The idea of writting historical fiction is not new, but lately there has been a huge upsergence in the number of books written in this way. These can range from full scale novels about individuals such as Nietzsche or Ann Boyln to comic books such as Laika. Laika was a real dog, and she really did go into space in 1954. Laika was the first animal to orbit in space, making her a national symbol of Russian space technology. However, there was no return home for her since the rushed engineering team had not made her a way back. The scientists could only listen to her heartbeat until she passed on after only 5 hours, still in orbit around the planet.
Nick Abadzis takes the historical facts of Laika’s story and spins them into this heart-wrenching graphic novel which is sure to bring tears to your eyes. Filled with mantras to keep the tired and exhausted characters moving, Laika becomes almost a talisman of good fortune and hope. She reveals humanity and kindness in some, and the vile jealousy and pent up aggression in those feeling trapped by the world around them. She becomes a lens that examines every person she encounters including the rocket crew. The scientists have to grapple with what it really means to send Laika into space with no return plan. Some are deeply troubled, while others view their sentimentality as a burden to the project. Because of Laika’s trusting nature, she exemplifies the problems that we humans encounter while dealing with other non-human life and it is hard to see the cruelty dealt out by those who do not value Laika’s life. 
As someone who studies biology, and knows why we use animals for our projects it can be incredibly difficult to read this book. It confronts our basic understanding of human progress by reminding us that lives are what end up fueling our scientific endeavors. I once mentioned to an English professor how moved I was to hold the fetus of a rat used for a dissection. It was one of the most incredibly beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. But she was deeply upset by this and asked “Do you feel guilty? Knowing that that rat and it’s babies died for you?” I honestly didn’t know how to answer that question. On the one hand I was at least partially responsible for that rat’s death, but it had also given me the chance to see embryonic development first hand. To understand more fully the working and layout of the mammalian body. Of my own body. I found it hard to feel guilty, and I found that lack of guilt hard to swallow.
At the end of the book there is a quote from the scientist responsible for Laika’s care, and her training for her space flight. He comments,
"Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog." - Oleg Greorgivitch Gazenko
We need to value the lives of our animals a little more heavily. We need to value everything we have a little bit more. So go read this book. Feel yourself pulled into her happiness and her tragedy. And brace yourselves. You might be in for a wild ride.

The idea of writting historical fiction is not new, but lately there has been a huge upsergence in the number of books written in this way. These can range from full scale novels about individuals such as Nietzsche or Ann Boyln to comic books such as Laika. Laika was a real dog, and she really did go into space in 1954. Laika was the first animal to orbit in space, making her a national symbol of Russian space technology. However, there was no return home for her since the rushed engineering team had not made her a way back. The scientists could only listen to her heartbeat until she passed on after only 5 hours, still in orbit around the planet.

Nick Abadzis takes the historical facts of Laika’s story and spins them into this heart-wrenching graphic novel which is sure to bring tears to your eyes. Filled with mantras to keep the tired and exhausted characters moving, Laika becomes almost a talisman of good fortune and hope. She reveals humanity and kindness in some, and the vile jealousy and pent up aggression in those feeling trapped by the world around them. She becomes a lens that examines every person she encounters including the rocket crew. The scientists have to grapple with what it really means to send Laika into space with no return plan. Some are deeply troubled, while others view their sentimentality as a burden to the project. Because of Laika’s trusting nature, she exemplifies the problems that we humans encounter while dealing with other non-human life and it is hard to see the cruelty dealt out by those who do not value Laika’s life.

As someone who studies biology, and knows why we use animals for our projects it can be incredibly difficult to read this book. It confronts our basic understanding of human progress by reminding us that lives are what end up fueling our scientific endeavors. I once mentioned to an English professor how moved I was to hold the fetus of a rat used for a dissection. It was one of the most incredibly beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. But she was deeply upset by this and asked “Do you feel guilty? Knowing that that rat and it’s babies died for you?” I honestly didn’t know how to answer that question. On the one hand I was at least partially responsible for that rat’s death, but it had also given me the chance to see embryonic development first hand. To understand more fully the working and layout of the mammalian body. Of my own body. I found it hard to feel guilty, and I found that lack of guilt hard to swallow.

At the end of the book there is a quote from the scientist responsible for Laika’s care, and her training for her space flight. He comments,

"Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog." - Oleg Greorgivitch Gazenko

We need to value the lives of our animals a little more heavily. We need to value everything we have a little bit more. So go read this book. Feel yourself pulled into her happiness and her tragedy. And brace yourselves. You might be in for a wild ride.

