French Milk (and Stop Paying Attention)

I started reading Lucy Knisley‘s Stop Paying Attention webcomic several years ago. It could be insightful and the art was always very well done. A favourite strip of mine is “Being Awkward vs Awkward Situations“.

I hadn’t read any of Lucy’s collected work until last week when I picked up French Milk. It’s an autobiographical account of a visit to Paris, relationships with parents and eating food. Travel and food comics are two of my favourite genres, so I was excited to dive in.

The art didn’t disappoint me. Lucy’s drawings are clear, charming and are superb vehicles for revealing both Paris and the emotional world Lucy inhabited. There was a lot to admire in visual aspects of the work and it was a joy to look at the art throughout the book.

The book is a travel and food memoir, but it is also very clearly concerned with anxieties of growing up and familial relationships. There are many poignant moments and the account seems very honest. As a snapshot of a 22-year-old artist, I think it’s excellent.

A problem I did notice was Lucy’s apparent ignorance of privilege. This may be a reflection of a young artist’s self-absorption, but it was jarring at points to read complaints, celebrations and self-pity over things that would be trivial or extravagant for many, if not most, of us. Reviewers also picked up on this flaw, and I think it’s a valid reason to be hesitant in wholeheartedly recommending the book. I see evidence of growth beyond this in Stop Paying Attention, so I believe Lucy’s incredible talent won’t be dulled by that distraction in the same way again, and I can look past the contracted character to see excellent storytelling.

Lucy’s latest book, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen was released in April to a lot of praise. Lucy’s website and Tumblr are both full of excellent content.

O Human Star

I caught up with Blue Delliquanti‘s O Human Star just a few minutes ago and am left deeply impressed. The comic is full of emotional resonance, the art is very expressive and the storytelling is excellent. It hits so many of the points I most value in comics, which has placed it among the comics I most look forward to each week.

Blue is especially deft at portraying relationships, with obvious attention paid to the nuances of conflict and genuine tenderness. This sensitivity was clearly valuable in presenting the same-sex relationship that is central to the story and grounds the story amid the robots and other science fiction elements that also have importance in the story.

The science fiction elements strike me as reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka’s work on Astroboy. Similar tensions are present for artificial lifeforms in this work as exist for the robots in many of Tezuka’s works, and it works very well in O Human Star.

Throughout the comic each character is very relatable and so far each chapter has been surprisingly moving. I can’t recommend O Human Star highly enough.

Alastair Sterling was the inventor who sparked the robot revolution. And because of his sudden death, he didn’t see any of it.

Until he wakes up 16 years later in an advanced robotic body that matches his old one exactly. Until he steps outside and finds a world utterly unlike the one he left behind – a world where robots live and do business alongside their human neighbors and coexist in their cities. A world he helped create.

Al seeks out his old research partner Brendan to find out if he is responsible for Al’s unexpected resurrection, but his return raises far more questions for both of them.

Like who the robot living with Brendan is. And why she looks like Al. And how much of the men’s past should stay in the past…

O Human Star is one of the winners of the 2012 Prism Comics Queer Press Grant, an annual grant awarded to cartoonists publishing comics that feature LGBT characters and themes.

Magical Game Time

Zac Gorman‘s Magical Game Time is a webcomic and art blog that captures the emotional appeal of playing video games and the nostalgia that many of us have for the games we have played. Zac’s art is evocative, enchanting and show a genuine love for the storytelling that video games can do so well.

I played many Nintendo games while I was growing up, so Magical Game Time feels perfect for me. The Legend of Zelda and Metroid pieces Zac has created are especially appealing to me because of the history I have with both series’ games. There’s a tenderness and humour in those comics and images that emphasizes the elements of games that most draw me into them.

Zac has also brought his wonderful comics craft to an original story, Escape from Burgertown. The comic has only four pages so far, but it is shaping up to be every bit as endearing as Zac’s other comics.

Escape from Burgertown is about the residents of a futuristic world—where things aren’t so great—told mostly from the perspective of a few children who accept their world at face value.

Sort of like if Peanuts took place in a bleak, corporate-run future.

a Bite of Buenos Aires

Two of my favourite comic genres are food comics and travel comics, and a Bite of Buenos Aires excited me because it was both. +Linus Nyström has created a webcomic that brings the experience of being in a foreign city vividly to life.

The comic details Linus’ time wintering in Argentina with a focus on local food and culture. I was pleased to see a couple pages about Yerba Mate, a drink I enjoy a lot. The comic is filled with other small, revealing moments about life in what seems to be a thrilling city.

Linus has translated the webcomic from its original Swedish and it is mostly very clear.

My name is Linus Nyström and I’m an illustrator. At the moment, I live in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and this is my travel diary.

Linus also has a portfolio full of great pieces.

Opplopolis

Kit Roebuck‘s Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life was one of my favourite webcomic reads as it was being published, and I was thrilled when Kit started publishing the followup project, Opplopolis. The comic a wonderful mashup of alternate history, retro futurism, strange happenings and mystery.

An esoteric ensemble of characters scour the city of Opplopolis for clues to the mysterious Marvedyne. 

Kit has brought the cast of characters and their world so vividly to life that the very strange events in the story remain grounded in the superbly rendered environment and well developed characters. Little touches such as having a boy demand a Sega Saturn in exchange for information reveal the story’s time, while clones, shapeshifters and other oddities are fun, surprising and meaningful.

Opplopolis is published twice each week in instalments of two pages. So far, issues 1, 2, 3, and 4 have been completed and issue 5 is underway.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant‘s adventure grabbed me immediately. It’s full of the oversized danger and excitement that the best pulp adventure stories hold, and is expressed through pages of dynamic and beautiful art. What really makes the comic special is the expressive cast, especially the delightful title characters. Tony Cliff has created a lighthearted comic that is a joy to read.

