Sam Ombiri on Anders Nilsen’s Tongues – plus news from Ronald Wimberly, and Ramón Esono Ebalé.
I hesitate to refer to it as a “culmination”. It feels like Anders is coming back to the same ideas, but approaching them as different person – and on a more significant level than “Oh, he just moved from one moment to another moment with only subtle, undetectable change occurring.” The change is very visible. I also hesitate to call Tongues a “culmination” because it might portray the work that he did leading up to Tongues as inferior, or as something that’s less worth reading, which isn’t true. While Tongues doesn’t feel like different subject matter, there’s nothing wrong with that and it isn’t a rare occurrence in comics. In fact it’s more exciting to read as a result of the book having that nature.
Now, despite my reservations for referring to the book as a “culmination”, I will refer to it as such (and again, it’s not at the disservice of the work that came before it, far from it.) The same things are approached in new ways. I have a strong belief that this stems from Anders being a different person now, and supposedly wanting to deal with different things. This may be an obvious thing for me to state, but it feels especially present, and all the more important to emphasize. While it’s exciting to see how the book is a culmination, it wouldn’t do it any good if the content lacked among many other things the sincerity, or rather the genuine way he portrays this sincere spirit that readers have come to expect from Anders. Thankfully it isn’t lacking.
The methods he used to convey his story were really exciting to watch unfold. Because he has released all kinds of work in the past, we have a good vision of his mode of working. So even when he’s doing a less raw work – though it feels more perfectly rendered – it isn’t bothersome or boring. I can imagine a reader being enthralled and possibly having as much enthusiasm as I am having, or even more. I can tell just from the way to book is made to seem like a really foreign and unfamiliar object (French-flapped, and over-sized). That’s not to say that the content is unfamiliar – it’s in a way all too familiar – but when see the cover, the back cover, when you open up the book, it conveys a sense of fluidity, of formlessness. (Like the same substance CF sometimes draws, or what you see in Jesse Moynihan’s Forming, that strange goop conveying what seems to be pure formlessness attempting to form.)
In Tongues when Prometheus is recounting a dream or memory that he had, Anders took that formlessness and used that formless goop, and neatly collaged previous practices as well as new ones, to describe the cryptic, or rather the ambiguity, of what our consciousness, for lack of a better descriptor, was like, as we were forming into human beings. In this way he marvelously uses what we perceived as what happened, and what may have been Prometheus’ dream or memory.
It’s experimental and yet more structured than his previous works that have been experimental. Again, it’s a culmination of both, and the purpose of this isn’t forthright. I can’t discern Ander’s intentions for it, but that’s what I got out of it.
I’ll sometimes unreasonably and randomly just get upset that comics need to have so many panels and when you flip pages you first have to read all these panels, and it’s the form of the panels that I’m engaging with first – why can’t it be one whole thing I’m looking at? It’s even like that for something like If n OOf, by Brian Chippendale – I get frustrated that I’ll have to register two separate images to get the story. Obviously I get over it and just get back to reading and enjoying the comics.
Comics don’t always give the most immediate answers, and what’s impressive with Anders – and this may come out of his practice as a painter – is how he made the comic give an immediate answer. He did this without forfeiting all the benefits that come with the structure of comics. He made the panels comment on the story in every necessary way. It’s not just the section with Prometheus that has fantastic panels that convey moments impressively and are really pleasing to look at. I mean I think that random frustration I get with comics sometimes is for my part, very goofy, and completely unreasonable. It’s nonetheless impressive, and exciting to me how Anders scratched that itch. Though not just at the level of someone who isn’t interested with engaging with comics. As reader of comics I got a huge thrill out of reading that sequence and continue to.
There was also a moment in Hercules where the character from Dogs and Water (I think it’s the same character/personification) says about the road he’s on, “It has to go somewhere, someone must’ve built it for something.” It takes me to the same heights that Yokoyama can reach, though with Anders what he’s conveying is more sentimental and humanistic, and it makes the work better for it. Though they are going in different directions, they’re going about the same height, at least in this department of representing the human spirit of inquiry. – Sam Ombiri
Read more about Tongues from Anders Nilsen himself HERE.
Get a copy of the comic HERE.
Sally here – Ronald Wimberly is launching a new project. It’s called LAAB Magazine, and it will be “An annual newspaper-format review full of comics, criticism, interviews, artwork, and writing on identity and popular culture,” among other things, including a “rogue publication from an alternate Afrofuturist dimension where Black Panthers run the New York Times.”
I remember Ron sitting in the kitchen at the Rowhouse in February of this year, talking with Frank about some of the concerns he plans to address right away in this first issue:
“LAAB #0: DARK MATTER will concern itself with mythological blackness, and black bodies in science fiction.
Ron has recruited a cadre of bold thinkers, writers, artists, musicians, and genre-defiers to mine this rich territory. LAAB is their long-overdue soapbox, their stage, their megaphone, their clubhouse, and their launching pad – all in a mass-produced, widely accessible newspaper format that everyone can enjoy.“
Ron, along with Beehive Books, has put together an outrageous campaign which is generating a lot of buzz. Check out the Kickstarter HERE.
Ramón Esono Ebalé, a West African cartoonist, won the Courage in Editorial Cartooning honor recently – his wife accepted the award in Washington D. C. on his behalf, as he is currently imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea. According to the Washington Post:
“Ebalé was arrested Sept. 16 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. According to a Change.org petition seeking his release, the cartoonist was interrogated about “Obi’s Nightmare,” his graphic novel that satirizes the government of Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea’s president and Africa’s longest-ruling leader.“
Going by his middle name, Esono, he started using comics to criticize the dictatorship in his homeland in the early 2000s. He went into exile in Paraguay in 2011.
“In 2014, Ramón Esono Ebalé published a graphic novel, “La Pesadilla de Obi,” or “Obi’s Nightmare.” The premise of “Obi’s Nightmare” began with a question: What would be the worst possible fate to befall Equatorial Guinea’s leader, Teodoro Obiang? Moore Gerety says the answer was obvious.
“It imagines Teodoro Obiang the president waking up one morning and discovering that he is just another lowly resident … living in a shack that leaks without any running water with an angry wife who sends him out to sort of face the indignities of the market. He goes on this sort of awful day-long adventure where he ends up in jail and goes through all of these terrible things that a normal citizen might have to go through in the course of daily life there.”“
You can read more about him and his work, and the circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment HERE at PRI.
Suzy and Cecil – 11-16-2017 – by Gabriella Tito