I spent last week visiting family in Florida, which meant I spent less time interacting with the comics community and more time actually reading books and comics. I thought I might share some thoughts on my vacation reading this week, and some unexpected things I learned in my time on Sanibel Island.
I LOVE Saga. I didn’t actually start reading until after the third trade was released though, so I didn’t bother adding it to my weekly pull. Instead, I have been reading it exclusively in trades, which is both excruciating and liberating. This comic breaks my heart every friggin’ time, and now I’m just waiting for the final blow to come that’s gonna break me. Because Hazel is the one telling the story, we know that Marko and Alana’s love story that started this whole mess is doomed, but what it is exactly that dooms them is yet to be seen. Our little group has been spiraling closer and closer to what is, in my mind, a kind of ground zero where everything hits the fan, and everything that happens in this volume is just a preview.
The Divine by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka, & Tomer Hanuka (First Second)
This is a gorgeous comic. Tomer Hanuka’s colors are stunning, and perfectly capture the mysticism of the events that inspired the comic. That inspiration comes from the story of Johnny and Luther Htoo, a pair of twelve-year-old twins that led the God’s Army in Myanmar in the 90s, who many believed to possess mystical powers. In The Divine, the brothers inspired by Johnny and Luther do, in fact, possess these powers, and lead a group of children to prevent the destruction of the mountain home of the dragon Leh in a fictional country called Quanlom. It’s a very violent comic, but it might be one of the most compelling comics I’ve read this year.
Bitter Sweets by Kate Leth & Zachary Sterling (KaBOOM!)
I’ve been a fan of Kate Leth’s work for a long time, and an on again, off again fan of the Adventure Time franchise. But as much as I love Leth’s comics and her women-focused stories, I just don’t think the Adventure Time comics are doing it for me anymore. Bitter Sweets was cute, and I did enjoy it, but not as much as I might have a couple years ago. I loved Leth’s other AT book, Seeing Red, but that’s mostly because Marceline is one of my favorite characters in the franchise (right up there with Carol the cloud). Maybe I don’t jive with Princess Bubblegum the same way. Maybe I’ve just outgrown Adventure Time. Maybe, having seen what Leth can do with her own characters, my expectations are bit higher. Who knows. I’m too sunburned and bug-bitten for introspection right now.
J. N. “Ding” Darling’s Conservation and Wildlife Cartoons by J. N. Darling (J. N. “Ding” Darling Foundation)
I’ve been to Sanibel Island several times, but have somehow never been through the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. It was a lovely day full of bird watching that ended at the educational nature center on the preserve, where I learned that the whole reason for its existence was due to the work of an editorial cartoonist. Ding Darling spent his life creating conservation cartoons and working to preserve nature and natural resources. In fact, Darling never lived in Florida, but did serve under Roosevelt as the head of the U.S. Biological Survey, which would become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Reading this collection of cartoons, which were published between 1917 and 1949, I found a disturbing number of similarities to modern ecological concerns: overhunting, the depletion of natural resources, concern for future generations, and a frustration with politicians who refused to take action. I also learned the Darling won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning twice, in 1924 and 1943, for the following cartoons:
A few things that did make it on my radar this week:
Retrofit Comics is Kickstarting their 2016 spring season! The campaign is live until April 8, and will (hopefully) fund six new graphic novels. They also have plans to publish six more if stretch goals are met.
The Nib recently announced they were relaunching, and now they’re seeking new cartoonists. They’re looking for essays, interviews, political cartoons, memoirs, infographics, and humor.
Japan is opening the National Manga Center to highlight the cultural importance of manga and anime, which is pretty rad. A museum will function as the core of the facility, but it is “also expected to function as a place where anime creators are trained and nurtured.” Look for it around 2020.