Reads: Christopher Hittinger

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I really should start paying more attention to online comics. Last fall I picked up the 2007 French book edition of Christopher Hittinger’s Jamestown because I found the drawings thrilling at first leaf-through. I’ve only now managed to read it, and I enjoyed it immensely. Turns out, of course, that it’s been available online since 2006. I’m sure I’ve even seen it linked to in several places, without taking notice. Lesson learned for this paper generation relic, I guess…

Anyway, I found this comic exciting on several levels. It’s a retelling of the first English colony in Virginia in the early 17th Century, the people involved and conflicts both internal and external, with the native Americans on whom the colony was dependent — complete with the Pocahontas story and all. Superficially it’s pretty straightforward, narrating the facts almost like a school textbook, but even if the prose is mostly utilitarian, Hittinger manages beautifully to make history come alive.

Innocent Abroad

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Winshluss’ Pinocchio was the big buzz book of the Angoulême festival this year and it came as little surprise that it ended up taking the Fauve d’Or award — the festival’s prize for comic of the year, and one of the greatest distinctions of its kind. It’s an impressive package — a large hardback book printed on thick, matte paper with relief printing and gold leaf on the cover. Impeccably designed, if somewhat indebted to the Ware school of production design, it is simply an immensely attractive comic.

More than anything else, however, this has to do with the art within. Winshluss has long been an energetic draughtsman, merging the subversive sensibilities of the underground movement with a palpable sense of punk abandon that owes more than a little to the great bad-taste humorist Vuillemin. The result are gruff cartoons, grimy with saturated brushwork, that refreshingly tend to reach beyond the comfort zone of the artist, resulting in a kind of frenetic energy of invention that is both spectacular and moves the story along with humour and efficiency.

This time around Winshluss may have bitten off more than he could chew, however.

Age Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Number

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OK, so the prize for weirdest political moment this week goes to the tag team of Gordon Brown and David Cameron, disagreeing in public over the age of Titian when he died. In what in itself is a revealing moment of bizarre self-conception, Brown apparently compared himself to Titian last month, saying the master did his best work in his last years, before dying at 90. Today, Cameron then rather pedantically stepped in at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, presumably after having his people check the glaringly faulty Wikipedia entry, to correct the prime minister, who “never gets his facts right”, stating that Titian did, in fact, die at 86.

Never mind that no one knows when exactly Titian was born and therefore at what age he died, it gets better: Shortly thereafter, an IP registered to Tory HQ doctored the same Wikipedia entry to back up his boss’ “zinger,” but only with limited success: not only did the person in question manage to get the one fact we do know about Titian’s lifespan — that he died in 1576 — wrong, changing it to 1572, he also failed to doctor the birth date correctly, landing Titian’s RIP at age 82.

Titian’s Diana and Actaeon Secured for the Public

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The official announcement is a few days old, the news even older, but I just wanted to note with considerable jubilation that the national galleries of London and Edinburgh have jointly secured the first of the two crown jewels of the Bridgewater collection, Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, for the public by raising the £50 million (a bargain price) for which the owner, the Duke of Sutherland, had asked. Now, the second stage begins, in which they will have to raise another £50 million over the next four years, in order to acquire its companion piece, the equally magnificent Diana and Callisto. As to the rest of the collection, which contains masterworks by such figures as Raphael, Rembrandt and Poussin, its deposit in Edinburgh is now secured for another 21 years. Good news!

I wrote about the paintings in more detail here.