Tagged: Persepolis

Joe Corallo: The End of an Era

Last week it was revealed that at least a couple of eras were at an end: one, America’s new immigration policies diminishing our reputation here and around the globe, and the New York Times no longer including a list of best selling graphic novels. As much as I would love to discuss the former, this is a site about comics and pop culture, so I’ll focus on the latter.

After eight years of having best seller lists featured weekly at the New York Times, it was announced with little warning that this week would be the last featuring such a list. This information was confirmed with little to no logical reason by NYT editor Pamela Paul via Twitter. Graphic novels will be folded back into fiction, making it more difficult to make the list and preventing many graphic novels from ever being able to obtain status.

Many creators, including Neil Gaiman, questioned this decision and aired their frustrations with odd, confusing, and seemingly ill-informed responses from Pamela Paul. One thing she did promise, however, was expanded coverage in terms of reviews and discussion on comics and graphic novels.

Here’s where I tell you that’s a bad deal.

While, yes, I absolutely support expanded coverage of comics and graphic novels, that in no way should ever be an either/or situation. Also, ask a comic company what it can do marketing wise with more write ups. It may be positive, but doesn’t even come close to being able to slap the very coveted “New York Times Best Seller” label on your graphic novel. No press can replicate that. None.

Graphic novels have benefited greatly from being able to have their own lists. Combining them with other lists only hurts them. There’s very literally no positive to this. None. Even if they got nine slots on a combined list, that’s still less than the ten they had before.

One of the graphic novels that made the bestseller list in the past is Persepolis, the story of a young woman growing up in Iran and watching the country and the world change. Getting on the bestseller list helped the book. More people heard about it and looked into it. It’s exactly the kind of graphic novel we need to be reading today. If more stories like Persepolis came out after they remove the lists, large swaths of people may never hear of it and we’ll be denied important reading material being elevated where it needs to be to better serve society. A society that’s far too ignorant of the lives of those from the countries our President has banned, and from a country that has banned us right back.

Another graphic novel about a country we’ve banned that made the bestseller list in the past is The White Donkey. It’s the first graphic novel about the Iraq War created by an actual veteran detailing a lot of the tedium as well as the mental health issues brought on through war. It’s an important story and something people here should read to understand what our own citizens went through for a war that at one time had majority support. Again, this is a graphic novel that got legitimacy, praise and sales by making it on the bestseller list. Another story like it may not now.

Look, I understand that the New York Times is a privately owned company. They have absolutely no obligation to anyone to create bestsellers lists. However, these sort of moves have helped to keep the New York Times in high regard amongst many communities including the comics community. While I acknowledge that this is a private company’s decision, I’m also going to acknowledge that the decision is needlessly hurtful to a segment of publishing that’s been expanding by double digits and is now a billion dollar industry.

I hope it’s not too late to change course. I hope someone from the New York Times reads this. I hope Pamela Paul in particular reads this. And I hope that they all consider the inherently negative consequences of their actions to large and growing community.

Review: Fires Above Hyperion

Fires Above HyperionI love autobio graphic novels. I love them to the point that I hope to do one of my own. Fun Home, Blankets, Persepolis, Marbles, Epileptic, Clumsy, there are far too many excellent examples to name. Keeping all this in mind, ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases suggested I read Patrick Atangan’s Fires Above Hyperion to get my thoughts on it. I did in fact read it, and I did in fact have thoughts.

Prior to holding a copy of Fires Above Hyperion I was unfamiliar with Patrick Atangan. He’s an openly gay, multiracial author who has written and drawn many graphic novels before this, including Silk Tapestry and The Yellow Jar, and you can find out more about his work at www.nbmpub.com. This particular story documents his often antagonist relationship with dating and gay culture spanning two decades.

The story is told chronologically, starting with his Junior Prom, and goes into about eight different anecdotes over the course of twenty years of men he’s been involved with. There was very little reference to what the actual years are that these stories take place, if at all. I’m not sure I realized how much of a pet peeve that is for me until I read this book. When dealing with actual events that happened in real life, I like to have an idea of when they occurred, as it is made clear that gaps do exist between stories. Though, since it is in chronological order, it does make it easy to follow, and this might just be me being nit picky.

Fires Above Hyperion comes in at ninety-six pages. With about eight anecdotes to cover, it gives very little time to delve into the one time encounters, flings, and deeper relationships that make up the story. This ends up getting frustrating for me as the reader, when one of the early anecdotes is about a six-year relationship and how that has as much precious story real estate as an anecdote about a guy Patrick goes on a date with once.

