Seraphim

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Seraphim: A Tale of Love and Courage is a pair of concurrent ongoing webcomics by Anat Rabkin, updated with one page for each comic each week. At the time of this writing, both A Tale of Love and A Tale of Courage have just over 200 pages each.

The two stories are set several centuries apart in a warrior’s guild in Constantinople. Both stories follow young men, orphans who have been taken in by the guild to be trained as knights’ squires. The world is that of an alternate reality: A Tale of Love takes place around the late medieval period, whilst A Tale of Courage takes place in more modern industrial-age times. Throughout the two stories there are occasional parallel moments, such as a shared character’s first appearance occurring on the same chapter and page number of both comics.

A Tale of Love follows the story of Clou, who, aside from being an orphan and squire, is also a very kind-hearted individual. Despite being looked down on by most of his peers, he is also gifted in his academic abilities. So far much of the story has been spent dealing with the challenges he faces in day-to-day life, and the secrets he has locked away within. He has a strong attachment to his knight, Becker, who has enough trouble trying to deal with his squire’s philosophical questions of morality, let alone the other problems that come along the way.

A Tale of Courage centres around Gilad, who is more willing to express anger and frustration than Clou is. The knight he is training under is very different from most. Sir Altor, a blind man who gets around disguised as an old beggar, is a very tough and demanding teacher. As the story continues, we learn more about both Gilad and Altor, and meet some of their friends along the way, including Gilad’s childhood friend Nav.

So far I have very much enjoyed the characters and their development. Rabkin keeps avoiding the traditional fantasy cliches by instead going through different, more interesting, routes. I liked what I’ve seen of the story up to this point and want to see more, as well as find out what choices these characters make as the stories continue. I already have a long list of favourite characters, and can easily picture this story being told in even more detail, such as through a written novel. On top of that, the full-colour aspect is very appealing (including the use of textures throughout the stories).

When it comes to the art and style of the story, I feel that Seraphim could benefit from more world building — not just more detailed background information but also more clues as to just how much impact the characters have in the world. Also, whenever blood is spilled in the story, it would benefit from being grittier and more realistic.

But aside from that, I’m keen to see where Rabkin will take Clou and Gilad next, and so far I’ve very much enjoyed the Tales of Love and of Courage. You can read Seraphim yourself on the official Seraphim website.


No Cloudscape Meeting Today Due to Snow

You may have noticed that Vancouver has been receiving a startling amount of snow in the last few days, causing numerous accidents and transit problems. This is especially a problem at night. Because of that, Cloudscape has cancelled today’s meeting. We don’t want you stranded in Vancouver East tonight! There will be a regular Cloudscape meeting next week — as long as we don’t get a huge blizzard or something.

Sorry for the inconvenience. See you guys later, and have a safe week.


Adventures of Tintin: Breaking Free

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Tintin is such an iconic character in the comics medium, almost everyone has heard of him, and most have read at least a couple of his albums or seen one of his movies. But The Adventures of Tintin: Breaking Free by J. Daniels (a pseudonym) approaches the character from a very different (and utterly unlicensed) direction.

Produced by Attack International in 1988, Breaking Free takes Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Herge’s general drawing style, and puts them in an entirely new situation. Instead of the usual tales of a Belgian reporter and his friends exploring strange new places, we instead get the stories of a working class Brit with a lot of built-up anger deciding to stage a rebellion against the system.

At first it may feel like they’ve done some sort of “Tintin meets Trainspotting mash-up, with the graphic novel’s various acts of swearing and violence. But that is only part of the story; the rest is focused on the oppression of the working class by their bosses, union leaders, and law enforcement, to which the response must be organized strikes, rallies, and direct action.

The general politics of this graphic novel seem to be Anarcho-Communism, promoting resistance and rebellion against the government, as well as supporting the working-class community in numerous ways. There are also strong messages of anti-racism, anti-homophobia, and general anti-discrimination, so long as you’re not one of the “bosses” or otherwise part of the corporate system of persecution.

So yeah, this is very politically driven, and sometimes downright bizarre. If Tintin is one of your favourite characters, and you don’t want to see him engaged in this sort of politically-charged rebellion, then you’ll probably want to give this book a miss. On the other hand, if you’re just curious to see how Tintin handles a bar fight, this book might be worth a look. And if you agree with the Anarcho-Communist message, then there’s probably even more you’ll enjoy about this book.

Strangely enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen Tintin converted into a foul-mouthed Brit. There was also an extremely obscure online video series called Teesside Tintin.


