Friday, November 21, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Bengal

There are these amazing books. They were not even available in English or in North America when they were initially published. Magnetic Press made sure that the work of Bengal reached a wider audience. They have published the amazing books Naja, Meka and Luminae. Meanwhile Bengal has been creating beautiful work for the big two and more. Batgirl #37 will feature a cover by Bengal later this month and there's more on the way! I am a huge fan of Bengal's work. I had some questions, I wanted some details and here they are:

TFQ: Luminae will soon be released in North America by Mangetic Press. What's it like to know you are reaching an even larger audience and that there is such a significant demand for your work in other countries?

Bengal: That feels... encouraging I'd say! I believe I still struggle to find my readers. I don't reach many yet, and I've always wished to share my work with more people ; I know a part of this requires me to get better at what I do, but I'm also reassured, to some degree, to see that it also relies on expanding my work's reach. I truly hope new readers will forgive the weaknesses of the plot and the art and enjoy the flow, the energy I tried to render in Luminae.

TFQ: Luminae is the first story you have created set in a unique fantasy universe. How did you get the idea for this story? What inspired this world?

Bengal: I've been keeping a few ideas in a drawer for years, mostly 2 important ones ; one, a long and deep SF project is still in development and would require for me to be totally free from anything else to tackle (maybe someday), and the other was Luminae, that could fit exactly in the kind of format I was offered to work on at the time (meaning : 72 pages per volume instead of the usual 46 in France). I didn't get to develop it quite as much or as well as I was hoping, because of production pace obligations at the time, but I really wanted to draw that team of girls protecting one of the major essences of the world - I liked my idea, inspired as much by Lodoss War as by Dungeons & Dragons really, as well as its characters, and I knew where I was going with them, so... That's how I finally chose to present it to a publisher eventually!

TFQ: Can you tell me a bit about what you are currently working on and what we can look forward to?

Bengal: I'm now blessed enough to be in the loop with the big 2, for which I've produced a few covers & pages so far, and I hope to keep going for a while if they let me ; in France, I'm working on a Japanese medieval fantastic story written by David Chauvel, and I've signed a 4 volume story with writer Andoryss Mel narrating the adventures of a teenage girl trying to survive in a techno-fantastic kind of world. Both are very fun to do and I believe are really well written.
I'm also still waiting to get started on a nice project with an American writer, we've been planning things for almost a year now, but he's so busy, we didn't get going yet ; I hope to be able to unveil more soon, but it's all very exciting!

TFQ: Your work has been described as "the perfect amalgamation of European and Asian influence". From which artists or stories does that Asian influence come from?

Bengal: Well first, thanks to those who described it as such I guess hahah! It naturally came over time I believe. I'm a huge manga reader, I have a couple thousands at home, and I read almost any genre. One can easily tell it's where I got all my storytelling habits from, with the dynamic and composition in my pages. But I've alos been reading french BDs since I was a kid, my dad had hundreds. It remained and will always remain a strong influence, it helps me keep panels clean and steady in my pages, instead of having them all over the place.

And I guess it's natural my very art style got influenced by both as well. I could give a lot of names but I'd surely forget many that played a part in the development of my style, but to name a few from the top of my head, there'd be Hiroaki Samura, Kyoushirou Inoue, Tetsuro Ueyama (he does the BEST pages in the universe, period), Claire Wendling, Katsuya Terada, Hermann, Katsuhiro Otomo, Satoshi Kon, Koji Morimoto, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, the Capcom illustrators (Bengus, Akiman...), Hayao Miyazaki too, Kim Jung Gi more recently (he pushed me to provide MORE in my work, to detail more), I also appreciate Sean Gordon Murphy's work lately, as well as Olivier Coipel, I wish I had their ease to ink so well. Millions more but that's what came right away for today.

TFQ: This is my favorite question to ask artists: What is on your artistic bucket list? What kind of stories do you most want to create and who would you most like to work with?

Bengal: Well, I still deeply hope I get to contribute in any way to the spider-verse. Oh how I wish I had created Spider Gwen, it's such a cool character and design. I also dream of proposing a superman story to DC comics one day... But that will remain a dream I'm afraid.
I may be quoting soon "getting a cool new IP published in the US" off the bucket list tho if my current project with a 'secret' American writer happens next year. Fingers crossed.
I also wish one day I could design pinups for a toy brand, I'd love to see some of my girls become figures. Aaaaaaand well, ideally, I wish one day to see one of my projects developed and adapted into a movie or something. That would be quite an accomplishment.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Royal Blood by Jodorowsky & Dongzi Lui

Once you start talking about one Jodorowsky book you might as well move on and talk about the next. I picked up Royal Blood released just yesterday from Titan Comics. As with all of his work this one was recently translated into English. I attempted to find the publishing date of the original graphic novel and I must assume is was 2011 from the copyright in the book. That makes this one of Jodorowsky's most recent stories.

I didn't know what to expect from this book. I am not familiar with Dongzi Lui's work and although it is beautiful, it's not something I typically reach out for at the comic book store. I think others have been more critical than myself on the subject. Bleeding Cool's Hannah Shannon wrote that Lui's " soft linework and dream-like evocation of medieval warfare" didn't impress her from the previews. Some commented on the resemblance to George RR Martin which I don't think is at all, an accurate thing to say. Sure there's incest, betrayal, crowns and beheadings, but I didn't see one dragon *snicker*  In all seriousness I think it's silly that people have got it in their heads that all medieval fantasy has been inspired by Martin as if he's some Tolkien. It's ridiculous! Quite frankly Royal Blood has more in common with Shakespeare and Greek mythos which inspired a lot more than Game of Thrones. People can be so short sighted.

Anyway, I will hold my rant for now and tell you about the book. The book takes place somewhere in medieval times, possibly during the crusades because there is some talk of heathens and crusading for god. The story begins on the battle field with a Kings bloody betrayal. The book is in fact beautifully illustrated, although as previously mention, simply not my cup of tea. The story is about as comedic as that sped up video of the decomposing fox, BUT THAT'S NOT BAD! Even though I have come to expect brutality from Jodorowsky, I still find myself shocked by the tragic events that unfold in his stories. If you judged the man's outlook on humanity by reading his work, you can only conclude him to be the most jaded man on the planet. His characters have no redeeming qualities in the majority of his stories, except for the occasional repenting actions and show of guilt. It's generally just a "look how low I've sunk, maybe I shouldn't have killed that guy" thought bubble. There is no good guy, there is no one striving to be pure. They're terrible people (gotta giggle as I think back to the whole Christian crusade bit for above). They are selfish, manipulative, quick to anger and violent. Sadly, this actually describes the majority of world. Jodorowsky shows the parts of humanity we loathe. It also happens to be the parts that are really entertaining in fiction.

The best part about all the "incest" in the story is that it's not really incest. It's morally icky but it's not incest. King Alvar just THINKS it's incest which makes it interesting and pretty funny. In short, I think you're going to enjoy this one and I also feel as though it is simply not the end of the story.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Before The Incal by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Zoran Janjetov

I was having some issues deciding on whether or not I should write anything about Jodorowsky's work. Mostly because he's written so much and I have yet to read it all. I think most of his fans have yet to read it all. Lately, I've been grabbing everything I see that has his name on it. Recently, Humanoids had release another printing of  prequel Before the Incal. It followed the millionth (not literally) printing of The Incal which was releases back in September of this year (and still currently available for purchase!). What you don't know about The Incal could hurt you. As in, if you haven't read it and you're into comics, then you are missing out on something prolific. Something that will change forever, how you look at your comic book collection. So let me explain why by giving you a little info on the series.

The original Incal story is currently published by Humanoids under the title The Incal. It is a science fiction story written by Jodorowsky, fully illustrated by Moebius and originally published in 1981. Subsequently, versions have been printed in which the amazing work of Moebius was re-colored because a certain publisher thought it needed modernization..let us not speak of such atrocities and blaspheme. The story itself has inspired other science fiction writers and even film makers. You may recognize some bits of the book in this way: "Hey, remember that movie The Fifth Element? This kinda looks like that." That's because director Luc Besson took direct vision and "inspiration" from the book. He was actually sued by Jodorowsky and Moebius. They lost their case because I can only imagine that courts don't care about the intellectual property within comics unless it was published by Marvel. Or maybe when that Shia LaBeouf kid steals an entire graphic novel from Daniel Clowes and turns it into a movie without asking? At any rate, that's a brief history of the original story without giving away any kind of plot details.

In 1988 Jodorowsky published the first book in the prequel story Before the Incal. He hand picked Janjetov to illustrate the story claiming that Janjetov's artistic style was the most like Moebius' work. In the back of the currently released edition of Before the Incal, there is an awesome interview with Janjetov detailing this and his experience with Jodorowsky. It's one of the things that I love about the Humanoids publications. In all the ways that publishers have defiled the series over the years with censorship, poor translation and recoloring, Humanoids manages to keep the original story intact and include nice little bits at the end, like the interview with Janjetov.

As the title suggests, the book details the events that John Difool encounters before he gets involved with the Incal, a crystal of great power. There are certain points in this particular book which quickly endeared me to it. I originally didn't think I would enjoy the book. Jodorowsky may have insisted that Janjetov's work was most like Moebius but there really is only one Moebius. I didn't want to see any imitation. It was while reading the book that I came to love Janjetov's unique style. He really is not a Moebius impersonator at all and his work is full of charm. The way he drew the young John Difool could not have been any more perfect. It's one of the things that made me fall in love with the book.  There's a closer look at John Difool and who he was. Who was he? The son of prostitute in the lower rings of a dystopian city. He was fragile, emotional and compassionate which is quite different from the grown up Difool who's miserable, addicted to homeo-whores and visky. Which brings me to an important point - language.

For a lot of people it can be difficult to overcome the use of misogynistic language in Jodorowsky's work. The universe in which The Incal takes place, also known as the Jodoverse to fans, is a nasty place full of horrors. There's a complete lack of social justice. People are depraved and deprived (sound familiar? not too different from our current world). Prostitutes are called whores and looked down on society, and women in general are second class regardless if they are aristocratic. So please do not immediately feel as though the book is sexist based on the language used. I believe it's meant to bug you. It's supposed to provoke you because it is an unjust universe where people are treated unfairly and the general public has become desensitized to the conditions. After all, this is a world that regularly condones and recommends suicide to regulate both it's population size and morale.

So have I convinced you yet? I guess the big question is, HAVE YOU READ THE INCAL?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Luminae by Bengal

I find it very difficult to write articles about artists I admire. Mostly due to the fear of becoming a gushy fangirl and having my article reduced to a pile of unreadable rambles. I can't guarantee that's not going to happen whenever I try to write about someone like Moebius. Subsequently, I can't guarantee it's not going to happen when I attempt to write about the work of the French artist Bengal.

For many people living in North America, purchasing his work wasn't always easy to achieve. Until recently with the printed releases from Magnetic Press, you were lucky if you could grab a variant cover from DC or Marvel (which btw you will be able to grab when the Bengal Variant cover for Batgirl #37 comes out this month). Magnetic Press has been bringing North American fans Bengal's work for a few years now with the releases of Meka, Naja (Bengal & J.D. Morvan) and now Luminae.

Luminae is the first graphic novel which takes place in a unique universe both written and illustrated by Bengal. It centers around a group of six warrior women who have formed a sisterhood to protect Luminae. She's a being of pure light doomed to be expunged from the planet by the powers of darkness. The six women must save her from this fate. The world has an almost medieval quality to it but the costumes and weaponry live in the realm of the fantastic... so do the monsters!

The entire book is beautiful from the binding (available as a deluxe hardcover) to the artwork on the pages. Bengal's illustrations suck you into a new world with the same crisp and precise beauty he's known for. Combined with unique action angles and perspectives, his work feels as thought it may lift right off the page. The movement makes my head spin.

Bengal is often applauded for seamlessly bringing Asian and European artistic styles together. You may find yourself assuming that you are watching a high budget Japanese anime rather than reading a book. Sometimes when I remember pieces of Luminae I find myself remembering them as if they were not panels but animated scenes. That's the action and movement I'm talking about.

Whether you are a old or new fan, or perhaps you've never heard of Bengal, Luminae should be on your pull list. It is currently available from Magnetic Press online with a limited edition slip case. For my Halifax friends trying to source the book locally, you can find Magnetic Press books at Strange Adventures Comics and Curiosities.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Royal Jelly: Top Picks for Nov 19

A lot of my mini series have ended!! So this is looking like a tiny pull week for me.

Annihilator #3
Intersect #1 (Jeff Lemire cover B)
The Weapon X Project #2

Lazarus Deluxe Edition
Saga Deluxe Edition

Mentionables: Revival #25, Princess Ugg Vol 1

My big pull this week is Annihilator #3. Grant Morrison's science fiction tale brings a writer's fictional characters into reality while he simultaneously faces illness in the form of an inoperable brain tumor. I've been loving this series and it's dark art work.

Intersect #1 comes to us from Ray Fawkes who has been heavily involved in the DC universe collaborating with Charles Soule on a few Batman titles. He also is the author responsible for Constantine. Intersect is being released by Image and happens to have grabbed my attention mostly because of the Jeff Lemire variant cover. Although I am not a big fan of Fawkes work for DC, I did enjoy his independent graphic novel release entitled The People Inside. It was to me, a dark look at the lives of 24 individuals, their ups and downs, relationships and personal trials. That story alone made me want to take a good look at this new series.

It's important to note that the Manara Spiderwoman variant is still available but stores will only be getting one variant for every 50 issues. This means that for most people, unless you want to buy 50 copies of Spiderwoman #1, you won't be getting the variant. On top of that rumor has it that the variant itself is priced at $34 US.

I also want to mention that the first hardcover edition of Saga is released this Wednesday! It will have the dreaded breast feeding cover LOL. I say dreaded because many of the uptight arses around the globe were offended by this beautiful cover which I quite enjoy. I also think the fact that they chose to throw it in peoples faces as the cover for the first HC edition was great. It's a very Bjork Vespertine Swan Dress thing to do!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Silver Surfer #7

We all know how much I love the new Silver Surfer. Dan Slott has breathed new life into Norren Rad and brought out his humanity (yes i know he's an alien but you know what I mean!) by creating Dawn Greenwood. She's everything you could ask for as the Surfer's traveling companion. She's not a plot device, and she stands up for herself, even to Norren. Hey, even Toomie likes her! At least that's what we learn in this issue. I like Dawn Greenwood because I think she's a good character for young girls. Although she does get saved now and then, she does a fair bit of the saving herself.

What I thought was interesting about this issue, was Allred's use of darkness. When I think of Allred's artwork I always think of lots of bright colors, bold lines! I don't tend to think of panels filled with solid black ink. Yet here, Allred must show Dawn and the Surfer entering a void. It is simply darkness so Allred makes use of this by incorporating a lot of movement, something he's known for anyway. Laura Allred has been coloring this series from the beginning. I think it's beautiful! I'd like some giant posters from this run to cover my walls. Must get on that.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Kitchen #1

I like mobster movies but it really all depends. I'm more of a Goodfellows type girl than a Godfather gal. Whatever kind of gal I was before, now I'm a The Kitchen kind of gal. The Kitchen #1 was released yesterday on Vertigo. The story takes place in New York City in the late '70s. It's a gritty story about three women who's husbands happen to be Irish mobsters, that just went to prison. It's up to the wives now to provide for their family and they do this by taking up their husbands collections. Of course, there's a surprise at the end of the issue.

The women of the story are uniquely written and there is a definite leader amongst the three. Kath is the one who urges both Raven and Angie to continue running their husbands rackets. The other ladies seem easily convinced at the thought of being able to put good food back on the tables at home. It's the worry that they won't be taken seriously that begins to concern them. This is Ollie Masters' debut on Vertigo and so far I'm pretty happy with his work.

Ming Doyle's artwork is perfect for this story and carries a slight retro quality yet a voice all her own. I think everyone knows this sort of thing floats my boat. This first issue also has an amazing cover by the one and only Becky Cloonan who has been all over the DC universe for some time now. It's unmistakably her work. There is a variant cover by Ming available but I haven't seen it kicking around anywhere sadly. At least not in Halifax. 

All in all, I'm really happy that Vertigo has a new title for me to enjoy! I was beginning to worry. The only thing Vertigo in my subscription box right now is Bodies and that's halfway done.