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31 Days of Comics – A Gorgeous Comic

Our pal Seth Hahne, of GoodOKBad fame, came up with this 31 Days of Comics challenge, one of those things where each day of the month you’re given a different category that you then make a choice of a comic to fill that category. I figured it would be a fun bit to do, so here we are! Click here to see each of the categories so far!

We continue with Day 8, which is A Gorgeous Comic.

Read on for my pick and then you can share yours!

Asterios Polyp is a masterpiece of comic book art – writer/artist David Mazzucchelli practically delivers a Master’s course just on how to use different artistic approaches to deliver a comic book story.

When we first meet Asterios, his life is in a bit of a shambles, and we see him watching something on television…

And that’s when lightning destroys his apartment…

With only enough time to grab a few things, Asterios takes three objects…

The symbolism of the three objects are explained over the course of the book…

Mazzucchelli does an especially nice job taking advantage of the comic book format when it comes to demonstrating things like flashbacks, like in this look back at Asterios’ life (Asterios is a renowned architect who has never actually had a building built – he is more of a theorist/critic)….

The book is actually narrated by Asterios’ never-born twin brother, Ignazio, who died in the womb.

Asterios, now with a life totally thrown out of kilter, ends up just taking a bus to a rather random town and applies for a job at an auto repair shop. He promptly then learns about how to repair cars…

Asterios ends up getting caught up in the lives of the man who hires him and that man’s wife and son (plus their friends), and he slowly learns that he CAN let go of his hubris, his ego, his inability to adapt to others because of the high esteem he holds himself in.

Here is interacting with the other family…

That lack of being able to separate himself from his hubris is the main reason for the separation with his wife.

His wife, Hana, is spotlighted by, well, the lack of a spotlight (a wonderful little touch by Mazzucchelli)…

And when they first met, well, they were clearly different people…

The relationship between Hana and Asterios builds the foundation for most of the book, and it is expertly done by Mazzucchelli, as he shows Hana going from being drawn to Asterios’ strong personality to eventually resenting the way that he cannot allow himself to let her have the spotlight ever, demonstrated in this incredible sequence…

What’s awesome is that there is SO much more to the comic than what I’m showing you, including a number of dramatic dreams by Asterios, including a brilliant one involving Asterios going to Hades.

As you can see from the samples provided, this is a remarkable artistic achievement by Mazzucchelli, but it’s also a good story, as Asterios changes in a way that makes his relationship with Hana possible once again.

43 Comments

Asterios Polyp is a strong, strong choice. Such a visually powerful book. For me?

Asterios Polyp, Blacksad, Blankets, A Bride’s Story, Children of the Sea, Daytripper, Domu, Duncan the Wonder Dog, Ice Wanderer, Indian Summer, Les Cités Obscures, Little Nemo, Mouseguard, Moving Pictures, The Nao of Brown, Nausicaä, Sharaz-De, Skim, Solanin, Summit of the Gods, Swallow Me Whole, Tale of Sand, Uncanny X-Men 205, The Walking Man, Everything by Moebius, Walt Simonson’s Thor, Yukiko’s Spinach

That’s off the top of my head. Really, I should probably just go with Little Nemo wholly on the strength of the turkey house scene, but instead, I’ll stick with Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. Really, I don’t even want to talk about it. I just want you to pick the thing up, sit somewhere in contempletive quiet, and let Tan’s quiet, quiet book wash over you.

Ooh, yeah, Tale of Sand looked great.

Asterios Polyp certainly sounds like there’s “meat” to the story, but to me, there’s a connotation that a “gorgeous” comic doesn’t necessarily have much beyond the pretty pictures. That’s why I’d agree with Tale of Sand — looked great, but was a series of philosophical airy allusionary scenes without much real content.

Stray Toasters — that one looked great, and was freakin’ weird as hell. Gotta dig that out and give it another look.

Asterios Polyp is way too smug and clinical for me to consider it gorgeous.

Stray Toasters is brilliant. I’ve read it about four times – and I think I understood it the third time, but not the others.

In pure terms of art I’d possibly give it to Batman: Year One, but that’s hardly got the warm fuzzy feeling I associate with gorgeousness.

For that I’d have to give it to the Sandman issue, Three Septembers and a January. I loved that issue.

Thanks for reminding me to feel guilty about not reading Asterios Polyp. I loved the Mazz on Daredevil and Batman, so I figure I should read Asterios, but the story just seems too grimly domestic to intrigue me. I’m sure I’ll get to it one day. Little Nemo is a great choice. Here are some other gorgeous comics:

Tempus Fugitive – Amazing, airbrushed book by Ken Steacy ( http://www.comicbookdb.com/issue.php?ID=54987)
Time2 (or Time Squared) – Howard Chaykin at his distinctive best http://www.comicbookdb.com/issue.php?ID=54987)
Golden Age – beautiful Paul Smith (http://www.comicbookdb.com/issue.php?ID=221078)
Raven Banner – Asgard graphic novel by Charles Vess (http://marvel.wikia.com/Marvel_Graphic_Novel_Vol_1_15)
Fafrd and Gray Mouser – Classic fantasy by Mike Mignola (I wish I remembered this for the adaptation category)

Some more familiar runs by artists: Bill Willingham’s Elementals, Alan Davis’s DR and Quinch in 2000 AD, Steve Rude’s Nexus, Bill Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants, Dave Steven’s Rocketeer, Art Adam’s Longshot, Michael Golden’s The ‘Nam, Alex Maleev’s Daredevil, David Aja’s Immortal Iron Fist.

I could probably list comics I think are gorgeous all night, so for just one off the top of my head: “Orc Stain”. I love that amazing style of hyper-detailed cartooning that James Stokoe does. There’s a reason every issue takes him a hundred years to make (that may be a SLIGHT exaggeration).

For a gorgeous lookin gbook, I would probably pick one of the J.H. Williams issues of Batwoman or Detective. I’m not sure which one… they weren’t ALL amazing, but the ones that were… oh boy.

I guess I’m a writers guy and not an art guy ’cause I’m having trouble with this one. I’m struggling to think of any comic I’ve bought mainly for the art.

But stuff that pops to mind that has at least dazzled me a bit: Sienciewicz’s Elektra: Assassin, Muth’s Moonshadow, and Bissette/Tottleben Swamp Thing, which seems odd given all the “ugly” characters in it. I think I especially admire the beautiful colouring of Tatjana Wood on those Swamp Thing issues.

Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix: fully painted Bill Sienkiewicz gorgeousness, appropriately psychadelic.

Cages: Dave McKean’s cartooning is amazing, especially his use of light and shadow. The story’s fine, the characterizations are very good, and the art is beautiful.

Anything P. Craig Russell has drawn in the past 30 years, especially the Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde and the Ring Cycle. I love his conservation of detail, the way he draws backgrounds, his flourishes when it comes to details like smoke and clouds… Additionally, Lovern Kidinski’s (sp?) colors suit Russell’s art perfectly.

Tomb of dracula: Gene Colan’s shadowy, virtually impressionistic art tempered by Tom Palmer’s solid inking created art that stands among the best ever in a Big 2 comic. As much as I love Colan’s art and Palmer’s inks on other comics, their collaboration was arguably better.

Silver Surfer #4. Big John Buscema in all his glory. Asgard has never been so epic.

LouReedRichards

January 9, 2014 at 7:38 am

Unlike Dhole I’m much more of an art guy rather than a writer guy – though I wish I had more tolerance for what I consider crappy art, I’ve missed out on some really good stuff because I just can’t get past the art.

the first ones that come to mind would be:

White Devil… Yellow Devil by Alex Toth – The single best illustrated comic I have ever seen. EVERY time I look at it (which is often) I’m just blown away by it. Any Toth is worth looking at and studying, but I don’t think he ever got better than that one.

I’ll echo what some other have said:

Steve Rude’s Nexus, Batman: Year One, and Moebius – esp. The Airtight Garage, and The Incal

Also: Seth’s Mister X, P. Craig Russell’s Sandman #50, Mignola’s Hellboy and Triumph and Torment Graphic Novel. Ware’s Acme Novelty Library

I’m sure there’s a ton more that will come to me as soon as I publish this…

BTW: The big second hand bookstore in town just had a comics sale for their dollar bin – buy 5 comics get 10 FREE!

I scooped up all 4 issues of Stray Toasters for CHEAP! Looking forward to reading it.

I also got some random issues of things I’ve heard people on here raving about so thanks for that.
I’m hoping Sleeper, Queen and Country, Scalped and Powers are as good as I’ve heard people say they are.

