Sam Ombiri on Fante Bukowski Two, plus other comics news!
Sam Ombiri here: Fante Bukowski Two by Noah Van Sciver (Fantagraphics, 2017) is a fantastic book with fantastic characters. Audrey (Fante’s old girlfriend, who is also a writer) was my favorite character in the first Fante Bukowski book, so I was really thrilled that she came back, and a good chunk of the book was following her, away from Fante. Audrey was the only character that really felt real, and the only one who wasn’t there to torment Fante’s existence. In the new book she does a different kind of tormenting of Fante in this specific way that the other characters don’t. All these people are making fun of Fante. On some level Fante is surprisingly aware of why he’s getting made fun of.
In this new book, Fante’s conflict wasn’t a complete joke. I was kind of bummed on the first Fante Bukowski book. While Van Sciver sympathized with Fante, he’d torment Fante. The joke was Fante’s hysterical sadness, which was just played off as something to laugh at. Fante is someone who has to live with himself, with being who he is and doing what he’d doing – he’s a great writer. If he’s NOT a great writer than it means a huge amount of shame which he can’t bare to confront will come his way.
Of course, if Van Sciver actually had no interest in sympathizing with the characters it would still be a really good book. It’s just that as a reader, the sympathy is what I’ve been sold on with Van Sciver; the way he’s able to portray humanity with sympathy so, so well.
There’s a mysterious element to the way Van Sciver portrays humans, from that I’ve seen – and that’s really astounded me. Like in this new book, while everyone is laughing at Fante, you the reader know that Audrey is sincerely seeking Fante out. The other characters are all trying to get on Audrey’s good side, and part of this is reflected in how hard they’re laughing at Fante – but they don’t see how she secretly holds him in higher regard than them, for some special reason that Audrey has.
Despite all of Audrey’s new literary success, she’s finding that she’s dissatisfied, but not in a very extreme way. Her dissatisfaction isn’t shoved down your throat. The dissatisfaction comes subtly and slowly in moments where she isn’t thankful for her success. She finds all this discomfort in doubting herself, as she’s really intimidated by the next steps she’s supposed to take to either keep, or perpetuate, her success. Then she gets nostalgic, as a result of the new stress she has, which she hadn’t previously dealt with. She remembers how she felt refreshed by how naive Fante was. Fante himself, in a way, says she won’t find what she’s looking for in him (although Fante is unaware of that being exactly what he’s said to her). Then Audrey’s reaction towards this is astounding.
All in all, Fante Bukowski Two is really, really fun, the art is terrific, and it was hard to stop reading it when I started.
You can get a copy of this book from Copacetic Comics. – Sam Ombiri
Sally here – since we’re on the topic of Noah Van Sciver today, I will link to the recent TCJ interview with him, conducted by Caitlin McGurk. They talk Fante Bukowski Two, Noah’s time at CCS, and both Fante and Noah’s recent move to Columbus, OH – a few real locations of which show up in the book (such as Forno, seen above in a scene that Sam was describing where everyone is hating on Fante in order to get on Audrey’s good side…!)
Something that I really appreciate about Noah is that his output and work ethic are tied into his own growth as an artist and storyteller – each of his books feels fresh and moves confidently in a new direction. Caitlin touches on this constant growth in the interview:
“This book is so genuinely funny – there are sequences on almost every page that had me actually laughing out loud. You’ve gotten very good at comedic timing. While I’ve found humor in all of your work in one way or another, most of your other long-form books have been much more directly reflective or downright sad. Do you feel like one tone is calling you more than the other these days, and why?
I’m conscious of learning to be a proficient comedy and drama storyteller. I don’t want to be a single note cartoonist. If I learn to blend it all together then I’ll draw comics that readers can’t just passively read. I want people to feel satisfied after reading my stories if it’s possible.
You’re doing a great job at it. When you say learning, I assume you mean by way of studying other works. Who are you reading and what are you watching that you learn the most from?
For a long time I was buying and reading alternative comics from the 90s and early 2000s. Drawn & Quarterly magazines and issues of Zero Zero, stuff like that. There are a bunch of artists from that era that I get inspired by that you don’t hear about much these days. Someone like Pentti Otsamo, for example, did a little book called The Fall Of Homunculus that I really love. Just straight storytelling. I don’t dig very deep with film, but I pay attention to story structure and look up to the Coen Brothers who are perfect at weaving humor into an otherwise dramatic story.”
Take a lesson from Noah’s career, work hard if you really mean to be a cartoonist, keep learning and moving forward. Read the rest of the interview HERE.
Brazilian artist Hugo Canuto has been reworking famous comic covers (like Avengers No. 4 – 1963, above) to depict Jack Kirby-like renditions of African gods and goddesses. Dangerous Minds reports:
“Many deities of modern-day Afro-Brazilian religions find their roots in the mythologies of Nigeria and Benin, and these covers reflect that, using specifically local, that is to say Portuguese, spellings of the names. … Last year Canuto reworked an iconic early cover of The Avengers to showcase the major Orishas, called Orixas in Portuguese, which are key elemental spirits of the Yoruba religion. So “The Orixas” is the umbrella category, like “The Avengers,” that houses all of the mythological figures that followed.“
Shannon Wright’s artwork is featured on NPR once again, this time accompanying the Comics And Graphic Novels Reader Poll.
“Here at NPR headquarters in DC, MARVELous IMAGEs and FANTAstic GRAPHICS are dancing in our heads as we contemplate this year’s edition of our famous Summer Reader Poll — who will make the cut? Will it be packed with old favorites or BOOM! Will a DARK HORSE muscle in?
Oh god, we can’t keep this up anymore. Let’s just come right out and say it: This summer, we’re celebrating comics and graphic novels, and we need your help! Whether it’s a dogeared childhood treasure, the latest Eisner award winner or the webcomic you binge-read last week, tell us about it using the form on this page.“
Help NPR curate a final list of 100 favorite comics – HERE.
The summer semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers begins June 1st! 8 weeks – $500 bux. Coaching for as long as you need it – payment plans available. More details HERE.
5-25-2017 – Sam Ombiri
Blinkers – 5-25-2017 – by Jack Brougham
Suzy and Cecil – 5-25-2017 – by Sally Ingraham