Your Chicken Enemy's "Books We Liked 2018"
Over on Daniel Elkin's superbly named "YOUR CHICKEN ENEMY" indie comics blog he's running a series of reviews from folks who have contributed to his site over the year, which includes yours truly. Included in today's bundle of reviews are my two favorite books that I read this year, Liam Cobb's The Prince (which I "reviewed" here) and Karl Stevens' The Winner, which I never got around to "reviewing." I would also hazard to put scare quotes around the "review" blurb I did for Elkin over at YCE; especially for The Prince.
All I could do was point at the vectors that it took through my emotional space.
A part of my comics reviewing process – once I got mature enough in my writing to realize that I had one – has always been to come as close as I possibly can to being face to face with this big ineffable blob that is "The Work"; or, perhaps it is merely "The Work's impact on my sensibilities at that time." I don't know. Either way, it's somewhere in that space. Anyway, I read a book, and I let the impression just sort of drift towards me over time. I'll pick it back up, read part of it again, put it down. Maybe I'll write something, maybe I won't (usually I don't). And depending on the size and type of work, I will just sit with this for months.
For ages an integral part of this process for me was in getting closer and closer and having this rough outline in my head of "this is how I will break down these nuances that I see in the space between The Work and my experience of it." I always (every time!) thought I had two or three really good angles and always abandoned two-and-a-half of them by the time I managed to get anything down on paper no matter how fast I managed to translate my thoughts into physical or digital words.
I was trying to make the ineffable into something ... effable. Er... well, you know what I mean.
The issue was I wasn't just trying to evince something and lacking the language to get there: I was trying to dig up something that just did not want to be excavated. These things wanted to stay buried. The earth in these places wanted other people to walk over it and see how they felt. Even if I somehow managed to capture subjectivity perfectly in a bottle and render it objective for you to view, how much would you care when you have your own bottle to fill?
I don't know, this is getting weird and vague but the point is that for the first time with The Prince I was faced with something that was so imposing and so its own thing and so complete in-and-of-itself that I just had to leave it alone. All I could do was point at the vectors that it took through my emotional space.
Kawanakajima on Daisuke Satō
ANN recently translated bits of an interview that Comic Natalie did with Shoji Sato -- artist on Highschool of the Dead and Triage X -- and Kawanakajima -- editor of Triage X -- about the late writer of Highschool of the Dead, Daisuke Satō. Shoji Sato made some remarks about how difficult it would be to continue without Daisuke Satō's writing contributions.
What particularly drew my attention was the following quote from Kawanakajima:
"It's common overseas for comics and novels to be created by multiple collaborators. [...] But for Highschool of the Dead, [Daisuke Satō] was the one and only, so I'd like overseas fans to understand that nobody else could write it easily."
I'm not sure I would consider either of these titles to be anything but extreme action-packed fan service, but I do have fond memories of being in college and watching through all of Highschool of the Dead in one night, howling laughing at a bullet passing through the breasts of one of the characters in some surrealist horny JFK zombie magic bullet apotheosis.
Anyway, what really struck me was how Kawanakajima, the editor, talked about Satō's essentialness to the title. "I'd like overseas fans to understand that nobody else could write it easily." At first, it almost sounds like he's exaggerating, but the fact of the matter is that if you ever, ever heard an editor in Western comics say something like this, it would be the end of days.
The very idea that an author is essential to their creation isn't just alien here: it's antithetical to mainstream comics.
I mean, holy shit. That's obviously something that a lot of us operate with the awareness of, but to actually just see that proposition on its own is kind of surreal. Of course, the "author" in the United States is the company, and while that's merely a matter of legal fiction, it has extended outwards into the public sphere wherein the only exception are corporate figureheads like Stan Lee who are less proper authors and more human pincushions for corporate fetishism.
Maybe Image books are the closest we come to that kind of thing over here, but given that business model it's kind of apples and oranges. I can't imagine a corporate publisher with editors on the ground overseeing books ever giving this kind of matter-of-fact creative respect.