• (Mostly) French comics, Animal People

    I love French comics. And European comics. And comics by European authors that aren’t French but still publish in French. Mostly, I love French comics with Animal People.

    I don’t know how to read French, and you probably don’t, either, but fortunately we in the States occasionally publish work by French comics artists — but not as often as we should.

    In America, we basically only have two types of comics. We have major label comics: the superheroes, zombies and barbarians of Marvel, DC and their “indie” subsidiaries. And we have indie comics, which happen to cover everything that isn’t mythology/sci-fi/fantasy.

    And for that reason, indie comics are almost exclusively autobiographical, or thinly veiled autobiography, or stories about lonely people so real everything is basically autobiographical.

    We have break-up comics and awkward people comics and childhood comics, but that’s it. That’s where the American indie genre ends.

    French comics pick up where American comics leave off. They blend the major label fantasy and indie stylistic sensibilities to create something bizarre and refreshing. Imagine “The Adventures of Tin Tin” with Animal People.

    Fantagraphics Books publishes one of my all-time favorites; Jason, short for John Arne Saerterøy. Jason’s animal people inhabit satirical but celebratory genre pieces. In about 50 pages, Jason’s “The Last Musketeer” tells the story of Athos, the last depressed musketeer in the 21st century. A meteor hits Paris, and Martians start invading. Before too long, Athos stows away to Mars to save the Martian princess in order to save Earth from total annihilation.

    First Second puts out some fantastic French work, too, including work by Johann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim. I recently read Appollo & Trondheim’s “Bourbon Island 1730.” A young ornithologist (who is also a duck person named Raphael) visits the island to study native fowl under his teacher (a bespectacled, squat dog person named Despentes) and wishes to become a pirate. He soon finds out there is only one true pirate left (a bear person called Buzzard, based on the very real pirate Olivier Levasseur), and the islanders are out to get him.

    But these are few examples of the vast register of European comic work. Unbounded by hulking major labels who control all the fantasy needs of audiences, European work can independently produce high fantasy epics (like Sfar & Trodheim’s parodic “Donjon”), mythological retellings and historical fiction. In French.

    And sometimes, the characters are animal people, allowing readers to dive into the fantastic without the intimidation of Big & Burly American Super Men and Ripped Supermodel Ladies in Iron Bikinis.

    To be fair, the Animal People almost seem more realistic.

  • Technological advances further art of comic reading

    If you're a comic book person, there really isn't anything like curling up in your favorite hiding place away from worldly responsibilities and reading that crisp new edition you bought from your favorite series. Turning each page in anticipation of the next, tenderly placing your forehead to the paper in response to a particularly exciting scene. And when you've finished, having the satisfaction of closing the book of your dreams in your hands and storing it with the rest of the collection.

    If you're a comic book person, you love reading comic books. Plain and simple.

    Lately though, the process of how you go about skimming through your favorite stories has evolved substantially due to technological advances. Remember when you first realized you didn't actually have to leave your house to go buy a comic? Or the first time you found a website hosting downloads of your long-lost issue?

    Visual storytelling has skyrocketed over the web! With just a simple click and scroll of the computer mouse, you can direct yourself across a page to wherever your heart desires. Only now are comic books asserting themselves into a new form of technology some would say is more accessible. Others would retort that the digital direction comics are going takes away from the initial pleasures of reading a comic.

    With the introduction of hardware such as the Nook Color, IPod Touch, or IPad, the average Joe could take a downloaded version of his comic book anywhere he wants (to his own discretion) and read with leisure. They could even have their entire library of books all compressed into a portable little gadget to look through whenever they so please. Some of these devices even have apps where you can highlight, leave bookmarks and read one panel at a time to center your focus more adequately on the story and dialogue. The bright screen also makes it possible to see in the dark, so you can even read yourself to sleep with the lights off! What more could one ask for?!

    A number of veteran readers want much more, and remain dissatisfied with the digital turn the world of comics has taken. What happened to those crisp pages? The smell of old paper from the books you pull out from long ago? The satisfaction of physically flipping through your comic while making progress in the story? There is a notable difference in the way you feel when you see a scroll screen of your collection versus gazing upon bookshelves filled with your favorite pastime. There are obviously some pleasures lost with the gain of others, and many find the sacrifice too great.

    So what team are you on, the physical or digital? Of course the option of physical books will remain open to the public, but tend to be more expensive. Comics books are changing in shape and form and always have been, but is too much change taking away from some of the best appeals of visual novels?

  • And So The Summer Truly Begins!

    The Summer Staff is HERE!
    The Summer Staff is HERE!

    So now that the summer staff for the Daily Texan Comics Department has been officially assigned, those of you thinking about completely quitting the comic's route... PLEASE RECONSIDER!

    Don't forget that tryouts for the 2011 Fall semester are also a great time to join the team!  It's never too late to dive into the comics universe and engulf yourself amongst fellow visual storytelling fanatics at the Daily Texan!  All the tryouts this time around were wonderful, and it was a very close call!  The Comic's Department hopes to see all of you who did not happen to make the cut, this time around, again in the upcoming Fall semester.

    And now to introduce the coming summer staff:

    Victoria Elliot will be submitting "Goog Comix"!

    Edgar Vega is bringing back "John Thorn" for this summer!

    Andrew Craft is whipping out more creative "TutuTango"!

    Riki Tsuji has many more hilarious "Naptime Comics"!

    Connor Shea is keeping us laughing with more "Shea's Rebellion"!

    Chris Davis is a new staffer submitting the thought provoking comic "The Mind Bubble"!

    Blake Earle is a new staffer keeping us on the edge of our seats with "The Daily Lamb's Bread"!

    Caitlin Zellers is also a new staffer gracing the page with her "Gallerinas" comics!


    So that's that! Please support your fellow Austin artists by picking up a page of the Daily Texan on Mondays and Thursdays to see what new hilariosity they have produced! And remember, if you're interested, to keep in touch with The Daily Texan and try again in the Fall!!!!

  • Comic Tryouts End This Week!

    Tryouts are almost over!
    Tryouts are almost over!

    The time has come.

    The time to submit your application for the Comics Department summer staff, that is! For those of you who have of heard:

    Tryouts end June 16, THIS Thursday.

    If you haven't turned in an application yet to the basement of the HSM building located at the corner of 25th and Whitis, then you should do so!  Also, be sure to complete and submit TWO tryout comics this week to be printed in the paper!  Comics must be inked and legible.  That means no pencil sketches!  Some amazing artists have submitted applications so far, but it is not too late for YOU! 

    To check out the amazing tryout comics already submitted at the Daily Texan Comics Page!