The TradeWaiters 29: “Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life” by Ulli Lust


In this episode we read Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Austrian cartoonist Ulli Lust. This comic follows the artist’s real life journey from Austria to Sicily with no money, no passport, and no friends. It’s a heavy book in terms of both physical weight and emotional content. Join us, we’ve got lots to talk about!

Also mentioned in this episode:
This interview with Ulli Lust by Marc Sorbel on The Comics Journal
Bones of the Coast published by Cloudscape Comics
Please Like Me written by Josh Thomas
And a bunch of video games, I don’t know, that part went right over my head because I’m not a real gamer.

And our own projects:
Phobos and Deimos by Jonathon Dalton
Crossroads by Jeff Ellis
Wasted Talent by Angela Melick, and
Lunar Maladies by kgros

Music by Sleuth.

Our next episode will cover the first two volumes of Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.

You can also follow the TradeWaiters on Tumblr, Soundcloud, Twitter, iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.


Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! by Art Spiegelman is a big book. It’s about 36x26cm (roughly 10×14 inches), so when you open it, it’s going to be twice the width. However, the book’s comics make full use of the pages.

This book includes a brief biography of the artist, as well as examples of his early work. We even see the original short Maus comic that led to the world-famous graphic novel. With each project Spigelman seems to draw everything in a new style, paying homage to classic artists and constantly experimenting with the medium.

The book also discusses the artist’s quest to push comics further into the realm of fine art and away from the less-respected disposable view it got in his day and age. This results in cubist comics, rearranged panel comics, alternative romance comics, psychological enquiry comics, and many more. The result is sometimes be so splendidly random that what you see takes you totally by surprise.

All in all, a good book if you don’t mind a little randomness. Definitely read it if you’re interested in learning more about the man behind Maus.


From Hell

Review by Matthew Nielsen

From Hell, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, is one of the longest single-volume graphic novels I’ve read. With an average of 8-9 panels across 520 or so of those pages, the book features roughly 4400 illustrations, all meticulously researched with technical detail and history accuracy.

This is the story of Jack the Ripper, one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. It is also a story of the victims of the Ripper murders and of Victorian London itself. There are absolutely hundreds of different theories as to who Jack the Ripper was, and while we can’t say with definite certainty which one is true, From Hell is a powerful “maybe this?” story. For further historical accuracy, the graphic novel includes an appendix where Moore goes into incredible detail about his research across 42 pages of text: what parts have been invented, what things have been sourced, the books he’s read, his opinions on some of those books, and the locations he’s been to. For those new to the world of “Ripperology” (myself included), Moore provides an eye-opening introduction into the enormity of it all. Campbell’s artwork is also just as meticulously researched, and the pair have collaborated marvellously.

The book is dark, black, and rough. Campbell’s artwork captures all the details needed, but there is also a sense of corruption and speed to the way it’s all been drawn. This is the ideal art style for the gritty events depicted and the wet and miserable British autumn weather. At the same time, the beauty of Victorian London’s buildings and typography all remains clear and strong. The lives and deaths of the Whitechapel victims are shown in brutally honest detail. The murders are depicted with such intensity that they make far more impact than the kind you’d likely see in your average manga or superhero comic, but that’s all up to you, this is just my experience.

Now, there are some pretty jarring moments in the book that don’t seem to fit with the rest of it. For example, in the first part of the book, there are about three pages of an Austrian couple having sex, when one of them receives a nightmarish vision. They only speak in German with no translation, so the only context given is that it is Braunau, Austria, 1888. I couldn’t add the pieces together at the time, but in the appendix Moore explains that this scene is the conception of Adolf Hitler. A baffling part until you discover that Moore is linking historical events and coincidences together. There are many other moments in this book like this, when only prior knowledge of said event or reading the appendix explains what’s going on. This can easily lead to a confusing experience for the reader.

However, this is still an incredibly powerful graphic novel. If you’re ready for a long, violent and, at times, confusing journey into the world of Jack the Ripper, then take a dive into From Hell.


Writing for Comics classes at Langara

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Only a couple of weeks until “Writing for Graphic Novels & Comix” starts at Langara, but there are still seats available.  They are taught by Bevan Thomas, who has written and edited on numerous Cloudscape anthologies, most prominently the Gene Day-award-winning Epic Canadiana series. If you are interested in polishing off your comic writing skills, then give the classes a look. Of course Langara’s comic program also includes numerous classes in other aspects of comic creation, including drawing, inking, and lettering. You can take all of the courses as part of a full-on continuing studies certificate program, or just the ones that interest you in particular. For more information, check out Langara’s Graphic Novel & Comix continuing studies program.