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My Reviews on Comics, by Vanessa Raney
Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Kouno, Fumiyo. Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (Yûnagi no machi sakura no kuni), ed. by Patrick Macias and Colin Turner. Trans. by Naoko Amemiya and Andy Nakatani. Design and retouch by Izumi Evers. English translation rights in USA arranged through jaPRESS and Last Gasp. San Francisco, CA: Last Gasp, 2006 (Japan: Futabasha Publishers Co., Ltd., 2003).
Reviewed by Vanessa Raney 

"I think I decided to go ahead and do this project because this whole time, somewhere deep inside, I've been feeling that it is unnatural and irresponsible to remain disconnected from this issue--or rather, that it is unnatural and irresponsible for me to consciously try to avoid this issue. Although I was born and raised in Hiroshima, I am neither a hibakusha survivor of the atomic bomb, nor am I a second generation hibakusha." - Fumyo Kouno, from the "Afterward"

The two-page spread that opens Kouno's three-part manga shows colorful watercolor washes. On the right page, a girl in a green and white dress holds an instrument on her lap as she sits atop a sculptural object, her bare feet dangling. The footnote to "Yûnagi," on the bottom left page, explains that it "is a term for a windless calm that settles in during the evening after sea breezes die down and before inland winds begin to blow." This offers a foreboding against the tranquility of what the reader will discover to be a partial cityscape of Hiroshima. The reader will likewise find out that the woman is Minami Hirano, and the dress a symbol of her unfulfilled desires.

Even if unintentionally, in the first section ("Town of Evening Calm/Yûnagi no Machi"), Kouno associates Minami's inability to reconcile her experience as a hibakusha with the onslaught of atomic illness at the moment she's prepared to accept love. Minami's flashback to the day of the bombing (see pp. 22-25) as Lichikoshi kisses her - the psychological basis for her survivor's guilt - precedes this. Later, Minami tells Lichikoshi: "Let me talk about what happened ten years ago" (6:28 ). She collapses, however, when he says, preparing to embrace her hand: "...Thank you for surviving" (6:29).

Toward the end of the story, in the third section ("Cherry Blossoms 2/Sakura no Kuni Part 1"), Minami's brother Asahi Ishikawa shares with his daughter Nanami the significance of Minami's death: "This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of my longest surviving sister" (1:98 ). Kouno, however, throws off the reader in the second section ("Cherry Blossoms 1/Sakura no Kuni Part 1") when she breaks from the previous storyline to focus on Nanami and her girlhood friend Toko Tone.

Nanami's facial expression on the title page for section two recalls the one of Minami in the opening. However, Nanami also appears like a tree nymph with cherry blossoms pinned to her hair, her right foot up on a branch with her other foot on the tree's base, and her plain collarless shoulderless dress. The environment of the cherry blossom tree similarly contrasts against the twilight of a starful sky in the previous.

The tone in this section, too, presents the joys of growing up. According to Kouno's "Explanation by author": "Country of Cherry Blossoms (Sakura no Kuni) Part I is set in 1987 in Tokyo's Nakano District" (100). However, "Part II is set in the summer of 2004" (100). In section 3, Toko tells Nanami as they share a train to Hiroshima: "I recognized you right away even after 17 years" (6:62). The reader, however, is left wondering about the cause of the break and Nanami's earlier hostility at her brother Nagio's mention of Toko.

The hint of time's passing happens earlier with the siblings' references to their jobs. However, all of the characters still look the same, which may lull Western readers into thinking that Nanami and Toko are still children. As Nanami and Nagio separately shadow their dad because of their concern over his odd behaviors, Nanami and Toko find each other again as their separate pursuits align them over men important to them at this stage of their lives: Nanami's father, and Nagio.

Recalling Minami's flashbacks to Hiroshima, in section 3, Asahi's recurring flashbacks take him back to his pursuit of hibakusha Kyoka Ota for "a wife" (3:92). By this time, Kouno has cleverly let the reader in on the connection between his flashbacks and the present. Before Nanami thinks that "No one ever explicitly said that my mom died at 38 because of the atomic bomb" (5:86), Asahi's mom shares her concern that "I don't want to see any more people I know die from the atomic bomb" (7:84) after Asahi informs her of his intentions to marry Kyoka.