I’d go with American Barbarian by Tom Scioli. My only issue with the book is that they printed it in too small of a size. The pages are slightly smaller than a standard comic, and the artwork definitely would have benefited from oversized pages. Still a beautiful comic and a fun read.

Ooh – Good call on WE3.

Gorgeous in both story and art.

Duncan Fegredo’s work on Hellboy: Midnight Circus is stunning. I could lick the pages, they’re so delicious.

And Nate Simpson’s NonPlayer #1. I couldn’t stop looking at it and still pull it out frequently, just to stare at it all over again. Truly mesmerizing

For me it’s anything from the first 12 issues or so of Creepy Magazine. You could tell the artists had a lot of creative freedom and they were just able to go nuts creating some really awesome, atmospheric horror stories. 4 years after discovering them I still reference them and use them for inspiration for my own work all the time.

I’ve got to go with Stray Toasters by Bill Sienkiewicz. That book is both haunting and gorgeous and requires multiple readings. Some above have mentioned his work on Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix) and Elektra Assassin. Those are perfect choices as well.

I also have to 2nd the choice above of Jon J Muth’s Moonshadow. Beautiful work. Muth also illustrated M, based on the classic German film. That’s equally beautiful.

These two guys have cranked out some of the most gorgeous work I’ve seen over the past 25 years.

I’d vote for Steranko’s work in Captain America. His stuff in the SHIELD feature ain’t so bad, either.

Celia Calle’s artwork on Madame Xanadu #27 was several things: the perfect mood-setting partner for Matt Wagner’s story; inspiring on several levels (emotionally, compositionally, and historically); and just a fantastic escape overall.

I could feel Neon Blue’s world-weariness as she walked in the door on page 20. And the way Calle captured the iconic essence of the stand-ins for the major figures of that time & place was uncanny.

It still stands out in my mind as a masterpiece for the eyes.

There are a whole bunch of gorgeous comics mentioned in the post and the comments already. Asterios Polyp, Cages, Stray Toasters, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Nexus, Golden Age, Raven Banner, Fafrd and Gray Mouser… it’s great to see how quickly all those great suggestions came together.

My first choice would have been one of those – probably Cages! So I decided to add a new book to the list: Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s “Beasts of Burden: Animal Rights” – gorgeous artwork, a gorgeous hardcover edition, so much life and comedy and darkness in one book. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

The frogs falling from the sky is like the perfect panel.

For a book of shear beauty, it’s got to be Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library Big Book of Jokes. Like all of Ware’s products, it’s impeccably designed, but these are well designed even for him! Because of their massive size (they live up to the title), Ware is really able to stretch his wings, giving us quite a variety of art styles that is just astounding to behold. He also includes a ton of papercraft stuff. I’ve spend hours just flipping through it, marvelling all the while. It just screams “precious work of art”.

Most people like Jimmy Corrigan, but the joke books are the ones to pull out to amaze your friends. Much, if not all of this has been collected in a hardback called simply The Acme Novelty Library. The advantage to this edition is that is often heavily discounted, and includes a glow in the dark (!) star chart.

For all the Stray Toasters fans: you may want to check out and/or reconsider Big Numbers (the aborted Alan Moore/Bill Sienkiewicz project). That’s also a gorgeous book… there’s a pic of milk swirling into tea that must be seen to be believed.

LouReedRichards

January 9, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Thought of a couple more: Fires and Murmur by Mattotti, both of those are just beautiful.

mrclam –

I was thinking of issue #7 of The Acme Novelty Library when I mentioned ANL. I’m always amazed whenever I look at one of the few issues I have, the craft and just the sheer amount of work that goes into each of them is mind boggling. I need to get some of the other large format ones. I just looked them up and maaaaaan those things are expensive.

@Lou–I missed your ref above; I was wondering why nobody was mentioning ANL! Yeah, don’t worry about getting the originals–that hardback is a steal at $18. It also has stuff that the Joke Books don’t have, including lots more of my favorite story, Rusty Brown. Also really good looking is the Quimy Mouse collection, but, truth be told, the Quimby stories are pretty weak.

PS- I just looked up prices for the originals and…I’m rich! I’m rich! HA! HA! HA!

Starstruck by Michael Kaluta is right pretty to look at.

I was also gonna say Nausicaa.

