Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is a breathless unbroken run of extraordinary violence, foul language, and weird cosmic shit that is as inventive and awesome as it is ugly and puerile. It’s 300+ pages so far of non-stop mayhem and the pace doesn’t appear to be easing off, the themes aren’t changing, but in its unerring commitment to all-out carnage and roller-coaster pacing, it’s a masterpiece of sustained vision not seen since the glory days of 2000AD.
Stern renders this world in a fairly sparse scratchy line, all in black and white, and the end result is folksy, rather than arty. Despite a notable (and desirable) lack of slickness to his style he conveys the world he’s conjuring up with considerable deftness – it’s a world full of carnies and pirates and broken junk, shacks and sideshows and charabancs – and his ability to suggest character and mood is excellent.
Stephane Blanquet has been an active figure in the French comics field since the early 90s. He’s a prominent figure in a movement that’s been given various names: “baby art”, “art brut”, “visionary art”. In a comics context it’s one of those movements that difficult to define, but easy to recognise when it’s seen. It draws on illustrations in Victorian children’s books, underground comics, 1950s pre-code horror comics and the actual style of drawings made by children, and blends the lot into something typically rather grotesque and disturbing.
The painted cover of Love From the Shadows is deceiving, featuring as it does a rather anonymous looking woman half-lounging on a beach. Deceiving, because the woman bears little resemblance to any of the characters contained inside, and also because it’s painted by Steve Martinez, not Gilbert Hernandez. It has an old-fashioned, pulp paperback quality of the sort that promises the book contains a rather lurid and titillating storyline. Which indeed it does: but it’s also the most ambitious and successful of Gilbert Hernandez’ post-Palomar works to date.
Fantagraphics continues its programme of issuing the works of Jacques Tardi with this, a translation of a comic from the earliest stages of his career. It’s a slim volume (64 pages), written and drawn in a style that reveals another facet to his diverse abilities. It’s also the least satisfying of his works to appear in English to date.
This is, as expected, a total delight from start to finish. Nearly all of it, 24 pages, is his first substantial new Buddy Bradley story in years. Buddy is now married to Lisa, with a son and a junkyard business in partnership with Jay, also now married. The story introduces his new life, then focusses on a visit to Lisa’s completely fucked-up family – religious mother, possibly senile dad, out of control cousin, self-righteous foster brother.
When Lorenzo Matotti’s Fires appeared 25 years ago, it was one those unexpected works that redefined what comics are capable of. It brought a painter’s sensibility to comics, and a sense of ambiguity that was rare in the medium. If I had to compile some sort of imaginary list of comics to take with me to a desert island, I’d still number it among my top ten. Since then, translations of his comics have been rare and, perhaps inevitably, none have recaptured Fires’ impact and unreal quality. Stigmata comes close to equalling that work though, and in some ways perhaps surpasses it.
Welcome to the first in what I hope will be a series looking at film adaptations of comics. Everyone knows, of course, that comics have been hot properties in Hollywood for a while now, as superhero movie after ill-conceived superhero movie stacks up on every self-respecting nerd’s DVD shelf — but there are all kinds of comics, and all kinds of movies being made out of them, and one of my goals is to use film adaptations as an excuse to get around to reading, or revisiting, some of the world’s greatest (or otherwise; Marmaduke got made too) comics.