Issue 19, May 2015:
Surrealism in Comics / Non-Fiction Comics
Table of contents
We stepped proudly into the new year – ‟Zeszyty”’s 10-year-anniversary
exhibition (extended edition) was displayed for a month at the Poznań University Library.
There were no signs at the time that this would be a year of change – and yet this is
what happened. The current issue is the first one in over five years not published by
Centrala whose place has been taken by the Popular Culture Institute Foundation (Fundacja
Instytut Kultury Popularnej). The importance of the past five years to our magazine cannot
be overstated – and Centrala played a pivotal role there – but we are certain that we are
entering a period full of even more important moments – and of very interesting projects.
The issue that you are holding in your hands brings two very different subjects. Surrealism
with its oniric character, subconscience, psychoanalysis, and occultism is located at the
other edge of the spectrum from non-fiction comics which are greatly preoccupied with
rendering the objective reality with as much likeliness as possible. At the same time,
it is a clash between two important traditions of representing the world in comics.
On one hand we have Max Ernst, Moebius and Grant Morrison – and on the other, Joe Sacco,
the creators of The Photographer and Guy Delisle.
The table of contents of this issue is made complete by two interesting interviews as well
as by a number of articles not related to the two main subjects – and of course by many
short comics and illustrations. They make it clear that Polish comic book artists feel
much more at home in the realm of unrestrained imagination.
The section concerning surealism was prepared by Przemysław Kołodziej – thank you!
Please enjoy this issue of ‟Zeszyty Komiksowe”,
Michał Błażejczyk and Michał Traczyk
Table of Contents
Design: Dennis Wojda
Cover art: Przemysław Truściński
The author introduces reportage as a general genre, and then discusses comics
reportage in relation to both other forms of this genre and to fiction comics. The
roles of the author and the narrator are discussed through several examples. Finally,
the material aspect of reportage comics is presented as an important component
in making them more “realistic”.
Joe Sacco – War Junkie, or Comic Book Reporter Extraordinaire (part 1)
Sacco can be seen as the comic book reporter who brought comic book journalism to
another level, unreachable for the others; in other words, he is one of a kind. His
approach to journalism are strongly inspired by the new journalism movement, but there
is more to it. Yes, he is a character in the books he creates, a very ironic and selfish
one for that matter which can be explained as an attempt to portray himself in a way
to make the readers not like him because journalistic work demands reactions that
are too inhuman and cold. Sacco’s sincerity makes his readers appreciate his honesty,
though, which they think the official media lack. Sacco’s books read like novels but he
never forgets to stick to the facts and to take the side of underdogs. He tries to give
a voice to those who pass below the radar of official media coverage. Finally, Sacco’s
work goes beyond the new journalism on ethnographic and anthropological levels.
A Photographer’s Battleground
The Photographer is a graphic novel about the photojournalist
Didier Lefèvre and one of his trips. In 1986 – during the Soviet war in Afghanistan – he went
to that country with members of Doctors Without Borders. This article analyzes the relationship
between photos and comic art in The Photographer, focusing
particularly on depictions of human suffering and the exploitation of animals.
Guy Delisle, or a Lack of Engagement
Canadian comic book artist Guy Delisle is the author of several „travelogues” –
illustrated diaries of his trips to interesting places abroad (e.g. North Korea, Birma, and
Israel). According to the author of this article his approach is very shallow, lacking almost
any explanation of the witnessed social and political phenomena. He also never genuinely
engages with the local populations. His preferred strategy for adding authenticity to
his graphic novels is using visual citations.
The challenge came from Alex Kłoś. I think it was in 2004. His assignement was to create
a cycle of non-fiction reportage comics for “Gazeta Stołeczna”. The idea came from the
then editor-in-chief, Andrzej Stefański. Initially, the ideas for those stories circled
“Symbolia”. News Comics Conquer Tablets
The author presents the interactive news magazine “Symbolia” in some detail,
tracing its history and its approach to multimedia. The 8th issue (entitled
End of the Line) is analyzed at length and is
found, somewhat disappointingly, to lack major use of dynamic elements – but at the
same it pushes the limits of what comics is quite far and in very creative ways.
A Story About Love and What Came Out of It.
Lauren Redniss: Radioactive. Marie & Pierre Curie. A Tale of Love and Fallout
Lauren Redniss in Radioactive (2011) portrays the complex life,
love, and work of Maria Skłodowska-Curie in an artistically and cognitively advanced way, encoding
all the possible nuances of the life story on the pages of the visual biography. She offers
a visually rich and emotionally challenging story which, on the one hand, stems from the main
character’s fascination with people, life and science, and on the other, her moral insights and
social dilemmas. The review discusses the complex word and image relation in
Radioactive as well as Redniss’ use of artistic technique,
time and narrative perspective.
