KYD Advent Calendar

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Comics and Graphic Novels

For mature readers

by Pepi Ronalds , January 9, 2013Leave a comment

Image copyright Julie Doucet

It’s 1994 and I’m walking up Bourke Street. Imagine for a second that this is a comic: I’m pictured in black ink, mid-stride, just left of a doorway. The sign for Minotaur (my local comic shop) is visible over a flight of stairs inside the door. Above my head is a thought bubble, with pictures of comic books inside a love heart. They’re not superhero comics nor are they like Archie. They’re literary comics (also known as underground or alternative comics). Their covers differ wildly, but they share one thing, a warning: ‘For mature readers’.

It’s not that the comics I read are filthy or even pornographic (although their storylines often consider both filth and pornography). The stories are very human. They contemplate things I can relate to in the 90s – shared housing, hormonal skirmishes, time with friends, being broke – and they’re written by my contemporaries. These artists nod at their forefathers (like Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman) and then they stretch the genre further.

I love dozens of different literary comic artists and anthologies. Among my favourites of the 90s are Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet and Peep Show by Joe Matt. Both are published by Drawn and Quarterly, both are essentially non-fiction and feature autobiographical characters who masturbate, have sex fantasies, are broke and a little lonely. Plus they each lean on and learn from their ensembles of good friends. Yet the very nature of the medium is that despite these similarities both comics are poles apart.

Doucet explores her world inch by inch in scratchy detail. The protagonists wander through streets, catch trains, sit in bars, apartments and classrooms. They exchange dialogue in the culturally proscribed way, but seem oblivious to the cacophony of living objects around them. Beer bottles have legs and run across the floor yelling ‘Bitch!’ and ‘Shit!’ Empty cups with hands hang out together on street corners. A clothing iron is out to kill, a roast chicken becomes a friend, and in one story Doucet joins her telephone in a pas de deux. In Dirty Plotte, every space is literally alive with detail.

Image copyright Julie Doucet

Joe Matt also labours over his work. But where Doucet’s inner imagination and unique drawing style entice me into Dirty Plotte, it’s Matt’s respect for the conventions of comic books that lure me into Peep Show. It has a slicker aesthetic (no value judgements there). Matt will pop a face out of a flat black background. He’ll apply the craft to expertly convey all kinds of expressions in his characters (for example, two faces connected with a series of lines to affect the double take).

Image copyright Joe Matt

In both comics, dialogue isn’t just dialogue. Capitalisation, emphasis and the shape of a word bubble are all devices. In the story An English Lesson (Dirty Plotte #2), Doucet uses font, collage and backward letters to help play out an increasing drunkenness. Images tell us what the dialogue can’t: our protagonists become slouched and deranged, a clean table is gradually littered with spills and beer glasses. And all this across only 12 panels (two pages).

Where Doucet’s world spins within each panel, Matt winds stories into stories. In Bins Whacker Part Three (Peep Show #6), Andy (one of Matt’s protagonists) has realised Matt wrote him (a little unkindly) into an earlier issue of the comic. Andy sees Matt in the street and confronts him. The six-panel exchange includes icicled word bubbles as well as droplets conveying different levels of fear, surprise and exasperation in Matt’s face. Finally a little tornado line swirls above his shamed, hanging head. The scene plays to Matt’s portrayal of himself as a little hopeless and unlikeable. But throughout Peep Show it’s clear he’s a skilled comic artist using all available tools of storytelling and illustration.

Image copyright Joe Matt

I made dozens of visits up those stairs to Minatour throughout the 90s, waiting for the latest issues of my favourite literary comics. Since then Matt’s entire series has been anthologised in Peep Show: the Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt and most of Dirty Plotte is available in Doucet’s My New York Diary. These book-version anthologies have created new readers for both artists, but I will always treasure my original print-runs, and my memories of the 90s that come with them.

 

Pepi Ronalds (@pepironalds) is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. Her work has been published in Meanjin, Open Manifesto, A List Apart and more. She keeps a blog for writers, Future of Long Form: which explores the space between writers and readers in the new media galaxy. It was selected as an official Emerging Blog for the 2012 Melbourne Writers Festival. Learn more on her website www.pepironalds.com.




