Posts Tagged ‘cartoons’

Lulu Eightball. Published 2005 by Atomic Book Company. ISBN 078-0978656904
Lulu Eightball, Volume 2. Published 2009 by Atomic Book Company. ISBN 978-0-9786569-5-9

Atomic Book Company:

Readers of the New Yorker, connoisseurs of the comics section, will recognise the work of Emily Flake. It is oddball comedy, gently digging the ribs, squeezing the squeaky balloon, of contemporary attitudes and practices.

Well, these volumes of Lulu Eightball are the ones the papers never saw: these are comics and cartoons of a distinctly other order.
Her format tends to be a page size square that contains four cartoons, not always part of a sequence, but that connect by subject: four takes, if you like. They can be four stand along cartoons, or two sequences, or… you get the idea.

Oh, but is the work of a sharp and witty observer/liver of the modern comedy of Western life!
And she is gender-fair: her women can be as monstrous as her men, and men gentler than her women.
This in itself is quite a feat in the toxic world she is working in: women cartoonists fight long and hard for the breaks that males take for granted.

This is the American world from a woman’s perspective. Not always successful, not always ‘with it’, not always clued-in; Lulu Eightball is a  loveable ogre.

The emotional range is set within limits: dipsy, cutesy-sharp, smart, to downright snarling. Is this the ‘nasty’ girl of Trump (you can just imagine him using this technique with his ‘conquests’, with his daughter, even. It has that sort of trued-and-tested wear to it)? No, that is far too creepy.
Lulu Eightball has moments of frustrated, almost despairing crankiness – something conveyed for all readers to recognise, and own.
But she never goes into psycho-land, from where there is no return.

In her more recent work, say, Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting (2015) she explores the female world od parenting more thoroughly.
This is a book for all new parents: there are sooo many parenting books, but this one pulls no punches, applies no tippex, and yet makes you feel recognised, on safe ground.


Sometimes something catches you, and you read on.
For me it was The Heartbreak of Fireflies, from Volume Two. The first cartoon has two bugs making snarky comments as a firefly walks by: Hey sparkle bottom. My cigarette’s gone out. Then she takes it further, with a note how the firefly is trying desperately not to let his light blink.
And the next cartoon in the frame has a firefly encounter fairy lights. Why would anyone put up strings of false women? Is – is it some kind of joke?


Posted: January 23, 2016 in Chat
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Many books I blog about have been shared by my wife. This is another one.

One! Hundred! Demons! By Lynda Barry. Sasquatch Books, Seattle. ISBN 1570614598. 2002.


What is it? What’s it about?
It’s an illustrated book drawn and fully illustrated throughout its 224 pages by Lynda Barry.
It’s all about energising yourself by clearing your workspace.
When you’re ready to get on with some work, your own work, what happens? Those little niggles, discomforts, and what is worse bad memories, negative voices, the whole shebang of undermining emotions and thoughts pop up and want attention.

This book’s raison is based on a painting exercise technique Lynda learned from a chance encounter with the book of a 16th century Japanese monk, Hakuin Ekaku.
She uses ink block and brush throughout. Her book is lovely. The more you do… the more you understand.
She catches some lovely poignant moments, just in a sketch.


The aim is to identify these little demons that hold you back, capture them in a picture, or set of pictures as here, see them for what they are.
Her list is semi-autobiographical; she catches eighteen of her semi-own little blighters in this book.

Some are surprising, like Resilience.
“When I was little,’ she writes, ‘bad things had gone on, things too awful to remember but impossible to forget.  When you put something out of your mind, ‘she asks pertinently, ‘where does it go?’
Kids are young enough to bounce back, we say. Ok, some are, yes. But once we bounce we have to keep bouncing, every time it comes back to us. A lifetime of bouncing. How do we learn to cope?

Acknowledge this demon and have a good look at how it works, and how it works you.
This is why this illustrated narrative format is so good: if you have the skill to draw you can do this. And some of them are the ones that say/shout You’re Wasting Paper And Time! And also You Can’t Draw!
The trick is the time you put in to drawing, catching the drawing, undermines its hold on you. You look intimately at its contours, its space/environment, you ‘know’ it. After that the question is: just who is in control now, eh?

Then they need to have their own little place, as you put them back. And not all mixed in with the others causing a rumpus.

Divide and Conquer?

The little Lynda in the book isn’t a pretty, a princess, a girly girl, she’s toothy, gobby, weak, credulous but also heartbreakingly hopeful – and constantly let down by the world. Sound familiar?

In another section she ponders Hate. Authority denounces hate from on high: parents, teachers: Thou Shalt Not Hate!
This just confuses growing emotions all the more. A substitute teacher stood in: It is possible to Hate something about a person you Like. And to Like something about a person you generally… Don’t Like.
It was a revelation to growing minds!

The teacher, of course, was reprimanded.

What about the little girl she used to play with? She was a couple of years younger, but lived nearby, and was a good playmate. Until that age when those two years began to make a difference, and maturity stepped in. And the young person felt so let down by you going off with the others – after all, in your young days you had sworn everlasting friendship. That sense of betrayal.
You were becoming one of those grown-up who let kids down.
Oh, it was years ago, kids forget. But here it is. Again.



And what about Lynda Barry?
Part Filipino, part Irish, a bit of Norwegian there too. And Wisconsin – Seattle based for her earlier life
After graduation her cartoons were taken on by some American newspapers. A friend of Matt Groening from college days.
She has taught in and been Artist in Residence at several American colleges.

Oh, and she hates wind farms.



Posted: May 30, 2015 in Chat

We all can recognise a Gary Larson cartoon straight away; it’s the style of the drawing, the chummy animals, the stereotypical people, their styles referring back to 1950’s America, and the droll yet witty caption. There can be a lot of travelling in a Gary Larson cartoon; he can take you out on the flip side of our middle-of-the-road comfortable sensibilities. They are predominantly single panel cartoons with punch line.
Gay Larsen decided to call his Far Side series to a halt in 1995. He had run the series in various guises from 1976, now was time, he concluded to focus on environmental issues, always very close to his main concerns.
You will not find any Far Side cartoons on the net except as images:

He has withdrawn them all, and requests fans not to post any, either. They are still available in book form, and the royalties of his 2007 calendar went to Conservation International.
He was born in 1950; his Nature’s way series came out in 1979 based in Seattle. It was replaced by the now famous Far Side series in 1980. The San Francisco Chronicle was instrumental in kicking off his Far Side career.
There was a problem along the way, with the Jane Goodall Foundation. One of his panels referencing the work of Jane Goodall resulted in a backlash which took time and negotiation to come to an amicable agreement.

Who remembers ‘Hap’ Kliban? Known mostly as B Kliban (he hated the ‘Hap’) he hit pay-dirt, as the saying goes, with a regular feature in Playboy magazine. This was 1962. His Cats became famous, appearing in book form in 1975.
Other than cats though, his range of styles and subject was wide, intelligent, wry, satirical, at times whimsical. He pioneered the Instruction Manual cartoon, closely modeled on the absurdities of flat-pack furniture.
Born in 1935, he was an art-school drop out. He died tragically young of a brain hemorrhage, in 1990. He lived most of his adult life around the Marin county area of California.


There is a strong overlap between these two cartoonists. Both come from very different backgrounds, with very a different range of interests and concerns, and yet….
So, if you see a single panel cartoon of a ‘regular guy’ walking through an office, wearing a regular suit, glasses… but the suit is extra thick material. And two women, one older, one young, the older with horned glasses, is saying “I really go for a man in a thick suit!”
Who was the cartoonist? Which of the two above?

Have a look at the range of Kliban cartoons:


The venue: The Cornerhouse, Manchester. An exhibition of new works by David Shrigley. The MC was Harry Hill.

Two returned tickets! My son and I zoomed off hands hotly holding tickets turning almost gold in anticipation.

Writer Will Self once said: You can tell if you are to like a person by whether they get David Shrigley or not. I would have said then that he would not like me – I found Shrigley’s books too… whimsical? Thin?

And yet I was excited about the exhibition.

Ok, to continue, all ticket-holders met up on the first floor (of three) of the exhibition, amongst mute exhibits. There was an oddly shaped huge black gong; there was a huge scaled-up rucksack (big enough to carry all our ‘care and woes’?); there was also an animation of a cartoon artist drawing a cartoon life model.  I could go on but then all a sudden Harry Hill was there, in Harry Hill costume.  There was also a  wall chart to record messages on the theme How Are You Feeling?  One or two members ventured a response. In the slightly awkward ‘celebrity amongst us’ atmosphere with Harry Hill’s initial appearance he wrote, hidden, then revealed ‘Terribly exposed’. How can you not empathise! Curator Mike Chavez-Dawson brought in Jan. Jan was great too, a small, perfect and professionally made puppet. As my son noted: three levels of ambiguity – we do not know what David Shrigley looks like (was he there amongst us?), nor was Harry Hill real but an invented character, and then there was Jan cradled in Harry’s arms talking to us (‘Don’t look at me, look at him.’ we kept being told).

Harry had us interact with the objects, questioned us archly about ‘how we were feeling’ about the objects. Beside the animation of the cartoon life drawing Harry had two people act out the scene, one actually drawing the other (clothed). Once again we saw the’ take’ on the ‘take’ on life drawing. And by the way, the gong sounded great. Then we went upstairs.

The middle floor was densely covered on all walls by drawings, doodles, sketches, cartoons: Shrigley-isms. And it was this is that ‘turned’ me: en masse like this, undiluted, I could see the effect he has. Tending towards the dark, at times outright bleak – but here was Shrigley-world writ large. He has striven to remain anonymous (there have been lapses lately); his subject matter is predominantly about outsider male experience, a limited world but relayed with conviction.

There are many constructions in his work, that is, levels of perception in the make up of the pieces: he can parody and self-parody like the best of them – the thing is he lets us see that he is also keenly aware of the position he has to take in doing this. Who has the right to parody another? Shrigley is no holier-than-thou, the ‘David Shrigley’ we are given is also a construct, a parody of his own beliefs and prejudices. That he parodies himself is exactly the point. That we recognise some of ourselves in the parody, is also the point.

The top floor was huge, and in the centre a huge Shrigley sculpture of a naked pissing man. The sculpture’s expression was… baffled? Pensive?

We drew our copies, then paraded them like cat-walk cats. Whilst the real work of drawing was going on Harry Hill and an audience member enacted a Shrigley interview. Hats off to the man, he carried it off very well, with ne’er a fluffed line!

Another Shrigley I find myself enthusing over is WORRIED NOODLES (2007). It’s a CD of his lyrics/musings put to music by a wide variety of bands and musicians. A lot of them really made me sit up and listen. Franz Ferdinand’s in there, as well as David Byrne; but so are Liars. Deerhoof are great. 39 pieces by 30 artists.