Articles about comics

Maus — Art Spiegelman

Everyone should read this book. Art Spiegelman spent years “interviewing” his father Vladek about his experiences during World War 2. Most of the book is Vladek’s story, illustrated as a graphic novel. People are drawn as animals according to the major groups – the Jews are mice, the Nazis are cats, Poles are pigs, and other nationalities are represented as other animals. It is a very clever way of dealing with the fact that we (the readers) need to be able to tell the difference, but the actual fact is that people are all pretty much the same. The Nazis thought the Jews were so different, yet they had to force them to wear yellow stars so they could tell them apart. It’s all much clearer in the book, for example when a Jew tries to pass himself off as a regular Pole by wearing a pig mask. This kind of thing is what I like about comics – they use techniques and effects that you don’t see in other media.

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The Ring of the Nibelungen — P. Craig Russell; Rudolf Sabor

I’ve heard of comic operas, but here is a comic based on an opera. My children have some books illustrated by P. Craig Russell, so I was excited to find that he has produced a comic book adaptation of Richard Wagner’s Ring operas. It’s pretty impressive: the opera cycle runs to about 15 hours long, and this comic book adaptation (or graphic novel, if you like) is over 400 full-colour pages.

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Mansfield and Me — Sarah Laing

This biography/ autobiography/ graphic novel is idiosyncratic, interesting and fun. It has sent me off to read and re-read both Katherine Mansfield and Sarah Laing, different writers from different centuries who still seem to have a lot in common.

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The Fall Of Light — Sarah Laing

The Fall Of LightI like this book. It has a story to make you happy and sad, pictures to make you wonder, and themes to make you think. Sarah Laing is a cartoonist as well as a writer — I knew of her work from magazines and from her blog Let Me Be Frank. I read a review of The Fall of Light somewhere and thought it sounded interesting. Sometime later I realised that the cartoonist/blogger was also the novelist, so I went out and bought the book. The story details the fall and rise of Rudy Chapelle, an Auckland architect. He struggles with his job, his colleagues, his ex-wife, his children, his friends, his neighbours, and his parents. In short, he struggles. He is actually pretty annoying in many ways, quite precious and a bit self-obsessed. I could appreciate why his ex-wife was his ex-wife. But he’s not a bad guy really, and it’s good to see his slowly overcome himself despite himself. Many of the other characters in the book are very engaging and likeable though. And so is the setting — Auckland — but maybe just because I live there too. Continue reading
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The Fate of the Artist — Eddie Campbell

Every time I read a graphic novel, I become keenly aware of yet another vast area of culture that I am largely oblivious of.

The Fate of the Artist at

This clever, self-referential, beautiful book is a kind of fictionalised biography of a graphic novelist, as written by… himself. It’s also a mystery, since he has actually disappeared, and clues are pieced together in interviews with his family. There’s text, photostrips, and many comic strips. There are appearances from historical figures from literature, music and other arts. God is also a minor character. There’s a lot in this book — while reading it I had the same feeling I get when talking with a bunch of smart people. I learned some things, I saw things from a different viewpoint, and I had a lot of fun. And that is what I call a really good book.

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