Koko's reaction "to the Peace Musem" (3:78 ), however, has a direct association with Kouno. In the "Afterward," Kouno explains: "I felt reluctant [about doing this manga] because when I was a student, there were a number of times when I nearly fainted- at the Peace Memorial Museum and when seeing footage of the bomb. It caused quite a commotion and ever since, I've tried to avoid anything related to the bomb" (103).

More significantly, however, Kouno's manga addresses the question: What happens when there's no one left to bear witness to Hiroshima (and Nagasaki)? Often, when people relate this question to the Holocaust, it is assumed that (1) only the dead can bear witness, (2) only those who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand can bear witness, or (3) only generations brought up under the umbrella of the Holocaust can bear witness. There is, however, scholarship that addresses the role and impact of witnessing from outsiders.

Kouno - as other contemporary Holocaust/genocide/etc. artists - shows that witnessing does not require the lived experience of horror, but the desire to face our pasts. For Japan, the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are more real than to us outside of Japan (except for the foreigners who were in Japan during the bombings and/or their aftermaths) - because we don't know what it is to still be dying even years after an event, with the exception of those who faced Agent Orange and other chemical wars.

Kuono reminds us that death is omnipresent with the experiences of joy. Many Japanese, too, have had to relive the pain of the bombings as they (re)witness(ed) the deaths of loved ones because of atomic illnesses resulting from the massive amounts of radiation unleashed during the bombings. It is time that we, like Minami, confront our pasts.

Kuono's Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms is available for $9.99 plus S&H from Last Gasp. The direct URL is:
http://www.lastgasp.com/d/28619/. This manga is about remembering - so buy it and share your thoughts! After all, it is important that we, too, carry the burden of witnessing. More importantly, we cannot deny our roles in the continuing suffering of people affected by our wars.


Posted by Vanessa Raney at 2:44 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007 2:47 AM EST
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Wynter. Zombie Cadence. Art by Rudy Martinez. Art directed by Ave Rose. Book designed by Blaine Hays. Published by Ave Rose. LA, CA: InkPenMutations Press, 2006.
Reviewed by Vanessa Raney

Though Zombie Cadence is not a traditional comic (explained later), it raises useful questions about how we read art that is part of a story involving text. Some noted comics scholars like Thierry Groensteen privilege the image while disregarding the text as equally important when a comic includes both. Therefore, I wish to begin by telling you what story Rudy Martinez suggests with the images he created. The art follows every even page beginning on page 4, with the exception of page 26 which disrupts the flow of images with additional text.

First, a man appears cornered in an elevator while two black suited men are outside of the elevator (4). Then, a red eye-tainted person with one long white sleeved shirt looks in the car's mirror; you know it is a car because of the traffic (6). This same white-shirted man, now with red hair, leans over from the car in front of a house with red teeth exposed (8 ). Secondly, a black shadow cuts across a woman holding her breasts; it looks as if the shadow's holding a weapon. Then a blood-stained person's teeth holds a piece of flesh from the woman's right breast where she still has her hand (12). Thirdly, a white-shirted boy appears to be on the porch because of the street behind him, though there is no suggestion of threat in the scene; yet this depends on how you read the boy's facial expression given the previous contexts (14). The man from the car reappears again with an arm in his hand while the same white-shirted boy lays on the ground in blood; at this point, the shadow and the partial face connects to this particular zombie man, though it is unclear when he put on a jacket shirt (16). An old woman looks prepared to hit the zombie, who may have dropped the arm; his position on the ground and no signal of motion from the bat accounts for multiple interpretations (18 ). The man, however, now stands looking stronger, his features darkened; his left hand holds the woman above the street, blood flowing from her scalp (20). His shadow and that of what appears to be only her head stands in for them; the zombie's head, however, moves under the arm that a female zombie now holds in her left hand (22). The zombie man is now on the ground looking up while a crowd of zombies stand behind him (24). Fourthly, a woman lying almost completely down looks to be screaming; the only hint of threat is the diagonal position of the scene, which would be a standard interpretation if this were a movie (28 ). The source of her scream seems to be the zombie man as he bites into her right butt cheek (30). Finally, a black man shoots the zombie in the head, as indicated by the bullet hole; the only visible racial aspect of the man is his hand (32). With the black page, however, one may assume that it is a flyleaf (34).

