Jeroom gladly gives you a headache

Flemish cartoonist and humorist Jeroom was able to add something totally different to his oeuvre when he unveiled the BMW racing car for which he designed the wrapping. Partly as a hommage to earlier designers of BMW art cars like Roy Lichtenstein, partly in an attempt to confuse other competitors in the race, he baptised his design “project Dafalgan” (Link in Dutch). The car is wrapped in the image of a slighter smaller car of the same model, which in turn sports the image of a still smaller car. And while other drivers are pondering that, the BMW can take the lead. Or at least, that’s the idea.

In any case, when he wins, he’ll be able to keep everybody else from the podium.

Earlier, Jeroom did the design of Belgian racer Tom Boonen’s Ferrari, and reacted aptly when that one was in a very bad crash

(photography Reddit and Autosport.be)

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Pif Magazine stamps

Contrary to popular belief, there are whole swaths in comics that I don’t know anything about. I’ve seen covers, I’ve heard names, but beyond that, nothing. Zilch. And I’m not talking about comics from faraway lands like China or Chili — present me with your typical French comic magazine from the second half of the 20 century (Pif, Valliant, Bayard, c.s.) and my mind goes blank.

For that reason, I couldn’t tell you anything about these fake stamps that were published in Pif Gadget in 1985, except for what I read on the website where I found them (Fred Andrieu’s excellent Les Trésors De La  Flibuste). Still, It’s alway nice (and in a way sad) to see that stamps were a well-known meme back then that youth-oriented magazine used to connect with their audiences.

On a similar note — Over the years Pif ran various campaigns, often together with their advertisers, to get their readers interested in stamp collecting, as the photos below (scraped from Ebay, similar) can attest.

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Vandenbroucke for Variety

While promoting his new book, Shady (his first one in eight years), Flemish painter and cartoonist Brecht Vandenbroucke also noted that in the past year he did a job for Variety Magazine, illustrating an article on the effect of the Covid crisis on film crews.

The piece very cleverly combines the real with the virtual, contrasting film making tools, like cameras and microphones, with the ever-present green screen of current cinema. As if we were all too preoccupied with little details that we didn’t see the larger danger looming.

Vandenbroucke’s new book collects his Shady Bitch stories, short comics about a chaotic and not very endearing character with a full beard and a skirt (he’s been described as the love child of Popeye and Olive Oyl) who bumps his way around a world full of pop culture and contemporary angsts. If you love Cowboy Henk, or Pieter De Poortere’s Dickie, and you know a word of two of Dutch, here’s a comic for you. Or, as we used to say in the times of the Forbidden Planet blog, “translation, please!”…

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Mutants Out!

In a year when there’s more talk of mutants in your average newspaper than in the pages of Marvel comics, it’s good to see that Brian McFadden is keeping it real.

(via The Nib, of course)

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I Remember Kochalka!

Sometimes I feel like the history of my comics reading habit is a battlefield strewn with the fallen that fought for my fickle attention, sometimes won my unbridled and absolute attention and love for a while (sometimes even longer) but more often than not were also left behind after not too long, replaced by new and shinier things. Their books gather dust on my shelves and in the boxes in my basement, or are at best relegated to the realm of nostalgia. Some simply slipped from my attention, others failed to live up to the promise of that first brilliant comic, and still others, well, there’s only so much time and money you can spend, isn’t there?

When the web was still young, James Kochalka was my absolute hero. Even though I lived in Belgium, I managed to find comics and minis by him at an alarming rate at one of my favorite stores (hello, Ria!) and later, when he was picked up by “real” publishers, like Top Shelf or Highwater, I followed him religiously. His Sketchbook Diaries remain to this day one of the best web comics ever published (I even wrote about it in 2007). But, as my preamble probably already announced, I forgot about him. Absolutely, totally. On the shelf behind me his name is on seven running inches of books, and they seem to be a blur, never jumping out at me when I’m running my finger past the spines, looking for a rediscovery. It is strange.

All this to say that I was happy to discover that Kochalka is still going strong and curating his back catalog. A couple of days ago he released his 2006 album Spread Your Evil Wings And Fly (because yes, he makes music too, and lots of it) on Bandcamp. Fifteen years on, it is still as quirky, strange and exciting as it was when it first came out, with the added bonus of (quite) good production. Listen to songs like Why Is The Sky Blue? or Fascists Bikes and start dancing around your living room, like I did. This is the silly music this pandemic period needs. And thank God Kochalka is still around to provide it (and at only $10 for the whole album). I think I’ll go and dig out those minis now and read them. Superstar!

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Let the lambs loose!

Happy easter!

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Dickie moves!

Boerke (or Dickie, as he is known around the world, see also earlier), Flemish cartoonist Pieter De Poortere’s hapless hero celebrates his twentieth birthday!  To celebrate that glorious occasion, a new collection of strips was recently published full to the brim of pop culture references, with Boerke facing one disappointment after another with his heroes.

VRT, the Flemish government TV station, deemed it the right moment to unleash a series of 52 Boerke cartoons (registration required) on their unsuspected audience, replacing a rather subdued program about poetry. It’s the same series that ran previously on Adult Swim France, who also published some of them on their YouTube channel. So if you don’t live in Belgium and you still want to enjoy Boerke’s cruel absurdities in glorious animation, you need to either head there, or get a VPN…

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Subtlety hits hard

Compared to some of his previous ones, the latest New Yorker cover by regular contributor R. Kikuo Johnson may more subtle and subdued, but it also proves to be more poignant than ever. By simply isolating an Asian woman and a girl –presumably her daughter– in these times of pandemic and xenophobia, he creates a harrowing atmosphere of paranoia that only recently turned out to be far from imaginary.

Johnson divides his image into three bands, one with the black of the subway track, another with an ominous grey descending upon the two characters, who are left with a narrow strip of light in the middle, hardly high enough to stand upright in. It is a subtle image that could elude anybody who is not aware of current events, but that hits only harder when you get it. Let’s hope it will require extensive bylines for future generations…

(illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson, © 2021 Condé Nast. Used for journalistic purposes)

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The Fall Of The Death Cult

In May, 2020 conceptual artist and educator Alexandro Segade published his 96-page graphic novel, The Context, a concept-heavy space opera steeped in super-hero lore featuring six powerful beings who somehow connect in a lifeless void. Borrowing elements from critical theory and conceptual art, the story switches between eroticised fight scenes and philosophical exposés.

The characters from the Context also made appearances in Creative Time and Art Forum, further evolving the work into an ever widening gyre of cultural criticism, queer politics and current affair, and culminating in the almost propagandistic Fall Of The Death Cult (Art Forum, October/November 2020). This two page comic ends in what may well be the most unambiguous and straightforward sentence in the whole oeuvre : “And I voted for Biden”.

To fully appreciate this strip, and the rest of The Context, you need to be able to navigate a lifelong obsession with super-hero narratives and their kabuki-like choreographed approach to conflict resolution, but in the end you will see that political comics can be more than straightforward jingoism.

Although I question the use of cats as submissive cult followers. Even Neil Gaiman knew that it’s almost impossible to get cats to even dream the same thing, let alone act it out.

(artwork © Alexandro Segade. All rights reserved. Quoted for review purposes. With thanks to Mark for the pointer)

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More Dope Rider!

In 2017 French publisher Tanibis presented a beautiful collection of cartoonist Paul Kirchner’s work (in English) as Awaiting the Collapse. The book contained all Dope Rider strips Kirchner created for High Times magazine, as well as some other comics and illustrations for Screw Magazine.  It was a beautiful book, mostly thanks to Kirchner’s splendid linework that harkened back to a time when psychedelic layouts and storylines were all the rage. A salute to a bygone time, so to speak.

Well, turns out, that wasn’t all. In a new book, A Fistful of Delirium (again with Tanibis), Kirchner presents over a hundred pages of new Dope Rider strips, created after 2015, basically continuing where he left off in the 1980s. The strips are still a hallelujah to the benefits of marihuana use, but Kirchner now mixes his dreamlike vistas with references to recent pop culture, and Native American culture comes to the foreground more than it did in the first collection.

I guess shipping to the US may be a bit of a pain, but these two books are highly recommended (pun intended, even though it’s as dubious as most of Kirchner’s own), as are his other books, The Bus (1 and 2) and Hieronymus & Bosch (all with Tanibis).

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