GN round-up in the CALGARY HERALD

Graphic novels tell tales of collectors and other worlds

The Calgary Herald    |    Nancy Tousley    |    December 3, 2005

The latest graphic novel from Canadian cartoonist Seth, Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World (Drawn and Quarterly, 128 pages, $24.95), is a collection of short stories, pumped out in a mere six months, that add up to a satirical mystery set in the comics world, populated by eccentric collectors, colourful dealers, flunkies, "fanboys," and nerds. It's also a lovely tip of the hat to Chris Ware, author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (only one of the echoes is in the titles), to whom Seth dedicates this wonderful book. Wimbledon Green might be a time out before Seth's eagerly anticipated Clyde Fans: Book 2, but it adds up to more than the sum of its layered, multi-panel parts in its affectionate send up of an enclosed, idiosyncratic world and what makes collectors tick.

Chris Ware's new book, The Acme Novelty Library (Pantheon, 108 pages, $39,95), is beautiful and engrossing from its scarlet, gold illuminated cover to the last page of the book. Open the door to Ware's world, created by this compendium of mock ads, things to do on rainy afternoon pages and the strips featuring characters that include nerdy collectors Rusty Brown and Chalky White, Quimby the Mouse, Frank Phosphate, Jimmy Corrigan and a masked, middle-aged superhero whose exploits are supernatural, and become immediately engrossed. Put Ware and Seth at the top of your must-have list.

The Push Man by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, edited by graphic novelist Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly, 207 pages, $25.95), a collection of short, dark, psychologically loaded stories written 36 years ago by the grandfather of Japanese alternative comics, is gripping reading. The stories are about alienated and often desperate working-class men in a large Japanese city, whose lives are governed by rage, sex and death. The strips, which are unlike anything else around, are bleak social tragedies remarkably undated in style.

A strange but real world created by ideology and politics is explored in Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly, 184 pages, $24.95). Delisle, a French-Canadian animator worked for a French company in North Korea, where drinking a Coca-Cola became for him an act of defiance in an oppressed society. The story of his visit, his wry observations of this mysterious territory and his experiences as an outsider, are rendered appropriately in shades of grey in a book drawn entirely in pencil.

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