Black Hole

black-hole-coverReview by Matthew Nielsen

Black Hole by Charles Burns is a story of teenagers, drugs, and an STD called the “Bug,” which gives whoever has it a random physical mutation, anything from small growths on the back to antennae coming out of the forehead. Not your X-Men sort of deal; no superpowers, only deformities.

The story follows a handful of characters who are doing their best to cope with the unforgiving life teenagers have to live. Needless to say, the story gets heavy and brutal at points.

The artwork of Charles Burns is truly fascinating. He’s the sort of artist who works as if he’s drawing with white over black paper, and not the other way around. I have never seen such a beautifully black comic. Some of the panels are so complex that you could sit there for a couple of minutes just trying to work out what is going on, but in the end you discover that everything is right where it should be. The mutations, dreams, and drug trips are all fantastically portrayed; the art really sends you on a visual journey that shakes you up a bit. Good thing it’s a graphic novel because you can take your time with each intense chapter; you can take a deep breath and try your best to work things out.

It is a wonderful book! If you’re ready for a dark mind-bending journey told with rich, clean black artwork, then I strongly recommend you read Black Hole.

black-hole-scan


Langara College is offering classes on writing for comics

langara-logo

As some of you already know, Langara College currently offers a program on creating comics as part of its Continuing Studies. These courses are taught by numerous local comic creators (many of them from Cloudscape), and provide workshops on writing, drawing, inking, and all the other aspects necessary to create your own quality comic book or graphic novel. Many classes are starting up in the new year, including Writing for Graphic Novels & Comix I on Monday evenings (starting January 23) and the more advanced Writing for Graphic Novels & Comix II on Saturday mornings (starting January 28). There is still space in both the writing classes. They will be taught by Bevan Thomas, who has contributed to numerous Cloudscape anthologies as a writer and editor, and who is the driving force behind Epic Canadiana, Cloudscape’s Gene Day Award-winning series of Canadian superhero anthologies. The writing classes will explore the various traditions of comic storytelling in comics, both how to create ideas and how to organize them on the page, as well as the special techniques to give your stories depth and energy. You will also be given the opportunity to develop a longer comic and have it workshopped with your instructor and fellow students. If you want to develop your skill in writing comics, improve your technique, and receive feedback on your work from someone experienced in the art form, then the Writing for Graphic Novels classes are for you.

For more information on the Writing for Graphic Novels courses and the comics program as a whole, and to register for classes, visit Graphic Novel and Comix on the Langara website. Please also spread the word to anyone else you think could benefit from one of these courses.


Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, Making Comics

understanding-reinventing-and-making-comics-covers

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Scott McCloud’s trilogy of Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics are all excellent works. They are a great collection of essays entirely in the comics format, entirely about comics.

The first book, Understanding Comics, published in 1994, focuses on the history, perception, and communication of comics, as well as a sophisticated interpretation of the medium as a whole. It is an amazing tool for both comic beginners and those more experienced with comics. If you were to pick up this book for the first time, either as a beginner or seasoned comics veteran, you would learn a lot about not just about comics, but also art and communication in general. It’s fascinating stuff clearly explained through a perfect blend of words and pictures.

The second book, Reinventing Comics, published in 2000, examines the — at the time — current comics culture, and looks towards the potential futures of the digital age. Many of its commentary has now become dated in many ways. However, plenty of the content remains useful to this day. There are multiple examples of how economic ideas, subcultures, and tendencies develop within art. It is also fascinating to see the challenges and ideas that were around back in the dial-up Internet era, and how many of the predictions McCloud made became true.

The third book, Making Comics, published in 2006, explores the challenges that comic book creators must face, the options they have, and the many methods available to produce the comics they want. McCloud provides incredibly useful tools for achieving realistic facial expressions and body language, constructing scenes, and building worlds, and he draws inspiration from North American, European, and Japanese comics, and more. Unlike a simple How to Draw Manga or How to Draw Superheroes, book, it gives sophisticated tips that are useful for all comic genres. Even if you think you already know everything you need to know about making comics, you might be surprised as to how much you learn from reading this book. On top of that, this book has a bonus digital chapter, available on McCloud’s website.

These three books are very useful to anyone interested in comics, either as a reader, academic, writer, or artist. If you are interested in comics, I strongly suggest that you read them at some point soon. Check out Scott McCloud’s website for more details.

example-from-making-comics

from Making Comics


The TradeWaiters 27: “Aya” by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie

tradewaiters-eps27
On today’s Tradewaiters we read Aya written by Marguerite Abouet and drawn by Clément Oubrerie. Special guest Jess Pollard joins us again while Angela is away. Our first formal foray into bande dessinée, Aya follows the chaotic love lives of three young women in 1970s Ivory Coast. This book was a lot of fun! Join us as we share our thoughts.

Also mentioned in this episode:
Akissi by Marguerite Abouet and Matthieu Sapin
Easy directed by Joe Swanburg
And our own projects:
Liquid Shell by Jess Pollard
Phobos and Deimos by Jonathon Dalton
Crossroads by Jeff Ellis, and
Lunar Maladies by kgros

Music by Sleuth.

Our next episode will cover volumes 1 & 2 of Bone by Jeff Smith.

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


Tamara Drewe

tamara-drewe-coverReview by Matthew Nielsen

Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds is a story centred around a writer’s retreat in the English countryside. It starts off from the point of view of university professor Glen, and then moves on to the retreat’s de facto manager Beth. We also see things from other people’s points of view at various times throughout the story. This gives us a wonderful chance to know what everyone is thinking.

When you open the book, you’ll find a mix of panels and blocks of text. The layout is a mix between the kind of thing you’d see in a Raymond Briggs novel (such as Ethel and Ernest) and what you’d see in an illustrated children’s novel (such as The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey), but let’s be clear — this is not a children’s novel, neither in style of art nor in style of writing. It’s a mature, well thought-out, beautifully detailed tale. There are many wonderful scenes of the countryside throughout, along with very relatable expressions and faces. The faces are drawn less photo-realistic and more cartoonified, but not in a silly or jarring way.

I reckon most people who read graphic novels don’t like big blocks of text appearing, but here it works just fine. The panels show people interacting with each other, thinking to themselves, or going through various stages of their day. The blocks of text tell the story from the current POV, always first person and never third person. The text really helps us get into the minds of the characters; it’s wonderful!

Anyway, if you’re up for a story about very real, very believable people, that is also full of the beauty of life through wonderful illustrations, this is graphic novel that I’m sure you’d love.

To learn more, check out Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds.

scan-2-copy


No Cloudscape meeting on Wednesday, December 21.

This Wednesday, December the 21st, is pretty close to Christmas, and it’s a good bet a lot of you will be very busy getting ready for the celebration (certainly, many of the board will be!). That being the case, there will not be a Cloudscape meeting this week. The next meeting will the week after, on December 28th. If you can’t make it to that, then we’ll see you in the new year.

Happy holidays!


Deadline for “Swan Song” submissions extended to February 1st

swansong

Seasons Greetings!

The Cloudscape Comics Board has decided to give everyone an early Christmas present, and extend the Swan Song deadline until February 1st, 2017!

Realizing that we may not have time during the holiday season to go over all of the Swan Song submissions, and instead will be taking a look at them during the new year, Cloudscape has chosen to give all of you more time to finish or refine your Swan Song submissions. If you want to be part of our anthology and have an appropriate story idea, then there’s still time to send it in!

As we mentioned before, Swan Song will be a music-themed comic anthology communicating the beauty and power of music through numerous styles. This full-colour anthology will feature stories about the innumerable effects that music can have on human beings and how it can change our world in uncountable ways. The stories may take on any mood (comedic or serious), be fictional or non-fictional, and may explore any genre (in both the narrative and musical sense), as long as the story features music as a central theme.

The anthology will pay $50/page to be divided equally among the particular story’s contributors. Stories must be no longer than 9 pages long (and an odd number of pages), and at least one of the main contributors (either the writer or artist) must currently be living in or have previously lived in British Columbia. The book dimensions will be either 10” x 10” or 12” x 12”, to emulate the shape of a record sleeve. To apply, please submit a general synopsis of the story, a full script, your biography, and 4-5 samples of comic art (on any topic) to [email protected] by Wednesday, February 1st, 2017.

Please help us distribute this good news to as many writers and artists as possible by sharing it through your social media outlets. You can help us make this anthology Cloudscape’s greatest book yet.

Cheers!