Today I am sharing with you Laurent Vicomte’s “Virages,” a find I made the summer of my sophomore year of college, again at the little comic book shop in Yverdon-Les-Bains. I bought “Virages” because not only was there nothing like it in the states, but because it seemed like exactly the sort of comics I would one day like to make—-Jules Verne style adventures! Anachronistic technology! Mysterious women doing mysterious things! Smatterings of fancy fetish-wear! When you discover something incredible but you don’t have any real context for it, you spend years filling in the gaps yourself.  I understood that “Virages” was just the art book for “Sasmira”, the comic it was based on, but I was unable to purchase the comics themselves until last month, again on BDnet.com. Given the years I spent embroidering upon the glimpses into this world “Virages” gave me, imagining what this story could possibly be about, and the characters that populate this world, I wasn’t surprised to find that the comics couldn’t compare to my expectations. But it’s still gorgeous, and hardly surprising it took him almost 15 years after publishing volume one to finish volume two. And I’m actually really lucky that I was able to savor the mystery for so long—-it forced me to come up with a mountain of possible ideas that I’m sure I will eventually author myself.

I bought the deluxe boxed set of Sasmira here, which has a few little extras including a DVD. 

For those of you who would like to read “Sasmira” in English, there is no official translation, but until there is you can download a scanlation here—-be warned, the translation is a bit clunky, but perfectly readable.

If you would like to buy “Virages”, and I highly recommend it, there are 9 copies for sale on Amazon here. 

This week’s book is Nanao Magazine’s The New Kimono: From Vintage Style to Everyday Chic. 

While I wouldn’t wear a kimono out of respect to Japanese culture, I feel like there are a lot of lessons in this book about color and pattern coordination that are completely new to my western sensibilities, and as I’m in the process of designing a personal fashion line these can really help me consider all my options for the western-style pieces I want to create.  

This book is a sort of “best of” collection of Nanao Magazine, a publication devoted to bringing back the kimono as an every-day item of clothing for Japanese women. The layouts are gorgeous and the articles really give you a taste of how much consideration is given to the effect color and pattern has on an ensemble. It makes a great coffee table book and reference for anyone looking to learn more about the aesthetic principles of kimono as street-fashion. 

Today I will be sharing with you a discovery I made on my trip to Switzerland this summer. Kerascoet & Hubert were completely unknown to me before I stumbled upon their latest, brilliant work in the comic book store I make a point of visiting whenever I go to Yverdon-Les-Bains.

Beaute (“Beauty” in French) is the story of Morue, a young outcast with unfortunate looks. She has bulging eyes, ears that stick out, limp hair, and smells strongly of fish. Her life as an indentured servant is bleak. She dreams of finding love and acceptance, but is the butt of joke after joke in her little village.

When her tears release Mab, the faerie queen, from her enchantment, the sarcastic Mab grants her the illusion of beauty—-and not just any beauty, but Beauty as only the faeries can bestow, the beauty for which men lose all self-control. Worse still, every attempt Morue makes to reject their advances is seen as seductive; her anger, fear, and despair is relentlessly sexualized.

This also means that Morue becomes hated by the women in her village, who are unable to mar the faerie’s gift in order to win their husbands back:

This is more than Morue bargains for, and matters are further complicated when, with Mab’s ever present urging, Morue finds herself married to the king.

Over the course of three books, Morue must face the consequences of her naivetee and immaturity, which because of her great beauty become weapons of mass destruction as armies go to war for her and the jealousies of her lovers become homicidal. Her beauty quickly becomes a curse, and she must discover the secret to Mab’s power.  

Beaute is honestly the best fairytale I have read in a long time. It succeeds where so many have failed here in America. From a story-telling perspective, the characters are beautifully flawed and it is hard to put the book down. I found myself alternately laughing hysterically and fighting back tears. One thing I especially love about Kerascoet’s characters is their expressions—-and this can be said about many french comics——he is not afraid to distort and charicaturize his female characters’ faces as they move through a full range of expressions.

I was under the impression that after Morue received the faerie glamour we would only see her as her “beautiful” self, but Kerascoet reserves that side of her mostly for when we are gazing at her from a male perspective. In these panels, Morue says little and is usually a passive object—-the rest of the time, Morue is active and chatty, and obviously has an inner life. Her immaturity is wonderfully contrasted by her sister in law, a big-nosed spinster who manages her brother’s kingdom and ends up finding love on the battlefield as a lady-knight: 

I wish I’d had these comics as a young girl. So little fantasy, and so few comics, portray women as complicated characters with story-lines independent of the men in their life. There is so much for girls to relate to in Morue—-I don’t know any women who haven’t felt ashamed of their bodies and looks at least at some point in their lives, who haven’t felt the desire to fit in and fit an impossible standard of beauty that society tells us is the only measure of our worth. What girl hasn’t come to the realization that "beauty" and all that comes with it is fucking complicated and scary?  What teenage girl doesn’t come to the realization that her beauty and sexuality can be used against her? What girl hasn’t heard some form of victim blaming, when men and boys believe their desires are not their own responsibility?  The men in Beaute may seem like they are under a spell, but I think Kerascoet & Hubert make it clear that they are just entitled and telling themselves what they want to hear—-the same way rapists do in real life

It’s a highly stylized, exaggerated, mythical and fairy-tale version of the male-dominated, sexually hostile world girls wake up to, and I think watching Morue navigate it at great peril to herself and her loved ones is cathartic for the reader to follow. Modern parents may want to wait before buying these books for their children; there are some seriously dark, upsetting themes (rape, murder, suicide, torture) but Kerascoet raises questions about desire that certainly teenagers must grapple with, and I think encouraging a child to read these comics critically, with an eye for what’s there between the lines, could be a very empowering experience. 

These are glorious hard-bound full color Bande Dessinee. They’re big and beautiful like all BD should be, but Kerascoet’s art is breath-taking cover to cover. After reading Beaute I have a new standard for how color should look in comics. Every page leaves me in awe.  

I HOPE an English translation comes out soon. Maybe some of my comics friends can talk to their publishers about this, but they are worth buying for the art alone, and if you have any interest in learning french, reading french comics are an excellent way to do so. 

The best option I have found so far for buying BDs is BDnet, and here is the link to buying all three Beaute books.  If anyone needs advice on navigating their french-language checkout process, you are more than welcome to ask me. If anyone has a better resource I’d love to hear from you. 

UPDATE: My friend Sophia Foster-Dimino has graciously shared her text translation of all three books, which you can view here and read alongside the comics once you have bought them. Hopefully this doesn’t step on the publishers toes, and I will certainly remove the fan-translation if and when an official english translation comes out. Happy reading!

 

SPX 2013 Haul

Fig. 1, Clockwise from upper left: 

Studygroup Issue 1

I’ve been friends with Zack Soto online pretty much since I started posting to Tumblr in 2011, and this year I finally got to meet him in person. 

House of Women by Sophie Goldstein, 38/100

Credit for discovering this amazing artist actually goes to my mom, who defied all my expectations when she decided she liked an artist who wasn’t me enough to buy her book. Check out her exquisite work!

Wax Cross + Baba Yaga and the Wolf by Tin Can Forest

Possibly my second favorite discovery at SPX this year, Tin Can Forest are a husband and wife team that live in Narnia and just make effortlessly gorgeous comics all damn day. 

Big Questions by Anders Nilsen

Anders Nilsen was an early comics discovery for me; I picked up one of his first Big Questions issues in Atomic Books years ago. His work was my introduction to the North American indie-comics scene, and to Drawn and Quarterly, and I’m thankful to have had him for an influence early on in my life. I’ve wanted to buy the collected Big Questions since it came out, but waited until I could buy it from him in person. As you can see in Fig.4, he took the time to embellish the plate for me. He was very nice, and I look forward to reading his new works. 

Very Casual by Michael Deforge

Thank you, Michael, for personalizing Very Casual with my very own X-rated Snoopy. Never change. 

Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie

I’ve been meaning to read this forever! 

Fig. 2

Top row: Postcards from Sam Bosma, Rebekka Dunlap, Miranda Harmon

Second row: A 3-pack of beauitul little notebooks by Lisa Perrin that I traded her for a copy of HONEY and Over You Nanook. Treasure Chest by Sam Bosma

Bottom row: Fantasy Basketball by Sam Bosma, All My Anime Boyfriends by Kali Ciesemier, her postcard, and her 5-pack Game of Thrones postcard set. “Windows and Corners” postcard set from Rebecca Mock. Postcard from Natalie Andrewson

Fig. 3

Terrifying face card by Naomi Butterfield.

Sex Fantasy 1 and 2 by Sophia Foster-Dimino

Was so happy to get to meet Sophia for the first time after sending each other postcards and such. I’m a huge admirer of her work, and feel like we share a lot of sensibilities. I couldn’t stop laughing though—-it turns out we look so much alike that people kept thinking we were one person. 

FeiFei Ruan's popsicle stick business card—-nicely played

Eleri Mai Harris' amazing screen printed business card, which opens up to reveal a mini comic all about the lobster. 

Lisa Perrin's square business card

Spandexless print, which accepts submissions. 

Claire Sullivan's Business card. 

Two zines by Eleanor DavisEleanor also did the cover for Study Group in Fig. 1. I LOVE her little sketches, and talking with her about Le1f and  Big Freedia on Twitter. 

Jensine Eckwall's postcard. 

And lastly, Julia Gfrorer's Too Dark To See, Flesh and Bone, and Black is the Color 1 and 2. I had read an interview with Julia some time ago, thought to myself, “This lady is fucking intense, I need to read her stuff”, but never followed through—-until SPX, when she was on a panel discussing disturbing themes in comics. A LOT of what she said resonated with me, and I ended up meeting her at her table and buying all her work. She is my favorite discovery of that weekend. I read her comics on the drive home to Baltimore, and after finishing the last of them I had to sit down and rethink quite a few things about what I was doing and where I was going with my life.