1 note

One great thing about the comic industry is that it is no longer limited to the printed page. The internet has created the phenomenon known as the webcomic. In many ways, I get the sense that people feel that these comics are somehow less valuable than their printed cousins simply because they haven’t been published. They haven’t been verified by an outside source as being “quality material”. And I think that that is really unfortunate. There are so many great webcomics out there that haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve for their excellent story-telling.
Digger, by Ursula Vernon, is an exception. I don’t even need to tell you guys how great this comic is because The New York Times and the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story already did. But I’m going to anyway, because seriously you guys, you should probably read this comic.
Digger is a fantasy story that revolves around the unfortunate mishaps of a female wombat named Digger. Whisked away from home, she becomes entangled in problems of this new and foreign land as she tries to find a way out of the magic drenched landscape she is dumped into. Efficient, structured, and often curt, Digger stands out from her new superstitious and emotional companions. Not that she doesn’t get them. She does, it’s just not the way wombat’s are.
As with most webcomics, the artwork evolves and improves as the story progresses, but the quality of the story itself outshines these blemishes. The characters are lovely, confusing, clashing, and harmonizing throughout the story but Digger herself and the Hyena tribe have always stood out the most to me. Of all the sequences in the entire comic those depicting the past of the hyenas and their mythology are some of the most beautiful and memorable sequences I know.
I will post a lot of published comics on this site, but I also know that everyone should be suporting independent artists and keeping storytelling alive. These artists are just starting the journey that published artists have already been through. And sometimes being along for the ride, seeing the experimentation and creativity as it happens is worth waiting for that weekly update.
READ: http://diggercomic.com/?p=3

One great thing about the comic industry is that it is no longer limited to the printed page. The internet has created the phenomenon known as the webcomic. In many ways, I get the sense that people feel that these comics are somehow less valuable than their printed cousins simply because they haven’t been published. They haven’t been verified by an outside source as being “quality material”. And I think that that is really unfortunate. There are so many great webcomics out there that haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve for their excellent story-telling.

Digger, by Ursula Vernon, is an exception. I don’t even need to tell you guys how great this comic is because The New York Times and the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story already did. But I’m going to anyway, because seriously you guys, you should probably read this comic.

Digger is a fantasy story that revolves around the unfortunate mishaps of a female wombat named Digger. Whisked away from home, she becomes entangled in problems of this new and foreign land as she tries to find a way out of the magic drenched landscape she is dumped into. Efficient, structured, and often curt, Digger stands out from her new superstitious and emotional companions. Not that she doesn’t get them. She does, it’s just not the way wombat’s are.

As with most webcomics, the artwork evolves and improves as the story progresses, but the quality of the story itself outshines these blemishes. The characters are lovely, confusing, clashing, and harmonizing throughout the story but Digger herself and the Hyena tribe have always stood out the most to me. Of all the sequences in the entire comic those depicting the past of the hyenas and their mythology are some of the most beautiful and memorable sequences I know.

I will post a lot of published comics on this site, but I also know that everyone should be suporting independent artists and keeping storytelling alive. These artists are just starting the journey that published artists have already been through. And sometimes being along for the ride, seeing the experimentation and creativity as it happens is worth waiting for that weekly update.

READ: http://diggercomic.com/?p=3

65 notes

Yoshihiro Tatsumi is known for his prowess in short story telling, but there are several examples of short novella like books in his body of work. Black Blizzard is among these, and one of the few Japanese comics I know to be published in color.
Black Blizzard is a much sweeter tale than many of his short stories, giving the book an adventurous and fanciful feeling. The plot revolves around a young pianist who is arrested for a murder he does not know if he committed or not (due to drunkenness). He is handcuffed to another murder suspect while being transported by train to police headquarters. During the night the train is caught in a blizzard. A sudden landslide derails the train and frees the two men who, although inconvenienced by their bondage, flee into the mountains. As the story progresses we find that the two men are connected by more than the literal chains between them, which leads to the suspenseful conclusion of the story.
Although this book is not nearly as touching, or in some cases soul moving, as some of his other works it is nice to see Tatsumi’s sweet side. The images are rough, but the story is happy and leaves the reader with the good feelings that might follow a well thought out fairy tale. If you like murder mysteries and want a quick one-shot story to read, Black Blizzard is probably for you.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi is known for his prowess in short story telling, but there are several examples of short novella like books in his body of work. Black Blizzard is among these, and one of the few Japanese comics I know to be published in color.

Black Blizzard is a much sweeter tale than many of his short stories, giving the book an adventurous and fanciful feeling. The plot revolves around a young pianist who is arrested for a murder he does not know if he committed or not (due to drunkenness). He is handcuffed to another murder suspect while being transported by train to police headquarters. During the night the train is caught in a blizzard. A sudden landslide derails the train and frees the two men who, although inconvenienced by their bondage, flee into the mountains. As the story progresses we find that the two men are connected by more than the literal chains between them, which leads to the suspenseful conclusion of the story.

