable in a manner that not only surprises Morris but also heightens his respect for her as a person. It works very well, and offers a nice model for the book's young readers how to treat others. (It's a nice model for grown-ups as well, but they're usually already too set in their ways to change, so if they're inclined to go with their prejudices rather than keeping an open mind towards others, reading a children's comic is hardly going to change that one iota.)

Now, I know Joakim Gunnarsson, so I know that he's an old comics fan-turned-pro and also quite the Bamse and Carl Barks aficionado – and it shows in the story. Not only is it a classical Bamse or Uncle Scrooge (albeit a little bit "childified" compared to the Barks variety) plot, but there are several Barksian references in the script as well. It works very well if you catch those references, and doesn't detract from the story if you don't.

I don't really know Johanna Kristiansson, I just met her briefly at this year's annual book fair in Gothenburg, so I can only say that she seems to be just about the nicest, most utterly charming person you could imagine, and that she does an excellent job with the art for this story. Kristiansson makes the characters move and emote with flair and gusto – vitally important for depicting both the adventure and emotions/relations aspects of the story.

This is a great children's book, and sufficiently well done that it isn't a waste of time for adult readers, either – even though they'll probably have to rely quite a bit on the child within to appreciate it, as it is pretty clearly a story aimed at kids.


And finally, as promised, a couple of examples of the interior decoration of my new home: