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June 19, 2010: I've launched a new version of this website as a Wordpress blog. This version won't be updated anymore.
If you don't see the images of a review, it means that I've transferred it to the new site.
   
 

Blog reviews and site news

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On this page:

Peter Flinsch: The Body In Question
My Brain Hurts Vol. 2
The A-Z LGBT Comic Book Character Superlist
Runx Tales #2
An interview with Howard Cruse, and a new cover
Stripped: Uncensored

 

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Entries for January 2009:
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Thursday, December 31, 2009
Blog review
If you don't see the images of a review, it means that I've transferred it to the new site.

(List all)
Peter Flinsch: The Body In Question

Category: erotica, illustration.
Author(s): Peter Flinsch.
Year of publication: 2008.


Published last year, Peter Flinsch: The Body in Question (published by Arsenal Pulp Press, text by Ross Higgins) is a fascinating monograph about an artist whose life seems to sum up gay life in the XXth century.
Born in Germany in 1920, Flinsch was in the army during the war when he was caught kissing another man. His rich and influent family probably helped him escape death in the concentration camps, but he had a hard time in various detention places, including a mine for criminals. He survived, and found employment as a theater designer before emigrating to Canada in 1953 to be with his then-lover, a professional dancer. He spent a large part of his career working for the television as a designer in Montréal, not completely closeted since he was hardly the only non-straight person working there, though his gay art was kept separated from his TV work. He regularly filled his sketchbooks with snapshots from the gay scene and with portraits of the very numerous moderls who posed for him. This book includes more than a hundred drawings and paintings from the early sixties until now, which means it's only a fraction of the art Flinsch has produced over five decades.
the Janssen bookThis is only the second book to feature Flinsch's art, after the 1995 Der Mann in der Kunst Band 4 (Man in Art Vol. 4), from gay German publisher Janssen Verlag. This 48-page, black and white collection (with very few text, all in German, English and French) is a nice complement to the new book, since no material is duplicated between the two. As an aside, this series, which had 6 volumes, offered a nice view of various gay artists and is worth looking for, especially the first book, about Jean Boullet.
But let's go back to Flinsch's work. The shortest description I can give of his style is that it's somewhere in the vicinity of Jean Cocteau's and David Hockney's works. Flinsch certainly doesn't work in a single style, even when one looks at the drawings of a certain period. He seems able to convey very clearly a musculature, a body gesture, and is a keen observer of the male body. A good number of his drawings are also concerned with scenes from the gay life, in bars, saunas, in the streets, etc. His sense of humor is present throughout the book, with the way he portrays interactions between gay men or with the short comments and titles he ascribes to his work. His drawings (and the few paintings and sculptures that are included in the book) are sensual but never simply photographic.
Here is a small gallery to show you the variety of works (the last one is from the Janssen book):

A 2001 drawing A 1976 work A 1993 bar scene From the Janssen book

 You can find more about this artist on his website (with lots of galleries), and the book is available at Amazon, as is the Janssen book.


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Thursday, December 24, 2009
Review update
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My Brain Hurts Vol. 2


Author(s): Liz Baillie.


coverIn the second and last part of My Brain Hurts, Liz Baillie continues the tale of Kate and Joey.
At the end of the previous part, Joey was just coming out of a coma after a gay bashing, while Kate had quarreled with her girlfriend and was being pursued by Nathan, one of the boys who'd bashed Joey.
The whole cast leads an unstable life that's often complicated by their sexual identity (most of the kids depicted are either queer or bi); or more exactly, by their trying to find a way to live this identity, since both Kate and Joey are fine with not being straight.
Alongside Nathan, the "token" straight guy of the series, Baillie also introduces a few other secondary characters, such as a couple of girlfriends of Kate, as well as a boyfriend for Joey, whom he meets at an elite school where he's enrolled for a time (he's a very intelligent boy, but his intelligence doesn't serve him in his daily life). 

Liz Baillie's art has come a long way since the beginning of the series, which took her six years to complete. It now presents fully-realized characters and backgrounds, with an expressiveness that a lot of more seasoned cartoonists might envy her.

Joey can't even trust Kate anymoreAll those young people make what we, as adults, might call mistakes, but the author never lectures her characters or her audience, she only chronicles those lives, showing the consequences of those mistakes but also leaving doors open. That being said, it's rather heartbreaking to see a character like Joey making mistake after mistake because he can't trust people who've betrayed him time and again, to the point where he doesn't trust his own friends anymore. And the further you read, the more you feel that Joey isn't going to end up with a good life. But the whole point of the series is to show how young people survive adolescence and build varied lives for themselves. That point is made with the coda to the book, where we learn what kind of adult life each character is living, a poignant study in non-conformity and paths chosen or ignored.

You can follow Liz Baillie's work on her website, where you can read previews of My Brain Hurts and buy it signed by the author. The book is also available from Amazon


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Saturday, October 24, 2009
Various news
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The A-Z LGBT Comic Book Character Superlist



A new website has recently appeared on the net, and, as its name indicates, The A-Z LGBT Comic Book Character Superlist intends to list all the queer characters in (mostly mainstream) comics. It's a valuable addition to what Prism Comics and the Gay League are doing, since it references both those sites and others to create what the people who maintain it hope will be a complete list. More than 300 characters are already listed, which is a good start, to say the least.
So, have a look, tell them I sent you, and do add your own suggestions. They need your collaboration.


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Sunday, October 18, 2009
Review update
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Runx Tales #2


Author(s): Matt Runkle.


coverAbout a year after the first issue, Matt Runkle is back with another collection of short, true-life stories with an even larger variety of topics. 
I must admit I thought it was lighter than its predecessor, but that mostly reflects my interest, or lack thereof, in various subjects: the longest, central piece is about the Ranch dressing, which I'd never heard of previously (I don't think it's reached French coasts, but I might be wrong). This story is text-heavy and mostly fact-based, with Runkle's wry humor present throughout. No doubt his time spent as a waiter has given him the idea of spending half an issue on this rather unexpected subject.
Two other stories are not about the author himself, but about female friends who are, or were, important in his life. The first one is told in the first person by Nora, an old friend of his, and shows her numerous encounters with a shady guy of no stable identity. It's funny, slightly weird, and drawn in a solid style with dense layouts that made me think of Ariel Schrag's. The second one is a moving homage to Samantha Jane Dorsett, a transgender woman who seems to have been a formidable presence and who died last summer.
an excerpt from the Farm School storyThe fourth story in this issue, and the one opening it, is the one I most enjoyed: entitled "Wrestling with the Truth", it shows a young Runkle attending a school on a farm, among cowboys and wrestlers, all markers of traditional masculinity in his part of the world. In only five pages, Runkle covers a lot of ground, from his growing self-awareness that he wasn't comfortable living there--and why--to his budding fantasies about some of his classmates, including what might be called a spiritual experience after having banged his head during a wrestling exercise. But he didn't see a bearded, old man in the clouds, that's for sure. Runkle uses yet another art style, halfway between the text/illustration style of the Ranch story and the more conventional storytelling style of Nora's story. This style where each full page is filled with seemingly meandering textual and visual informations builds for me a reading experience that's close to the half-dream, half-reality way we often experience memory--in short, it's very effective in drawing in the reader.
The multiplicity of art and storytelling styles remains for me an important quality of Matt Runkle's work. The two opening pages, a succession of smaller panels showing his selves sketched in various ways announcing the four stories, work the same way, by presenting us with a kaleidoscope of experiences and memories lived through a queer and questioning prism.
Now that Matt Runkle can be found at his own website, I hope he'll give us more of his very personal point of views in the form of "visual essays", as he calls his strips.

This comic, which is 24 pages long and magazine-sized (with a nice, thick color cover), is sold by Last Gasp.


