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PG Tips No. 2:

Paul Gravett's Recommended Reading

In a regular series of PG Tips articles, Paul Gravett reviewsbooks of and about comics from his recommended reading list.


Japan: As Viewed By 17 Creators
by various artists
Fanfare/Ponent Mon
$25/£13.99
Tokyo-based French BD auteur Frédéric Boilet masterminded this 256-page compendium of 16 short comics offering windows onto everyday Japan, past and present. Eight come from French creators like Joan Sfar and Fabrice Neaud sent on assignment to different cities. The other eight are by Japanese creators including Taniguchi and Matsumoto, recounting tales of their hometowns. The result is a selection box of intimate mysteries of Japan sharply observed by both outsiders and insiders.


Home Number One
by Marion Baraitser & Anna Evans
Loki Books,
£8.50
From separare worlds and times, two teenage cousins are brought together in Nazi Germany. Propelled back from her near-future America of hell-fire preachers and terrorist threats, bored, dreamy Dinah has to adjust to the dehumanising regime that Gonda endures in the transit camp Theresienstadt. She soon learns from her that “the task is to survive each moment”. In this most unlikely of settings, the girls’ dreams of love blossom and their plan is hatched to use some confiscated puppets to undermine the Kommandant’s efforts to appease Red Cross inspectors by “beautifying” the camp. Overlook a few unclear sequences and awkward computer lettering and this debut offers a fresh way for young readers to connect to the Holocaust and the tragedies of war.


Dragonslippers
by Rosalind B. Penfold
Harper Collins
£9.99
Not unlike the diaries of Anne Frank, these true graphic diaries drawn during ten years of one woman’s terrible abusive relationship carry an extraordinary power. What they may lack in artistic niceties is more than made up by their raw emotional honesty and chilling immediacy. So much so that the author has had to adopt a pseudonym and cannot make public appearances for fear of retribution from her violent ex-partner. Her struggle and example to find the strength to break free so touched others like her, that they now commune via the website www.friends-of-rosalind.com. A truly brave 260-page account of domestic violence that exposes the tangled psychologies of abusers and victims.


Mom’s Cancer
by Brian Fies
Abrams Image
$12.95/£7.95
Another remarkable diary of private tragedy, this one kept anonymously online. With candor and humor, Brian Fries recorded how his family coped with his mother’s lung cancer and her ongoing recovery from treatment. LikeDragonslippers, this too brought others in the same situation together via the internet and helped them realise they were not alone. Awarded an Eisner last year for Best Digital Comic, the whole journal is compiled into a small, smart 116-page hardback. “When I started, I thought my story was about death. It turned out to be about hope.”


Roadstrips
by various authors
Chronicle Books
$22.95
Like a cartoon On The Road for the 21st century, this cross-country graphic journey builds into a mind-opening patchwork portrait of the diverse identities and definitions of Americans, from New Yorker Jessica Abel and Connecticut Wasp Doug Allen on the East Coast, via Chicagoan John Porcellino out to California girl Roberta Gregory and Seattle’s Pete Bagge with his “bi-coastal comparing”. A big, beautiful, colourful 124-page collection by 22 artists, all at their best, including Gilbert Hernandez, Peter Kuper, Terry LaBan and Phoebe Gloeckner, expertly edited by Pete Friedrich. Easily one of the richest themed anthologies in years, not to be missed.


Fluffy
by Simone Lia
Cabanon Press
4 volumes, £6 each
Unhappy, single Englishman Michael Pulcino travels to Sicily to visit his parents and sister to get away from various stresses, including a persistent woman who so wants to be his girlfriend and flies out there after him to “surprise” him. They have met because she is the nursery school teacher for Fluffy, an endearing and annoying baby rabbit, who, for some unexplained and unquestioned reason, is being looked after by Michael. He tries to make it clear that “I am not your real Daddy”, but Fluffy seems to be in denial and gets upset when Michael insists “I’m a man and you’re a bunny”. Simone Lia is a self-deprecating and disarmingly original raconteur, spinning together real-life, realistically drawn emotional situations with fanciful, cartoonish playfulness, using such devices as diagrams of the thoughts cramming a character’s head, guest narrators like a cheery dust particle and a grouchy piece of dandruff, or “footage” of a cute brain cell. Hopes are high for a collected edition; meantime, seek out her quartet of exquisitely published volumes.


The Red Seas: Under The Banner of King Death
by Ian Edginton & Steve Yeowell
Rebellion
£9.99
Moore and Gibbons in Watchmen imagined American comic books taking a different course in the 1950s and instead of superheroes coming to dominate the industry, the biggest genre would be pirates. In the last few years, no doubt linked to the success of Pirates of the Caribbean (sequel ahoy), swashbuckling is back in fashion in comics. True to 2000AD‘s form, Edginton and Yeowell’s take on it is wildy and weirdly irreverent, explaining the secret origin of the Bermuda Triangle, pickling the double head of the dog Erebus in rum and vinegar, and working in sword-and-sorcery, zombies, a humungous shark (Hookjaw returns?), broad laughs, and steamy romance between wily pirate Jack Dancer and sultry witch Isabella. Enormous fun, though being in black-and-white lessens the gore factor, while the ending hints at dastardly sorceror Doyle’s imminent return. “Forward, my bright boys!”


Family
by Rob Williams & Simon Fraser
Rebellion
£9.99
And here’s another refreshingly offbeat cross-genre newcomer from 2000AD, a Mafia-style gangster thriller transposed to the near future Odysseus City and mixed with superheroes. The family bloodline here gives these mobsters bizarre powers, including the boss’s rebel daughter Talia. Bags of potential here and, as with Red Seas, DVD extras offer the writer’s original pitch and artist’s sketches.

Posted: May 28, 2006

PG Tips is a monthly sidebar to Paul Gravett’s Novel Graphics column in Comics International providing shorter reviews of the latest recommended books of and about comics.

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Anna Evans
Brian Fies
Ian Edginton
Marion Baraitser
PG Tips
Rob Williams
Rosalind B Penfold
Simon Fraser
Simone Lia
Steve Yeowell

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Featured Books

Japan
Japan:
As Viewed By
17 Creators

by various artists

Home Number One
Home Number One
by Marion Baraitser
& Anna Evans

Dragonslippers
Dragonslippers
by Rosalind B. Penfold

Mom's Cancer
Mom’s Cancer
by Brian Fies

Roadstrips
Roadstrips
by various authors

Fluffy
Fluffy
by Simone Lia

The Red Seas
The Red Seas:
Under The Banner Of
King Death

by Ian Edginton
& Steve Yeowell

Family
Family
by Rob Williams
& Simon Fraser