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Comics that move

This morning I read the AV Club’s interview with comics artist Daniel Clowes (perhaps my favorite comics artist of all time, see this Google link for prior mentions.) He states, about comics: “But it’s not an operatic medium. I hear other people talk about being moved to tears by comics. I can’t imagine that.”

And had I read the interview yesterday morning, I would have agreed. Peculiarly enough, though, I cried (well, maybe weeped) myself to sleep last night finishing the graphic novel Laika, about the cosmonaut pooch that became the first mammal to orbit the planet. At times heartbreaking and other times uplifting, it’s remarkably well-told, with deceptive simplicity masking complex emotions. As you read toward the inexorable end, you can’t help but feel for the poor pooch, particularly the unfortunate circumstances surrounding her voyage (rushed to launch for the sake of propaganda, interfering with any scientific benefit).

One of the better reviews of the book I found makes a connection that I also felt, with the film My Life As A Dog, which was my favorite movie for quite a while. In it, the protagonist thinks of Laika as he considers his own situation (sent to live with relatives because his mom is deathly ill).

In 2007 my comics consumption pretty much receded to Hellboy and B.P.R.D.. Trips to the comics store were disheartening, because indie comics (or, at least, non-superhero comics) have become dominated by nihilism of three stripes: guns-and-blood detective stories; dystopic science fiction; zombies zombies zombies. Everything is dark, gruesome (literally), and meant to appeal to masculine ids in their late teens and early 20s. I suppose it’s the evolution for those who grew up with superhero fare, but I find that when I’m staring at the covers of these things at the local comics shop, I just feel sad for all the pathetic men for whom this crap stokes their fantasies. I’m all for juvenilia (did I mention I enjoy Hellboy and B.P.R.D., which are, when they’re at their best, adventure stories of the simplest kind?), but this morose fuck-the-world shit is just so…. lame.

The one bright spot at the end of 2007 was The Umbrella Academy, which captures the whimsy and humor I admire in Mignola-era Hellboy, but definitely with a distinctive personality all its own.

  1. Used to read MAD magazines growing up and especially enjoyed the folded picture at the back, The Lighter Side (Dave Berg) and Sergio Aragon̩s РEnjoy looking back at themes comic artists drew 30 years back that still have relevance today.

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