Graphic Novels from Anno, Bendis, Peyo, & Woodring | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 29, 2014

Anno, Moyoco. (text & illus.). In Clothes Called Fat. Vertical. 2014. 264p. ISBN 9781939130433. pap. $16.95. Ages 18+. MANGA
inclothescalledfat082914In America, manga is often seen as a nerdy subgenre, albeit an incredibly popular one. It’s not uncommon for a library’s manga holdings to take up a large chunk of the graphic novels sections with volume series about vampires, cats, or teens who turn into cat vampires (I’m just guessing here). But in Japan, the style is used to tell all kinds of stories, and Anno’s book is a fantastic example of serious adult manga work that rarely gets translated into the English language. Noko is a chubby young woman with an eating problem who works in an office full of pretty, skinny, mean girls. Her boyfriend says he likes her size, but he’s sneaking around with the office’s queen bee. Tormented by this, Noko decides to get her eating under control and becomes dangerously bulimic. Her boyfriend rejects her, her coworkers still hate her, and she’s traded in one disorder for another, spiraling slowly into madness. Anno’s illustrations of binges and purges, bony bodies and sallow faces are haunting, effective, and suit the story perfectly.
Verdict A raw, unflinching look at how external pressure and internal vanity can mangle the human spirit. Cautionary but not oversimplified, In Clothes Called Fat is a wonderful example of manga’s artistic and narrative possibilities.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Bendis, Brian Michael (text & illus.). Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels. Watson-Guptill. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780770434359. pap. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780770434366. GRAPHIC NOVELS/BUS
With a string of best-selling series and five Eisner Awards under his belt, Bendis (Powers; Ultimate Spider-Man) knows a thing or two about writing for the comic page. Interviews and panel discussions with industry superstars like Mike Allred, Jill Thompson, Ed Brubaker, and Diana Schutz give a broad sense of what generally makes up the path to publication as well as a sampling of the dozens of specific paths one may encounter. Abundant illustrations helpfully reinforce points raised in each chapter. Bendis understands that, for this book’s intended audience, the creative process serves as a means to a career in a highly competitive field. He takes for granted that the reader has a solid foundation in storytelling and forgoes advice on dialog, characterization, and the like. Instead, he focuses on aspects of the industry that rookie writers may be unfamiliar with, such as writing with the illustrator in mind, collaborative methods, and dealing with editors. This tight focus may disappoint readers looking for specific tips to improve their writing, but those a bit further down the professional road will appreciate the business-minded perspective.
Verdict Recommended for aspiring pros and readers wanting an inside look at what goes into creating a successful comic.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Peyo (text & illus.). The Smurfs Anthology. Vol. 3. Papercutz. Aug. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9781597077460. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781629911380. COMICS
This third Smurfs collection by Belgian artist Peyo, pseudonym of Pierre Culliford (1928–92), features the original 1960s comics that gave rise to the enormously popular 1980s Hanna-Barbera cartoon, as well as a longer issue of Johan and Peewit, a sword and sorcery comics series set in the same world of the Smurfs but focusing on two adventurers in a quest against a dragon. Smurfs tales include Astro Smurf’s dubious “journey” to another planet, the Smurf village dealing with a giant, a dangerous bird, and a weather machine run amok. Drawn in the same western European style that characterized other well-known and loved characters by Hergé (Tintin) and Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (Asterix), the Smurfs are a delight of color, solid lines, and framing. This is a fine collection with only one potential downside, the slight bowdlerization in the name of modern sensibilities: the skin tones of the Swoofs (savage counterparts of the Smurfs) are rendered green rather than the original tawny color. This may be upsetting to some collectors and purists.
Verdict An entertaining anthology that will be well received by those nostalgic for the cartoon and serves as a solid introduction to a younger generation of comic readers.—Evan M. Anderson, Kirkendall P.L., Ankeny, IA

Woodring, Jim (text & illus.). Jim. Fantagraphics. Sept. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781606997529. $29.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
It’s a colossal understatement to call the work of writer/illustrator Woodring (Weathercraft) idiosyncratic. Literally drawn from the “autojournals” the graphic novelist has long kept of his dreams, his subconscious spills out over all the pages of Jim, a collection of the best of Woodring’s work featuring his titular cartoon alter ego and more. The unique mix of surrealism, kitsch, and Robert Crumb–style cartooning, with threatening undercurrents throughout (images of malevolent animals that look like they want to leap off the page occur frequently), obeys genuine oneiric logic; even Woodring’s prose contains abrupt narrative shifts and bizarre apparitions. Admirably uncompromised but thoroughly unpleasant, these comics seem to have no particular meaning other than what individual readers bring to them—unless the intent is to remind us of the things that lurk in our own psyches, emerging only when we sleep.
Verdict Jim represents the intersection of comic books and outsider art and is equally conducive to appreciation and repulsion. The disturbing visual and verbal content is not for children or the impressionable; recommended to those with a taste for the outré.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB