Wednesday's New Things: Spiegelman Looks Back, Chester Brown and Brandom Graham Too


1) I confess that, in my ongoing attempts to give myself a comprehensive comics education, I haven't yet gotten to Chester Brown-- it's hard! There's just so much good stuff. I just got to the Hernandez Brothers. It's not like I have a syllabus, and a lot of what I read is dependent on what I can find at the library or justify acquiring based on temporarily decreased cost or temporarily heightened interest. I've been meaning to get to Brown for a while, though. Even amongst the generally self-revealing autobio comics crowd, he seems to be particularly honest, with books like The Playboy and Paying For It, in which he shares parts of his life that others would scarcely admit to in private, let alone in public. And, tellingly, Paying For It isn't some kind of redemption memoir, some kind of claim that he's become a better person and that he doesn't do that (that being seeing prostitutes) anymore. Louis Riel, though, is a fundamentally different kind of book-- a comics history in an academic frame. Brown, like Art Spiegelman, seems interested in pushing the boundaries of what people can do with the genre, but in terms of content rather than in terms of form. The mere fact that this new release is a tenth anniversary edition rather than just a new edition suggests that Brown and Drawn & Quarterly believe that this is a different sort of comic book, the initial publication of which is worth marking, which makes this book interesting both as an artifact of a certain moment in the history of comics publishing as well as an achievement by one of the form's most celebrated artists. 

2) Speaking of Art Spiegelman, he's another interesting guy. Maus is essential reading for anyone interested in comics, of course, and Breakdowns and Meta-Maus seem like good resources for people interesting in pulling apart the form a little. Although I hesitate to recommend retrospective books, or comics art shows like the one this is attached to, to beginners, I do like that it apparently reprints some stuff that's hard to get your hands on now and, as important as Spiegelman is, it's nice to see a high profile bibliographical essay published by a mainstream art comics publisher rather than an academic press. 
3) Another reprint worth looking at this week is the collection of some of Brandon Grahm's loose Multiple Warheads material. Graham is one of my favorite mainstream comics writers and artists-- King City is one of the best serial comics of the past few years, easily-- I just haven't gotten a chance to read any of this stuff yet, in part, I guess, because I was waiting for the new mini from last year to be released as a collection. This, however, seems like a much better place to start. 
4) Just so I don't seem like I'm mired in the past, here's a never before published book from Ales Kot and Michael Walsh! The premise is a little tired, Kot knows it: "What happens when you grow up in a world that celebrates murder as a means to an end? What happens when you’re taken in by a team of people who exploit war scenarios while looking like the white knights? What happens when you start snapping out of it?" In this way, Zero seems like a sort of converse of 24, movies, The Bourne Identity with implications that reach past what it means for the spy's life. If that weren't enough of an enticement on its own, the art resists the compulsion to make stories like this either hyper realistic or grim and gritty. It'll be interesting to see if there's a tension between story and content here and, if there is, how that might reflect Kot and Walsh's view of the world they've built. 

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