All Of Tillie Walden’s Comics Are Worth Reading

Gene: These are small press comics or graphic novels or I’m not quite sure what to call thems by Tillie Walden, who wrote Spinning last year, which I totally loved.
Sarah: I still haven’t read it.
G: For shame!
S: It’s on my list!
G: Spinning was my favorite book of 2017, and I can’t believe it wasn’t in the Top Ten of ALA’s graphic novel list, it didn’t get a Stonewall Award, it didn’t win the Printz. I can’t believe it didn’t win anything. Maybe it was that book committee members thought, well, everyone else is going to give it an award so let’s not worry about it. But I’m pissed on behalf of Tillie Walden. I think it deserved to be featured on all of those lists and more. As soon as I read it I ordered everything else she’d ever written. These were published by a press in the UK I’d never heard of called Avery Hill Publishing.
S: Is Walden British?
G: No, she’s American. And she’s quite young, in her early 20s I think, and I was told that she works so fast she did all the preliminary drawings for Spinning in like 3 months. Apparently she doesn’t pencil anything — she just draws it in ink. So she works incredibly fast. I think this is the order in which these were created. And you’re going to love them so much you’re going to go read Spinning.

I Love This Part by Tillie Walden.  Avery Hill, 2015. 9781910395172. 68pp.

This has one drawing per page, with word balloons, and it’s the story of two young teenage girls in love. The first image is them, and they’re giants in the landscape, totally out of proportion, because, I think, that’s how their love for each other makes them feel. And one of the girls is already talking about way back when she was dumb kid and used to rate everything five stars. They’re already looking at the world like they’re older, smarter, bigger.
S: They’re leaning over buildings, towering over the Grand Canyon…
G: It could be that they’re not that big. Sometimes they just look close, like they’re in the foreground. And they’re figuring out their relationship. It’s just moments in a basic layout. And it’s heartbreaking. “Can we ever tell anybody?” “Probably not.”
S: It’s gorgeous and sad.
G: Purples and blacks. Outstanding.
S: It looks great.

The End of Summer by Tillie Walden.  Avery Hill, 2016 edition. 9781910395264. 108pp.

G: This book has a note in an intro by James Sturm, who is a cartoonist and the Director of the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. This is a big oversized trade paperback. He says that in the spring of 2015, Walden was a student there. “She produced a stunning and wistful comic, an impressive achievement for anyone let alone someone so young.” And the he learned she was also doing this at the same time. (I wonder if that project was I Love This Part.) Sturm: “Cartooning is a language, and Tillie speaks it beautifully. As long as she cares to talk I’ll be listening.”
S: Nice.
G: It seems like cartooning is her language. She just writes comics, it feels like she doesn’t have to think about it or figure out the word / image balance or the flow. She makes it seem natural. Maybe this is where we are now.
S: Comics natives.
G: Right. You’ve been brought up in the golden age of kids and YA comics, and now you’re going to start making them. This is dedicated to her twin brother. It’s the story of a family. It’s science fiction. Winter is coming, and will last for three years. A family is being sealed up in a giant mansion. The narrator is Lars, who is 11, and he’s dying. He has a weak heart.
S: Look how intricate those pictures are.
G: Amazing, black and white, it looks like the best manga landscapes I’ve ever seen. So detailed.
S: You couldn’t shrink this down. It would look terrible.
G: You could but it would be a crime.
Lars has a giant cat named Nero. Like the size of a truck. And he rides the cat around. He doesn’t want his siblings to know that he’s dying. He knows he won’t see the end of winter.
Here’s a great page where he introduces his siblings. Per, his cruel brother, scrapes his teeth on his fork as he watches Lars. His sister Maja, his twin I think. There’s some abuse going on in the house. I think teens would love this — it has that quality of looking at your life as a teen. There’s so much space in the house. Per is awful. The parents seem conservative, and the family doesn’t talk about their feelings, but the kids kind of rely on each other. Maja is very pissed off. The focus shifts, but it all works.
S: It reminds me of Moebius a bit.
G: In the grand scale a bit, yeah.
This is her third book, which came out in 2016.

A City Inside by Tillie Walden. Avery Hill, 2016. 9781910395202. 56pp.