Reinhard Kleist, The Biographer
The text briefly discusses the form of visual biography as such and Reinhard Kleist’s
artistic employment of the genre in Johnny Cash. I See a Darkness
(2006) and Der Boxer (2012). Both comics prove a fascinating
and challenging reading, due not only to an interesting interplay between the verbal and the
visual, but also complex characterisation of the protagonists which shows their actions, dreams,
and thoughts from multiple perspectives and in multiple circumstances.
André the Giant: Life and Legend – A Fiction Most True
André the Giant was the iconic wrestler who mythologized this specific form of entertainment.
Suffering from gigantism, the strongman lived under the rules of kayfabe – he was an actor and
his life was an action movie. But what kind of man was the real André? Box Brown, a comics
writer and a great fan of wrestling, decided to break the rules of the greatest show on Earth
and present the strange life and times of this incomprehensible giant in the comic book form.
Using a modest approach to storytelling and minimalistic art, Brown has created in
André the Giant: Life and Legend the first complex biography
of one of the twentieth century’s most beloved heroes.
Comics Before the Facts
“Relax” magazine used comics to present a variety of topics: history, propaganda, humour,
and science fiction. Among them were a few that focused on important current events.
What’s particular, two of them followed such conventions of non-fiction literature
as great attention to detail, but they actually portrayed events that were only about
to occur, e.g. the first space flight of a Pole.
Surrealism in Comics
Anti-Realism, Subversion and Superheroes – The Beginnings of Grant Morrison’s Surreal Ways
The paper analyses early DC Comics work of Scottish scriptwriter Grant Morrison. It shows
how Morrison’s Animal Man stood out from other mainstream
superhero comics of the 1980s, serving as a blueprint of further experiments with the comic
book form that Morrison would undertake in years to come (i.e. meta-narration, breaking
the fourth wall), but also as an entry point for its author’s interest in surrealism (both
in surreal themes and methods, i.e. subversion) that would become a trademark signature of
his increasingly weird and offbeat stories.
Wild West With a Corrida in The Background
A Week of Kindness for Comics. Max Ernst’s Une semaine de bonté
In 1934, a leading surrealist and dadaist published a “graphic novel” (as Scott McCloud
calls it) entitled Une semaine de bonté. Its central idea
was to reprint illustrations from contemporary newspapers with added graphical elements
such as strange creatures and often macabre imagery. Jerzy Szyłak postulates that the
narrative character of Une semaine de bonté is only illusory,
feeding from the deconstructivist attitude of the surrealist movement whose point was to shock
the petit bourgeois society. As much as Ernst’s works can prove inspiring, calling it comics is,
in Szyłak’s opinion, an exageration.
Moebius’ Surrealistic Travels on Edena
This article presents in detail Moebius’ comic series Edena.
This complex science fiction story full of references to religion, politics and gender identity
turns out to be surrealistic on the narrative level where nothing is what it initially seems.
The article presents the renowned Spanish artist Joan Cornellà. Combining surrealistic
imagery and black humour, Cornellà creates unsettling, violent comic strips where
protagonists are put in horrifying and often absurd situations. This serves as a form of
commentary on the cruelty of everyday life, to which – according to Cornellà – every
human being is subjected to.
“For I Do Not Understand What I Do” – about Divine Colonie by Nicolas Presl
The text is an analysis of Divine Colonie by Nicolas Presl,
a French artist. The graphic novel is placed within the context of his previous works and
Werner Herzog’s movie Aguirre which shares with Divine Colonie
certain features of the main character. The story told by Presl in his album is based on
the Bildungsroman frame, but developped into a complex structure of numerous layers:
suppressed erotic self-awereness, religious obsession, and inability to understand
anything that is different. Presl managed to create an ambiguous, lively character
and a metaphorical story which contains many references to history and culture.
I Am Too Old for Long Stories
Artur Wabik spoke to Andreas during the latter’s visit in Poland in October 2014
about his career as a comic artist, from the beginnings in late 1970’s until today.
First Polish translations of his works were published a long time ago – still under
the communist regime – but since then the fans often had to wait for a long time
for translations. Nonetheless, the Capricorn and
Rork series are quite popular in our country.
Andreas also discusses his plans for the future, films based on his comics, books
analyzing his works etc.
A Librarian Who Draws
Agata Matraś is a less known Polish comics author with a unique profile: in her work
– mostly published on-line – she portrays many interesting situations she faces
in her job as a librarian (and also in her role of a mom). Her inspirations include
Peanuts, Garfield and
Sandman, and she’s recently launched a startup to create
toys and souvenirs related to Warsaw.
Why Witches Don’t Date Vampires
A Troll’s Awakening
List of Comics Published by Polish Authors