If, however, you believe the above descriptions give away the story, you would only be partially correct; you need the text to know which aspects are true to the storyline. Specifically, with the info. I provided, you have already identified the wrong narrator, who is omniscient in the correct storyline but whose perspective overlaps with Cade's, the main character in Zombie Cadence. While the text is not the mark of a professional writer, Wynter offers an unusual angle on the subject of zombies. Without letting you in on the secret, allow me to quote from the omniscient narrator: "He [Cade] is but a witnessing conscience" (7).

In other threads on this forum, I have talked about the text as the story's formal context, and the image as the emotional context. Sometimes, though, the image misleads the reader/viewer. Zombie Cadence presents one example of why we cannot divorce the text from the image. Because of how the text and the images work together - even if the images are descriptive, which is true of many comics - one could qualify Zombie Cadence as a comic since there are two overlapping stories that depend on what the reader/viewer reads.

The object is to read the images against the text, but not everyone does; by ignoring the text, therefore, you build up a storyline that follows what I laid out previously, but which, as I mentioned, presents the wrong set-up for understanding what is happening, though it informs one specific aspect of the story's beginning and how the zombies continue in the town of anywhere where the story is set. We do not know how the zombies began, but we know one particular person's experience of what it is to be a zombie.

So, check it out! It is available for $5 directly from InkPenMutations Press (see http://www.inkpenmutations.com, then click on the kiss-lipped book link and scroll down until you see Zombie Cadence).


Posted by Vanessa Raney at 2:43 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007 2:48 AM EST
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Review of issues 1-3 of Titan A.E. (the prequel) and the movie
Reviewed by Vanessa Raney

 

Allie, Scott. Titan A.E. #1, ed. by Dave Land. Pencilled by Al Rio. Inked by Randy Emberlin. Lettered by Steve Dutro. Colored by Dave Stewart. Covers by Al Rio and Andy Owens. Designed by Lia Ribacci. Published by Mike Richardson. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse Comics, Inc., May 2000.

_____. Titan A.E. #2, ed. by Dave Land. Pencilled by Al Rio. Inked by Randy Emberlin and Walden Wong. Lettered by Steve Dutro. Colored by Dave Stewart. Covers by Al Rio and Andy Owens. Designed by Lia Ribacci. Published by Mike Richardson. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse Comics, Inc., June 2000.

_____. Titan A.E. #3, ed. by Dave Land. Pencilled by Al Rio. Inked by Randy Emberlin and Walden Wong. Lettered by Steve Dutro. Colored by Dave Stewart. Covers by Al Rio and Andy Owens. Designed by Lia Ribacci. Published by Mike Richardson. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse Comics, Inc., July 2000.

Titan A.E. Directed by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, and Art Vitello (some scenes). Story by Hans Bauer and Randall McCormick. Screenplay by Ben Edlund, John August, and Joss Whedon. 94 min. Color. 20th Century Fox, 2000. [I got the info. for the movie version at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120913/.]

On all three covers, Dark Horse marketed the comics trilogy Titan A.E. as "the prequel to the hottest animated Sci-Fi film of the year!" The first major discrepancy between the trilogy and the movie, however, is time. According to Prof. Tucker in issue #1: "As early as the twentieth century, plans were made for the terraformation of Mars" (panel 3, italics added). There's no other time reference, so readers are left assuming that the story's taking place a century ago from our time. Also, unlike the movie, the trilogy relates distance between other places and Earth.

The movie, though, begins in "3028 A.D." It also keeps the perspective on the human characters. In contrast, the trilogy plays up points of view between the humans, the D'Amarans, and the Drej during issue #1, then collapses them in issue #2. By issue #3, however, the humans take control. The critical issue with the triology concerns the almost near homogenization of the alien races, while the movie shows token races (that is, one representative per race except for the humans and the Drej). Only the trilogy names the Drej, including their two royal kings and one queen.