This one is about a young woman going for some therapy session, and then building a reality inside her head as somebody talks to her about where she grew up in the South and where she grew up and why she left. It’s hallucinatory because she’s living in the sky. And she meets someone, she was beautiful, she comes back to earth.
S: A really different use of space!
G: I Love This Part has more of this, you see these two people together so you love them. In this one, she goes from the narrator’s point of view to show the woman she loves. It’s more skillful than showing images of love at a remove. It’s harder to show the person the narrator loves, through her eyes, and getting readers to feel it. It’s sad, but it ends on a tremendously hopeful note.
S: That’s great. It’s so exciting when you find someone like this, and you know they’re going to get better and better.
G: Read Spinning for goodness sake. And here, borrow these from me. [ed: Gene was right, I loved Spinning.]

Bonus:
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. First Second, 2018. 534pp.  
 
This book doesn’t come out until October, but I just read my galley, and Wow! This is a long, quiet science fiction science fiction tale about two girls who fall in love at boarding school. After her love must return to her closed society, the girl tries to find her place in the universe. But she can’t forget the love of her life and so, years later, with the help of a crew that travels space restoring ruins, she undertakes the perilous journey to find her.  
 
Vague, I know. Sorry. It’s a wonderfully slow story full of fish-like spaceships and buildings in the sky featuring the best kind of family, all without a single person who uses masculine pronouns (at least as far as I remember), and it feels like over describing it all would ruin it. Set aside a single afternoon to read it this fall and you won’t be sorry.  
And, hey, this was originally a webcomic, and you can still read it here. Be quick!
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Big Man Japan

My Love Story Volume 1 by Kazune Kawahara (story) and Aruko (art). Translated by JN Productions. English adaptation by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane. 9781421571447. Publisher’s Rating: T for Teen.

I don’t think Chris at Seattle’s Comics Dungeon has ever recommended a manga to me before, but based on his amazing booktalk he’s clearly been hand selling this series for a while. But anytime a comics guy in his 30s recommends a teen shojo title to me, I take notice — I’d probably have bought it without such a good pitch.

Takeo is one of those thick, older looking dudes in high school manga. He’s got a square head, big shoulders, and he looks intimidating. His friend Sunakawa is classically good looking (at least in a shojo manga, Korean boy band kinda way). Sunakawa always makes girls cry, but they love him. Takeo is the best guy, but they don’t ever fall for him. One day Takeo helps out a young woman, Rinko Yamato, who is being groped on a train, and he falls for her. Takeo assumes she’s fallen for Sunakawa, but she’s wrong. It’s the start of an innocent, adorable romance.

I’m reading the next few volumes as soon as I can. My local library system has 13 volumes as I write this, and I hear the anime is awesome, too.

B-15

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San. Image Comics, 2018. 9781534307506. 80pp.

The story of Elle and her soulmate, Mari, opens in a home for seniors in 2038 (Elle is telling her story to a young woman who needs to hear it) and quickly flashes back to the day in 1963 when Elle first saw Mari. They’re best friends for years, and for a while Elle doesn’t know how to talk about her feelings for Mari. And then it becomes clear to everyone that they love each other in a way they’re not supposed to, which freaks their church-going families out. Mari is sent away to get married. Elle’s father makes her marry James the following year, and they start a family when he gets back from Vietnam. And the thing is it’s an amazing family, and they’re as happy as they can be without actually being in love. So when Elle finally meets Mari again (after quite a few decades of marriage), it’s clear to both of them what they’ve been missing. (This isn’t a spoiler if you look at the cover before you open the book.)

It’s a joyous, colorful, well told story full of love and hope. I don’t normally like framing stories in this “let me tell you about the past” way but it works here, and there’s a secondary reason for it that becomes clear at the end of the book. All in all this book is delightful, and I can’t imagine a public library in the world that shouldn’t have a graphic novel about grandmas in love on its shelves.)

Unattached

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Plume, 2012. 9780452297548. 336pp.

Gene: Why did we pick this book?
Sarah: One of the Book Wows I’m going to post about in a few weeks —  Dear Fahrenheit 451 — recommended it as a good romance.
G: Oh, right. That was after trying to read a different book I picked and neither of us liked it. We were both like, WTF is up with this?
S: [mentions title, but Gene and I are not revealing it because we know folks who like the book in question, though it’s not a book for us]
G: Unrelated, but can I admit I shit-talked a book by a publisher whose books I usually like to an author whose books I love, and she admitted she didn’t like the book in question, either. So satisfying.
S: I got to talk to some of the school librarians I work with in a non-school setting and they were able to tell me which of the Battle of the Books books they hate. It was great.
G: Have you read Rainbow Rowell’s books before?
S: No.
G: I loved Eleanor & Park. It’s one of my top 10 YA books of all time. It’s on my shelf at home, my entire family loved it. It’s so good.
This was her first novel, and an adult novel, apparently.
S: It’s set in 1999, which is important.
G: I was pitching it to my 15-year-old daughter, and I realized why it’s not a YA book. “It’s set in a newspaper office in 1999!” Her eyes rolled back into her head. (She is excited by Rainbow Rowell’s current run on the Runaways comics for Marvel. In fact the first collection was just published.)
S: So yeah, a newspaper, 1999. The office just got computers because their publisher is like, “Everyone is just going to be screwing off. They’ll look like they’re working but they won’t be working.” So they hire a few people in the tech department, and one of them is this guy who’s been hired to make sure people aren’t screwing off on work time.