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Sunday, October 11, 2009
Various news
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An interview with Howard Cruse, and a new cover


Author(s): Howard Cruse.


Howard Cruse recently gave a wide-ranging interview to a site called Dr Dick's Sex Advice, talking about his career (including his all new collection From Headrack to Claude), his life, and the history of gay-themed comics. The podcasts are here and here, and it's definitely worth your time.
The second piece of news concerning Cruse is the upcoming 2010 reissue of Stuck Rubber Baby by DC's imprint Vertigo (it was originally published by another, now defunct imprint). The occasion is the 15th anniversary of the book, and I really hope that with the current wealth of adult-themed graphic novels, SRB will get the attention it deserves. There will be a new introduction by Alison Bechdel (which shows that DC knows the potential audience of SRB) and an all-new cover by Howard Cruse. Look at this:
the new cover


You can see the sketches for the cover on the Vertigo blog.
I also recommend that you visit Cruse's blog, which is full of both entertaining and serious musings and news.


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Saturday, October 10, 2009
Blog review
If you don't see the images of a review, it means that I've transferred it to the new site.

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Stripped: Uncensored

Category: erotica, illustration.
Author(s): Michael Breyette, Carlos García, Xavier Gicquel, HvH, Mioki, P239, François Peneaud, Joe Phillips.
Year of publication: 2009.


Three years after the first Stripped anthology, publisher Bruno Gmünder is back with a second helping. The thick (250 pages) book is, like its predecessor, a collection of stylistically-varied gay erotic illustrations, with the one exception being an excerpt from an erotic comic, namely the upcoming Brother to Dragons #2, (which I've written, art by Carlos García). Here's the complete list of the artists:
Jack Balas, Bastian, BEAU, Patrick Branch, Michael Breyette, Michael Broderick, Chancer, Rob Clarke, William Donovan, Jason Driskill, Patrick Fillion, FoxyAndy, Victor Gadino, Carlos García, Xavier Gicquel, Anthony Gonzales, Wes Hempel, Glenn Hillario, Hokane, HvH, Steven J. King, Juvaun Kirby, Michael Kirwan, Tai Lin, Eddie Lopez, Andrea Madalena, Michael Mitchell, Mike, Mioki, Moro, Jacob Mott, Paul Newboult, Chuck Nitzberg, P239, Joe Phillips, Adam Razak, Harvey Redding, Miguel Angel Reyes, Robert W. Richards, Paul Richmond, Dan Romer, Roscoe, Peter Skirrow, Jezza Smilez, P.C. Smith, Gary Speziale, Jozef Szekeres, George Towne, Michail Tsikoudakis, Ross Watson, Patrick Webb, Todd Yeager, Stefan Zeh, Bob Ziering.

I can only write the same things about this book as I did about the first one: there's something for everyone, from photo-realistic to cartoony and stylised, some of the art shows only partially nude men, and some is sexually explicit, and yes, I have my favorites. Jack Balas's blend of painting and line art adds layers of meaning to seemingly usual sex scenes; Michael Kirwan's paintings are full of everyday guys and scenes, which I find very appealing, his slightly exaggerated style cock-wise creating a fun dichotomy (and I really wish someone would publish a collection of his art); Dan Romer's colorful, almost abstract leather art is full of energy; Michail Tsikoudakis's paintings are very evocative, with a use of neutral colors which sets them apart from most of the other art in the book; Chancer's black and white fine line art looks like a fragile piece of porcelain...and I haven't covered half the book yet.

Jack Balas Michael Kirwan Dan Romer

The only drawback to such a collection is that only 3 or 4 pieces of art per artists are shown, which can be frustrating when it's artists who don't have any internet presence. Hopefully, that will make them get a website or at least a gallery somewhere. But of course, the main merit of this book is to show their work to a wider audience.
You can find this book at any bookseller, or at Amazon.


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