Here we are! The FIBD is now alive and somewhat kicking. Thursday was somewhat drizzly and we didn’t manage to take in a whole lot of it, since we arrived and got installed somewhat late. Today looks promising though — time to take in some of the fine-looking exhibitions, I think, and the cruise for comics in the alternative tent.

Above: first look: Moebius wacom’ing in the main tent. Always here, always great to see him!

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • London Review of Books: “The Darwin Show” Steven Shapin examines the phenomenon that was the Darwin year, the multifarious contexts in which Darwin takes centre stage these years, as well as the man and his work in this bravura effort.
  • David Bordwell: “Kurosawa’s Early Spring”. A reluctant if incisive analysis of Kurosawa’s early work and his innovations in editing. A fine start to the Kurosawa centenary this year.
  • Tom Spurgeon: “A Blind Man’s Elephant in the Room”. If you hadn’t noticed, this is a golden age for the comic book medium. Spurgeon points to the obvious we might have missed in this invigorating essay.
  • Jacques Martin RIP

    One of the grand old men of Franco-Belgian comics, Jacques Martin just died at age 88. One of Hergé’s most important assistants through the 1950s and 60s (notably on the South Sea Sharks and Tintin in Tibet) and one of the pillars of Tintin Magazine, he acrimoniously struck out on his own in 1972 to concentrate on his own comics, which in some ways owed more to the other great master of Belgian adventure comics of the time, E. P. Jacobs.

    A kind of illustrative elaboration of the ligne claire, Martin’s style was somewhat dry but worked perfectly well for the kind of historical reconstructions he so loved. His best series, Alix (1948-2009), narrates the adventures of a young Gaul and his friend, the former slave boy Enak, around the Antique world c. 50 BC. The earliest stories, especially, combine edifying archeological accuracy with a perilous sense of edginess to create a unique storybook-as-pulp feel. And the sublimated homoeroticism between the two central characters lends the work a valuable extra dimension. His other main series, Lefranc (1952-2009), is a contemporary SF/suspense affair that always seemed a little too retrograde to quite take off, a kind of nostalgic update of 1930s SF clichés.

    Later he created a number of additional historical series, all of them mostly executed by assistants. In this, he was following in the footsteps of his great mentor, creating his comics as head of a studio, populated by people dedicated to his house style. Already an anachronism in the 1980s, it only got duller as it went on, but the fact remains that he was one of the great craftsmen of the post-war generation and an important ambassador of old school literary values in comics.

    For me, however, his works soars highest in the sense of precision and freezing solitude he brings to the Tibetan landscape in Hergé’s 1958 masterpiece.

    Picks of the Week

    “one reason there are so many dead in Haiti is that agriculture in the countryside was no longer providing a livelihood for Haitian peasants; they moved in the thousands to the capital, they built shanties on the sides of canyons; all gone now. I won’t go over the arguments against globalization for countries like Haiti here. Suffice it to say that Haiti, once the Pearl of the Antilles, once France’s most valuable and productive colony, and still into the 19th century at least an important provider of the world’s sugar, rum, and coffee, is now a net importer.”

    — Amy Wilentz

    The picks of the week from around the web.

    All right, back to this, which will be the first picks of the year, not to mention the first for a long time.

  • Haiti. While we hope for all good things for Haiti’s future, Amy Wilentz and Tracy Kidder explain how it is an even greater tragedy than it could have been.
  • Comics criticism. There last few weeks have been great for people who like reading about comics. In addition to the selection of the year’s “best” that I participated in, there has been Tom Spurgeon’s overall excellent interviews with a number of critics about the books of the decade, and on TCJ R. Fiore has resurrected his half-a-decade old, still fine essay on the Simpsons and Mad. Oh, and the great David Levine gets his due with the re-up of Gary Groth’s great decade-and-a-half old interview with him.
  • David Foster Wallace on “how to think”. Read this inspiring commencement address of 2005 by the sadly departed author for an a slight injection of optimism at this otherwise bleak moment. (Suggested by Emma.)
  • 2009 — The Year in Comics Criticism

    As the more assiduous comics internauts will already have noticed, I took part in the recent selection of the year’s best comics criticism hosted at The Hooded Utilitarian. Run by Ng Suat Tong, it was put together by a panel that also included head utilitarian Noah Berlatsky, cartoonist and commentator Frank Santoro, and the critic Tucker Stone (as well as a sixth judge who unfortunately had to withdraw). For more on the process itself, see Suat’s explanation in the posting of the final results.

    Although conceived as a list of ten, we could only agree on seven pieces in the time allotted. They are as follows:

    Muhammed at the Met

    Just like Yale University Press’ disgraceful censorship of Jytte Klausen’s book on the Muhammed cartoons, it seems the august Metropolitan Museum in New York is set to muddy the waters of history by pulling from their display ancient images of the prophet, made by Muslims and considering not putting them back on display once the renovation of the gallery is completed in 2011. Apparently they are also changing the designation of the Islamic Art galleries from the accurately descriptive ‘Islamic’ to a prolix geographical designation.

    As I’ve written before, occluding the fact that Muslims have in the past, actually, depicted their prophet is highly problematic in that it feeds attempts by certain parties to write it out of history, in order to bolster an often destructive agenda. As for the change in designation, it strikes me as silly, but also quite disturbing — is ‘Islamic’ now an inflammatory term? Emblematic, perhaps, of how seriously unsettled from our common history we have become by the sad events of the last decade.

    Of course, this is all based on a story in the anything but unbiased New York Post, so let’s take it all with a grain of salt for the time being.

    Hype: Min Fjerne barndomsby

    barndomsby_t.jpgForlaget Fahrenheit udgiver i morgen den første manga for voksne på dansk, Jiro Taniguchis Min fjerne barndomsby. Det fejres med en reception i Thimers Magasin, Tullinsgade 24, København, kl. 16.30-18.00. Oversætter Mette Holm vil sige et par ord om arbejdet med oversættelsen og forlægger Paw Mathiasen om selve udgivelsen af en japansk tegneserie. Mød op og læs endelig tegneserien — den er fremragende!
    Læs mere om udgivelsen på Fahrenheits hjemmeside, og check undertegnedes anmeldelse af en række værker af Taniguchi, inkl. Min fjerne barndomsby, fra 2003 ovre på Rackham.