The Beat's story describes in great detail the ceremony, which sounds like a good one. I think that award has done a really solid job of establishing itself in a brief time. It's a fitting reflection of its namesake's extended run of significant work in both comic books and animation, and addresses what should be an issue of interest for everyone in comics right now that has a stake in how things develop over the next quarter-century.
Bundled Extra: Editor Karen Berger Developing Berger Books Line With Dark Horse Comics
It was announced late last week via press announcement at this weekend's ComicsPRO gathering (I think) that Karen Berger, the founder of DC's influential Vertigo imprint, will develop a line of creator-owned comic books and graphic novels at Dark Horse. The line will be called Berger Books. You can read a bunch of very good articles perhaps structured after the very good David Hyde press release at places like PW.
Berger stepped down from Vertigo in 2012, and has taken on a number of eclectic freelance gigs since while kind of remaining the #1 free agent out there in terms of an editor with industry influence and no office with their name on it. A name like Berger's is increasingly important in comics as the North American market continue to surge forward with titles in a lot of different categories, comics that without a reason for folks to stop and look might appear on the racks briefly and fairly disappear.
In addition to bringing a great deal of talent -- most famously writing talent -- to English-language readers during her tenure with Vertigo, the imprint is also credit with providing a mainstream-comics weight and oomph to a lot of trends developed in comics during that period. Berger also seems personally well-liked to a significant degree by creators that worked with her before or merely read the comics she fostered into existence, so the talent roster she's able to assemble with Dark Horse backing her should be a fascinating story to watch.
I know I write a little bit of something for nearly every issue, but I greatly enjoy Mineshaft. I admire its unlikely existence and each issue seems to have a few more accomplished comics and/or sketches by members of the underground school -- both the original crew, and their generational successors. This one has fun work from Mary Fleener, Peter Poplaski, John Porcellino and the usual dash of Robert Crumb. I wish every tradition in comics had a similar publication.
* Ivan Brunetti's auction-related efforts on behalf of his students with their Linework anthology is building up a decent head of steam. Brunetti's work is available very intermittently, and the big-ticket item here is as good-looking as anything he's done.
Editor's Note: Some of you have questioned whether or not these listings count as personal endorsements; they don't. In the spirit of more information trumping less, I will continue to list a wide variety of events here for those that don't share my specific tastes and distastes.
* Mike Lynch slams Glenn McCoy's idiotic and tone-deaf explanation for this cartoon comparing Betsy DeVos. It doesn't pass a sixth grader's logic test. Ruby Bridges wasn't being castigated for her beliefs, she was be threatened and harassed for the color of her skin. Even if those were conceptual equivalencies, the identity-based equivalency of directly contrasting a mature billionaire lurching after a position of power with pitiful results to a little girl simply trying to go to school and being dignified while doing so, that's just shameful. What a terrible, terrible, terrible cartoon.
* there are some pin-up posters floating around the Internet promoting the movie Logan; you can see the images here. I'd love to read a smart piece on why that character appeals. My theory of the comic character's appeal is that he was short and his power set directly embraced the new "realism" paradigm that settled onto a lot of fantasy literature. But the movie version gets weird. He's tall and handsome. He gets the girls instead of throwing his hospital flowers in the trash. He has always been grim and gritty so there's no juice in flipping the script on him, but there are enough characters like that -- the Punisher, Deadpool -- he doesn't seem totally unique that way, either. So what I'm left with is (Super) Man With No Name. Maybe that's the extent of it.
This year, however, they outdid themselves. When 2016 ended I was certain about my pick for best comic of the year, and, in a thrilling surprise, so was the Angoulême jury: Paysage après la bataille by writer Philippe de Pierpont and artist Êric Lambé. This hauntingly poetic masterpiece is one of the best comics in years, a subtly unnerving work about the transformative power of grief.
De Pierpont and Lambé have been collaborators on and off for more than a decade now. They had previously published Alberto G., a quasi-biography of Giacometti, in 2003, as well as La Pluie and Un Voyage. Four years ago Lambé shocked the comics world with the graphically astonishing graphic novel, Le Fils du Roi (elaborately cross-hatched in ball point pen). Paysage saw a return to the simpler line art of his earlier work, now paired with breathtaking compositions. Framing and layout operate in this book at an incredibly high level to create meaning. It is a formal tour-de-force.
Paysage après la bataille is simple to describe in plot terms. Having lost her daughter in a car accident, a woman, Fany, travels to a mobile home park in winter to escape the world. Here she meets four people, a couple and two lone men, each of whom have their own backstories. While not a wordless comic, it is likely that about 300 of the 420 pages in the work contain no text.
Snow falls. Birds sing. A rabbit is buried. Life goes on. Or it doesn't.
The work is carried by its misleadingly simple structure: plenty of single-panel and two-panel wordless pages lend the book its muted, understated tone. The vast majority of the book features grey washes and black-and-white line art, yet unexpected flashes of color signal major emotional highs and lows. In what is to me the book's most affecting sequence, Lambé cuts between images of a hunter and a showering Fany to create a potent scene of threat and loss. Few cartoonists could have pulled off such an understated moment.
"Understated" is the key word for this book. De Pierpont and Lambé don't compete with each other -- during the one key sequence with dialogue, for instance, Lambé literally drops the art out of the page. There isn't a misstep to be found in these pages. I've read this book three times, and, in all honesty, I got chills every time.
The best book of last year. By a wide margin.
You can read about the highly accomplished Bart Beaty here. His writing about the various European comics scenes over the last quarter-century is one of comics' great treasures.
* Paysage après la bataille, Eric Lambé And Philippe De Pierpont, Actes Sud, 9782330069988, October 2016, approximately $31 USD.