Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Making of a Graphic Novel

This is a double sided "flip-book" by artist Prentis Rollins. The first side includes "The Resonator," a science-fiction story set in the deep future. Bronsen, a uranium miner, in a dream, cracks open a false reality perpetuated by an interplanetary corporation. The story leaves a bit to be desired, though the artwork, delicate and complex, is gorgeous.

What makes the book stand out, though, is that second side. Rollins takes readers behind the scenes of the book. He offers tips on drawing and inking comics, as well as storyboarding and plot formulation. These are all things that can be found in other books, to be sure, but those other books too often tend to lack a sense of applicability. Rollins’ book offers the chance to see how such early decisions as sketching style and lettering affect the finished product.

Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person

This is a graphic novel memoir by Miriam Engleberg. The author catalogs her feelings and adventures following her diagnosis with breast cancer. The result is touching, insightful, and at times genuinely funny. Engelberg takes on notions of how cancer patients are expected to feel, like those optimistic, spiritual-minded "survivor" types, with a humor that is more envious than caustic. It’s a dangerous game, making light of illness, but Engelberg pulls it off with an odd mix of compassion and wit.

Monday, August 28, 2006

New Recruits

This is a collection of short works by new graphic novelists rounded up by publisher Dark Horse. There are six short stories in this collection, displaying a broad range of styles and genres. While some of the artists could have benefited from having more pages to work with, this collection does serve as a good way to become acquainted with several developing talents.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What it feels like...

Ever wonder what it feels like to be hit by lightning? Turns out it hurts. OK, that’s a simplification. This book, published by Esquire magazine, collects essays from people who have experienced the painful, the miraculous, the exciting and sometimes just plain bizarre. There’s nothing truly unexpected, but it’s a fun read nonetheless.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Author Mary Roach takes a look at the many fates that a person’s corporal remains can meet after their owners depart. It covers medical research of many stripes, burial, cremation, and even mulching. Roach possesses a lively wit, and has a fine time discussing things most people find taboo. Of course, that’s partly the point. Death is something most of us don’t talk about much, but will all experience, along with all its embarrassing odors, sounds and colors. Roach successfully makes what should be a grisly topic a quite enjoyable and educational read.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Strangers in Paradise

This series by Terry Moore is unusual for American graphic novels. Whereas Japanese manga often tells stories tending toward the romantic, American comics skew more toward the action/adventure end of the spectrum. Strangers in Paradise manages a good mix of the two. There’s crime and intrigue, sure, but it’s almost a subplot. The focus is clearly on the relationship between two high school friends. Even stranger is Moore’s portrayal of that relationship. There are clear lesbian elements, but Moore shies away from the tawdrier aspects. Rather than putting his characters in provocative outfits and lusty jokes, Moore has them experiencing the more believable aspects of love: hurt feelings, awkward glances and mishaps in communication. The story is much better for it.