Although this book is not nearly as touching, or in some cases soul moving, as some of his other works it is nice to see Tatsumi’s sweet side. The images are rough, but the story is happy and leaves the reader with the good feelings that might follow a well thought out fairy tale. If you like murder mysteries and want a quick one-shot story to read, Black Blizzard is probably for you.

When I first picked up Koko Be Good I wasn’t sure what to expect. The drawings were in a very different style than I was used to and the characters seemed… well a little outlandish. Koko is explosive and often spills her guts out when you least expect it. But I think that that quality might just be way this is such a GOOD book. Koko, so pointedly honest in everything she does reveals to us a person in the process of change and searching for self worth. She’s a drop out, a nobody. How do you make yourself stand out in a world that values schooling, and more importantly networking and the formation of “community”, more than simply doing good? Consider the following quote,
"Hi again. This is another Koko broadcast. This time I have a question. I just want to ask you listeners… if you think you’re good people. And if you are, How would you know?"
Koko wants to be famous, but yet she knows damn straight that no one is listening to the few “broadcasts” she delivers. It is reflective of her honesty, but also demonstrates how utterly vulnerable she is. The other main character, John, continues this theme but contrasts with Koko’s personality in all the right ways. He is so utterly normal and conventional that the idea of him moving away with his older girlfriend is shocking and worrying to most of his friends. As we get to know him better, we find that even he is just as nervous about his reasons for moving away. He had done everything he was supposed to by this point. He had gone to school, majored in something he loved, and got some great friends but the moment he graduated his world felt like it had shifted into standstill. He’s spent all that time running as fast as he could to keep up with societies expectations of him but he had never truly figured out what he wanted to do with his life. When he meets Koko she blows open and reveals all of the insecurities John had been suppressing, forcing him to come to terms with his choices and begin the process of reconstructing himself. He finds his muse again, stops following the people around him, and moves forward on his own.
Koko Be Good succeeds at describing that moment when you have to reevaluate. When you seem to loose sight of what you want, and feel as if you’ve lost something precious but can’t figure out what it is. I think that that’s where this book provided me with so much value. As a recent (and still unemployed) graduate myself it was incredibly hard to read this book because it made my own loss of “college community” and the meaning in my life (getting good grades and succeeding at school) feel so raw. I could relate to feeling like I had to gouge myself out and put back something better, something more constructive. I still haven’t figured out that either, and so I’m left with John on the plane. Unsteadily working forward. Yet weirdly enough, Koko is our sense of hope at the end. This crazy hooligan is the hero at the end not because she gets a Nobel or helped clean up beaches or take care of old people. She wanted to be a hero to someone, and without even flinching saved her friend Faron. Sent off to his uncle’s as punishment for saving his abused sister from her boyfriend (by beating the crap out of him) she offers him the ability to do what he wants instead of what he should do. And with all the joy of living your life to the fullest, he accepts.

When I first picked up Koko Be Good I wasn’t sure what to expect. The drawings were in a very different style than I was used to and the characters seemed… well a little outlandish. Koko is explosive and often spills her guts out when you least expect it. But I think that that quality might just be way this is such a GOOD book. Koko, so pointedly honest in everything she does reveals to us a person in the process of change and searching for self worth. She’s a drop out, a nobody. How do you make yourself stand out in a world that values schooling, and more importantly networking and the formation of “community”, more than simply doing good? Consider the following quote,

"Hi again. This is another Koko broadcast. This time I have a question. I just want to ask you listeners… if you think you’re good people. And if you are, How would you know?"

Koko wants to be famous, but yet she knows damn straight that no one is listening to the few “broadcasts” she delivers. It is reflective of her honesty, but also demonstrates how utterly vulnerable she is. The other main character, John, continues this theme but contrasts with Koko’s personality in all the right ways. He is so utterly normal and conventional that the idea of him moving away with his older girlfriend is shocking and worrying to most of his friends. As we get to know him better, we find that even he is just as nervous about his reasons for moving away. He had done everything he was supposed to by this point. He had gone to school, majored in something he loved, and got some great friends but the moment he graduated his world felt like it had shifted into standstill. He’s spent all that time running as fast as he could to keep up with societies expectations of him but he had never truly figured out what he wanted to do with his life. When he meets Koko she blows open and reveals all of the insecurities John had been suppressing, forcing him to come to terms with his choices and begin the process of reconstructing himself. He finds his muse again, stops following the people around him, and moves forward on his own.

