Archive for the ‘comics’ Category


For a long time, I avoided using the term graphic novel. No matter how good they were, even when the comics I was reading had characteristics of novels, I still thought of them as comic books. The name just seemed a bit desperate – like a kid puffing himself up to get served at the beer store.

I didn’t think comics should have to credentialize themselves or apologize for being comics. Over the last couple of years, however, I’ve been reading some illustrated sequential tomes that actually seem like novels.

Most recently, I picked up David Small‘s memoir Stitches. Not only was it fantastic, it felt like I had read a novel: the detailed evocation of place and time through little details; the powerful, painful moments of childhood torment; the powerful characters; and the sense it left me with – I absorbed and appreciated much of its greatness, but I will be coming back to read it again.

But here’s what floored me. I read the whole thing in 45 minutes.

This is not meant to belittle the book. It’s fantastic.

The art is great. Small is largely known as an illustrator of children’s books. He marries a fantastic gift for faces and expression with a very cinematic sense of perspective, framing and storyboarding.

The story is gripping and rewarding. It was powerful, and I’ve been thinking about it all day… since reading it last night in 45 minutes.

There is now so much amazing illustrated work being published across so many genres, choosing to read literary fiction almost seems spoiled to me – like watching a silent movie.

Go get Stitches. Treat yourself.

(If you need more convicing, David Small’s website has more art, interviews, etc. to give you the flavour of it.)

Comic Casting Silliness

I just stumbled across the apparent foofarah that TV’s Community actor Donald Glover is campaigning for an audition in the upcoming movie reboot of Spider-Man, and he’s (gasp) not white.

I love comic book movie adaptions and I’m a huge Spidey fan, but as much of a geek as I am, I only get hung up on the details that matter.

Yes, he’s always been drawn white, but in terms of impact on the character or story, Peter Parker’s ethnicity or family culture was never more specific in the books than “working-class New York.”

Frankly I’m much more dismayed that a reboot means they’ll likely waste a whole new movie re-hashing an origin instead of crafting a good story.


At the other end of the plausibility spectrum, I couldn’t believe it when I read that the upcoming Captain America movie has cast somebody (trust me, it doesn’t matter who) as none other than mad scientist Arnim Zola.

Zola was one of the freakiest artistic creations of Jack Kirby, who wasn’t exactly known for his restraint or attachment to realism.  He wasn’t exactly famous, though. Even as a life-long Marvel comics fan, all I really knew about the character was that he was that guy with a little box for a head and a face on his chest. Sound goofy? Weird? Oh yeah. Don’t believe me?  Click to reveal the craziness:

Frankly, the only cool thing about this character is how utterly ridiculous he is.

Do I have any faith that a major Hollywood studio is going to put something that nuts in a movie?

Well, let’s just review what happened a few years ago when Kirby’s greatest creation was brought to the big screen.  In the comics, Galactus is a 30-foot tall cosmic mo-fo who eats planets.

Pretty nifty-looking, huh?

So how does Hollywood portray him?

A cloud. Oooooo…. menacing.

Given that, I give you my prediction for the best we can expect for the 2011 cinematic Arnim Zola. You were warned!


Some days,  you gotta wear “geek” on your sleeve.

26 fantastic illustrations. Check ‘em out.

Props to Phronk for this link.

A couple of comic quickies

1. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea


Wow.  Even after a strong recommendation I was surprised how good this was. Guy Delisle has a very Canadian sense of humour and captures the weirdness of travel in a way I really appreciated.

I find autobiography in comics to be a very hit and miss proposition. For some reason, though, (maybe since Delisle was so isolated during his time in North Korea) there’s something about this work that seems very immediate and confessional. As a reader, I share his frustration with never really learning anything about the people of North Korea. It is both amazing and a little terrifying that the state is so completely in control that a foreign visitor living there for months really sees no cracks in the veneer. Highly recommended.

2. Kick-Ass

I’m excited about this for several reasons.

First, although I’m not a huge fan of Mark Millar’s work in the Marvel Universe, this series of his (or mini, whatever it was) got a lot of raves in print. With a few notable exceptions, I think comic writers do their best work in their own sandboxes. Hopefully the tone of Millar’s writing that I found too “mean” for the MU is better suited to his own characters. I can see it working better in film.

Second, although I love all kinds of comics/graphic novels, I can’t read them all. I do manage to see almost every Hollywood adaption of anything remotely comic book related, however. (It’s a holdover from the drought of decent fantasy in cinema when I was a kid). The pattern I’ve noticed is that by and large,  my favorite comic movies come from work I haven’t read. Road to Perdition. Ghost World. And probably the best example – V for Vendetta. All of them great movies made from great comics that might have been on my radar but never made it into my collection.

Finally, I’ve been waiting to enjoy a Nicholas Cage in a movie since, what… Raising Arizona? Now that’s a drought.

Anyhoo… I do loves me a good trailer, and this is at least the third version I’ve seen. It’s probably the most mainstream cut I’ve seen (complete with the gun-glam shots), but it still looks pretty decent, and from what I’ve read the content is going to know people for a loop if they’re expecting Mystery Men: TNG.

As an aside: A typical WASP Ontario boy, I never really “got” the Quebecois swearing through blasphemy thing… until I heard the zinger in that trailer:  “With no power comes no responsibility.”

Delicious sacrilege. Osti, tabarnac!