RIP ADAM WEST
Like so many of you, Adam West was my first Batman. There are times in my life I begrudged the '60s Batman TV show for perpetuating what many non-comics readers saw as the campy ridiculousness of the medium as a whole, but the truth is that without Adam West, I may not have every begun reading comics in the first place.
My sister sent me a message this morning: "Adam West. Such a huge part of my memories of growing up with you." And that, more than anything else I could write here, encapsulates just how special the 1960s Batman TV show, and West in particular, really was. He's soaked not just into the childhood of comics fans everywhere, but of everyone we knew, everyone who grew up alongside us. Adam West is immortal.
How soon is Now? September, apparently. Yes, Fantagraphics has an all-new thrice-yearly alt-comix anthology on the way and hopefully you're as chuffed as I am about the news.
Edited by Eric Reynolds, Now #1 features new work by Eleanor Davis, Noah Van Sciver, Gabrielle Bell, Dash Shaw, Sammy Harkham, Malachi Ward, J.C. Menu, Conxita Herrerro, Tobias Schalken, Antoine Cossé, Tommi Parrish, Sara Corbett, Daria Tessler, Kaela Graham and this insane cover by Rebecca Morgan:
COMIC OF THE WEEK : BOUNDLESS
By Jillian Tamaki
Published Drawn & Quarterly
"I move about the land when and where I want," says a squirrel in the titular story of Jillian Tamaki's new short story collection, Boundless. "I bound across roofs and yards-- fences are irrelevant. It's all the same to me." In many ways, Tamaki could well be writing of her own burgeoning career in comics, the inspired choices she makes on the page and what appears to be an unwillingness to remain contained by formal comics structure. Artistically, the tales collected in Boundless move from loosely scribbled drawings to finely detailed black and white recreations of photographs (see this week's webcomic for more on this) to softly, warmly coloured pictures with rich, thick lines. Tamaki is as clever with a page of panels as she is playing with negative space or unfolding images over double page spreads, poetic enough to juxtapose text and image and let her readers work for meaning, confident enough to frequently experiment with her cartooning and boil her images down to shapes that are at times almost conceptions of objects rather than the objects themselves.
Individually, any one of the short comics here is a clear example of a surging talent. Collected together, however, Boundless proves to be something extra special, the kind of thing you would give to a prose reader unfamiliar with the real potential of our medium, filled with bite-sized chunks of beautiful, dreamy, smart comics. In fact, I would not be surprised to find Boundless in bookshops filed next to the best short story collections of the day. It certainly would not be out of place. I personally was left with same kind of quiet awe I felt after first encountering Peter Carey's The Fat Man In History so many years back.
Tamaki has a grand imagination and a knack for conceptual hooks - the "mirror universe" Facebook in "1.Jenny" in which a woman finds her double leading a vastly different life to her own, the weird audio-virus of the Ignatz-winning "Sex Coven" (which, incidentally, made this column's Best of 2015 list) and the creepy unease, suburban dread and oh-so subtle body horror of the Amway-satire, "The Clairfree System" being the strongest examples of ideas that could have been commercial genre pieces. Tamaki, however, has no time for the cheap payoffs and neat conclusions of most comics shorts, instead adhering to perhaps the one "rule" of most Capital-L Literature short stories - create not a beginning nor an end, but a slice of the in-between.
This eschewing of neat story construction adds a layer of dreaminess to Tamaki's work. There are no ripping climaxes to be found here, no heroes to save the day -- instead we have examples such as a woman who finds herself forever shrinking, another pondering why everyone she was involved with loved the same movie and a producer reflecting on his attempt to make a porn-sitcom. Her stories, aided obviously and immeasurably by really lovely artwork and inspired layouts in which images and panels often "float" on the page, move along gently, leisurely, and are often over quickly before another begins, then another, then another. Read Boundless in a sitting and you may feel like you've just woken up by its end, with Tamaki's stories like dream-fragments recalling themselves in your consciousness.
I'm going to stop here before I do a disservice to the work through over-explanation. Find your own way into Boundless, find your own favourite story here and soak up those it's surrounded by in this superb collection which perfectly elevates comics to the realms of Fine Art and Literature.
WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : JILLIAN TAMAKI EXPLAINS HER CREEPY SKIN-CARE COMIC
Okay, if you do not want to take a peek behind the curtain of Jillian Tamaki's creative process making "The Clairefree System," look away now.
As briefly mentioned above, "The Clairfree System" turns the business of selling skin care into quiet, strange dread. Tamaki actually used numerous found photographs as source material for many of her images, which would explain the real intimacy found in some of them. I strongly recommend reading the story before you click this link as Tamaki really unpacks it all here, including her choice of image and her symbolic intent in presenting them as she does.
COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : PENGUIN THREADS-PENGUIN CLASSICS
From 2011 comes this video, which is so poorly shot and put together it makes 1987's Masters of Comic Book Art look like a cinematic masterpiece. It does, however, detail the creation of Penguin Books Classic Deluxe line of books, the covers to which are lovely and most of which were drawn by comics professionals, and in particular, the Penguin Threads line, all three of which were designed and embroidered by hero of the week and former high school quilt-maker, Jillian Tamaki.
The Secret Garden, Emma and Black Beauty got the Threads treatment, with Tamaki, thrilled to try her hand at fibre arts, taking over two months to complete the assignment. "Time-consuming and laborious" is how Tamaki describes the process of creating her embroidery, but the work speaks for itself and showcases, yet again, Tamaki's flexibility as an illustrator. Seek these volumes out if you're a Tamaki completist.
See you in two weeks. Love your comics.