Koko Be Good succeeds at describing that moment when you have to reevaluate. When you seem to loose sight of what you want, and feel as if you’ve lost something precious but can’t figure out what it is. I think that that’s where this book provided me with so much value. As a recent (and still unemployed) graduate myself it was incredibly hard to read this book because it made my own loss of “college community” and the meaning in my life (getting good grades and succeeding at school) feel so raw. I could relate to feeling like I had to gouge myself out and put back something better, something more constructive. I still haven’t figured out that either, and so I’m left with John on the plane. Unsteadily working forward. Yet weirdly enough, Koko is our sense of hope at the end. This crazy hooligan is the hero at the end not because she gets a Nobel or helped clean up beaches or take care of old people. She wanted to be a hero to someone, and without even flinching saved her friend Faron. Sent off to his uncle’s as punishment for saving his abused sister from her boyfriend (by beating the crap out of him) she offers him the ability to do what he wants instead of what he should do. And with all the joy of living your life to the fullest, he accepts.

10 notes

I have always had a taste for older comics, esspecially the generation that wrote in the decades following the second world war. Osama Tezuka and Keiji Nakazawa are among my favorites as well as relatively well known. So it was to great surprise that I stumbled upon Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Unlike the sprawling epics of Tezuka, Nakazawa, and many modern authors Tasumi focused on the short story and slice of life format. In a career spaning from the 1950s to the present day his body of work is mindboggling, though mostly unknown to the American public.
The short stories collected in the 2005 volume The Push Man and other stories  were written in 1969 primarily for the magazine Gekiga-Young. Since these stories were produced early in Tatsumi’s career he stresses that they are best understood in confluence with his later pieces. Author and illustrator Adrian Tomine a fan and major player in the publication of Tatsumi’s work in English, wrote the introduction to the book and gives a short and elequent description of the way that Tatsumi utilizes the short story format.
"Like the best modern fiction, [Tatsumi’s stories] were satisfying and open-ended. The stories’ focus alternated between stretches of mundane daily life and moments of surprising violence and sexuality, and both extremes were equally refreshing and unsettling to me. In place of one-dimensional heros and villains, there were real people: faces in a crowd, seemingly plucked at random and then examined down to their darkest, most private moments."
The Push Mancontains 16 stroies, and does indeed focus on the most private and dark moments of each character’s life. From the man who tries to please his wife with insurance money gotten from an on site injury to the sewer cleaner who disposes of his own aborted child.  Despair, hard luck, and the mundane creulty weave their way through each of the tales. The grey moral zone of this rabidly growing economic Japan and some of it’s more marganalized people helps us to examine how easily people can be socially and emotionally trapped. Often, this brings the character to the edge of his capabilities leading often to the fufillment of violent intentions, or worse impotent, powerless, and suicidal.
A great read and a great author, Yoshihiro Tatsumi deserves a second look and greater exposure to english speaking comic fans.

I have always had a taste for older comics, esspecially the generation that wrote in the decades following the second world war. Osama Tezuka and Keiji Nakazawa are among my favorites as well as relatively well known. So it was to great surprise that I stumbled upon Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Unlike the sprawling epics of Tezuka, Nakazawa, and many modern authors Tasumi focused on the short story and slice of life format. In a career spaning from the 1950s to the present day his body of work is mindboggling, though mostly unknown to the American public.

The short stories collected in the 2005 volume The Push Man and other stories  were written in 1969 primarily for the magazine Gekiga-Young. Since these stories were produced early in Tatsumi’s career he stresses that they are best understood in confluence with his later pieces. Author and illustrator Adrian Tomine a fan and major player in the publication of Tatsumi’s work in English, wrote the introduction to the book and gives a short and elequent description of the way that Tatsumi utilizes the short story format.

"Like the best modern fiction, [Tatsumi’s stories] were satisfying and open-ended. The stories’ focus alternated between stretches of mundane daily life and moments of surprising violence and sexuality, and both extremes were equally refreshing and unsettling to me. In place of one-dimensional heros and villains, there were real people: faces in a crowd, seemingly plucked at random and then examined down to their darkest, most private moments."

The Push Mancontains 16 stroies, and does indeed focus on the most private and dark moments of each character’s life. From the man who tries to please his wife with insurance money gotten from an on site injury to the sewer cleaner who disposes of his own aborted child.  Despair, hard luck, and the mundane creulty weave their way through each of the tales. The grey moral zone of this rabidly growing economic Japan and some of it’s more marganalized people helps us to examine how easily people can be socially and emotionally trapped. Often, this brings the character to the edge of his capabilities leading often to the fufillment of violent intentions, or worse impotent, powerless, and suicidal.

A great read and a great author, Yoshihiro Tatsumi deserves a second look and greater exposure to english speaking comic fans.

18 notes