Tuesday, August 6, 2013

diary of a guttersnipe 08/06/2013: i'm going to bribe all the officials. i'm going to kill all the judges.

by Shawn Starr

Summer lovin’ had me a blast. Now i’m alone again. Words follow:


Goddamn This War! (Fantagraphics)
by Jacques Tardi, Jean-Pierre Vierney

(these are more stray thoughts than a review, but let's not get pedantic)

. 'Goddamn This War!' tells the story of the First World War through short vignettes, more journal entries than narratives, these thoughts flow forth from an enlisted french worker as he travels from front line to front line over the course of the war. There is no large narrative being told in 'Goddamn This War!', even the short stories that composed 'It Was A War Of The Trenches' are left behind, there are no beginnings, middles, or ends for our narrator; no last minute heroics during the climax to save his best friend from certain doom with a tacked on voice over about how war ruins all. The war simply begins and ends. The narrator survives, but like everyone else he is left maimed in one way or another.

If 'Goddamn This War!' could be said to have a narrative at all; it is the author's search for a reason for it all, the bloodshed and destruction, but by the books end all he seems to come up with is nothing.

. I’m of two minds towards the title 'Goddamn This War!'. The literal french translation of ‘Putain De Guerre!’ is ‘Fuck this War!’ and while that title (as Kim Thompson joked in a discussion on Tardi’s body of work) was likely to cause some problems at the distribution level, it's name rings far truer to the intent of the work than the less crude 'Goddamn This War!'. War is vulgar after all, and Tardi is well aware of this fact.

The inclusion of God in the title is interesting, it can either be read as an ironic appropriation of God similar to the way the governments and militaries appropriated ‘God’ to lure the masses to their side during the war effort. Tardi does hint at this reading in the text by turning the Tommies (English) slogan of war “‘God and my lawful right’ against the Germans” in on itself by picking the slogan apart, questioning whose God is the true God if each nation prays to him “another hypocrite with a finger in every pie” he emphatically states, eventually re-configuring the quote to fit his own view of events “Each for himself and God against all”. This leaves a sacrilegious bend to the title that, within the context of the work, puts to the forefront an important aspect of it.

The problem with the use of Goddamn though is that it elevates Tardi’s attack on institutional religion and it’s place in promoting the war, thrusting this singular aspect to the forefront. Tardi is throughout the work attacking the Military, Religion and the Government so by placing one explicitly in the title it seems to take away from the attack on the three and highlight (to the detriment of the others) the one. Fuck though, fuck this and fuck that and fuck you you mother fucker; can be related to any and all of these institutions. It is universal in its vulgarity.

. As the book goes on our narrator’s sense of detail diminishes. The first chapter, 1915, includes an elongated battle scene from his point of view, and is preceded by several pages of his company marching in near parade like fashion through various French towns on their way to the front line. We are given details of the battle, including an interesting sequence depicting an ill fated cavalry charge which (as one would suspect) did not turn out very well in the face of artillery fire. This is our narrator's first battle and it is the only one which he gives such intimate detail. The first chapter is almost wholly consumed by these two actions, a march to war and the first military engagement. In contrast during the the final year, 1918, we are treated to a series of pages illustrating the death of nearly a dozen individuals that are told in a manner that makes them seem as almost an afterthought for the narrator, each receiving at most two panels and a few lines of narration documenting their lives and death, details besides these two are few and far between. It reads like a frightful recap, a stand up realizing his ten minutes is almost up and rushing to the punchline.

. The narrator's anger though, however fragmented and rushed his retelling becomes, never diminishes.

. 'Goddamn This War!' is the first work of Tardi’s that i have seen in full color, or at least the first few pages of 'Goddamn This War!' are in full color. As the story progresses the color is sapped away, page by page, until it turns into an overwhelming grey-wash of bleakness as the murk of mud and death overwhelms the pages both visually and narratively.

It is not until the final year of the book, 1918, when victory (or whatever one wishes to call it) is achieved that color starts coming back to the narrative. Although, it is not to be seen in the idyllic fields of France where the first battles took place and Tardi’s lush color work made you think that field would be a wonderful place to have a picnic, only maybe at a different time. Nor does color return to the small towns that litter the countryside, that Tardi beautifully rendered as the French army so proudly marched through them on their way to the front line. It certainly is not in the faces of those who fought in the battles or those civilians who were subjected to long range shellings throughout the war, even though the first time we saw them, in their brightly colored and ornate uniforms, they looked so full of life.

Death contaminates them all, their color is lost.

No the only objects that regain their color are those which glorify the country and the war, the allied powers flags, which are waved in the streets of Paris when victory is declared, and the medals those who served received, like the one pinned on a man slouched down on a street corner next to his crutches begging for money. Since the country had won the war, it is they who are given the promise of a future - those who had actually fought the battles for them are not allowed to forget what they saw, but as you know it only took a few years for the governments to forget what the whole thing was about.

. Fantagraphics used a different paper stock for this Tardi collection, it’s of a glossy ilk. I presume they changed the paper to make the colors (and lack of colors) pop, which it does, in a manner in which i am doubtful their default Tardi collection paper could achieve.

. In addition to the change in paper stock this is also the first Tardi collection with a substantial “extras” section, which seems to be a lengthy history of World War One with special attention to the events Tardi references. I also believe some of his reference photo’s may be included in this section, i’m not sure if i am making that up though. As much as I enjoy the Tardi collections i always felt they lacked in this area, a nice series of introductions or a multi-part biography that spanned each collection would be something i’d really appreciate, especially since before the most recent issue of 'The Comics Journal' i’d read very little about Tardi’s life and work.

The Love and Rockets Companion: 30 Years (And Counting) (Fantagraphics)
edited by Marc Sobel, Kristy Valenti

The L&R companion is what an autistic kid who read too many issues of 'The Comics Journal' over their summer vacation created for their book report. I'm a big fan.

links links links

My friend Alec Berry (and co-founder of this site) wrote an article for USA Today College about The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS). This was also the subject of a recent documentary "Cartoon College" ( Tim Callahan has a nice write up on it). Alec has also started a new (weekly?) column over at CBR subsidiary Comics Should Be Good titled The Workbook you can read the first installment here.

I’m not sure if this was a con announcement or just happened to be announced around the time a major con was taking place (OR! i just didn't notice it in a timely manner) but Johnny Ryan’s action manga by way of...well Johnny Ryan series 'Prison Pit'  is currently in the process of being animated.

Lisa Hanawalt interview with The Paris Review. I liked the content of the interview, but its structured weird. No questions are actually asked - or they are but they just decided not to put them in the text of the piece. I don’t really understand why anyone would do that besides it being a mistake, since it makes it read like Hanawalt is just talking to herself about elephants in high heels unprompted and may therefore be a crazy person.

Simon Hanselmann to be published by Fantagraphics.

It’s a death cult movie about demons and witch burnings.  Cultural terrorists/tourists.  White girls shooting black men, directed by white privileged men.” Sarah Horrocks review/screed on "Spring Breakers". A film i have seen four times and continues to grow on each viewing.

Picture Box is having a sale on most of their stock. 40% off book and 30% off prints/posters. I’ll probably pick some shit up from that. You should too.

Mickey Z interview. She did a comic with CF recently too, which i’m waiting to come in the mail.

No comments:

Post a Comment