The downside about regularly reading a lot of comics is that it's hard to be surprised anymore: being immersed in all the talent (name or otherwise) making everything from superhero monthlies to graphic novels comes with its own set of expectations per the specific talent.
The Carter Family tells the story of A.P. Carter, his wife Sara, and their band The Carter Family--the first commercially popular music band (in there case, country)--who came from the mountains of Virginia to start a musical legacy that can be felt today, but in a six degress of Kevin Bacon sort of way. And that's not to denigrate their contribution to country music, the commercialization of entertainment, or even the preservation of the old country tunes collected by A.P. through his career.
I've heard it said many times that music and comics don't mix. I would argue with that, but only in the case of music that is so embedded in the vernacular that the reader can't help but "hear" it as a soundtrack to the sequence that attempts to mix the two (the best example, to my immediate mind, would be Arne Bellstorf's excellent Baby's in Black graphic novel, which showcases the Beatles' music throughout). I could have listened to the bonus CD included in this hardcover, while reading, but decided to hold off until after the reading experience, to keep it pure. The truth is, music doesn't work but so well in The Carter Family, but the book isn't about their music: it's about the family's trial and tribulations, from A.P.'s workaholic nature to Sara's cheatin' ways, and the newborn music industry's effect on them and their simple country life.
The Carter Family is a surprisingly engaging and disarming biography, told in a non-pretentious manner. Young preserves the dialect (remember dialect? That long-lost narrative art form where the characters speak in "funny accents" that denote where they're from, abolished mostly for its association with minstrel humor?) of the Carters and their ilk, in a historian's honest way. Lasky's art, the story broken down into several small panels, and populated with a thin penline and frequent stippling, owes more than a nod to Harold Gray's art on Little Orphan Annie, while the break-up of the book into several shorter chapters, some more vignettes than others, evokes the Sunday comics page on more than one occasion. The major downside is in the art, which becomes inconsistent throughout the graphic novel, going from tightly drawn with heavily-rendered (relatively speaking, for Lasky's style) to more loose with a thicker contour line.
But in all, The Carter Family is worth picking up, even if you're not a fan of country music. Chances are the book's strength--it's disarming packaging--might keep it under the radar to the comics world at large.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Friday, August 24, 2012
The economy's been a disastrous, flaming mess for (at least) the past ten years. Michael Goodwin and Dan Burr's Economix: How Our Economy Works (And Doesn't Work) in Words and Pictures does an admirable job of not only documenting the history of American (and sometimes world) economics, but also boils down the nuts and bolts of how money affects things on both a social and political level.
Economix takes an obvious note from Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, casting Goodwin in the narrator role, interspersing it with caricatures of historical figures that border on editorial. Burr's simplistic and clean style suffers when it comes to Goodwin's avatar, however: there's something almost creepy and generic, as Burr's expressiveness seems restrained, held back to keep the author from shifting into becoming a "goofy cartoon character." Maybe it's the lack of fully formed ears and nose, or maybe just the soulless beady eyes floating in Goodwin's glasses that creep me out. As an avatar meant to engage the reader, Burr's version of Goodwin falls short; this is alleviated, however, by Goodwin's ability to boil down as complex and painful a subject as economics into a readable graphic novel.
The strength of Economix lies in its sense of humor, one that sprouts up the most once we get towards the 20th century. It's a book that should go on the bookshelves of every voter (which, in a perfect world, would be every American adult), Democrat or Republican, as we gear up for an the brutal 2012 election.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Thursday, June 28, 2012
It's only one buck for around 80 pages of content! Talk Vader and Son with Jeffrey Brown, digital comics with Mark Waid, Creator Owned Heroes with Jimmy Palmiotti, The Beatles with Arne Bellstorf, and guffaw at the hilarity of Shannon Wheeler! Also, get a preview of Dark Horse Comics' Silver Streak Archive and check out a sneak peek of The Collective, Irving and David Press' new comic book project!