Of note, too, is that the only characters who appear in both versions are Dr. Tucker and the Gauol. Yet, by the end of issue #3, the Drej are preparing to attack Earth. Critically, Dr. Tucker's son Cale in the movie is absent in the triology. In the movie, too, the Drej destroy Earth. What lays further doubt to the trilogy as a legitimate prequel to the movie is that the threat of attack in issue #3 and the actual attack in the movie are too immediate, and thus one expects to see either Captain Ruth Kimball or Sergeant Gregory Korso carry over from the triology - at least, I did.

One of the interesting things between the triology and the movie is the death/separation of an important person: Colonel Nik, who doesn't get a last name, for Kimball; Cale's father, Dr. Tucker, whom he later finds out died trying to reach the Titan A.E. Titan A.E. is a spacecraft with the technology to accelerate a human-habitable planet - basically, a modernized Noah's Ark.

The problem with the trilogy and the movie, however, is that the trilogy provides the Drej with a different motivation for destroying Earth (to absorb the planet's energy) - that is, until you get toward the end of issue #3, and the reader's made to question if the queen manipulated events for other reasons. Of course, in the trilogy, the Drej are physically weak and hungry. It's never explained in the movie, however, how the Drej find out about Dr. Tucker, the Titan A.E. and his son Cale.

Of course, in issue #2 of the trilogy, the Drej comment on the human race: "'We can't let this low-watt race of pacifists beat us!'" (panel 17); "'You and I are the rare masters among this race of slaves" (panel 40). In issue #3, Kimball, Korso and Tucker discover, as he introduces himself, "'Commander Bencal of the D'Amaran Mizrate Armada'" (panel 70) - the VIP among the D'Amarans thought dead in the previous issue. At this point, they're all on the Drej ship.

Visually, a key difference between the trilogy and the movie is that the movie presents manipulable electric doorways. In the trilogy, the interior of the Drej ship is metal with defined borders. Both versions, of course, feature attraction: Kimball with Dr. Tucker; Cale with Akima. However, the movie differs significantly from the trilogy, too, because of Capt. Joseph Korso's backstabbing and Preed's double backstabbing. Is it possible the movie's Capt. Korso's related to the trilogy's Capt. Korso? (Either that, or he got misnamed in the trilogy.)

I wasn't convinced, though, with Capt. Korso's quick turnaround toward the end of the movie when he finally sacrifices himself for the human race. The best part of the movie, though, happens before Capt. Korso gives himself away; here, Cale takes the lead with the spacecraft as he plays with the "ghosts"-like race. The music and the visualization are awesome!

Like the movie, there are inconsistencies in the trilogy. Coming into issue #2, for example, readers may have no clue what's going on. In issue #1, Kimball retorts to Nik: "'Is that a slight on my navigating or my gender?'" (panel 48 ). However, the issue of "gender" isn't pursued, which raises questions about the writer's intent.

I want to point out one final difference between the trilogy and the movie. In the trilogy, the crew's only human except when they team up with Bencal. The planet they visit features alien races. Turn to the movie and it's exactly the reverse: the crew's a mix of human and alien, and "Drifter Colony" (I believe its a holding station) is made up of humans.

I'm in no way suggesting, however, that the trilogy should've followed the movie closely. My observations also aren't based on a need for faithfulness between the two versions. I want to emphasize that there are two related stories, but that the prequel isn't really that; it's a different story loosely fitted around the movie.


Posted by Vanessa Raney at 2:39 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007 2:48 AM EST

Runton, Andy. OwlyTM: Splashin' Around, ed. by Chris Staros and Robert Venditti. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, May 2005.
Reviewed by Vanessa Raney

Just today, I received a complimentary copy of Andy Runton's primarily wordless black and white comic, OwlyTM Splashin' Around, published for the 2005 Free Comic Book Day*. Though aimed at kids, reading Runton's comic requires some skill even for adults.

For example, to follow most of the dialogues between Owly and his (or her) friends, you need to recognize the linguistically-based symbols that replace words with images while still retaining recognizable cognates. Of the 28 pages that comprise this comic - one in a series of OwlyTM stories, including Owly: The Way Home, Owly: Just a Little Blue, and Owly: Flying Lessons (from backside) - only two pages are dialogue-free (6 and 26), while another page presents entirely in pictures without images standing in for words (16).

Pages that contain words identify the placard "Owly" (1), the "Nursery" (5, 18 ), the "Birdbath Contest" event (9, 18-22, 25), the info. related to Owly and his friend worm's birdbath design (12-15), the "Judge"s (21-23), and the sound of "Knock Knock" (27). Exlamation and question marks indicate specific emotional states (1-3, 5, 7-13, 17-24, 27), and bubbled arrows hint at direction (7, 8, 15). Runton also includes challenges that require reading across panels to get at the intended meanings.

For example, 3-4:1 suggest friend worm fears the shadow in 2:1 that turns out to be Owly on 1:2 (by this time, Runton has tricked the reader into confirming the previous page's misreading). More importantly, friend worm's anxiety concerns the dying flowers introduced in 2:1, but these are not recognized as the objects of worry until 2:2. From this point, Owly and friend worm team up to help the wilting plant.

Another example relates the later exchange between Owly and his friends worm and raccoon. In 3-4:18, they find each other at the event. Then, in 1-2:19, friend racoon says that in half an hour (see the position of the clock's hands in both panels) the prize will be awarded. However, at this point - without knowing that friend raccoon is the event's organizer, much less the Nursery owner - friend raccoon's dialogue suggests something else: his confidence that Owly and friend worm will win. In actuality, friend raccoon is expressing his excitment over the judging.

The above examples are reasons why adults may amuse at Runton's gaming on a cognitive meta-level. Teachers would also find the comic useful in classrooms, especially with image/word-related associations since the images paired form complete sentences. The plays between word and image, however, contribute significantly to the discussion about the relationship shared by them - thereby challenging the dichotomies that place text and image as opposing concepts.

One criticism, though, that may be offered is this: Runton forgets about the flowers. Do they survive? However, noting that detail might be unimportant depending on if you read Runton's comic as an implicit statement about the value of animate life (animals of all types) over that of inanimate life (plants, etc.). The ironic twist at the end also points to the problems of aesthetics/appearances; to understand what I'm talking about, read OwlyTM Splashin' Around!

To check out all the current titles, go to this Page of Top Shelf Productions' Website: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog.php?type=12&title=561. (Hint: Scroll down to where it says: "Other titles related to Andy Runton:." Then print or copy the list to keep track.) Enjoy!


* Only comics in the OwlyTM serial published for Free Comic Book Day (also noted as FCBD on the Website) are short. Volumes 1-4 range from 120-144 pages.


Posted by Vanessa Raney at 2:38 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007 2:48 AM EST

Kalamity J. Mother's Urn: Memoir Dust. Art by Antonina Gribnikova. Design by Blaine Hays. Published by Ave Rose. Los Angeles, CA: InkPenMutations Press, Feb. 2006. 48 pp. ISBN: 0-9776361-0-0.
Reviewed by Vanessa Raney

When I got the glossy Mother's Urn, I wondered why Last Gasp (where I first heard about it) advertised it as a comic - until I came across the comic in chapter 2 of this story about a girl's relationship to her "Mother" (45), who is, until this moment, mom. From looking in to being in every other chapter, writer Kalamity J. switches the narrator's voice to create an odd resonance of distance and immediacy.

However, to read Mother's Urn, one needs to understand that the text was created as a cross-interconnecting poem that sometimes echoes william carlos williams (i.e., "all the every bodies came" (l.2:6)); the thing that binds all four chapters is the girl's mother. Unfortunately, the first chapter, "Christmas Myth," may be offputting, though Kalamity J. succeeds in grappling with words and poetics on page 9. The problem isn't imagery but a lack of skill in placing words that flow from the other, resulting in an awkward cadence.

The third chapter, "Somebody's Mother," is also discordant, though it leads well on pages 28 and 29. Minor stumbles follow in the last chapter, "New Lesson," but here, Kalamity J. shows a keener awareness of poetics. It's possible that "these abstracts of life" (writer's bio.) were created over time, and thus the later chapters reflect her continuing maturity as a poet.

