Why comics are still a mar­vel

Manga show in UK’S top cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion is per­fect il­lus­tra­tion of art form that has been around for cen­turies

The Herald - - NEWS - TEDDY JAMIESON

LAST year the Man Booker long list, this year the British Mu­seum. In May, the coun­try’s prin­ci­pal cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion mounts the largest ever ex­hi­bi­tion staged out­side Ja­pan on manga, the Ja­pa­nese form of comics. Tak­ing in ev­ery­thing from the work of 18th-cen­tury Ja­pa­nese artist Kat­sushika Hoku­sai to Poke­mon, cos­play and an­ime, it prom­ises to be a wide-rang­ing look at the pol­i­tics, his­tory and aes­thet­ics of manga, touch­ing on ev­ery­thing from Hiroshima to ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

It’s also an­other sign of the in­creas­ing cul­tural reach and ac­cep­tance of comics as an art form, one that comes hard on the heels of the long list­ing of Nick Drsnao’s dis­turb­ing graphic novel Sab­rina for the Man Booker Prize in 2018.

The British Mu­seum’s ex­hi­bi­tion is just one of the comics-re­lated high­lights to look for­ward to in 2019, a year that also marks the 80th an­niver­sary of Mar­vel Comics. One of the most recog­nis­able brands in the world, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that just over two decades ago the com­pany was fil­ing for bank­ruptcy. Now, as part of the Dis­ney cor­po­ra­tion, it will be cel­e­brat­ing its birth­day through­out the year in both the comics it prints and with a new Avengers Endgame film due for re­lease in April (a month after Brie Lar­son ap­pears on the big screen as Cap­tain Mar­vel).

Be­tween the British Mu­seum and Mar­vel, though, there are any num­ber of in­trigu­ing projects lined up for pub­li­ca­tion this year to cater to all tastes. What fol­lows is just a taste.

FE­BRU­ARY NEXT

month Amer­i­can car­toon­ist Peter Bagge re­turns with the lat­est in his comic book biopics of fem­i­nist pi­o­neers. After books on Africanamer­i­can an­thro­pol­o­gist and au­thor Zola Neale Hurston and pi­o­neer birth con­trol ac­tivist Mar­garet Sanger, Bagge’s lat­est book Credo (Drawn & Quar­terly) tells the story of Rose Wilder Lane, war cor­re­spon­dent, lib­er­tar­ian and daugh­ter of Laura In­galls Wilder, au­thor of Lit­tle House on the Prairie. Bagge ap­proaches her story in his trade­mark rub­bery style and a spiky wit.

Fe­bru­ary also sees a new book from Liz Sub­ur­bia, whose punky graphic novel Sa­cred Heart set in an Amer­i­can small town in which all the adults have dis­ap­peared was one of the high­lights of 2015. Egg Cream No.1, pub­lished by Sil­ver Sprocket, is the first in­stal­ment of a se­quel to Sa­cred Heart, pick­ing up the story 10 years later.

MARCH CANA­DIAN

car­toon­ist Seth has been work­ing on his strip Clyde Fans for 20 years, with reg­u­lar chap­ters ap­pear­ing in his on­go­ing comic Palookav­ille. March fi­nally sees them all gath­ered to­gether (it is the best part of 500 pages) in a sin­gle hard­back col­lec­tion by Drawn & Quar­terly.

The story of two brothers in the air con­di­tion­ing in­dus­try in post-war Toronto, Clyde Fans is typ­i­cally Sethian in its mix­ture of bit­ter­sweet nos­tal­gia and his gim­let-eyed ac­count of hu­man dys­func­tion. The art, as ever, is sub­lime.

The fact that he has been work­ing on it for 20 years is tes­ta­ment to the com­mit­ment re­quired of graphic nov­el­ists. The same can be said for Jaime Her­nan­dez. The co-cre­ator of Love & Rock­ets, Her­nan­dez’s Is This How You See Me? is the lat­est in­stal­ment in the life of Mag­gie and Hopey, the Latina punks now well into mid­dle age. Her­nan­dez has been chron­i­cling their lives since the early 1980s and the re­sult is an on­go­ing comic book come­die hu­maine, and one of the great achieve­ments of the graphic form.

March also sees the nov­el­ist Mar­garet At­wood, long a sup­porter of the comics form, team up with artist Re­nee Nault to of­fer a graphic ver­sion of her fa­mous novel The Hand­maid’s Tale (Jonathan Cape).

MAY AS

well as the British Mu­seum’s manga ex­hi­bi­tion, May also sees Lon­don’s House of Il­lus­tra­tion mount an ex­hi­bi­tion of the work of British car­toon­ist Posy Sim­monds. Sim­monds has long been some­thing of a na­tional trea­sure for her work in the Guardian and this ex­hi­bi­tion is a cel­e­bra­tion of her tal­ent for af­fec­tion­ate satire. It is ac­com­pa­nied by a new book writ­ten by comics his­to­rian and ad­vo­cate Paul Gravett to be pub­lished by Thames & Hud­son.

JUNE MAR­GAUX

Motin, who has been called the French Posy Sim­monds, re­turns with Plate Tec­ton­ics, pub­lished by Boom! It’s the first English trans­la­tion of her work since Self­made­hero pub­lished But I Re­ally Wanted To Be An An­thro­pol­o­gist way back in 2012. Plate Tec­ton­ics is an ac­count of life as a sin­gle thir­tysome­thing mother. If Sharon Hor­gan did comics, they might look like this.

It is worth re­mem­ber­ing that just over two decades ago Mar­vel Comics was fil­ing for bank­ruptcy

SEPTEM­BER AN­OTHER

big hit­ter re­turns in the au­tumn when Chris Ware’s Rusty Brown strips are gath­ered to­gether by Jonathan Cape. Ware, cre­ator of Build­ing Sto­ries and Jimmy Cor­ri­gan, has been work­ing on the story for 20 years. It is about a young Amer­i­can boy and a mid­dle-aged man ob­sessed with ac­tion fig­ures. Like Seth, Ware’s work is both bit­ter­sweet and painfully hon­est. It also is beau­ti­fully crafted.

NOVEM­BER FI­NALLY,

Myr­iad Edi­tions is promis­ing us Bil­lion­aires, a new book from British car­toon­ist Dar­ryl Cun­ning­ham. Cun­ning­ham’s Su­per­crash was one of the most ac­ces­si­ble ex­am­i­na­tions of the fi­nan­cial crash so this book about the su­per rich should be a use­ful primer for those who want to know more about those at the top of the fi­nan­cial food chain. Ex­pect it to leave you fum­ing though.

„ Far left, Clyde Fans, by Cana­dian car­toon­ist Seth, while above is Plate Tec­ton­ics by French il­lus­tra­tor Mar­gaux Motin and left is Amer­i­can car­toon­ist Peter Bagge’s Cre­dio.

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