Ultimately, this makes me feel like too much of an outsider. What makes books like Blankets and Clumsy so powerful is that they shared all sorts of little details. It felt like you were going through all the emotions with the author. It’s not as personal and intimate an experience here, and not only does it take away from the story overall, it prevents the humor from landing just right. The dark humor is present, but because I feel detached from the story as I’m reading it, it doesn’t seem to work. Instead of feeling a situation is funny, I end up just feeling kind of bad for Patrick or the person he was with, depending on the particular anecdote.

There is something in this story that is important for the medium, and that’s Patrick’s perspective as a gay man that’s part Latino and part Asian. The vast majority of graphic memoirs dealing with an author who is part of the LGBT community tend to be from a white author. Although this does not take up a lot of Fires Above Hyperion, it is brought up closer to the end of the story, and for me was the most interesting part to read.

Patrick Atangan is certainly talented and was able to lay out this book in a way that was easy to read, and that’s tougher than it sounds. The art itself simple, and in this instance I would argue that it is a bit too simple. Being done digitally, I noticed throughout the book a lot of copying and pasting different illustrations into later panels, and some of the men from earlier in the books are palette swapped and reused later. That did cause confusion at a couple of points, where I was wondering why this character from earlier in the book was back, until I figured out that this was actually a new character. While I don’t think that art being done that way is inherently bad, at ninety-six pages and a price point of $14.99, I think it’s a bit much.

I can’t say I’d give this an overall recommendation.  I think it’s a flawed piece that does genuinely try to hit the mark and falls short. However, if you love graphic memoirs, and in particular if you love graphic memoirs from LGBT creators, I encourage you to give Fires Above Hyperion a read. Patrick Atangan has a unique voice and perspective in this field, and this book’s success can help usher in more graphic memoirs by more people whose voices we so desperately need to hear.

Tweeks: Kids Don’t Need to Be Sheltered From Persepolis #ChallengedChallenge Week 7

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is our penultimate book in the ComicMix Challenged Challenge — and probably our favorite book of the bunch. This is a first hand account of Marjane’s childhood in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. This graphic novel not only takes the roots of very serious current events issue and breaks it down so kids like us can understand it, but it is a total page-turner. Sure, it’s violent — but we are talking about war, and as far as wars go, this isn’t really very violent at all. This is a lot less violent than what we would see on the news.

Ironically, this book was most recently challenged by a community college student and her parents (Helicopter your adult kid much, Mom & Dad? Geez!) for it’s violence because she was expecting Batman and Robin in her graphic novel lit class. This brings up the subject of why it’s okay for fictional superhero comics to be violent, but not those about real life? We are so confused.

This book was also called out for language. But what gets us mad is that most of the bad language comes from what people said in catcalling (well, more like verbally abusing) Marjane’s mom for not wearing her veil and later for conservative women name-calling Marjane and others. This is how it went down with those words. The words are what makes it cruel and scary. These are not words the average middle schooler has never heard before and unfortunately lots of women here are called these bad names too. Can we talk about those actions first, then worry about the language? If it is so upsetting, then fix the problem, don’t ban the description of it.

There is so much to say, which we do in the video. If you haven’t read Persepolis, please do.

Next week, we discuss our final book, Maus.

Tweeks: ComicMix’s Challenged Comics Summer Reading Challenge

It is officially summer for us! Yay!  So, we thought this would be the perfect time to tell you about our summer reading plans.  In this week’s episode, we tell you about the CBLDF and announce our Challenged Graphic Novel Reading Challenge.  Our hope is that kids and parents (and everyone else) will read along with us.  Because you seriously can’t question that book be suitable for library shelves if you haven’t read it, right?

CMCC Picture

This summer we will be reading 8 graphic novels that have been challenged or banned in school libraries and then every week we will discuss one of the titles.  We’ll talk about why it was challenged, how to best talk about the questioned topics or themes in the book with your kids.  We’ll also tell you from a kid’s perspective how we viewed the appropriateness of the books for us, because sometimes adults forget what they could handle and understand when they were our age.

We also hope that you will support everyone’s right to choose what they want to read by doing some sleuthing in your local or school library.  Take a look at our reading list and see which of the books are available for you to check out.  You can post your findings in Social Media like Facebook and Twitter (@ComicMix and @The_Tweeks) with #InTheStacks and/or #ComicMixChallengedChallenge, hopefully generating further discussion. We also think you should check out the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s site.  We talk more about them in the episode.

So, get to reading!  Our discussion schedule is:

7/13 Bone, Vol 1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith
7/20 Drama by Raina Telgemeier
7/27 This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki
8/3 The Graveyard Book Vol 1 (the graphic novel) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
8/10 The Color of Earth Book 1 by Kim Dong Hwa
8/17 Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux
8/24 Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
8/31 Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman