Mahendra Singh’s beautiful new graphic novel version of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark got a Christmasy plug in The New Yorker’s blog Book Bench, in a post called “Holiday Gift Guide: For the Precocious Child.” “…Illustrated with delightfully surreal (and somewhat macabre) drawings,” writes Eileen Reynolds. “The language isn’t easy, of course, so save this book for the brightest and most adventurous young word-worms on your holiday shopping list.”
Over at Melville House’s blog MobyLives, Singh wrote a short essay about his creative process when approaching the illustration of the Bellman’s blank map. The original post is here, and I’ll quote in full:
A panel from Singh’s adaptation
The infamous Blank Map of the Bellman is proof positive that there was no Bellwoman forcing the Bellman to stop and ask for directions. It’s also a classic example of Carroll’s subversive sense of fun in the entire Snark.
The original illustrator of the poem, Henry Holiday, simply drew a blank map for this scene, a zen-like decision which really complicated my life when I set about drawing this panel.
Outsmarting Holiday would not be easy, but I had two advantages working for me in my quest to draw that celebrated blankness. First, this was going to be the world’s first, genuinely full-scale Surrealist Snark. Second, I am a shameless borrower of things which don’t belong to me.
Both the Snark and Surrealism involve a lot horsing around with the exact meanings of words and pictures, with interchanging them, combining them, sometimes even making their entire meaning softly and silently vanish away.
Henry Holiday’s Map of the Bellman
The Belgian Surrealist, Rene Magritte, was obsessed with this sort of game and his painting, “The Lover”, makes a perfect comment upon the Bellman’s Map. So, I just took it. Shameless on my part, yes, but there’s even more of that to come.
The map’s legend, “you are here” is literally true but what’s really shameless is my insistence that French is the language of the lost and confused when everyone knows that it’s really English. This is easily verified. Stand on a street corner in any big francophone city and ask a stranger: where am I? If necessary, pull at shirtsleeves and wave your arms, speak very slowly while carefully pronouncing every word at the utmost decibel level. I think you’ll quickly see what I mean.
Words, words, words! If only they had the decency to cover themselves up, like the Bellman & Company. They have no loyalty, they can’t be bothered to mean anything anymore, they’re shameless!
Rene Magritte’s “The Lovers”
Singh’s Snark is for sale on Amazon here, and more on The Hunting of the Snark around our website here.
After the rather challenging illustrations in our last two posts, here’s a recent Arlo & Janis comic that is a bit easier on the eye. It was published on Comics.com on October 14.
Arlo & Janis, by Jimmy Johnson
Isabelle Melançon, creator of the new web comic Namesake, which has just launched, promises that Lewis Carroll, Alice, and many familiar fairy tale characters figure prominently in the story. From the web site:
“Namesake is the story of Emma Crewe, a woman who discovers she can visit other worlds. She finds out that these are places she already knows – fantasy and fairy lands made famous through the spoken word, literature and cinema. Her power as a Namesake forces her to act as a protagonist in these familiar stories as she figures out how to get home. But as she travels, she discovers that those controlling her story have their own selfish goals in mind – and her fate is the key to everyone’s happy ending. Join Emma, her sister Elaine and their friends as they tumble down the rabbit hole. If you like, adventure, humor, stories of friendship, fairy tales and fantasy, this is the webcomic for you.”
Click the image on this post to visit the site. Since the comic will have new content three times a week, if you like what you see, you might want to subscribe to the site’s RSS feed to make sure you see the prologue and all subsequent pages.
Campfire Graphic Novels, a publishing house out of New Dehli, India, released their Alice in Wonderland this week, as part of their large and expanding series of comic versions of classics, biographies, mythology, and originals. The adaptation (72 pages, full color) is by Lewis Helfand with art by Rajesh Nagulakonda (who has previously illustrated their Joan of Arc, The Time Machine, and Oliver Twist.) Campfire’s mission statement: “It is night-time in the forest. A campfire is crackling, and the storytelling has begun. In the warm, cheerful radiance of the campfire, the storyteller’s audience is captivated. Inspired by this enduring relationship between a campfire and gripping storytelling, we bring you four series of Campfire Graphic Novels…” A noble cause, but isn’t reading comic books by firelight a bit hard on the eyes?
Campfire’s Alice in Wonderland is for sale on their website for $9.99 with free shipping worldwide!
There’s a series of comics at a site called Webcomics Nation, reminiscent in style to David Rees’ cut-&-paste web strips (My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable & Get Your War On), except it uses Tenniel’s Alice illustrations as the stock images. The series, Here We Come A-Carrolling, is created by a certain Doctor Randomness of Randomness Productions.
Meyer's Take by Tom Meyer
The buzz from the DC universe is that the Batman spinoff, The Joker’s Asylum II, June 16th, 2010, “is devoted to the Mad Hatter and his Alice obsession” (thanks, Devra Kunin.) The incredible cover art is by Bill Sienkiewicz, written by Landry Walker. The DC website explains The Joker’s Asylum as “a special month-long, weekly series of one-shots starring the greatest villains in Batman’s rogues gallery.”
On other shelves in other shops, the June 12th-18th Economist picked up the “mad” Tea Party theme on its cover, this time with Palin as Alice, Glenn Beck as the Hatter again, and I’m assuming the cigar is supposed to imply that Rush Limbaugh is the Hare. (He was the Cheshire Cat in The Nation.) I’m not sure how to interpret FoxNews as the dormouse.
Translating a Japanese manga cartoon into English must be a trip down the rabbit hole itself. Thankfully, some unknown hero has taken the plunge and translations of all three volumes of Heart No Kuni No Alice or Alice in the Country of Hearts (by author Quinrose and artist Hoshino Soumei) are being published this spring. Volumes One and Two are available now and Volume Three will be released on June 1st.
Buy two and preorder one from the publisher Tokyopop, or from Amazon.
In follow up to the picture of Glenn Beck as the Hatter, Gary Trudeau made the same play on “tea party” in the April 1st, 2010, Doonesbury strip:
Andrew Ogus warns us: “The delightful graphic novel Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge, includes Jabberwocky and Bandersnatch guards around the giants’ stronghold. Bloomsbury, New York, $19.99.”
One review (at Booktrust) gives this synopsis: “The book relocates the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk to a Wild West populated by Native Americans, giants, ogres and a devilish creature called the Jabberwock, and turns it into a breathless crime caper full of action and suspense in the process.”