Hansel and Gretel Give Thanks Too

In honor of Thanksgiving sort of, a couple of new black and white horror stories, aka fairy tales, one dealing with classic German frightening forests and witches, the other with dictatorships and boarding schools…

Toon Books' new Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattoti

Toon Books’ new Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattoti

Hansel and Gretel’s enduring popularity might obscure the horror of the original telling, when the parents agree to “lose” their children in the woods since they’re unable to feed them, but modern fabulist Neil Gaiman brings back that heart-wrenching element in his latest telling of the tale put out by Francoise Mouly‘s enterprising new Toon Books imprint of adventurous comics and illustrated adaptations designed with the current pedagogical needs of school-age children in mind…  Hunger and desperation are at the center of this story, and the dark tone is clear from Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattoti‘s moody, inky drawings.

Another stark story about unfortunate children is Arcady’s Goal by author and illustrator Eugene Yelchin.  This book’s protagonist is separated from his parents when they’re deemed enemies of the state by the Soviet Russian government and is sent to an isolated school for other such political orphans.  Seems like a similarly mature situation, and one the protagonist has to try and improve on his own…

Children pulling themselves up by the bootstraps has a long literary history, from fairy tale protagonists to Dickens’ street urchins to gangs of mystery solving kids, and, like these two books, these stories can take a dark turn with kids abandoned and orphaned, comforts we take for granted cruelly stripped from them, and normalcy a very big bootstrap-pulll away if that…  At any rate, this seemed somehow relevant to Thanksgiving…  In that it’s, like, the total opposite…

Arcady's Goal by Eugene Yelchin

Arcady’s Goal by Eugene Yelchin

As long as we’re talking about Hansel and Gretel, let’s end with a bit of German composer Engelbert Humperdinck‘s charming 1893 operatic adaptation!  Besides the sort of macabre inverse-relation to Thanksgiving as the holiday of plenty, this opera is also very popular around Christmas-time, so it’s extra-holiday appropriate!  Also, there are sure to be several performances popping up this time of year (including at the Met Opera where the below clip is from)…

The opera of course also deals with the themes of hunger and need, and this production in particular is centered around food, both its absence and excess, as demonstrated here when Hansel and Gretel’s wildest dreams are shown to revolve around a sumptuous banquet.

Comics in the Museum

Building Stories by Chris Ware

Building Stories by Chris Ware

Hi all, sorry for the intermittent transmissions lately, schoolwork is ramping up alright…  Here’s something I’ve been meaning to listen to & share for a while; a conversation between cartoonist Chris Ware and novelist Zadie Smith at the New York Public Library.

EDIT: Sorry, embedding isn’t working, here’s the Original audio.

Not sure what they have in common, but always cool to see cartoonists taken seriously!  And Ware‘s a prime candidate for that obviously…

Speaking of, in my internship with the library of a preeetty big name modern art museum, I’m always on the look out for comic-themed books in their collection…  I’ve seen a couple on Robert Crumb and one D&Q anthology, very cool, then yesterday I saw Will Eisner‘s textbook on comics, Comics and Sequential Art!  Wonder when we’ll ever see any comics work represented in this museum though…

Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner

Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner

Mostly Manga Maniac

Remember when I said I was just starting to dip my toes into the world of manga?  Well, judging by my line-up of library books on hold, I think I caught the manga bug:

My Library Holds

Not to mention, I’m finishing up Haruki Murakami‘s Norwegian Wood too, so it’s a full-out Japanese smorgasborg over here… (here’s an interesting Paris Review interview with Murakami, btw.)

I’m also picking up Ivan Brunetti‘s Cartooning which sounds like a good introduction to instructional cartooning.  Anything my comics crush Bill Kartalopoulos recommends is good enough for me.

How do you say Nostalgia in Japanese?

I recently started reading Naoki Urasawa‘s 20th Century Boys, my first real foray into manga.  I’m almost done with the first volume (pictured below), but it’s kind of a big commitment; there are 20+ volumes in the NYPL catalog, which I didn’t realize when I started!

It’s kinda funny, manga obviously has its own set of graphic storytelling conventions but I’m adapting to those (and to reading right to left) just fine.  But there are still little things that seem very culturally specific and sometimes (here’s where my undergrad linguistics major shows) I wonder if there are things that just can’t be translated. Continue reading