9508984918_5d8a187fc1_z

Marika Sosnowski

Living Side by Side: Multiculturalism at Home and Abroad

It all seems quite idyllic – people of varying nationalities, religions and cultures coexisting peacefully. It could be a blueprint for the perfect multicultural society. However, there’s something beneath the surface that is troubling to the western notion of modern liberalism. Read more »

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

isabelle_cover_grande

Dark Places and Safe Spaces: S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars

S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is a powerful and affecting depiction of a young woman struggling with mental illness and emotional turmoil. A book like Isabelle might well be described as the underdog of Australian publishing: a character-focused literary novel published by a small press … Read more »

w527705

Carody Culver

Taking Christmas off the shelf

Ah, Christmas – for some, a time of gift-giving, awkward family gatherings and over-zealous consumption of rum balls; for booksellers, a time to weep silent tears of stress and experience the irrational but persistent fear of being buried alive beneath boxes of the latest Stephen Fry memoir. Read more »

22432611

S.A. Jones

The modern epistolary novel: Annabel Smith’s The Ark

Annabel Smith has given the epistolary novel a twenty-first century reboot in her recently-released dystopian novel The Ark. Told through emails, blogs, procedural reports, speech transcripts and the occasional newspaper clipping, this impressive technical feat of storytelling is a clever and appropriate twinning of form and function. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

Kim_cover_web_

Julia Tulloh

Kim Kardashian, butts, and the internet

We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton-691x1024

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Problems with God: Exodus: Gods & Kings

This is the thing about retellings of old and beloved foundation stories: it’s impossible to come to them fresh, without trying to compare and contrast with previous versions for veracity and style. It’s usually the modern incarnation that comes up short. Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

Maps to the Stars

Rochelle Siemieonwicz

Monsters in Los Angeles: Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler

Both Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler are peopled by monsters who may look human, but are actually spiritually deformed and morally repugnant creatures of the most loathsome kind. The suggestion implicit in each of these thrillingly creepy stories is that these ‘freaks’ are born out of and adapted to the hellish spiritual landscape of LA. Read more »

3991099211_8397c745fe_b

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Taking up space: The legitimisation of creepshotting

There is a relationship between catcalling and creepshotting. Both are practices that involve the reduction of strangers to objects to be gawked at and commented on, which is what makes the ‘Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train’ Tumblr blog interesting and complex. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

IMG_4309

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Patrons and gamemakers in the shadow of Gamergate

There is a lot to unpack about Gamergate, and a great deal more that isn’t at all worth taking seriously, but what the patronage pseudo-controversy has drawn attention to is the fact that there are potentially huge issues with moving to a model of monetary transactions in which our payments are increasingly networked and ‘social’. Read more »

2447663467_2d543e6c87_o

Danielle Binks

Young Adult literature: genre is not readership

YA is not a genre – it is a readership. It may seem like pedantic nitpicking to focus on this distinction, but so pervasive is the mistake, amongst even established literary channels, that explaining the difference has become increasingly important and indeed necessary. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

Anne of Green Gables

Danielle Binks

Books that take you there: YA literary tourism

How has literary tourism taken on new dimensions and greater capitalism, thanks to youth literature – both old and new, book and film? Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

drake-cover-650

Justin Wolfers

Drake’s climate change epiphany

Or: ‘Heat of the Moment’ as an epiphany in which Drake realises the urgency and importance of acting on climate change Read more »

Swans_To_Be_Kind

Chad Parkhill

Against the Album of the Year

We won’t see an end to end-of-year album and song lists any time soon – it’s hard enough for sites and publications to turn a buck without scorning one of the easiest means of acquiring sales and page views. Read more »

??????????????????????

Stephanie Van Schilt

Lady Bosses on the Box

An increasing number of female-driven comedies, dramas or melodramas are popping up on our screens. Through the filters of fiction, the worlds these heroines inhabit directly reflect our own. This is the age of the lady boss. Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »

Marry Me - Season Pilot

Stephanie Van Schilt

Happy Hangovers and False Starts: Happy Endings and Marry Me

Binging rarely ends well. Binge eating is how unwanted food babies happen. Binge drinking is how inhibitions and memories are erased. Binge-watching a TV show can take over your life. Which is exactly what happened a few years ago when I fell in love with Happy Endings. Read more »