Choosy Beggar Books

Penny for Your Thinker

Posted in "Midville High" Comics by mvblair on January 8, 2017
march-scans00056

Fun Fact: Most of Rodin’s statues, including “The Thinker,” can be found on multiple continents. There are dozens of castings of “The Thinker,” which was originally a part of another work, “The Gates of Hell.”

Advertisements

Midville High #1

Posted in "Midville High" Comics, Older "Midville High" and "Kyle & Barry" by mvblair on January 4, 2017

midville-high-1-previewWhen I started this site a number of years ago, I could not find a copy of Midville High #1. I finally found it and scanned it! While most people couldn’t care less, I am very excited.

The story holds up well and I like the pacing. The art is Michaelangeloesque, as always. Right, guys? Along with all the other comics you can check it out on the Books page or download it right here: Midville High #1. All the comics are in PDF format and can be downloaded to tablets and most e-readers.

I’ve got two more Midville High comics that I made about ten years ago but haven’t published. I suppose I should just put them up digitally. I certainly pine for the days when I would go to small press comic conventions and trade my comics with strangers and acquaintances. Somewhere along the way, a job and a family happily got in the way, but seeing this now twenty-year-old comic brings back good memories.

“Naturally Leathery Soles”

Posted in "Midville High" Comics, Older "Midville High" and "Kyle & Barry" by mvblair on January 3, 2017
march-scans00055

From 1999

Juanito

Posted in Miscellaneous Comics by mvblair on June 4, 2015

I’m not sure when I made these little cartoons with “Juanito,” but I like them! I’m guessing they’re from about fifteen years ago. –Matt

Juan Waiting for Bus

Juan at Home Juan and Friends Juan Keeping Goal Juan at the Rio Rojo

Battle of Wits: We Are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards

Posted in International Comics by mvblair on March 11, 2014

Like every other guy on the planet, I consider myself a student of history. I particularly enjoy reading the history of people in turmoil. One topic which I’ve read at least a dozen books about is the Cultural Revolution in China. It was a time of torture, gulag, forced disappearances, and even famine. The most widely documented part of the Cultural Revolution is the anarchy created by the Red Guards, groups of mostly middle and high school students in the cities who organized destructive campaigns against Old Habits, Old Culture, Old Customs, and Old Ideas in the name of modernity. Mao himself encouraged the Red Guards as a way to rehabilitate his image after the disastrous Great Leap Forward.

Mao created an enormous propaganda campaign that included comic books, which helps give me something to talk about here. “Battle of Wits: We Are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards” is a fifty-four page comic about Xiao Hong, a middle school student who spies on her own grandpa and catches him in a conspiracy to send a university journal to Soviet spies. She goes through his mail, spies on him from above, and eventually gets the military police to catch him fleeing his own apartment in a rush to make a drop. It was all encouraged by Mao and the comic was all relatively mild compared to what actually happened during the Cultural Revolution.

Image

45. Suddenly his eyes stopped on “Technological Research”. This was the internal monthly periodical that Xiao Hong’s father edited in the university, containing published reports on electronic industry development and new technological discoveries and achievements. That guy [the Grandfather] quickly opened his back to stuff several books inside.

If you have a chance, read the English translation here at China Smack. As with most propaganda comics, the writing is terrible. It’s the typical “illustrated narrative” style that is easy to do and not exactly a comic: the book does not need the illustrations. Nevertheless, the illustrations are beautiful. The artist used lots of different brushes and pens to create lush pictures that are somewhere between “Little Orphan Annie” and a really good Japanese comic. The writing and story, well, clearly leave a lot to be desired.

On a historical note, it appears this book was published in 1976, the year the Cultural Revolution ended, along with Mao himself. This propaganda was one of Mao’s last breaths, a desperate grab to keep his movement going.

On a literary note, there is a pretty big English translation (via the French) of Chinese communist comics called “The People’s Comic Book: Red Women’s Detachment, Hot on the Trail, and Other Comics.” It’s from 1973. I’ll write a review of it soon now that I’m thinking about it. Terrible comics, but interesting culture.

