Alay-Oop, William Gropper
NYRB reprinted this book this year, but it was originally published in 1930, the year after Lynd Ward’s God’s Man and the same year as Otto Nuckel’s Destiny and Milt Gross’s He Done Her Wrong. So it comes out of that tradition of one-image-per-page wordless books. Alay-Oop is a love story that begins in a circus, but spans the years afterwards and the changing emotions of its characters. It’s a wonderful little story told in bold and expressive linework.
Floral Sounds, Hue Nguyen
I found this book at VanCAF. This isn’t a story. Instead, it’s a series of colored pencil floral drawings and over those drawings are acetate overlays illustrating the sound waves of the bioelectric impulses of the flowers depicted. It’s just a unique and beautiful little mini. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to be able to get it from Nguyen’s site. Maybe through an e-mail.
Glenn Ganges in: the River at Night, Kevin Huizenga
This is a collection of Glenn Ganges stories, but instead of being just an accumulation, these stories work off each other and build a larger narrative. This book reminds me a bit of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in that it’s a story that keeps interrupting itself and is habitually unable to move forward, yet is both funny and thought-provoking. Ostensibly, the book is about how Ganges is unable to go to sleep, but Huizenga uses that simple device to explore the vagaries of consciousness, the nature of thought, and the passage of time. I need to read this book again.
The Hard Tomorrow, Eleanor Davis
I keep thinking that I’ll write about this book. There is so much packed into it and it rewards multiple readings. Besides the timeliness of the story itself, Davis’s cartooning is at its height here. The line work is sumptuous and she deftly transitions from cartoony abstraction to rendered realism.
Laab Issue 4, Ronald Wimberly et al
I loved Laab #0 and while this issue isn’t as groundbreaking, it’s still a thought-provoking collection of comics and articles. There are pieces by Richie Pope, Emily Carroll, Ben Passmore, Hellen Jo, Sloane Leong, Jonathan Djob Nkondo, and, of course, Wimberly himself. There is also a great little essay about Frankenstein.
And check out this interview with Wimberly.
Making Comics, Lynda Barry
Starting with What It Is, I have loved every single how-to book that Barry has published through Drawn & Quarterly and this one is no exception. Barry is so wise and her interest is not in technique so much as it is in getting at where stories come from. So her approach to art creation is completely human and unique. And the book itself, like the others, is like the platonic ideal of a creator’s notebook. It’s a wealth of generative inspiration. Barry is just a treasure.
Upgrade Soul, Ezra Claytan Daniels
This was published in print by Lion Forge in 2018, but I didn’t read this book till this year. The version I read was through ComiXology, but the book has its own app (pictured left). This is not simply an ebook, but a reworking of each panel to give it a sense of depth along with a creepy soundtrack. Apparently, Daniels feels that this is the definitive version. I know some people hate to read on a device, but the app is really cool. The book itself was probably the biggest surprise of 2019 for me. It’s just an incredible work. I already wrote a short review.
When I Arrived at the Castle, Emily Carroll
My favorite works by Carroll are probably her wordless series based on Fallout 4 and “Some Other Animal’s Meat,” but this book is a beautifully printed work and like Beneath the Dead Oak Tree depicts a much more violent story. It reminds me of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, especially her second reworking of Beauty and the Beast, “The Tiger’s Bride.”
Here are two things I read on-line this year that I really enjoyed.
“Being an Artist and a Mother,” Lauren Weinstein
“How to Draw a Horse,” Emma Hunsinger
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See my 2018 list.