Re: in the rundown of comics-related awards in yesterday’s post, I neglected to mention that the Hugo Awards are this weekend, but Christopher Baldwin reminded me in a comment. One might argue that the Hugos aren’t really comics awards, but some of our own — Howard Tayler, Professora & Professor Foglio — have been nominated in the category of Best Graphic Story, and we at Fleen wish them luck. Also, if anybody in Reno is reading this, find out if Howard’s still got the accent of doom¹.
- There are words in this next bit that I thought would never appear on this blog. See if you can guess what they are!
Death At Your Door is just past a year old so we’re celebrating with an extra large strip with a killer recipe for head cheese.
- Taking another dip into the past, SMASH was last mentioned about a year back, as creators Chris and Kyle Bolton were getting the first story arc (or “season”) ready for print, which gave them time to work up the second. With all that prep behind them, Season Two is ready to launch on Thursday 25 August; in the meantime, Season One has been replaying at the breakneck pace of a page a day, and is ready for your review so you’re all caught up. Go crazy.
- Want to know what I’ve been enjoying recently? Some longformish story webcomics in English, but done from outside the North Atlantic POV. I’ve been pointed to not one, but two webcomics from the eastern side of the Mediterranean, both of which are just far enough outside the everyday life/cultural reference points as to be really intriguing. Originally from Turkey (but currently residing in SoCal), Cihan Sesen offers up dystopian future sci-fi over at Spine: Blindknot; the comics themselves have a Moebius-like feel (unsurprising, as Sesen studied French before English), but with a sensibility that comes straight from his hometown of Istanbul.
You ever been to ‘Stambul? Never changes. Bad old town. William Gibson wrote in one of his novels. I’m not so sure about the “bad” part, but I get what he was getting at. Much like New Orleans isn’t really part of modern America (it’s a damn sight older than America, and gives up its old ways kicking and screaming), it’s just New Orleans, Istanbul isn’t part of Europe, or even part of Turkey — whatever name the city has held at various times over the last couple thousand years, it’s always been apart and different and self-sustaining.
The modern (or future) world can try to invade all it likes, but Istanbul will always be Istanbul, and it will give up its secrets and habits only long enough to convince you it’s changed. That sense of otherness — of thinking something is familiar and yet knowing in the far-back part of your brain how wrong you are — pervades Spine: Blindknot. It’s an unpredictable ride, one that not everybody will enjoy being on.
And you know where you’ve got a set of traditions stretching back futher than Istanbul? Lebanon. Malaak is on the surface a superhero (actually, superheroine) story, but it’s really about Lebanon and the things that make it what it is. The title character gets her powers to protect the land and its people from Lebanon’s ancient guardians, who turn out to be the cedar trees that are so associated with the country.
Creator Joumana Medlej takes her time exploring all of the mythic creations found in her homeland, characterizing the heroic stories of the past in the idioms of the present. Surely anybody that’s lived in Beirut in the past few decades can be excused for thinking that warfare and struggle never cease, but Medlej takes that theme a little more literally — forget militias and factions, there’s always been a battle for the heart and soul of Lebanon, and not all the combatants are human.
What both of these comics have in common, more than geography, is the ability to take traditions, histories, worldviews that would be completely foreign to almost all of their potential audience, and make them understandable via storytelling styles that anybody that reads comics will find familiar. “Endowed with powers by the Cedars of Lebanon to protect the people and the land” is no more outlandish than “strange visitor from another world upholding Truth, Justice, and the American Way”, after all. Comics is its own language, one which any human tongue or culture can build upon; I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more creators like Sesen and Medlej in the future.
¹ That strip may feature the highest ratio of Stompy Boots per panel ever; it’s a good thing Howard and Jennie like each other, or they could do some serious damage.
² That would be Manitoba. Beautiful city out on the prairie.