Chapter 2, "No refills on the photo album," is the most significant for us as comics scholars because this is where artist Antonina Gribnikova begets the comic (see p. 20). You have to read forward and backward, however. First, the square image intended to imitate a photograph on the chapter title page (19) is also panel 9 on the comic that appears four pages later.

The last square image in the same style on page 26 is a close-up of panel 1. Though it might be tempting to dismiss the image of the girl's blue/pill-eyed brother on page 21, the text actually concerns the siblings. The first two stanzas and the three lines of the third stanza on page 23 carry the image of the girl's brother forward. Although the next two lines frame the girl's emotional ghost (her mother), the remaining four give the context of the comic: "laughing/like in pictures/with babies/and birthday cake."

Therefore, the comic can be seen as either a wordless comic or as a comic whose text appears separate from it, which could be unwrapped further to suggest the divide that exists between the girl and her mom. The next image describes the text, but the picture and words are on the same page (24), suggesting a closer relationship between the girl and her brother, though we don't know this for sure since he disappears after this chapter.

Yet one image, on page 32 (chapter: "Somebody's Mother"), includes text as part of the image while the text below it poeticizes it. Here, the image can be grasped as independently yet interdependently of the text.

Mother's Urn, more importantly, is the story of how a family gets broken. The violence that pushes the break also creates a violent reaction without direct physical harm between bodies. In one sense, the pills somatize the girl's mother and brother; in another, they create an irreparable rift between all of them, including the father. Shown in black and white and color images and text, Kalamity J. and Antonina Gribnikova invite the reader to look past the image/text to the broken truth of loss.

For previews of Mother's Urn, go to http://www.inkpenmutations.com/ and click on the book with lips at the bottom of the Page. You can order a copy directly through InkPenMutations Press (PayPal only) or through other online retailers such as Last Gasp and Amazon.com. Enjoy!


Posted by Vanessa Raney at 2:37 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007 2:49 AM EST

Review of Karcomics: Highlight on Ismail KAR
by Vanessa Raney

The online Turkish Karcomics: Cartoon & Humor Magazine / Karikatur ve Mizah Dergisi features a section for “Ismaili KAR’s Cartoon Gallery / Karikatür Galersi.” Spanning five Pages, each of KAR’s Pages of twenty single-panel cartoons works on a theme while transferring image concepts from previous Pages.

Gallery 1 (http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/k.html) thematically links transmogrification and politics. For Gallery 2 (http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/k1.html), attention follows birth and the soul of music.

By Gallery 3 (http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/k2.html), one finds a lighter overall tone and pencil drawings focused on turbaned Muslims. Those of us titillated by the American comic strip scene may pleasure at the black and white image featuring Dagwood, Krazy Kat and Mickey Mouse waving as they ride their Turks’ shoulders. Meanwhile, a seemingly wealthier, suited conservative with umbrella in hand appears perplexed as he watches the manic crowd of what appear to be working class men (indicated by one wearing a tie associated with waiters and the others by their open jackets) run in front of him, their motion suggested by short lines and dust puffs that are distinguished from the two clouds by their shorter balled appearances. (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/47.html)

Gallery 4 (http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/k3.html) pivots toward death and judgment. With Gallery 5 (http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/k4.html), KAR suggests the exploration of the human hungry to be explored. For those of us working in sequential art, the frog and bull comic offers a classic example; this interesting story about images defining us shows individual but continuing panels divided by “1.,” “2.,” and “3.” instead of by boxes (http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/91.html).

Among KAR’s central image concepts is the dove. In Gallery 2, which features the first of two sexual images in the galleries (the other appears in Gallery 5 but is linked with the concept of the human as animal (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/97.html)), one image shows a dove sitting on top of a nest on top of a man’s scrotums (balls), with the penis erect (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/34.html). However, the perspective takes its cue from looking upward toward the penis, with the dove’s weight forcing the penis in the direction of the man’s stomach, which then associates the womb and that with birth and finally women, life, etc.

I believe the dove holds a turkey berry in its beak, and this turkey berry fills in with the earth tones of brown, blue, green and yellow - colors that correspond with the branches of the nest, though the nest filters the color so that it appears more transparent than the turkey berry. The penis, too, holds the turkey berry in its meatus (see http://www.cirp.org/pages/anat/), suggesting a connection between the penis and the dove. Thus, the white dove, already symbolic of life, also encourages an association with the sperm cells that ferment in the man’s scrotums and release during ejaculation.

