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“Comics in Transit” featured on IVOH

Oliver McTavish-Wisden at work on a comic.

An article on Comics in Transit, our big public art project, is featured on IVOH, and includes an interview with Comics in Transit creator and Cloudscape executive director Oliver McTavish-Wisden:

Founded in 2015, Comics in Transit creates original, poster-sized comics for display in bus shelters and transit stops around Vancouver and its surrounding cities. For its second series, the project is offering a glimpse into the lives of Canada’s refugees, as illustrated by local comic-book artists. Oliver McTavish-Wisden is one of those artists. Long before he started interviewing Jay, he was a loyal customer, frequenting the salon Jay owns in the Vancouver area. That’s how he started to hear bits and pieces of Jay’s story — about how Jay faced police intimidation for simply giving haircuts in his native Tehran.

“He was always happy to talk about that kind of thing with me. And I’ve always been curious,” Wisden said. So the two collaborated to tell Jay’s story in comic form, so that his experiences could help educate Canadian citizens about the ongoing refugee crisis, the largest the world has seen since World War II.

“Everybody knows there are a ton of refugees coming in because of the crisis. But do they know them? Absolutely not. They’re just numbers. They’re just a statistic,” McTavish-Wisden said. “One of our goals is to try and humanize the things people are reading about in the news.”

To read more of the article, visit Cloudscape Comics Depicts Refugee Stories in Vancouver.

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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Hayaeo Miyazaki present a world in which several centuries ago, great god-warriors roamed the world and engulfed everything in flames. When the flames faded, a vast poisonous forest appeared, guarded by enormous insects. Humanity’s numbers have dwindled severely, and most live beyond the poisonous forests – in the deserts and on the mountains. The Valley of the Wind is one such place. And it is here that the Valley’s princess, Nausicaä, begins her journey through nature, conflict, and hope.

Nausicaä is immense. Most pages consist of 10-11 panels; thus the book is bigger than the usual tankōbon (the pocket-sized manga books usually 5” by 7”) with pages of 7” by 10”, allowing for full appreciation of Miyazaki’s intense details. With Nausicaä, not a single page is wasted. At no point did I feel there was any time-consuming filler: everything had a purpose. The action scenes were intense, the dialogue scenes were informative, and pacing was juuuust right. Furthermore, each of the seven volumes had their own build-ups and climatic moments, and each major event was more impressive than the preceding one. It is clear that what Miyazaki delivers in his films is also, well and truly, delivered here in this manga series.

Compared to a feature film, Nausicaä’s story lasts much, much longer. On top of that, the amount of characters we discover, the detail to which they are developed, the world that is shown to us, and the deep journeys into mind, soul, ethics and conflict are all phenomenal! You may be familiar with the animated film adaptation of this story, of the same name. It too was created by Miyazaki, along with the forerunners of Studio Ghibli (and is often considered to be Studio Ghibli’s first feature film). However, despite having the same creator, the animated film has significant differences, primarily due to the story length limitation. It would probably have taken three to five films or even an entire animated series to fully tell the original story as it appears in the manga series.

Essentially, what Miyazaki did with the movie version was rearrange various characters, with motivations altered, which created a sort of “alternate reality.” The most similarities are in the first two of the seven volumes of the manga, with similar events happening. But after that, whilst the film goes one way, the manga series goes another. Despite being different from the original source material, the animated film is still incredible in its own right, an absolutely amazing piece of art.

I strongly recommend you watch and read this story if you haven’t already. If you enjoyed Miyazaki’s animated film masterpieces like Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, you will not be disappointed with Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind . It is truly a memorable experience.

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Persepolis

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Available as both two volumes or a complete edition, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran before, during, and after the Iranian Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s.

The book covers many years of Satrapi’s life, from her as a young child through to her early twenties. Throughout we also learn about Iran and how the nation, its people, and everyday life changed during the shift from the Shah’s rule to the Islamic Republic. Satrapi tells of her journey, beliefs, political views, and behaviour, about being raised by supportive avant-garde parents, and about how her family had to hide their efforts and ideas from the powers that be. A large portion of the book also focuses on Satrapi’s time in Austria as an expatriate, and the trials she faced there.

The story is told very well, and we quickly get to know much about Satrapi’s personality, experiences and family. The art is quite stylized with a kind of “naive art” feel to it.

If the style appeals to you and if you’re curious to learn more about some of Iran’s history told through the eyes of Satrapi, then this book will be for you. I very much enjoyed reading it.

On top of that, there is the animated film Persepolis, written and directed by Satrapi along with Vincent Paronnaud. It is loyal enough to the book that you’ll get the same story from watching it, but different enough that you’ll get an alternative, but possibly equally enjoyable, experience.

 

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Ghost World

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Ghost World! Daniel Clowes’ classic graphic novel is the story of two young women in their teens: Enid and Becky. Clowes is very good at capturing how people (at least certain people) talk about others and the world around them. The main characters feel that a lot of these people lead sad and creepy lives. But surely that’s how many of us see the world? We see others as rotten, crappy, lame, or weird as all hell. You might not want to admit it, but plenty of people out there freely say it casually among each other, and this story certain shows you that side: the personal conversations we have with our closest friends about those we like to feel superior to.