“I am convinced that He does not play dice…”

Posted in Art by mvblair on February 1, 2014
...he plays dominoes.

…he plays dominoes.

British Library to Stage Comic Exhibition

Posted in International Comics by mvblair on January 24, 2014

This is the librarian who decides what comics are good and what comics are not.

In high school, I joined the crusade of fanboys who demanded that comic books be taken seriously. My senior paper described the deft combinations of art and literature that made writers like Will Eisner and the Brothers Hernandez modern day Shakespeares. I demanded the use of the term “graphic novels.” I preached the “comics as literature” gospel as well as Scott McCloud. My parents and teachers, predictably and justifiably, made fun of me. As I moved on to college, comics slowly began to appear on library shelves, something I’d never seen growing up.

The crusade was naive on my part. Today, a huge section of the comics industry has been co-opted by academics, librarians, and, worst of all, publishing houses.  The academics were probably fanboys like me but hard-working enough to get their papers published once they became adjunct professors of communications, and they are now writing a new history of comics.

The industry has never been healthier, but there is a cost. Many new comics or “graphic novels” that we see on library shelves rehash popular scholastic content: history narratives, science-made-fun, and posterized dry literature. The most popular titles that end up in libraries and Christmas packages are neither creative nor innovative. It’s as if the publishers, who co-opted comics, shoot comics out just to appease the library industrial complex. That makes it a mixed bag: there are more comics around, but they aren’t that great.

Enter the ultimate co-opter: the British Library. Home of innumerable stolen treasures from the greatest civilizations, the British Library is now preparing to steal England’s comics history.

Your chance to win 25 pounds rather than lose them.

They’re starting with “Misty,” the supernatural adventure comic, a collage of Gothic stories about ghosts, monsters, and teenage girls discovering demons in their grandparents’ attics. It’s apparently a cult classic in Ye Ol’ Britain that has been forgotten about by all but a few hardcore fanatics until a stuffy academic recently decided it should be filed under “worthy.” The British Library is suddenly jumping on the bandwagon driven by publishing house horses and turning it into so-called “high art.” The people who enjoyed “Misty” during its six year run between ’78 and ’84 are watching academics and librarians run wild with theories as to why people liked it. The fans, of course, are left in the dark.

The British Museum will not display this particular cover as “art.”

Another comic that will be exhibited is “2000 AD,” which was readily available to Yankee colonists during the ’80s and ’90s. The comic gave birth to such characters as Judge Dredd, an extrajudicial judicial branch member who wears an NFL helmet, and Robo-Hunter, an extrajudicial executive branch member who smokes cigars alongside his robot companions, Hoagie and Stogey, who at one point uncover an insidious extraterrestrial plot to obstruct Britain’s robotic World Cup team. I’m not kidding.

These happy gents are editing “Punch,” the comics magazine about high society that was sold on street corners by smudgy-faced nine-year-olds while their fathers failed to conquest Afghanistan.

Perhaps an even bigger focus of the exhibition will be Britain’s history with political and social comics, which dates back to the mid-1800s. The comic “Punch” is oft cited by high school fanboys like me as an example of why comics should be looked at as serious literature. “Punch” discussed the many problems that faced members of high society in London, such as unpoached eggs, problems with striking coal miners, and the difficulty finding good estate help. Again, not kidding.

While the British Library was getting diplomats to ransack foreign capitals for copies of antique Korans, original poems, and hand-drawn maps, comics readers were busy collecting magazines back home, saving them for a rainy day. That rainy day has arrived. The publishers, librarians, and museum officials from whom we demanded so much respect in years past have now taken comics from our hands. They are writing their own revisions of this art form’s history.

The crusade, which began as innocent children marching off to Palestine with genocidal visions, has been taken over by the Vatican.

Primer on Popular Comic Book Styles

Posted in International Comics by mvblair on January 15, 2014

This is going on two-years-old, but I clicked on an old bookmark of a BBC article about comic book styles from around the world. In no way is it comprehensive, but it’s a quick and fun read.

Odd that there is no mention of this extremely popular genre from the ’80s…