Mom’s Cancer

Mom's Cancer (cover)

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies is a very moving story of a mother in her sixties being diagnosed with cancer and how her three children do their best to help her. It is an autobiography told by Brian, the eldest of the mother’s children.

Events start at the home – the first page showing the mother suffering some kind of stroke. It doesn’t leap to the hospital right away, but instead first shows how the family reacts on that day and waits the next morning, slowly easing up to the diagnosis.

The hospital scenes are done particularly well, capturing the elements of hospital experiences that we can all relate to. During all these challenges, you really grow attached to the characters, as everyone knows people like this, and you admire their courage. As you read, you wonder how it might end; what will happen to the mother? The story is very well done, and unlike some books, the ending isn’t given away early on. I’ll leave you to find out what happens for yourself.

I particularly like the drawing style. Fies is able to capture personality and humanity very well. Extreme detail in comic book art can sometimes limit the personality of a story, while a style that’s too stylized can often become distracting. Fies’ style fits right in the middle of these two extreme, which is just right for this kind of story.

So why the second cancer-related graphic novel review in only so long? Well, that’s because I myself had cancer at one point. I spotted it very early and it was very quickly dealt with by the National Health Service. Within in a week my cancer had been removed, no chemotherapy or radiation treatment. I was extremely lucky, and reading Mom’s Cancer along with Our Cancer Year by Pekar and Brabner has shown in so much depth and detail what could have happened to me and what has happened to so many people and families out there.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but the official website will if you don’t know where you’re going. So if you’re taking a look at the original webcomic, make sure to start on the first page of Mom’ s Cancer.  Or you could pick up the collected book instead, just like I did.

How to diagnose Lung Cancer - Moms Cancer

The TradeWaiters 28: “Bone” Volumes 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith

Today we read Bone: Out from Boneville and Bone: The Great Cow Race, the first two volumes of the acclaimed series by Jeff Smith. Join us and find out what we thought about these books that revolutionized graphic novels as we know them. Find out where Jeff Smith’s inspiration came from, how Bone has affected the classroom, and how it’s influenced cartoonists who grew up reading them (hint: it’s kgros). And join us for our exciting new TradeWaiters segments, “Um Actually” and “Devil’s Advocate.”

Also mentioned in this episode:
Rasl and Tuki: Save the Humans also by Jeff Smith
Spider-Man drawn by Mark Bagley
Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
Asterix by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Pogo by Walt Kelly
Vattu by Evan Dahm
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez
Promises, Promises: A History of Debt
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? directed by Robert Zemeckis
Wet Moon by Sophie Campbell
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin
Habitat by Simon Roy, and
Anatomy of Melancholy: Best of a Softer World by Joey Comeau and Emily Horne
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 Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust.

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

Heart of Darkness

heart-of-darkness-coverReview by Matthew Nielsen

Based on the Joseph Conrad novella of the same name, the graphic novel Heart of Darkness (adapted by David Zane Mairowitz and illustrated by Catherine Anyango) is about a man’s journey up the Congo River during the late 19th-century Belgian colonial period. The protagonist, Marlow, works for an ivory trading group, and has been given the task of meet with Kurtz, an exceptionally “efficient” obtainer of ivory.

As the story progresses, the reader is introduced to more and more atrocity, murder, and madness. Whilst much is lost from the original book in this abridgement, certain fundamental elements are powerfully translated from words into picture. So though we may not get the novella’s extended inner-monologues from Marlow, we do get intense imagery than tells a lot in their own right. Likely because the original Heart of Darkness was based off some of Conrad’s own personal experiences, Mairowitz has chosen to include extracts of Conrad’s diary throughout the book. This wasn’t done in the original book, and is an interesting way to link the story with the original writer.

Anyango has illustrated this comic in a way that feels more like fine art than the usual line art associated with the majority of comics. The images come from many angles, warped points of views, and harsh forms of lighting. Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of, when artistic license and style trumps clarity, but this works well with the story’s theme of madness.

The thing that stands out the most are the speech bubbles and boxes. They look really basic, like something easily achievable with the most limited software, which works a little against the artwork style trying to be achieved here. However, the semi-transparent boxes do little to interrupt the artwork itself, so it’s tricky to find better alternatives. Perhaps bold full speech bubbles would have been worse?

Overall, though this book has some very interesting artwork and techniques, the abridged story seems to take something away that the original book had. It feels more like this graphic novel would serve fans of the novel better than people who have not yet read Heart of Darkness. So if this is your first time hearing of the story, perhaps get the book or audiobook first before moving on to the adaptation. However, the Heart of Darkness graphic novel is still worth a look for the art alone.

sample page

sample page

Remember, deadline for “Swan Song” submissions is February 1

Remember, everyone, that the deadline to submit to Cloudscape’s music-themed anthology, Swan Song, has been extended to February 1. So if you have a great idea for a comic that involves music in some way, then we encourage you to send it to us. For full information, check out Call for Submission for Cloudscape’s Next Anthology. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve come up with.

SDP Announces Call for Submissions for All-Trans Comics Anthology

stacked-deckStacked Deck Press has announced a call of submissions for We’s Still Here, an anthology of comics by transgender cartoonists, edited by Tara Avery (co-editor of Alphabet with Jon Macy) and Jeanne Thornton (co-publisher of Instar Books).

“Our goal is to present work 100% conceived and executed by trans artists, showcasing the breadth of themes, genres, and approaches trans people are taking to comics work today. And if you’re a trans person who makes comics (or would like to), we’re definitely interested in seeing what you’ve got to offer. If you’re a cartoonist who identifies as trans, we definitely would like to consider running work from you!”

Their starting page rate is $20, but it will go higher depending on Kickstarter funding results. For more information, see SDP Announces All-Trans Comic Anthology.

Cloudscape AGM January 18

cloudscapeCloudscape’s annual general meeting will start at 7:30 on January 18. That’s when we go over what the organization has done and will do, we vote on any changes in board membership, take questions and suggestions from our members, and plan our projects for the next year. There will be some changes in the board as well as a lot of discussion about the future for Cloudscape and its various graphic novel and community projects. This is a great meeting to attend if you want to influence Cloudscape’s direction in 2017, but not a good first meeting for someone who hasn’t been to Cloudscape before. So if you are someone new intending to check our meeting out or are a member wanting to introduce someone else to us, then you should probably choose a different week instead. But if you are someone who has been to our meetings a few times before, then we look forward to seeing you at the AGM!

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.