By Leroy Douresseaux
August 2, 2006 - 17:06
The last two weeks, I’ve discovered wonderful new comic book talent, or at least talent new to Mr. Charlie #97:
CARTOONIST: Jordan Crane
20 pp., B&W, $2.50
Fantagraphics Books has certainly made a concerted effort to introduce alternative comics and alternative cartoonists to readers in attractive and affordable packaging. UPTIGHT #1 is the first issue of an all-new quarterly series by Jordan Crane, whose 2005 graphic novel, The Clouds Above, earned enthusiastic and sometimes glowing reviews from the likes of The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly.
First of all, the packaging is very nice and quiet attractive for a black and white comic book. The cover is in color, and both the inside and outside of the back cover are used for story. The paper is a soft white stock, not the glossy stuff most big publishers use for color comics, but the text and art print beautifully on it, almost as if Crane drew directly onto the paper.
Both stories (future issues are planned to have three stories) are ruminations on death – sudden death, actually. The first tale, “Below the Shade of Night,” is a ghost story with a hook, which would certainly be familiar to anyone who’s seen the film, The Sixth Sense. The story isn’t so much haunting as it is tragic – a story of things left unsaid because of pride and stubbornness. So while this kind of story isn’t new, Crane’s execution gives it a fresh coat of heartache.
The second tale is actually a chapter from Crane’s next graphic novel, Keeping Two. The first chapter (and perhaps the entire work) deals with phobias, fixations, and superstitious fears of death. Honestly, the way Crane presents how neurosis affects the bereaved hits so close to home that if you’ve lost loved ones and are still in pain over it you might blush with embarrassment. I did.
As far as his art and storytelling goes, Crane has drawn comparisons to Tim Burton and Lewis Carroll. The elements of his compositions do resemble Burton and also Windsor McCay. In terms of his components, he favors McCay and perhaps a little of David Mazzuchelli (at least to my eye).
Grenuord #2 (of 6)
CARTOONIST: Francesca Ghermandi
32 pp., B&W, $4.95
In the second issue of Francesca Ghermandi’s surrealistic mini-series, GRENUORD, the hapless hero George Henderson has settled in the city of Grenuord to start life anew. By the way, George is a walking corpse who has refused to accept his death (he apparently “left” his earlier life). Life in Grenuord, however, is not much better, as a repressive regime, the DOXA agency, rules the city. George believes that DOXA is trying to frame him as a drug dealer. In this issue, word gets around about his troubles and it costs him his job. Grenuord also has a back-up story starring two mischievous characters that look like tiny sketches, and they invade George’s story and bother him to no end.
Ghermandi is a Bologna-born artist who has had cartoons and illustrations published in many publications in both her native Italy and throughout Europe since her debut in 1985. Fantagraphics has published an English edition of her book, The Wipeout. This comic seems like a mixture of the futurist weirdness of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil with the bizarre and edgy melodrama of a David Lynch mystery/thriller. The characters come in all shapes and sizes, and Ghermandi contorts and squashes their bodies (from head to toe) in a manner similar to Gilliam’s. If this is possible, the characters seem sculpted, but also malleable like clay. The work also calls to mind Plimp-toons, and I could see this on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim or MTV’s late series, "Liquid Television." I look forward to seeing more of Grenuord and Ms. Ghermandi’s work in general.
Both of these titles are available in comic book stores and directly from the publisher's website at fantagraphics.com.
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