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Thursday, December 26, 2002
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Two months ago, I told you about the upcoming I Have to Live with this Guy!, an interviews collection about the wives and partners of comics artists and writers published by TwoMorrows.
Of particular interest to this site is the interview of Eddie Sedarbaum, Howard Cruse's partner. It is a moving and intelligent account of Eddie Sedarbaum's life (including the hardships of his coming out of the closet) and his shared years with Howard Cruse. He also offers his views of the importance of Cruse's work in their lives, and the pleasures and difficulties it has brought them. If you've read any of Cruse's books, you'll find this interview packed with photos and art fascinating.
While talking with Howard Cruse about this interview, I asked him about two panels from an unknown (to me) 1990 strip, which were shown in the book. Not reprinted since, Homoblues is a strip showing Cruse's anger at the way things unfolded in the National Endowment for the Arts controversy of 12 years ago. Here's Howard Cruse's account of his involvement:
"I drew it in 1990 in response to a campaign of antigay vilification by Jesse Helms, one of the most homophobic bigots in the U.S. Senate (he retired this year, I'm happy to report).
Helms went on the warpath over an exhibit of sexually confrontational photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe that was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. By the time every right-winger in the government had jumped on his bandwagon (to pallid resistance from "liberals" who defended the exhibit on free-speech grounds while agreeing that Mapplethorpe's images were deplorable), the NEA had been practically destroyed as a funder of anything but very established and non-controversial arts institutions.
I found this veiled aquiescence to homophobia on the part of our straight "allies" to be outrageous. Hence the anger that produced this strip."
The ArtForum International editor gave a page to Howard Cruse and told him to "Do whatever you like with it."
Howard Cruse has been generous enough to allow me to post on my site the entire Homoblues strip. I think it is a very powerful piece of work which deserves to be seen again. After all, homophobia never rests... and neither should we.
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Sunday, December 08, 2002
If you don't see the images of a review, it means that I've transferred it to the new site.
Age of Bronze
Helen. Odysseus. Achilles. Do these name ring a bell? They should. After all, they're part of one of the oldest and most enduring historical legend of our civilization, the War of Troy.
This is the story which Eric Shanower, an out creator better known for his delightful Oz graphic novels, has undertaken to retell for the comic book medium in his Age of Bronze series. A huge amount of research has gone into the production of this series, and it shows. Shanower draws every little object as it looked at the time, at least to the best of the current knowledge. Even the physical appearances of the characters is coherent with the pottery, murals and various representations which have survived over the last three thousand years.
With a cast of -litterally- hundreds, Shanower has managed to make each character recognizable (you can see Paris in my gallery). Their psychological characteristics are also well-defined, and, in fact, central to the story, since Shanower has chosen to show this East-against-West war from the human side, with human emotions motivating the actions of the characters. Gods are spoken of and "used" as a rationalization for actions (something which modern-day humans are also guilty of...), but never shown.
While same-sex love does not happen very often (far less than in other Greek myths and legends. See the book Lovers' Legends for more about that subject), it is not forgotten. The legendary love between Achilles and Patroklus has been shown in issue #14, in a tender scene which contrasts with the savage battles shown in other issues. One of the most bloody issue yet published was the Age of Bronze Special #1, a recounting of the story of the house of Atreus, which two important characters of the Trojan war, Agamemnon and Menelaus, are part of.
Anthropophagy, child-killing, blasphems and other pleasant happenings compose this sorry tale -gods do appear there, since the story is treated as a legend by itself. But amid the blood, some fleeting love can be found, for example between Pelops, son of the infamous Tantalus, and Poseidon.
Age of Bronze is another example of the diversity of contemporary comics. Shanower is doing with the War of Troy what Jason Lutes is doing with pre-WWII Berlin. That is, recreating the past through believable characters, in a setting made very realistic by the research done by the author. Of course, the advantage Age of Bronze has over Berlin is that it's full of half-naked men in the prime of life. Just another incentive to buy this wonderful series.
Two collections have already been published. Book 1 & book 2 are available from Mars Import.
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