Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comic Books For Grown Ups

Yesterday, during the cloudy afternoon here in Pittsburgh, I ventured out to the nearly brand new branch of the Allegheny Library which is only a few blocks from my house. This is a brand new building on Federal Street, which for those of you familiar with the North Side of Pittsburgh, is undergoing somewhat of a rebirth. It was erected to replace the old North Side branch which was damaged by flooding a few years ago. The new building has nowhere near as much character as the old building, but then again, a library should be judged by it's contents, not it's appearance. But clicking on the links below will allow you to see that the old building was so much easier on the eyes. The new one isn't bad, but not as nice as the old one. 
So, with my Walking Dead post from yesterday still fresh in my mind, I decided to take a look at the graphic novel section. I'm not a huge fan of comic books. I probably know more and care more about them than the average joe, but I'd be put to shame by a true fanboy.  I collected superhero comics as a kid and have always kept an eye open for something interesting. And something interesting is exactly what I found yesterday at the library.

The first graphic novel that piqued my curiosity was "The Living and The Dead" by Jason. Everything I've seen just has him listed by the single name Jason. I think I picked this one up based solely on the title but was surprised to see that it wasn't quite a zombie comic like I expected. The characters in the book all seem to have human bodies with different animal heads. They walk and work and act like humans, but certainly don't look like humans. The thing I found most interesting about this comic is the lack of dialogue. It is set up almost like a silent movie. There is only minimal narration in boxes all of it's own. It looks as if it is a silent movie on paper. As for the story, it is somewhat of a slapstick zombie love story. Buster Keaton wouldn't have been out of place in this comic. Except for the fact that we get to see a zombie eat a baby. Not quite what was acceptable in Keaton's day. But the artwork in the comic is very surreal and makes what is happening more like comedy than shocking. The humor and the artwork is dark. It is drawn completely in black and white, but is very stylish. I whizzed through the comic in a few minutes since there is no dialogue, but have found myself going back and examining the artwork all day long. If you like your dark comedy and your love stories, then this is certainly a comic for you.

The second comic I picked up was "Sleepwalk And Other Stories" by Adrian Tomine. This comic couldn't be any more different than "The Living and The Dead". This comic is 16 short stories that are as real as they come. Some of them left me wanting more. Some of them left me sad. Some of them made me laugh. But they all deal with deep human emotion. Most of the content is fairly "adult", more so in an adult emotion kind of way than a dirty way.  Some are only a single page in length, others a bit longer. But what these stories lack in length, they make up for with the feelings they conjure up. This comic is also drawn in black and white but is much more realistic looking. The artwork is very good. The emotions shown on people are very real. I checked out Adrian Tomine's website and he has very good artwork for sale, including an awesome drawing of TV On The Radio. It is all way out of my price range though. He has many other comics that I look forward to reading in the future. I'll let all one or two of you that read this know what I think of them. If they are even a fraction as good as this comic, I'm going to be a true fan. Good storytelling is good storytelling no matter what medium is being used. 

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