Tuesday 29 November 2011

Another look at 'Now You're Logging'

After too many years, I have finally got around to writing an appreciation of Now You're Logging, a great long-gone graphic novel by the B.C. outdoorsman-turned-cartoonist Bus Griffiths. The essay (with art) is now up at The Comics Journal.

As I say in the piece, this book has haunted me -- in a good way -- for the better part of a decade, ever since Seth and Peter Birkemoe first told me about it. To describe it as being "out-of-print" seems like a half-measure: this book has been neglected. Among the first verifiable graphic novels in Canada (it started as a serial in a Canadian Whites comic during the Second World War), Now You're Logging is a wonderful hand-made gem of a comic that surprises and charms the reader on every other page. 

Griffiths was a self-taught artist, which is often a disaster when it comes to constructing good comics --but in this case his lack of formal experience resulted in a refreshing, innovative approach to the medium. His goal here was to create an accurate document of logging in the 1930s, before machines, when men climbed hundreds of feet in the air to lop down trees. His sheer devotion to this should be enough to make this book a classic, at least in Canada where its set. Heck, I'd be happy even if folks in British Columbia showed this book some love. But it's not the case: it's simply fallen off the edge of cultural relevance. For years now its publisher Harbour Books has maintained a Now You're Logging page on its website, despite the fact that the book is out of print. Good luck finding an affordable copy online.     

You've got to wonder what Griffiths would think about his life's work being allowed to fall out-of-print for so damn long.

Monday 28 November 2011

Grey Cup highlights (circa 1967)

Grey Cup, 1967, Ottawa. (Courtesy of Seth.)

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Remembering Alvin

R.I.P. Alvin Schwartz. I plan on writing a proper remembrance of writer Alvin Schwartz soon, but in the interim I penned the above obituary for Sequential. As you'll see, Alvin was a creative force who spent his life making things or reading things. I sought him ought a couple of summers back when I read in a local paper that the Golden Age writer who created Bizarro lived an hours' drive from me.

I felt like a 16-year-old again. Bizarro Superman melted my brain when I was a kid, in part because the idea was so great (a mirror-image of old granite-jawed Supes) but also because it made you think. I mean, what was the opposite of Superman? A square planet called Htrae? I guess. But after reading a few stories my brain started to hurt. And I wasn't the only one. Chester Brown once told me that in Grade 8 he lent his buddy a pile of Bizarro comics and after he finished reading the last one he threw up. The mental strain of all that backwardness was just too much for his young mind to handle.

Anyways, I'll leave you with a portrait of Bizarro done by Toronto cartoonist John Martz a couple of years back for the Doug Wright Awards fundraising auction:

Monday 21 November 2011

Review of 'The Death-Ray' in The Globe and Mail

 Like you, I love me some Daniel Clowes. In the past decade or so the creator of the epochal alt-comics series Eightball has rightfully scaled to the summit (or close to it anyway) of literary comics, where he has proceeded to produce some of the medium's most thought-provoking works of art. Whether it's Mister Wonderful, Wilson, Ice Haven or Ghost World, the Clowes seems to have genuine insight into the human soul.

He even knows how to write good super-hero stories, as evidenced by his latest book The Death-Ray, which I reviewed this weekend for The Globe and Mail

And I agree whole-heartedly with that headline. If this book isn't the last word on superhero comics for you I'll eat my cape.