Also, Chris Sprouse’s sense of design is so appealing to me that I’m gonna call it gorgeous whether it really fits this post or not.

Marvels. Alex Ross does a lot of beautiful work, but Marvels was just spectacular.

Before I even knew what your pick was and I had only seen the “a gorgeous comic” headline, Asterios Polyp was the first thing that came to mind. But in the interests of diversity, two more comics that I really think of as beautiful would be “Rite of Spring,” from Swamp Thing #34 (the “sex” issue) and the first “Talking with David” from Starman #5.

Gorgeous implies sheer beauty…
Black Orchid #1-3 by Neil Gaimen and Dave McKean has always been a beautiful book.
I’m currently reading Panther’s Rage of the Black Panther in Jungle Action and some of those panels just take my breath away.
Big Numbers by Alan Moore and Bill Sienciewicz.
Madame Xanadu didn’t have the best story, but no one can argue that the Amy Reeder art takes our breathe away.

Jim Balent’s Tarot. No, no, just kidding.

JH Williams’ Promethea and Darwin Cooke’s New Frontier. I consider both to be somewhat frustrating from a narrative perspective, but they’re so very beautiful that I’m content to just look at the pictures.

First thing that came to my mind was Dave Taylor’s work on Judge Dredd – the way he draws Mega City 1 is unbelievable. I understand it has a strong Moebius vibe, but I don’t know enough Moebius to pick any of that out. I also really admired Marcos Martin and Stan Lee’s odd little Spider-Man experiment from a few years ago – for its gorgeousness in particular.

New Frontier and JHW’s 3 part Batman “locked room” mystery he did with Morrison

This is a bit of a different pick, but I’m to go with X-Factor V2 #1 by Peter David and Ryan Sook. Ryan Sook only did a few issues of X-Factor, but man was it pretty when he did. This was his only full issue.
A Dupe: “See…Jamie has this really perverse side of him. That’s me. I’m the part that compels him to do the unexpected. I’m the fly in ointment. The spanner in the works. I’m unpredictable. I’m the X-Factor.”

Matt Kindt’s watercolors on “Mind MGMT” would be my choice.

In all honesty, I’d have to go with the issues of Starman that were pencilled by Tony Harris, inked by Wade von Grawbadger, and coloured by Gregory Wright. All three men have done brilliant work throughout their careers, but when they worked together on Starman, it was pure magic

but no one can argue that the Amy Reeder art takes our breathe away.

I’m pretty sure that means the opposite of what you intended.

Elektra Lives Again

Promethea hands down for me

Dr.Strange#55 by Michael Golden and Terry Austin and anything by Barry Windsor-Smith,especially between 1979 and 1988 all wonderful on the eye.

Promethea is easily one of the most amazing looking comics I’ve ever read. I hate to use the cliche of pushing boundries, but it really does in the way it uses different styles. I remember one issue early on really stuck with me that featured a man getting shot through the head that looked so friggin unreal. That series was a real game changer in what I want from an artist.

I also want to recommend a 16 page comic I found that was really cool… but also absolutely disgusting and nightmarish. It’s a Japanese mini-comic called Abstraction by Kago Shintaro that takes place on a planet of 3d comics and really stuck with me. It’s really gross and vulgar, but check it out if you want to see something really unique.

“The Golden Age” and “New Frontier” are both up there, but for me it’s the Shazam Treasury sized “Hope” Alex Ross is at his peak here. And a touching, heart felt story to boot.

Daredevil: Love and War by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz. It has maybe my favorite page/panel, where Daredevil and that woman falling over New York City with the starry night sky in the background, her white dress and blond hair in freefall. The little small jpg here doesn’t really do it justice, but its breathtaking

http://imakinarium.net/autores/s/sienkiewicz_bill/4_elektra_y_dd/daredevil_love_war2.jpg

Damn… I can’t include just one.

DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke, Tellos by Mike Wieringo, and All-Star Superman by Frank Quitely. Those are just the first ones that come to mind.

People have already mentioned JH Williams on other books, but his work on the criminally underrated Chase was amazing.

Phil Jimenez on Wonder Woman was another beautiful run.

Also, Shawn Martinburough on Greg Rucka’s first Detective Comics run…mostly black and white with just a bit of color here and there that suit Rucka’s Noir style perfectly.

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