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


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.

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.