some nice books

I've been reading.

Book: Hicksville, by Dylan Horrocks.
History: I bought it before I left for Japan but I never got around to reading it. Happy I did.
Story: It opens up like a Twilight Zone episode: we're in a wee small town on the northern coast of New Zealand, and everyone's a comics scholar. There's a Canadian journalist looking for the town while being plagued by a mysterious cartoonist who plants excerpts of his indy strip in the journalist's vicintity at intervals. And there's a dark history concerning Dick Burger, the world famous Hickville-born-and-bred cartoonist and comics tycoon. Better synopses at Amazon for your reading pleasure.
Impressions: The everybody-reads-comics bit was enough to hook me for a book this size despite the story. Having been in Japan the last 19 months, this was the perfect comic to start with, with enough inside jokes and fun trivia mixed in to reinflate my nerd-libido. The art was monochrome and minimalist, which was a nice mild transition after having browsed manga for the last long while. I popped open a Batman comic the other day and the colors and splash pages made me dizzy.

Book: The Black Diamond Detective Agency, by Eddie Campbell.
History: I've been waiting to get my hands on this forever. I bought it so fast I got a papercut.
Story: It's a Western. It was originally written for the screen by a Mr. C. Gaby Mitchell. A certain John Hardin is the only suspect in a train bombing in a cozy Missouri town. But! And so on.
Impressions: In this guy's opinion, the only publisher that has a snowball's chance in hell of penetrating the Japanese market is [this volume's publisher,] First Second. Their comics aren't as small as manga digests, but they're much easier to handle than typical Marvel/DC trades, which is essential to the practical Japanese reader.
In terms of the story, it was an interesting translation. I'd never read a Western before, let alone in comic form, so I wasn't sure how well it would translate for me, given that I'm used to the long silent shots of the moving picturefilms. While some scenes did feel a little fast, the amazing remarkable Monsieur Campbell really hit the nail on the head with setting the tired atmospheres of the wild west. He's one of the best cartoonists in the business in terms of page layout, texture, and body language, and he was at his best in all three categories in this novel. I don't know jack about painting materials, but the kind of paint or colors he used matched the atmosphere perfectly, but in what I felt was a completely novel way. My impression of artistic interpretations of the wild west were Spaghetti Westerns on the good side and cheesy Native American-and-spirit animal paintings on the bad. This was neither, and wonderfully refreshing for it.

That's it for now. I recommend Campbell's book to anyone; Horrock's book is more for folks interested in comics already, methinks. More reviews tomorrow.

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