The art is done in black, white, and a funky aqua or something. I love it! Clowes does a great job capturing all the sorts of facial details and expression, making them often gross, weird, or surreal. But that’s life — there is a lot of grossness and weirdness in the world. Some artists might polish away some of these things, making their characters all look more charming, but Clowes keeps the strangeness all there. Though sometimes the faces look a bit derpy, but that’s realistic enough too. All this reminds me a lot of Daria. So yeah, if you liked Daria, there is a good chance you’ll like this, but Ghost World is a bit meaner in comparison.

If you’ve seen the Ghost World movie, you’ll find that the book is in many ways quite different, and the arc goes off in a different direction. Just keep that in mind if you already saw the movie.  Not sure how much you’ll relate to the main characters of Ghost World, but maybe it’s worth finding out. Give it a look!

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Bones of the Coast – Fake Geek Girls

Fake Geek Girls is a podcast that explores pop culture from both a fan and critical perspective. Its “Children’s Horror” installment looks at Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Over the Garden Wall… and Bones of the Coast!

“If you like ‘earthy’ horror… it’s very, very Pacific Northwest…. The anthology takes what I love about the Pacific Northwest: the dreariness; it’s dreary but it’s also vibrant because everything is green…. It takes that and the fact that it can be very damp and very isolated. I really, really enjoyed that.”

To hear more about Bones of the Coast and other horror, check out Fake Geek Girls #53: Children’s Horror.

 

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Bones of the Coast – Marie Does Book Reviews

Our horror anthology, Bones of the Coast, was reviewed by the blog “Marie Does Book Reviews“:

“Bones of the Coast is an awesome, scary, beautiful anthology and I have mixed feelings about it. Good mixed feelings! All of the stories contained inside are both interesting and, well, vaguely upsetting. Which was probably the point…. This anthology also serves to show that every visual and narrative style can be used to make a great story. From Kevin Forbes and Reetta Linjama’s classic storytelling in ‘The Logging Road’ to Sean Karemaker’s more stylistic approach in ‘The Ghosts We Know,’ all of these stories are not just effective at, well, telling a story, but also at conveying an atmosphere, which is what more than half of what horror is about in the end. It’s not what the story tells you, it’s what it makes you feel.

To read more, check out Marie’s review of Bones of the Coast: Tales of Terror of the Pacific Northwest.

 

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In the Shadow of No Towers

Review by Matthew Nielsen

In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman explores the thoughts and personal experiences of the artist during and after the September 11 attacks. He was there in New York City when it happened, and witnessed the damage and chaos that took place.

This is a pretty large book, about 26cm x 37cm (roughly 10 inches by 14.5 inches), and pretty thick despite having only 42 pages. This is because the pages are thick bits of card. This not only adds strength, but — because the book is mostly made up of double-page spreads — allows all the content to be viewed without a crease going through the middle of the artwork. These comics were originally published in a large newspaper format, which is why the book has been structured this way.

Spiegelman discusses so many serious things here, but a lot of the stories are drawn in the style of historical and classic American newspaper comics. There is a section discussing all the influences on this graphic novel, and even a series of pages showing primary source material that he was inspired by (for example, a Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strip).

In the Shadow of No Towers is a surprisingly short read, but that doesn’t make it any less intense. Definitely worth a look!

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Exit Wounds

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan is set in Tel-Aviv, Israel, 2002 and follows the story of Koby, a taxi-driver living with his aunt and uncle. He hears news of a suicide bombing in a nearby town and that one of the victims is currently unidentified. This news is brought to him by Numi, a young woman doing her mandatory military service. We discover early in the story that Koby rarely meets or talks to his father, and that Numi is his father’s lover. The story’s journey forward is in trying to figure out whether or not Koby’s father died in that blast.

I will say that I did not like this book very much. This might be due to the overall feel of the book, especially the main character — a general sense of grumpiness, frustration, and even, at times, mean spirits. However, there are also lighter moments, and Modan is able to capture a great range of expressions with minimal amounts of lines.

The artwork consists of selective bold lines filled with block colours. There is next to no shading — no line art cross-hatching, cell-shading, or even gradients. However, the line art itself is sometimes different shades than just plain black, which does create some depth. The absence of shading makes it all feel a bit like looking at a diagram. In general I don’t like the style. Some elements of it appealing: everything is pretty clear and bold, and faces are surprisingly recognizable, but I love detail too much, so this is not my cup of tea.

It’s up to you. If the artwork appeals to you, and if you’re willing to give the grumpy world of Koby a chance, then Exit Wounds might be worth a look. But I didn’t really enjoy it myself.

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Bones of the Coast – Vancouver Is Awesome 2

The blog Vancouver Is Awesome has posted a review of our latest anthology: Bones of the Coast. Reviewer Bob Kronbauer:

“wound up being completely engaged from cover to cover, partly due to the great writing and eclectic styles of more than 20 artists, but because it really screams ‘British Columbia.’ From the Skytrain to BC Ferries to logging roads and the Sea to Sky Highway, the settings are all familiar. The subject matter as well; invasive species, camping, Japanese internment during WWII and more. It’s all wrapped into a horror theme so these somewhat inert subjects (aside from internment, which was actual horror) create worlds that we haven’t entirely inhabited but are still close to.”

To read more, check-out the full Bones of the Coast review.

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