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Column de la Cox #2

In Which I Ruminate on Stolen Bicycles, the Goddess of War, and Taking a Trip Uptown.

Part One: Boring Lifestyle Information (okay to skip)

In this past week, I have realized something fundamental, something no doubt obvious to the rest of the world; the anaerobic lifestyle begets time to read comics. Or, in other words, sitting on your ass prevents a stack of unread books from overwhelming you like The Blob. As several of you may know, I am not only a comics retailer, world class cat burglar, and general Bon Vivant, I am also a cycling enthusiast. If I have the time, and the world has provided a sunny day, you will find me pedaling madly across the Brooklyn Bridge, up the West Side Parkway, or anywhere that either a) strikes my fancy, or b) is located in proximity to whatever errand my girlfriend has assigned me.
What this ultimately means is that when I have two hours to myself, rather than enjoying a stack of lovely comics, I am sweating and getting a sunburn while trying not to hyperventilate. It’s one of the few small joys in my life, which is otherwise a slow crawl toward black oblivion.

However, while in midtown Manhattan last week, my beloved bike was stolen. It was entirely my own fault (dirty, dirty hubris and all that), which made the whole bleak scenario all the worse. On the train ride back to Brooklyn, I pulled the first volume of the Viz-big edition of DRAGONBALL from my bag, and read the whole dang thing straight through. Like that guy on the road to Damascus, I realized that maybe, just maybe, rather than this being the summer wherein I finally burn off twenty pounds and prevent the onset of diabetes, this will be the summer that sees me reading every book that is sitting in a pile by my “reading chair”.

With a newfound, less active purpose in life, I set off to do some damage.

Part Two: Is THE GODDESS OF WAR the most important book of the year thus far? VERY MUCH MAYBE.

And so it was that I finally sat down and read THE GODDESS OF WAR, the new comic from GIRL STORIES creator Lauren Weinstein. Honestly, this book was initially quite daunting, simply by virtue of having so much visual information packed onto every page. On first flip through, it looks awesome as hell, but darned if it isn’t a barrage of comics; panels small and winding into each other like a boardgame designed by mean people.

Despite my initial hesitation, GOW reads like a dream. Literally. It’s mesmerizing and hypnotic, and moves with a loopy pace, as if you’re in the middle of a terrifically weird and vivid dream. Which works to a marvelous effect, as the Goddess herself exists outside of space and time, and by the time you’ve read two or three pages, you are completely immeresed in her point of view. This kind of craft doesn’t happen by accident, my friends. This is the result of some serious cartooning chops. Chops that are deceptive. Chops that you dont even realize are there until you’ve fininshed the book and realize what a transcendental ride you’ve just been taken on. This is pure Cartooning; each page and each panel carefully designed to pull you in and drag you along, immersing you in the visual art of it all, while never abandoning the point of the narrative. The drawing style is loose and scratchy, scribbled away in densely packed panels, all toned with shades of soft, inviting, neutral greens. It’s obviously lovingly rendered, and the manic linework brings a contagious energy to every page.

GOW mixes humor, mythology, surrealism, history, and romance (kinda), all under the dual umbrellas of a character study on one hand, and a thoughtful meditation on the nature of human conflict on the other. At no point is it the rambunctious mess that is implied by that sort of content stew. It’s a perfect balance of all these elements, seamlessly connecting scenes detailing tensions between early U.S. settlers and Apaches with a trippy, inter-dimensional sex scene with Cochise. Lauren Weinstein has created her own cosmology here, building a strange and strict natural order that the Goddess operates in. Bizarre beings float in the aether (some Lovecraftian and some straight from familiar myths), and we see human history from their perspective, with all the violence and cruelty stacked up as just more moves on a checkerboard, surrounded by merciless and bloodthirsty Gods and Monsters.

This is a comic unlike anything I have ever read, and certainly one of the most original books so far this year. But best of all, this is a comic that could only exist in this medium; this is not a pitch for a movie, or a property to be merchandised, or a novel with pictures. This is an excellent ride that can only be taken panel by panel, and it revels in the form. It’s exactly the type of project that gets me excited about Comics, and what comics are capable of.

Part Three: Columbia has fancy buildings.

Monday night I was on a panel that took place at Columbia University, as part of the Columbia Publishing Course. It was moderated by the great Calvin Reid, of Publishers Weekly Comics Week, and included cartoonist Dash Shaw, editor Pete Friedrich, cartoonist Danica Novgorodoff, Del Rey Manga’s Ali Kokmen, and The Beat herself, Heidi MacDonald. This was a great group of folks, and it was interesting to hear them talk about their involvement in the world of comics. I didn’t have too much to say, so I quietly snapped a few photos with my phone.

Moderator Calvin Reid, one of the great champions of Comics today.

Dash and Danica, chillaxin’.

Ali, Heidi, and Pete, unaware that the Phantom Photographer has snapped them.

When Calvin asked who, in the audience, had read comics or graphic novels, a sea of hands went up without shame or hesitation. The questions asked at the end were all mostly well-informed and surprisingly insightful. All in all, it reminded me that we really are living in a New Golden Age of comics, where publishers of the future learn about graphic novels right alongside magazines and books. The medium has gained that sort of subtle acceptance that isn’t apparent right away, but in a few years down the line, when suddenly you realize that everything has changed around you while you were right in the center of it all, arguing about continuity in FINAL CRISIS.

I wake up every day and think “damn, comics are AWESOME!”, but it’s good to be reminded of it in an academic setting.

16 Comments

I’m gonna pick up Goddess of War today. My love to Gustave.

Yeah, Goddess of War looks pretty awesome, based on the few pages she has on the site. If I lived in someplace cool like New York City, I could probably get it today in one of those fine comics establishments you have there. But we backwater types will have to use this newfangled Internet to order it. Thanks for pointing it out, though.

Sorry to hear about your bike, Alex!

D. Eric Carpenter

July 2, 2008 at 11:21 am

Heh…used to be quite the anaerobe, myself. I’d buy my comics the day they came out (Friday’s in the days long past, Wednesdays now) and finish them (and various snacks) that evening.

Now that I’ve gotten off my butt, literally, I find that I barely have time to finish one week’s books by the following Wednesday. I only get a chance to read a couple ‘must reads’ on Wednesday, then it’s down to a couple after my pre-dawn running each morning.

Actually, spacing them out makes them a bit more enjoyable…I used to get in a mode of page-turning and not read things as deeply. Now that I read them in small doses, I think I’m enjoying books more.

Sorry to hear about the bike, though. I had a friend lose his off his rack on the interstate last week. He later recoverd both pieces…

This is how people dress to appear on a panel at a prestigious university?

~sigh~ I’m so old.

The Mutt–

Just FYI, there’s lots of variation between schools and departments. Don’t know the time-line on the change, but I’d imagine most departments in the humanities and social sciences have been pretty low-key for 25 years, or so. It’s one of the advantages of academia after all.

If any place would know best that the way you dress doesn’t indicate your intellect at all, it would be a college.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 3, 2008 at 12:33 am

If any place would know best that the way you dress doesn’t indicate your intellect at all, it would be a college.

Or a fashion show.

Which, somewhat ironically, are kind of the same thing.

I don’t think it’s an issue of dressing to indicate your intellect, I think it’s about dressing like you actually put some effort into it and not looking like you just rolled out of bed and pulled some stuff out of your hamper. It looks like they’re dressed for a hipster dive bar. Although it does allow us a great shot at that Danica chick’s legs, so I won’t complain THAT much…

Wow, Lauren Weinstein is great! I just picked up “girl stories” from the library, and her website launched today! http://www.laurenweinstein.com

Someday I will wend my way down from the Green Point to the Gardens of Carroll and I shall buy Goddess of War with the sundering force of my bank account imploding! It shall be glorious.

Is everyone totally ignorant of the fact that it is summer in New York?

In other words, HOT & HUMID. Sometimes, that trumps social fashion rules.

Great job on bringing the creep, T.

“Although it does allow us a great shot at that Danica chick’s legs, so I won’t complain THAT much…”

Dude, grow up.

speaking of dragonball, did you know that James marsters is playng the part of lord pic? he was the guy who played spike in BtVS and was the voice of Lex Luthor in superman:doomsday. he is also the voice who narrates the dresden files audio books. check out the link: http://www.buzzymultimedia.com/storm-front-audiobook-by-jim-butcher.html
QtR – T

[...] great Alex Cox of the great comics shop, Rocketship (who hosted a great party for the book a couple weeks ago) [...]

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