Beauty and the Block of Marble

OOooooo, what a great looking book! I'm going to try to make this cover the new mental image in my head when I hear the words "Image Comics." Usually I picture something like Haunt, and then I picture a plate of pasta primavera thrown at a wall. 'Cause that's what it looks like.

This lovely book was created by Marian Churchland, hot off her stint on Elephantmen.

Churchland tells the story of a young, out of work artist named Colette, who is commissioned to sculpt a portrait for an otherworldly man known as "Beast." She moves into his dilapidated home, and becomes transfixed with her work—slowly shaping a huge block of marble into the likeness of this mysterious figure.

While the book has a fairy-tale feel to it, and was in part inspired by Beauty and the Beast, it's not a Fables-style modern retelling. It's not a love story—or if it is—it's about the complex relationship between an artist and her work. It's about Colette's obsessions with representing Beast, not the Beast himself. In fact, she has more of an affectionate relationship with this awesome dog, Bodi, who lives in Beast's house.

This book is beautifully understated, both in the story and the art. Colette spends a lot of the story padding about Beast's old house, drinking tea, taking baths—preparing to work on the sculpture at night, when Beast will often appear. Churchland captures that waiting part of art—the procrastination, the mulling it over before beginning a frenzy of work. But the pace of the story also creates great dramatic tension, and adds to the general creepiness the permeates the book.

Churchland's art is just rad. Simple pencils that still say a lot, and really effective grey (and greenish) tones that show dark nights and murky days in an old house.


I tend to tear through a lot of comics in a week, and never give them a second thought, but Beast has really stayed with me. I keep thinking about panels that I want to look at again. I'm actually going to leave it on the nightstand and reread soon. And I seriously never do that.

Hipless in Halifax

A cool indie comics publisher called Conudrum Press has recently moved to near-by Wolfville, Nova Scotia. With our pals, Invisisible Publishing putting out Mike Holmes's book, Darwyn Cooke and Steven McNiven living here, and all the wicked shit Strange Adventures does, Halifax is becoming the Portland, Oregon of Canada. Now all we need is a weather machine to lengthen our eight week summer.

Conundrum publishes all sorts of cool indie stuff for whiny indie babies like myself. The Hipless Boy, due out super soon, is a gorgeous collection of inter-connected stories about a young man named Sully, who lives in an arty neighbourhood in Montreal. His stories of black outs, art shows, crossing-dressing, and shitting on someone's doorstep as revenge, are beautifully rendered with clean black and white lines. The book is semi-autobiographical, but the author, also named Sully, doesn't allow it to become self-indulgent or rambling. It's more snapshots of moments in the lives of young urban adults—moments that are familiar but still fresh.

The real strength of The Hipless Boy is that Sully can really write. A page of prose opens each chapter, and they really enhance the comic. Unlike that prose issue of Batman that Morrison wrote, I actually read this. Sully has the ability to construct a story that's serious, but luminous, funny and current, but totally unpretentious.

I've already heard Sully compared to Tomine, and Craig Thompson, but I think these comparisons obscure that The Hipless Boy is more on the silly and sexy side of comics. Sully's comics make you want to burst into the world, and do something crazy, which is a pretty rare feat for indie comics.

But it's not just in his words—Sully tells a great story with images too. There's a great text-less story in which Sully chokes on a gobstopper while on a movie date. I'll leave you a little excerpt.


Snakepit: best read with a beer in your hand

Strange Adventures just got in an order from the awesome Microcosm Publishing, and I was super stoked because the newest Snakepit comic was in there. I've loved this diary style, punk-infused comic since I read the collection, My Life in the Jugular Vein, when I was on tour with my band last fall. Snakepit is simple concept: Ben Snakepit draws a comic for every day of his life. Every day has three panels, and a song to go along with it. Most days include come combination of work, band practice, eating some kind of delicious-sounding Mexican food (it takes place in Austin, Texas), and getting blazed. It's pretty minimalist in style and content, but deceptively so. Ben manages to sneak a lot into those three panels, from cute moments and jokes to pretty astute observations about punk music, relationships and getting old. The mundanity is part of what makes Snakepit more addictive than a bag of Doritos. (And I really like Doritos.) Each collection is a year in Ben's life, and after reading one through, you feel like you really know the dude. Like he's your roommate, giving you updates about what band he saw last night, or the lady troubles he's having. My favourite parts of the comic are always when Ben goes on tour, which he's done a lot. When you'er touring with a band, your day always feels like it fits into the rhythm of a Snakepit comic: driving somewhere/show/after party or something fun in a city/good dinner/show. You really can't fit more than three events into a day. Ben totally acurately represents the way tour is a combination of extremely bananas and pretty boring. But the tours are super fun to read about especially since Snakepit is a veritable who's who of rad American punk bands. Seriously, I much prefer these comics to like, Skyscraper, for finding out about awesome bands.

Snakepit 2008 is the definitely the quietest year for Ben. He's getting older, going to bed earlier. He's in a committed relationship, and he only goes on one tour.

 He gets and Playstation, so that dominates a lot of the action in the comic for a while for a while. But as a reader who's pushing thirty, I appreciated this. And since I feel like I've seen Ben partying for a few years, it's kinda nice to see him settle down. It has all the visual jokes, great music and burritos that I've come to love.