The next image shows a dove between two open-mouthed men holding turkey berries between their teeth (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/35.html). Finally, in the third image that follows, two caricaturized doves bring a turkey berry and a cartoon heart to an outstretched mechanical hand (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/36.html). The most suggestive image that confirms my view of the dove as birth leads Gallery 2: a grey skull resembling an X-ray picture reveals an embryo in the brain cavity (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/21.html). However, the two images that precede the dove as symbol present a man popping a musical note and a turkey berry into his mouth (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/32.html), and a maze that takes us to either a newly born baby or an embryo developing inside the womb since the umbilical cord remains attached to it (as in non-gender specific).

In the last significant image, KAR blended the dove with the yellow color of the sky. At the same time, the man, seen by shades of prominent black, has a grenade in his pocket and a turkey berry in his hand while he holds the dove upside down by one leg. It seems to suggest that life is sacred and too easily placed at risk. (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/38.html)

Also significant in Gallery 2 are the images of a soccer (or rugby) player without legs below his shorts who holds on to crutches while balancing a soccer ball; his midsection with protruding belly button are also visible. We see this same soccer player in Gallery 1, but in black and white. Now, in Gallery 2, KAR shows two different color images of him.

In the first, the soccer player, whose crutches now appear in green yellow-tinged sheepskin covers (see http://elitemedical.com/crutchparts.html), wears a green top and yellow shorts; he bounces a black, red and white ball against a dominant blue sky and green grass background. (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/23.html) In the second image, the soccer player, whose crutches now appear in blue sheepskin covers, wears a purple top and pink shorts; he bounces a black and white ball against a watercolor blue-splashed and cloud background. (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/27.html)

Finally, in Gallery 5, KAR shows two different images of a soccer player identified as Ortega in the first image, in which he appears between a solid yellow sky and several yellow and black lined balls, his right leg showing as a flesh object (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/77.html). In the second image, KAR offers a full portrait of Ortega as caricature with a standard white and black lined ball (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/78.html). From these, one can surmise that KAR enjoys soccer; Ortega is likely a professional soccer player.

In Gallery 3, KAR suggests the snake as a symbol of fertility. The image of the snake and the Muslim translates a tone of tranquility. The Muslim sleeps while the smiling snake holds on to the end of a turkey berry. More importantly, the snake’s eyes are shaded like the turkey berry: black pupils outlined in green; the green turkey berry branch has black berries and green leaves. Read differently, the white, black polka-dotted snake is the penis with the promise of life. (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/56.html)

The last recurring image concept involves Hitler. In Gallery 1, a black man volleys Hitler as he runs down the track. (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/19.html) From my knowledge of the 1936 Berlin Games, which presented a positive propagandist view of the Third Reich, I believe the figure is Jesse Owens, who earned “four gold medals (100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump)” (http://www.olympic.org/uk/games/past/index_uk.asp?OLGT=1&OLGY=1936). In Gallery 3, a doctor holds a syringe as a starting gun while three prostrated men in different-colored striped shirt tops and exposed (and two with red) bottoms prepare to run. One man wears a tourniquet around his head. This comic reminds me of Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” during WWII. (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/41.html)

For those of us interested in the relationship between movies and comics, we may also be intrigued with the image of Albert Einstein in Gallery 3. His body is a tree and his face the leaves, echoing the image and suggestion of the tree in the 2006 release of The Fountain (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/49.html). Collectively, however, these various male-dominated images which KAR created in black and white or color, offer an oeuvre of the artist’s work that, simplistically or more complex, present different facets of his outlook. One could read in his comics statements against poverty/class, violence and inhumanity, but also find random images of Turkish ways of being, including romance.

My favorite image appears in Gallery 3. Here, a man’s profile is outlined by white doves against a washed black background (see http://ismailkar.8m.com/k/46.html). It is an arresting image, but also unique – like KAR, whose style of artwork breathes an essence of Turkey not found in American comics. I suggest checking him out; he has good material.


Posted by Vanessa Raney at 2:23 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007 2:49 AM EST

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