Ruts & Gullies: Une histoire voyage super cool sur les Canadiens-français en Russie!

This brand new little paperback from Conundrum Press has brightened my week. I was getting mopey thinking about how I won’t get to travel anywhere this summer, except to and from work. I’ve spent the past few years touring a lot with my band, but now I’m a real working lady, and I’m getting antsy for a road trip that won’t come.

Then Ruts & Gullies reminded me that I can travel through the magic of books! Books! Each page draws you into an imaginary world that’s way better than say, actually going to Brooklyn!

But for real, travel stories are great for satisfying an adventure-craving when you’re stuck at home. Ruts and Gullies chronicles French-Canadian cartoonist Philippe Girard and his cartoonist pal, Jimmy Beaulieu as they travel from Quebec City to St. Petersburg, Russia for a comics arts festival.

While significant trips are often imbued with a sense of escape or freedom or emotional catharsis, Girard’s is especially so. He heads to Russia on the heels of losing a close friend to cancer and when he returns to Canada he’ll undergo a semi-serious surgery, so his travel is bookended by significant and scary events.

However, Ruts & Gullies doesn’t head into super self-reflective territory. The events in Girard’s life just give the reader insight as to why he would go to country everyone tells him is crime-ridden and impoverished and all around, generally scary. He’s been given a sense a bravery or maybe carefree-ness that comes with being so close to death.

But, like I said, Ruts & Gullies isn't weighty— it's a fascinating and joyful read. It’s along the same lines as the amazing Guy Delisle’s Shenzhen and Pyongyang—interesting and funny tidbits about a people and country that are relatively unknown to most Canadians, without getting too “aren’t other cultures hilarious?”

Comics are a perfect medium for Girard’s story since, like most travel stories, it’s less of a straightforward narrative and more scenes of interesting moments in Russia: seeing the remnants of communist culture, trying weird new food, lost passports, public transit mishaps, cool new friends, etc.

No kidding, I really did feel that Girard took me with him on thrilling trip to an awesomely strange destination, and I didn’t even have to leave Scrapperton at home.

A Gem From the Bottom of a Long Box

My boss at Strange Adventures suggested I read Deadline, this four issue mini-series from 2002, which was in with a huge collection someone sold to the store. I was wary of the cheesy cover by Greg Horn (who is only slightly more tolerable than that other Greg), but once I dove in, I found an awesome little book, with a story driven by an enthralling mystery and an irresistibly like-able main character, Kat Farrell. Kat's a reporter for the Daily Bugle in Marvel-New York. She works the superhero beat, where she's assigned to report mostly on hero gossip, since any of the exciting stuff is left to the crime division of the paper. While she's a brilliant reporter, she's a rookie, so she's stuck writing puff pieces about Spidey and the Avengers, who she sees as self-centered celebrities, too wrapped up in their own superhero drama to notice when they bust up property all over town.

Kat's got her eye on the prize: a position in the crime department, and when villains start dropping dead all around town, she figures that breaking this story could land her that dream job. But when Kat encounters Judge Micheal Hart, who was murdered, then brought back from the dead in a spooky new form, she ends up embroiled in a supernatural mystery that she has to solve.


Kat is that rare sort of female character who is totally cool and compelling, but still entirely relate-able. Bill Rosemann writes her to be intelligent and driven, but fallible, like how she's trying to quit smoking for the whole book. And Guy Davis is on right on point—Kat is that nerdy sort of cute—adorable, but not boobilicous. She's like Gert from the Runaways, if Gert got to grow up and live a (semi) normal life.

There are hints of romance in Deadline, but this story is about Kat's job, and her solving this mystery. She's the everyman who manages to be heroic which is a refreshing role for a female character.

I like seeing normal people in a superhero world. I loved Gotham Central, and the idea of the how a regular precinct has to deal with extraordinary crimes. Deadline is a lot lighter, but along those same lines. It's always fun to get a different perspective (really, what would be our perspective) on a superhero story, where the superheros all seem sort of annoyoing, and they screw stuff up for us normies.

If you can get your hands on this series, do it. And who knows? Maybe Kat will show up again? In Girl Comics? Please?

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.

Come Travel Light: This American Drive

Hooray! This American Drive is here! Halifax comic book superstar and Living Between Wednesday BFF Mike Holmes made a book, and I finally have it in my greedy little Gollum hands. I've been super stoked about this awesomely illustrated and brilliantly designed book, so I'm now cradling it in my arms and whispering "my precioussss." You know, treating it how I normally treat the cat.

This American Drive was originally a comic that appeared in Halifax's alt weekly, The Coast. The graphic novel is fattened up (like it's been eating too much White Castle) with a more in-depth story, including Mike's charming prose and more great illustrations.

The book follows Canadian, Mike, and his Texan girlfriend, Jodi, on a three week road trip across America. Mike perfectly captures of the unique experience of Canadians traveling in America. It's so similar and yet so different, like you accidentaly met yourself when you went back in time and you forever altered the future world. The USA is Canada Earth 2.

Mike and Jodi travel from the Halifax to Texas, taking in all that America has to offer.

His observations are spot on—they get waved through the boarder with barely a glance at their passports after weeks of worry, they squeeze into tiny but shockingly cheap hotels rooms on the side of the interstate, the drink $1 PBRs and they have a better time at Cooter's than at the Grand Old Opry.

We all know that the best part of any road trip is sampling the local cuisine and This American Drive serves up some delicious junk food porn, as Mike describes every barbequed rib dinner, plate of biscuits and gravy and basket of deep fried pickles that he and Jodi eat.

The title is an homage to the most essential of road trip items—podcasts of This American Life, and like its namesake, the book reminds us of the beauty and humour that can be found in the mundane, from a great cheeseburger to a funny looking cactus.

Invisible Publishing is taking This American Drive on their own little road trip. It'll be launched this Sunday at Word on the Street in Halifax (and your LBW writers will be there too with Strange Adventures and Nimbus Publishing), and in Ontario and Quebec next week.


My Atlantic Film Festival Picks!

For us Haligonians (yup, that's what people from Halifax are called), it's almost time for the Atlantic Film Festival! Since we don't always get the smaller, weirder films that play in bigger cities, we all get super stoked for the AFF.

I was lucky enough to be on the programming committee again this year, so I've seen advance screenings of a few things. There's lots of amazing stuff, and I recommend clearing your schedule, and maybe quitting your job so you can see as many movies as possible. (If you're not in Halifax, check your local listings, fool!)


Waiting for Women

Big River Man


Africville: Can't Stop Now

Dog Girl


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Tiger Next Door

The Invention of Lying


You Might As Well Live

Best Worst Movie






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.