Youth was everything in 19th Century Germany

Last month we paid a visit to the Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück, Germany, checking one more thing off the list. This museum was designed by Daniel Libeskind and is fully dedicated to the amazing work of this Jewish painter who was killed in Auschwitz during the last months of the second World War. It is also part of the Osnabrück Museumsquartier, a group of exhibition halls aiming at promoting peace by providing information about the peoples and histories of the world.

In one of the other buildings of the quarter, the Villa Schlikker, I spotted this anonymous little comic. It’s more of a postcard-sized picture story, really, but it does shed some strange light on how Germany pre-WWI looked at life. Not only are church rituals and the military unmissable steps in the path of life, you only had to take time off to go wandering. And after you got married, things went pretty fast. Also, “life” is for men only, naturally.

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In Praise of Yahoo Groups : Craig Thompson

Back when the web was young and social media were basically mailing lists, the Ephemerist was a Yahoo Group, with some 30 oddballs sharing comics-related scans and pictures from the most unlikely of places. And as Yahoo Groups are scheduled for a permanent move to that Walhalla that also houses Tripod, GeoCities and most of MySpace, I thought it might not be a bad idea to showcase some of the things we shared back then. 

In the early 2000s Nickelodeon magazine was a veritable haven for young and eager cartoonists, who were allowed almost free rein in between the more traditional comics features. A regular contributor to the magazine was Craig Thompson. Later Craig would shout for the sky with graphic novels like Blankets and Habibi, but here he did nifty formalistic tricks, and lovely parodies on the How Things Work type of features, like this one from June 2001.

For the completists among you, there’s more Yahoo Group recap in our backlog, with posts from May and August 2007 

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Joost Swarte’s Grocery Lists

Last month a group of friends and I visited the splendid Joost Swarte Everywhere exhibition in the Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam. It provided a quite complete overview of Swarte’s oeuvre, paying special attention to his “off-the-page” projects, like buildings, stained glass windows, crockery or figurines, but also many draft versions of his contributions to the New Yorker, early publications, etc. We hadn’t planned to spend two hours there, but we did. You get the idea.

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Listen to Death

Neil Gaiman’s Death: The High Cost Of Living was one of the first comics that actually hit me on an emotional level. Before that, comics were funny, or adventurous, but seldom about existence on an almost visceral level. I still reread it regularly, although I seldom take the actual issues out of their sleeves.

A band of voice actors now translated the first issue of that series into an audiodrama that quite nicely captures the varied layers of the comic. I particularly like how Mad Hattie (one of my all time favourite Gaiman characters, together with Bilquis and the Marquis de Carabas) comes to life. Death is chilling though, in her lack of emotion.

Hello again, by the way.

(via Neil Gaiman’s Twitter)

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Data comics marries the nerd and the geek in you

At first sight this comic by computer scientist Matt Hong looks like one of Randall Munroe’s more elaborate xkcd gags, but it is something completely new.

This is a comic that tells a simple story, while at the same time providing the reader with actual insights on statistical data, in this case the distribution of activities along a typical American day.

To be honest, it took me a moment to grasp the meaning of the darkened frames, but it is really quite brilliant, poetic even. The graph device allows Hong to tell a fairly mundane story, essentially how an average American spends his day, while immersing it in context and suggesting a whole world around the anecdotal.

I was awestruck by this small gem. It was good enough to awaken the forever hybernating beast that is this blog.

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Nancy breaks the comics page

With this comic, current Nancy cartoonist Olivia James proves to her (quite strong-voiced) critics that she is the true successor to Ernie Bushmiller’s throne. Who else will pack breaking the fourth wall, a self-referencing Droste effect and storyboard-like graphics in one single Sunday strip?

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Those are some marvellous stamps, old bean.

Britain’s Royal Mail has announced the issue of a series of Marvel-themed stamps with a British slant, to be released in March 2019. A total of ten stamps will be published featuring the heroes of the day (i.e. the ones that are in the movies or on TV), along with a sheet that contains five stamps in an action sequence featuring Thanos. Oh, and there’s Captain Britain and Union Jack, which is nice, with Brexit around the corner and all.

The stamps will be designed by British cartoonist Alan Davis (of Marvelman, Judge Dredd and ClanDestine fame), and will feature particular British (well, London) elements, like the Gherkin and Trafalgar Square (if you look close). They are available in a myriad of formats which will set you back a couple of hundred dollars if you want it all.

But the stamps look good — they are well-designed, they have the appropriate comic-book feel to them (with captions and word bubbles) and, thanks to Davis’s art, they don’t look like they’ve been pasted together in an idle Tuesday afternoon like we have seen with superhero stamps in the past.

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Blutch in Strasbourg

French cartoonist and illustrator Blutch (Christian Hincker) will the guest of honor at next month’s Rencontres de l’Illustration in Strasbourg, and he provided the poster for the festival. Once more, through subtle colours and strange composition, he’s attained the tender alienation that is his trademark (see also Variations, his reworkings of famous pages from the history of bandes dessinées).

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The anti-Valentine

In order to give some counterbalance to the annual smooch fest that is Valentine’s Day, cartoonist Liana Finck presented this impression of Out of Africa writer Karen Blixen’s love life in the New York Times. Once more Finck proves herself to be one of the more original cartoonists that I’ve come across in recent years.

Illustration © 2019 The New York Times Company

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No, it’s your frame of reference.

While thrawling through my feeds earlier today, I came across this visual from a campaign for Sanofi Pasteur about the dangers of whooping cough. It’s probably just how my mind works, and how decades of Tintin have shaped my thinking, but it immediately made me think of the very famous frame from Tintin au Tibet, below.

And then I saw it also featured a Yeti! What are the odds!

I love these kinds of chaotic, big-plan images — you can keep looking at them and find new details you missed before. The campaign has some great other examples, by the way.

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