by Mike Rhode
There's a very minor thread linking all of these books - men kissing
other men, although Dracula... you can't really call his assault
Willie Nelson: A Graphic History
by T.J. Kirsch with Jesse Lonergan, Jeremy Massie, Havard S. Johansen,
Coskun Kuzgun, Jason Pittman, J. T. Yost, and Adam Walmsley, NBM. 7 ½ x10, 88pp., B&W, HC, $16.99; ISBN 9781681122625; ebook: $11.99, ISBN 9781681122632
NBM offered me a review copy, but I had already bought the book from my LCS. Their press relase says of this book, "Country music icon Willie Nelson
is recognized all over the world for his music, philanthropy, and
unmistakable look. Since he was a child in Hill County, Texas, he has
been writing and performing for adoring crowds. Though his mainstream
success did not come until later in his life, he has been determined to
take his unique sound and voice to the people even before he was a
household name. There have been tragedies, missteps, IRS troubles, good
times and bad along the way, but Willie continues to shine his positive outlook and project his humble voice out into the world."
My take is this is an enjoyable biography of the singer, and there was a lot of information I didn't know, in spite of growing up in the 1970s with a family that listened to country music. I had no idea for instance that Nelson was a successful songwriter after being a failed performer, and wrote "Crazy" for Patsy Cline and "Pretty Papers" for Roy Orbison. Or that he kissed both Charlie Pride and Faron Young at times. Nelson's chaotic family life, womanizing, songwriting, performing, and love of marijuana are all covered extensively. Biographical comics haven't really taken off here yet, especially not the way autobiographical ones have, but hope springs eternal for the publishing world. My impression is that this is an NBM original, but they list plenty of
translated European biographical comics in the endpapers, and presumably
this will be sold in the other direction too. Kirsch conveys plenty of story, although the 8 illustrators (including him) give the book an uneven feel. Each illustrator takes a chapter based on a time period, so the same person isn't illustrating young clean cut Willie and the 1980s Outlaw version. There's apparently no model sheet such as one would find in animation, about how he should be drawn, so his features vary quite a bit. Other famous musicians, such as Bob Dylan, unfortunately would be unrecognizable if not names. The artwork is competent, but not outstanding, and if you aren't put off by the switches in style, it works fine. I'd recommend this for people interested in knowing more, but not a lot more, about Nelson and country music.
Dracula, Motherf**ker by Alex de Campi (Author), Erica Henderson (Artist), Image Comics, 6.8 x 0.5 x 10.3 inches, 72pp., $17,
Image says about this, "Vienna, 1889: Dracula’s brides nail him to the bottom of his coffin. Los
Angeles, 1974: an aging starlet decides to raise the stakes. Crime
scene photographer Quincy Harker is the only man who knows it happened,
but will anyone believe him before he gets his own chalk outline? And
are Dracula’s three brides there to help him...or use him as bait? A
pulpy, pulse-pounding graphic novel of California psych-horror from
acclaimed creators ALEX DE CAMPI and ERICA HENDERSON."
Calvin Reid had such a great time interviewing the two creators for Publishers Weekly that I decided to pick this up, after being doubtful about the 'motherfucker' of the title (as there's some things I don't really ever need to see, and Dracula shagging his mother would be one of those). The title, and the story, actually hearken back to the exploitation days of the 1970s when there was a new Dracula movie ever other month (relatively) and horror comics magazines popping up to avoid the comics code. The story is a minor one that could easily have been in Heavy Metal or one of Warren's magazines at the time, but Henderson's art is tremendous and makes the book worth having a spine. The decision by the two creators (and de Campi does the lettering) to never show Dracula as a man is an interesting one and works well. There's two end pieces of text by each creator talking about aspects of her role in the book that are interesting, but they've also largely recapitulated those in the interview with Reid and others that I've seen online. I'd recommend this for 1970s exploitation, horror, and comics colorist fans. It's fun, and pretty (in a way).
BL Metamorphosis Vol. 1, by Kaori Tsurutani, Seven Seas, 146 pp., $13, 978-1645052951.
Described on Amazon as "In this heartwarming and critically acclaimed manga, an elderly woman and a high school girl develop a beautiful friendship through their shared passion for Boys' Love. Ichinoi, a seventy-five-year-old woman living a peaceful life, unwittingly buys a boys’ love manga one day, and is fascinated by what she finds inside. When she returns to the bookstore to buy the next volume, the high school girl working there―Urara, a seasoned BL fan―notices a budding fangirl when she sees one. When Urara offers to help Ichinoi explore this whole new world of fiction, the two dive into the BL fandom together, and form an unlikely friendship along the way."
So "boy's love" is a genre that literally didn't exist in the US before manga imports because it's basically romance comics for women (such as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon invented in the 1950s) except with good-looking young men as the protagonists. I picked this up from the new graphic novel rack at the LCS just because it looked interesting and possibly amusing. The two characters are lonely for different reasons and it's a nice look at their May-December friendship evolving through an unlikely common interest. As you can see from the cover art, the story is slow-paced, low key and therefore relaxing in these crazy days. I enjoyed it and have already ordered volume 2 to see how their attempt to go to an actual comics signing in Japan works out.
If you've sent me a review copy recently - I'm working on them! Coming up soon: Mary! by Grant & Li and Harmony by Reynes.