Kirkus    |    Kirkus Staff    |    June 26, 2006


Skibber Bee-Bye
Ron Regé, Jr.
Drawn & Quarterly / July / 1896597963

Skibber Bee~Bye, first issued in 2000 but out of print for three years, is a perfect illustration of the work that made Chris Ware call Ron Regé “one of a handful of cartoonists in the history of the medium to not only reinvent comics to suit his own idiosyncratic impulses and inspirations as an artist, but also to imbue it with his own peculiar, ever changing emotional energy. “With direct, clean illustration that belies the sometimes dark content, Skibber’s a dreamscape in which a shy and lovesick elephant furtively pursues the company of two reclusive mice. With strange, one-eyed fairy-like creatures and treehouse fortresses, magical elements wander through the narrative—primarily visual, with little text—but as it progresses, the innocence of the two mice is degraded by their contact with the real world. “Skibber first existed as a series of unrelated stories I had written,” says Regé. “They all had similar ‘dreamy’ themes and elements in them. I changed the stories around so that I could thread them together into the narrative.” Though Skibber deals with death, violence and self-immolation, the whimsical, almost-childlike quality of the art made the author an apparently perfect fit for Tylenol’s “Ouch!” advertising campaign, launched in 2003. The campaign was an attempt to rebrand and attract younger consumers, in pursuit of whom Tylenol had begun to sponsor extreme-sports competitions and film festivals. They also sought out the best young graphic-novelists, and quickly found Regé. A representative for the campaign met him while buying one of his larger scale images. “The print was fairly violent,” says Regé. “But [it] reflected on the nature of pain and suffering.”

Abandon the Old in Tokyo
Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Edited by Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly / September / 1894937872

In 2005, Drawn & Quarterly published The Push Man and Other Stories, a collection of short graphic narratives by a relatively unknown Japanese comics creator that reflected the mundane and perverse nature of everyday life in 1960s Tokyo. In 2006, that artist, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, has become a household name in alternative and literary comics. This year, he will grace the pages of the Paris Review and Giant Robot magazine, and will have the second volume of his work published. In Abandon the Old in Tokyo, Tatsumi’s stories are longer and even more unsettling. A few of the narratives, including the title story and Forked Road, end abruptly and evoke the haunting feeling of tragedy. “Tatsumi seems to push himself further in several disparate directions,” says editor Adrian Tomine. “Some stories are more explicitly humorous, some are more explicitly ‘horror’ based, and overall, there’s an increased level of irreverence and daring.” Readers may also be surprised to find elements of manga enmeshed in Tatsumi’s noir sensibility. The book includes an introduction by Koji Suzuki, author of the Japanese horror novel The Ring, who writes, “That the subjects of nostalgia may be ridden with mischief, crime and passion, as they are in these stories, does not make the subjects any less nostalgic.” This fall, readers will have the chance to feel the nostalgia of Tatsumi’s world once again.

My Most Secret Desire
Julie Doucet
Drawn & Quarterly / June / 1896597955

A pioneering female comics artist,Julie Doucet became famous in the late ’80s and early ’90s for her unapologetic portrayals of female sexuality and desire and her explosive,chaotic drawing style. In works like Dirty Plotte (“plotte” is French slang for a part of the female anatomy), and Lift Your Leg, My Fish Is Dead, Doucet blew the sometimes clannish world of male graphic-artists wide open, using material from her own life to examine the female psyche. In My Most Secret Desire, Doucet once again explores her own unconscious for material. It is an unconnected series of hectic dreams Doucet has experienced, in which she turns into a man, gives birth to struggling kittens, goes bra-shopping during the Apocalypse and launched into deep space with only her mother’s cookies to keep her company. “I am not the type of artist who can self-analyze herself,” says Doucet. “I don’t feel I exposed myself too much. There are things I would absolutely never talk about. And I won’t tell you what they are!” This version of My Most Secret Desire is in fact a reworked reissue of a dream journal that was published in 1995, and is being heralded by fans as a triumphant return after a five-year hiatus from comics. “Actually, it is not a break. I quit,” notes Doucet, who’s spent the intervening years working on woodcuts, sculptures and writing. “After 12 years of comics, nothing but comics...The thing is that to be able to live off my comics I had to work quite a lot, so I didn’t have any energy to do anything else, art-wise, not even having a sketchbook. [And] I got very tired of the all-boys crowd.”

We Are On Our Own
Miriam Katin
Drawn & Quarterly / May / 1896597203

The shadow of the Nazi regime darkens the world of Miriam Katin’s elegantly illustrated, captivatingly told memoir. At 63, MTV and Disney animator Katin is a bit older than most graphic-novelists, but she shows an assured maturity in her detailed art and evocative lettering, as she follows the narrator, her younger self. Young Lisa, as she is called in the book, grows up during the Nazi invasion of Budapest. With her father away fighting for the Hungarian army, she and her mother fake their deaths and flee to the countryside, where they disguise themselves as Russian servant with illegitimate child. Even at that young age, Lisa questions how God could allow such horrors. Her iron-willed mother’s determination that her father would find them is as stunning a tribute to love as we have ever seen. “Only when I was about 30 did she tell me all the most difficult parts of the journey,” says the author. “But even then, I was unable to ask her to elaborate. I choked up and just listened. In my head, I was narrating these stories throughout my life, but I am not a writer. Somehow the comic form of telling a story allowed me to express myself.” With rare but powerful full-color scenes depicting how her childhood has affected her life in America, this stunning book is that rare achievement that reveals the potential of the graphic-novel form to be so personal yet universal, despairing and yet ultimately life-affirming.

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