Continue reading “Unattached”

Sometimes a fantasy is all you need

Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino. Koyama Press, 2017. 9781927668467. Lots of pages.

I love this book so much!

It is square-ish, if not perfectly square, and it fits in your hand. It seems to have been originally published as 10 minicomics of the same title. (There are a few issues and other things by Foster-Domino available digitally.) Each issue (chapter?) is quite different from the others but each page features just a single comics panel.

“Issue 1” is a first person narration by a person (male? female? both? (both because at one point they say they’re Ranma!)) telling about and showing all of the things they do for those they’re obsessed with. Simple sentences and drawings add up to a view into the mind of someone super complicated. (And, you know, way over-obsessed.)

Issue 4” is a tear-inducing conversation. “Issue 5” is another conversation between two women talking about their childhoods and art. “Issue 7” has a surprise I’m still pondering. And you should find out about the other issues yourself, both because I don’t know how to do this book justice and because it’s so quick to experience.

I hope your local library has a copy (mine does), or you know someone who will lend you theirs, or that this sounds so compelling you’ll buy one of your own.

Yellow Dots About Comics

Pigmentation d’un Discours Amoureux by Mai Li Bernard. Dédales Éditions / Collection Détours, 2014. No ISBN in the book, but 9782955060605 found elsewhere. 48pp.

To see images from the book, go to May 2015 in Mai Li Bernard’s Tumblr archive.

Gene: This is a French graphic novel, but it’s wordless. Its title in English would be <Pigmentation of Loving Speech> or <The Color of Loving Conversation> or something like that. I bought it at Stuart Ng Books last time I was in Los Angeles. (I found out about his bookstore via his booth at the San Diego Comic-Con. He sells a lot of art books that are related of the comic scene: sketchbooks, graphic novels, reference books…and one of the things he does is he imports French books based on how beautiful they are. I find things in his showroom that I’d never see anywhere else.)
In this book, everyone’s thought bubbles and word balloons contain colored dots, and they’re more about that character’s mood during the interaction than anything else. Continue reading “Yellow Dots About Comics”

Build a Better Billionaire Bang

How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall. Forever Yours, 2017. 9781455571321.

How much do I love Alexis Hall? I’m willing to tell you that I deeply enjoyed this book, despite its embarrassing title. Hall has written a sweet and genuinely funny erotic romance with dom/sub themes and characters that are both three dimensional and utterly likable. English major Arden meets Caspian, a tremendously wealthy and successful financier, while making fundraising calls for his college. They hit it off immediately and discover that they are very sexually compatible. The story then follows Arden graduating and struggling to find a career while he and Caspian gradually get to know and trust each other.

As enjoyable as the story is, it’s a pointed and refreshing departure from the tropes of the billionaire romance genre (yes, this is a thing), the dom/sub romance genre (you are perhaps less surprised that this is a thing) and especially both combined (Fifty Shades of Grey). Caspian’s money is only important in that he can afford to let Arden stay in one of his investment properties while he looks for work in London. (There is a hilarious interlude where Arden and his college roommate Nik order food from the apartment’s attached Heston Blumenthal restaurant. They are baffled by the menu and decide to order the worst-sounding things for each other.) The older and dominant Caspian is fairly timid and anxious around this sort of relationship, which is very new to him, while the submissive Arden provides the confidence and caring needed to guide him. Arden is well versed in queer culture, gender and sexual politics, and principles of safety and consent. And (wonder of wonders) he states outright that dominance and submission “doesn’t have to be about who does what. It’s about how it’s done.” Arden is also very funny, self-deprecating, enthusiastic, kind, and quite silly. He is astonished that Caspian could fall in love with him. I’m not. I can’t wait for the sequel, How to Blow It With a Billionaire.