The full book is available to read on the website, and will be published in print this year through First Second. A second volume, Delilah Dirk and the Seeds of Good Fortune, is not yet available digitally and its print version does not seem to be available as I write this.

In 19th-century Turkey, an officer in the Janissary army must struggle to repay a brash adventuress for saving his life, even though she was the one who endangered it in the first place. The webcomic unfolds with four or six new pages each Saturday. The number of pages varies each week in service to the story, usually determined by which page would make a more cruel, heart-wrenching cliffhanger.

The Abaddon

I first encountered Koren Shadmi‘s work through some superb illustrations he did for a number of magazines. Pieces such as “Summer Reads” blew me away when I first saw them and I followed his work for a while. I was thrilled when I discovered he was working on the webcomic The Abaddon, which maintains his high quality of art work.

The comic follows an amnesiac protagonist who arrives at a strange apartment building, interacts with its strange inhabitants and stumbles through mysteries. What he uncovers is bizarre, shifting and riveting.

The Abaddon updates twice each week and can be read as an RSS digest through Comic Rocket.

The Abaddon is a bi weekly web comic series, which started in January 2011. The comic tells the story of Ter, who finds himself trapped in a bizarre apartment with a group of ill matched roommates. He quickly discovers his new home is really strange type of prison – an ornate puzzle he needs to solve in order to escape. Ter also realizes that he is missing a crucial part of his memory and identity and decides he must try and uncover his obscure past.

I’ve always wanted to make a comic in which I could draw and write almost anything without restrictions – The Abaddon turned out to be that comic. Loosely based on Jean Paul Sartre’s existential play ‘No Exit’ – The Abaddon became a place where I could push characters to the extreme and experiment with a new kind of narrative.

Moon Town

Steve Ogden‘s Moon Town has the feel of a classic pulp science fiction story. It features a space pilot and miners on the moon, and is peppered with oversized characters and situations. The art has a sketchy feel but is still very polished. It’s an utterly absorbing and charming take on space adventure.

Steve is currently re-releasing pages weekly as he updates the original strip that ran from 2009 to 2011 and plans to continue the story on into a full graphic novel.

The first print issue of Moon Town is available now and the first 39 pages of the remade comic can be read online. An interview with Steve about his work on the comic and elsewhere was published as “Steve Ogden: To Moon Town and Back” at Don’t Pick the Flowers.

The year is 2087. Earth has been mined into a shell, so mankind is mining the moon. But when ore shipments begin vanishing amid rumors of pirates, a new sheriff comes to town in the form of rookie security guard Cassandra Quinn. When she meets a hallucinating lunar miner and discovers a race of aliens living in the shadow of the refinery, can she solve the mystery of the missing ore? Or will she find out too much? Some secrets can get you killed…

Something Positive

I’ve been reading Something Positive since its early days, starting sometime in 2002. It’s been the one webcomic I’ve stuck with and which continued over the past decade. I think that much of that commitment is owed to Randy Milholland’s obvious work ethic, irreverent humour and a cast of characters that reflect the best and worst traits we can have.

Something Positive has followed the lives of a core group of friends and the people who encounter them through nearly 3000 pages. Through all of this time the characters have grown —or not!— and have provided a rich ground for funny situations and genuinely touching moments. Through it all the biting sarcasm,  irreverent jokes and comical meanness have remained to temper the growth characters have undergone. Through it all, it has always been fun to read.

It’s easy to jump right into reading Something Positive with new strips, but it is available using Comic Rocket for RSS serialization from page one. Randy also publishes the very funny Rhymes with Witch and Super Stupor on the same page.

Something*Positive is the story of a few friends – namely Davan, Aubrey, PeeJee, and Jason – and their daily lives, struggles, and the occasional mass catgirl cataclysm. The story began in Boston in 2001. Since then, it’s expanded to Texas, California, and a few other nightmares along the way.

These are people you know, although you may not admit it. It’s just a comic about trying to live you life and bringing a few friends with you so you don’t kill anyone. At least, not anyone you might get in trouble for.

Elfquest

Wendy and Richard Pini’s ElfQuest was one of the formative works of fiction from my youth. I was drawn in by the fantastic art and epic adventure contained in the Marvel back issues I first encountered but stayed for the rich storytelling and challenging relationship forms. Years later I still appreciate it as one of the best crafted series of comics I’ve read.

Elfquest was first published in 1978 and was one of the first big successes in independent comics publishing. Over the years more than 6500 pages of the comic have been published in a variety of formats through several different publishers, including both Wendy and Richard’s own WARP Graphics, Marvel and DC.

When I was a teenager I collected ElfQuest comics, short story collections and novelizations at every chance I had. By that time there was a huge number of releases from the series and I devoured them. I had hundreds of issues by the time I finished high school and have continued to read each new release that Wendy and Richard have released.

ElfQuest was the first place I encountered both pansexuality and polyamoury —though neither were named as such and I didn’t yet have any notion of the terms. Exposure to both terms helped to shape my understanding of both sexuality and relationships over time. In a very strong way, I feel I owe a great debt to the kindness and expansiveness that Wendy and Richard imbued into their stories.

Every page of the comic can be read online at Digital EQ Online Comics, and I recommend reading The Original Quest as a starting point. For the past 5 months, a page of a prelude to the final ElfQuest story has been published each week at Boing Boing and the art is as beautiful as it ever has been. Finally, after many attempts at making an ElfQuest film, creators of a fan short based on the comics have been granted the rights to produce a film, and that may go into production in the next few years. As a preview, watch ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining.