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News Briefs featuring Gabrielle Bell

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Brian Ralph and others at Brooklyn Indie Comics Showcase

Updated January 10, 2012


December 6, 2011
Heidi MacDonald

As for comics, the standout was a new issue of Kramers Ergot, the groundbreaking comics anthology last seen in 2008 as a table-sized $150 book. The new edition is more compact but retains much of the creative line up, including Gabrielle Bell, Frank Santoro and editor Sammy Harkham— and many were there to sign.

While tightly curated by the organizers to reflect the art comix side of the business, the show drew a bevy of fans who happily went shopping at just about every table—among them Simpsons creator Matt Groening who was given as many books as he purchased by star struck young cartoonists.

While big statements about where comics are going as an artform will await some digestion of the varied offerings at the show, Brian Ralph, himself a member of the legendary Fort Thunder collective and currently a teacher at SCAD and author of this year’s Daybreak declared it the best comics show he had ever been to. Questioned at a raucous afterparty held in one of the participants loft Ralph observed “Something awesome was at every table.”

Check out the link for a picture of Adrian Tomine and Jillian Tamaki signing at the D&Q table!
 
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Featured artists

Gabrielle Bell
Jillian Tamaki
Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




  The Snipe calls CECIL AND JORDAN "ambitious" and "engaging"

Updated August 1, 2011


Jeffrey Brown and Gabrielle Bell make it look easy. Pen, paper, a memory or dream or anecdote, and voila: instant comics.

But both have been at the business of cartooning for some time, and though their respective styles seem simple enough - no fancy splash pages or playing with narrative a la Chris Ware here - the two have honed their storytelling abilities considerably. What isn't said, the action between panels, and the ability to pace a story for maximum impact are skills that are in evidence by not being immediately apparent.

Of the two, Brown's is more of what you might call "a good read," and straight-through autobiography (he calls it a "memoir", after all). Divided into chapters like "Semi Colon" (about his Crohn's Disease affliction) and "Soft Drugs" (dealing with his drug experimentation), Funny Misshapen Body (Touchstone, softcover, $16US $21CDN) is front-to-back amusing and, once you get used to Brown's off-the-cuff art (no white-out was harmed in the making of this book), charmingly awkward. Funny Misshapen Body is also a lesson in the art of self-deprecation, and watching someone studiously not take himself seriously for 300 pages can't help but be refreshing.

Cecil and Jordan in New York (Drawn & Quarterly, hardcover, $19.95 US & CDN), Bell's book, is more uneven, if only because these stories were created at different times, and have appeared elsewhere. It's certainly a more handsome item - it’s published by Drawn & Quarterly, so production is top-notch - with some stories (the titular one) in colour, others in two-tone.

I like Bell most when she sticks more or less to reality; the titular piece is a little too surreal-cute, while the dream-story "My Affliction" (with crude black lines) lost me completely. Much more engaging are the pieces that seem a little more autobiographical, even if the names have been changed (or the stories have actually been invented whole-cloth): "Felix", about a young student teaching art to the son of a famous sculptor, and "I Feel Nothing", about an almost-hookup.

Taken together, Cecil and Jordan and Funny Misshapen Body complement each other - the former is a little more ambitious but less consistent, while the latter is unvaryingly fun but unadventurous. And both would be embarrassing to be seen with on public transit by any self-respecting adult. They're comics, after all.
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Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

           Featured product

Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell




The Guardian asks LYNDA BARRY about CHRIS WARE

Updated July 14, 2011


Six leading graphic novelists choose their favourite peer

Peter Kuper on Robert Crumb
I was 11 or 12, growing up in Cleveland when I visited [comic-book artist] Harvey Pekar's apartment - I only knocked on his door because his paper boy said he was some guy who had comics. He kindly showed me his record collection and then pulled out a full colour original drawn by Robert Crumb. This beautiful colour pencil art showed a large cartoon character whistling while he urinated into a toilet with flies buzzing around him. It blew my mind - I had no idea that cartoon characters could have genitals!
I met Crumb a few years after I saw that drawing. He showed me his sketchbook, and I sat there looking at it for hours. I got a sketchbook and started drawing. He demonstrated that comics could address anything you wanted and pointed me in that direction.
There is a level of honesty in Crumb's work that scares, intrigues and outrages people. There are few corners of his psyche or subjects that comment on our society he hasn't shone a spotlight on. Crumb does what he does, regardless of audience response. There are very few artists who take that chance and yet are so effective.
One of the things that makes Crumb's art so accessible is its clarity. Lots of the 1960s underground cartoonists experimented with comics in many wonderful ways. Crumb generally worked in a simpler panel-to-panel format that was about character and story more than about bending the medium. He also tapped into the history of turn-of-the century comic strips such as Popeye and Krazy Kat, as well as the roots of jazz and other aspects of Americana, which felt completely fresh and yet very familiar. He managed to bring these influences to a wider public, and be both loved and hated. He ignored both reactions, and has kept drawing and inspiring new generations.

Bryan Talbot on Joe Sacco
I have many favourite graphic novelists, as diverse as Posy Simmonds, Jeff Smith, Robert Crumb and Hannah Berry, but I think I'll have to plump for Joe Sacco. He was trained as a journalist and singlehandedly created the genre of reportage in graphic-novel form. Immersing himself in a situation, his in-depth reports use the medium of sequential art - like "graphic novel", the word "comics" is such a misnomer - to its full advantage, using the mix of illustration and text to convey complex issues very directly. His books, such as Palestine, Safe Area Gora?de or his recent Footnotes in Gaza, follow his investigations and interviews, explaining the history, politics and dynamics of the situation as he goes along. The palpable sense of place and the feeling that we're personally in the presence of the people who relate their experiences to him (and us) is a testament to his storytelling skills; his work is far more intimate than that of a filmed documentary. Comics have many superficial similarities to film - the use of long shots, closeup, zooms and pans, for example - but, filtered through the perception and artistry of their authors, they are much closer to prose in the way they transmit a personal vision. Joe Sacco is a master of this medium.

Posy Simmonds on Jacques Tardi
Jacques Tardi's work is brilliantly designed and graphically immaculate, drawn in the "clear line" style, but a line that is relaxed, inventive and personal like handwriting. He's a master of black and white, and colour. His book C'était la Guerre des Tranchées (It Was the War of the Trenches) is a compassionate and meticulously researched story about patriotism and disillusion in the first world war.

Ariel Schrag on Gabrielle Bell
I've always been inspired by Gabrielle Bell's work. It's very experimental in that she uses a lot of different forms - diary comments, fiction, topical stuff. She brings in autobiography, even some science fiction. She also experiments with different mediums: colour, black and white. One of the things I like most about her is her knack for the peculiarities of dialogue. She has a really good sense of picking up on some of the weird things you might say. She is very good at characters and human relationships, and is interesting on artists' role in society. I have seen her working, and she goes through a lot of revisions. It shows how much reworking can get it to a better place.

Martin Rowson on Joe Sacco
Although Art Spiegelman's Maus [about the Holocaust] is a work of incredible importance, I think it gave the entire genre a bum steer. It then got into this terrible kind of introspective, personal, adolescent angstiness. All this "you have to be serious about this because it's a serious art form": well, it is and it isn't. Therefore, discovering Joe Sacco was a liberation. Here is somebody who is using the medium as journalism and reportage. It's taking the best bits of the underground comics of the 60s - the radicalism - with the personal immersion you got with Spiegelman. It's an extraordinarily powerful way of telling a story - a true one in this case. The fact that he places himself in the heart of it makes it gonzo journalism turned into a graphic novel, although it's not really a graphic novel, it's a sort of visual journalism. In one of his books, there is a double-page spread of a crossroads in a refugee camp in Gaza, seen from about 30ft up in the air, and it's a beautiful piece of artwork.
The whole point of the medium is that it's meant to be immediate because you consume images much more quickly than you consume text. It has to have a visceral effect, and as reportage, art and sequential visual narrative, his work is just brilliant.

Lynda Barry on Chris Ware
Chris Ware is an American cartoonist whose work is so unusual that some hesitate to call what he is doing "comics". When I read his work, I get a Wright brothers feeling of being in something big, right as it's being invented. Eventually we will know what to call what he does, but for now "graphic novel" is all we have. And it isn't the right term for what Ware is doing at all. You can see through to the middle of the heartbreaking things in his work and know why this medium is the only way to say it.
Some think what is happening in his work might be literature, and they think this is a compliment. There are books about how to read comics in a serious way as if they were literature; how to take them apart to find out what makes them go. If you do this with Chris Ware's comics, you'll find the complicated structure you've been told is there, but you'll miss everything else. Looking at a diagram of an airplane is not the same as being able to glide in one.
 
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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Chris Ware
Gabrielle Bell

          



  Bitch Magazine interviews Gabrielle Bell

Updated February 9, 2011


Beyond The Panel: An Interview with Gabrielle Bell of Lucky
Rachel McCarthy James
February 7, 2011


This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a cartoonist whose transition to webcomics has been rather recent: Gabrielle Bell. She started out self-publishing zines, and eventually made the leap to Alternative and later Canadian comic book publisher Drawn and Quarterly. Her print collections include When I'm Old and Other Stories, two volumes of Lucky, Cecil and Jordan in New York, and Kuruma Tohrimasu. She's also been in several editions of Best American Comics, which is how I first became acquainted with her work.

Recently, Gabrielle began publishing the autobiographical Lucky as a surreal webcomic. I recommend you start out with Manifestation, her chronicle of agreeing to write about Valerie Solanas's S.C.U.M. Manifesto. We talked about feminism, mothers, and web versus print comics in the interview below.

RMJ: What is the role of feminism in your work?

GB: I guess every female artist has to think about feminism for pretty much her whole life as she is making her art...so I think it's hard to talk about. As a feminist, I try to realize myself as a person and an artist as strongly as I can in opposition to the images and ideas of the traditional women presented in the media, in hopes that others will recognize this and feel free to do the same.

I think I'm lucky to be an artist for that reason. I do this autobiographical character, so I am presenting "myself" to the audience. But I create that "myself” as almost a fictional character. And partly that character is weak and insecure and mean-spirited and vulnerable, but also cool and strong and smart.

RMJ: Are you familiar with Kate Beaton's comments from a couple of months ago about sexist compliments?

GB: Kind of. When a man says "I want to have your children" or "I want you to have my children," that this is a very sensitive subject...because I saw what having children did to my mother. I guess it'd be more complicated if I actually WANTed to have children. I think that it's hard to call out sexism because there's so much of it, we're supposed to just live with a certain level of it. So I think it's good that Kate did that.

RMJ: Let's talk a little about Manifestation. Most of the comic focuses on a conversation with your mother. I loved how the "unwork" concept was tied in at the end of Manifestation, with your mother unworking homemaking.

GB: Yes, definitely. She was so lazy. She was the most ineffective, useless frustrating mother and housewife ever. I used to fantasize that something would happen to her and she'd wake up one day and be a "normal" mother—wear dresses, bake cookies, be friendly and hospitable.

I think, having come of age as a young woman in the sixties and seventies, when there was a feminist revolution—I mean, all sorts of cultural revolutions, but in particular a big change for women after an oppressive time in the fifties and sixties—I don't think any woman could be immune to that—it affected her, but then she had all these kids and lost control of her life.

But in a very passive-aggressive way she passed on certain values to me. In the end I have her talking about how she couldn't have a paper-route like her brothers—her older brother, in particular who went on to become a writer and start a magazine of his own—and she was stuck baby-sitting and she went on baby-sitting for the rest of her life, for her own babies.

RMJ: So she was kind of trained into a particular role, and it ended up trapping her.

GB: From the very beginning. But things have changed somewhat now. Anyway, she didn't tell me I had to baby-sit. I think she didn't know what to tell me, I think she was paralyzed So she sort of stepped aside and let me figure things out for myself which is not the ideal situation, but it was the very best thing she could have done given her circumstances

RMJ: How is the webcomic Lucky different from the two-volume graphic novel Lucky?

GB: I think the nature of it being on the web has changed it enormously. It's really helped it. But at the same time it's taken over my whole life and I've neglected my other more fictional work. I guess when I wasn't doing it on the web, I was doing it for myself, and now that I'm doing it on the web, I'm doing it for the world. And it's a good feeling to be doing something for the world and [be] part of this giant conversation.

RMJ: But you were still putting stuff out there in print before you transitioned to web.

GB: Yes, and I miss that! But I'd do a comic and it wouldn't be published for about six months and a few people would read it—mostly just comics fans and and comics artists. But now it feels like my comics are being read by all different people. Actually, I wish my comic could be in the Village Voice or The Stranger, some regular print publication. I don't think the web is ideal for comics. But it's worked better for me

RMJ: Why isn't the web ideal for comics?

GB: They are art. It is a delightful thing to have a beautiful comic book to read—like going to a museum or a concert or watching a movie in a theatre

RMJ: I'd never really thought of it from that perspective. Personally, I feel the same thrill finding a new webcomic I love with an archive I haven't read that I did when I was a kid and I would get a new Calvin and Hobbes book, or upon discovering Harvey Pekar in college.

GB: Really? You don't need to see it on paper?

RMJ: I can't read strips that were intended for paper on the screen, usually. But webcomics are oftentimes designed for the web, so it feels natural to read it on the computer. I love clicking "next day" or "forward" or whatever while I"m catching up on a strip.

GB: I draw Lucky to be published on paper, but I also write/draw it with the internet screen in mind now too. I think...hope...that has opened it up a bit. I try not to do too many "to be continueds" because I fear I'll lose my audience.
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Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Lucky (hardcover)
Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell




The Journal reviews CECIL AND JORDON IN NEW YORK

Updated February 9, 2010


Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell

by Jay Herzog

The last few decades have seen an explosion of autobiography and memoir in the comics world. High profile works like Art Spiegelman's Maus and Marjane Satrapi's Persopolis have drawn mainstream attention, and publishers Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly have made it their mission to showcase work that is a conscious antithesis to the fantasy and superhero clichés that glut the market.

Gabrielle Bell is a good example of this new wave of comics, and displays both the strengths and weaknesses of confessional comics. Bell draws on certain antecedents -- her storytelling style recalls a more subdued version of Julie Doucet, though she synthesizes her influences and makes them her own. Like many alternative cartoonists, she started by self-publishing her own comics, and her drawing style has a homely, handmade quality that suits the modest realistic stories she tells.

The title story, "Cecil and Jordan in New York," is based on an idea by her friend Sadie Hales (who based it on a dream she had when touring New York with former local filmmaker Jon Olsen). It's a slight fantasy of a woman who feels ignored and turns into a chair, thus becoming more useful. It's hard to think this would be the central story of the book if not for the fact that it was adapted by filmmaker Michel Gondry and Bell for a segment in the recent omnibus film Tokyo. Bell's painted art in the story is a bit clunky, and loses the quirky charm of her black-and-white line work and one-tone color in the rest of the book.

"My Affliction" is the cartoon equivalent to automatic poetry: a work transcribed directly from the subconscious. As a dream piece, it's less belabored and more fascinating than "Cecil and Jordan."

Most of the rest of the stories are better and fall into two categories: stories of her childhood and adolescence, and tales of bohemian slackerdom in NYC.

In "I Feel Nothing", a woman gets invited by her egotistic bar owner neighbor to have some whisky for breakfast. The page where she imagines the downward slide her life would take if she accepted his advances is hilarious, and the story ends with her mundanely opening the video store she works at. Bell prefers these anti-climactic endings, and they ring true.

The most successful stories in the book deal with her growing up poor in Mendocino County, and the shifting adolescent cliques of high school. It's very rare that the perspective of low-income kids is portrayed anywhere, let alone comics, and Bell is expert at capsule dialog quirks that define a character. Despite the travails of her protagonist, there's always a sense of life and potential beyond the horizon.
 
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Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

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Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell




  CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK and GEORGE SPROTT in The New York Times: Sunday Book Review

Updated December 9, 2009


HOLIDAY BOOKS
Comics

by Douglas Wolk


The style and tone of Gabrielle Bell’s comics are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Baker’s — flat, dry and understated — but they allow her, too, to get away with just about anything. The brief title piece of her collection CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK: Stories (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95) is narrated by a young woman who’s just moved to the city with her filmmaker boyfriend; it’s a clear-cut tale of impecunious 20-something artists until halfway through, when the narrator abruptly transforms herself into a chair, gets taken home by someone who finds her on the sidewalk and decides that her old life won’t miss her. The engine of these mercilessly observed stories is squirminess: emotional awkwardness so intense that it can erupt into magic or just knot itself into scars.

The chubby, self-important protagonist of the Canadian cartoonist Seth’s GEORGE SPROTT, 1894-1975 (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95) is the host of a local TV show built around documentary footage from his trips to the Arctic in the 1930s, which is to say that he’s the kind of person who’s been made extinct by modernity. Expanded from the much shorter version serialized a few years ago in The New York Times Magazine, this oversize, exquisitely designed volume is part scrapbook, part documentary about its fictional subject’s life and death. It approaches its subject from dozens of angles, from “interviews” with his intimates to immense, silent drawings of ice floes, all rendered in the painstakingly simple, bold brush strokes of midcentury illustration — a style of which Seth is the chief contemporary caretaker. As with most of his work, it’s a memorial to a lost age of localism and craft, even as it’s painfully alert to the dangerous allure of nostalgia.
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Featured artists

Seth
Gabrielle Bell

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Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell
George Sprott: (1894-1975)




CECIL AND JORDAN, 32 STORIES AND GEORGE SPROTT reviewed by the Star Tribune

Updated September 1, 2009


Masters of melancholy ; Three new graphic novels to make you laugh, cry and feel everything in between.
23 August 2009

Loneliness, sorrow and sadness never looked this good.

In the hands of the comic-book world's top cartoonists, doomed relationships and daily doldrums are a sight to behold. Seth, Adrian Tomine and Gabrielle Bell do not disappoint with their latest collections from powerhouse publisher Drawn & Quarterly.

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"George Sprott: (1894-1975)," by Seth. (Drawn & Quarterly, 96 pages, $24.95.)

The characters who inhabit Seth's stories are never terribly interesting. Typically, they are aging white guys plagued by nostalgic memories of the good old days.

Even so, Seth (the pen name of Gregory Gallant) is one of the medium's best. For him, it's the way you tell the story. And his latest graphic novel might be his most ambitious yet. First off, it's huge. Measuring 12 by 14 inches, the hardcover barely fits in your lap.

Over 96 full-color pages, Seth tells the life and death of fictional Canadian TV personality George Sprott, an oaf of a man who once fashioned himself an Arctic explorer.

The dimensions of the book are an essential part of telling this story. The traditional comic-book page contains no more than nine panels. Here, Seth sometimes packs in 30 panels to a page. Many of these pages feature interviews with people who loved and loathed George -- echoing "Citizen Kane." Most panels simply capture their changing facial expressions as they ramble on about the George they knew -- lover, cheater, idol, absentee father.

"George Sprott" was first serialized in the New York Times magazine. There, Seth's overstuffed panels let him tell a single, contained thread in one page. Now collected (and with added material), Seth's technique feels cinematic -- if at times, overwhelming.

At the very least, this is a sad story about a selfish man. At its best, it is a story about how comic-book stories are told.

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"32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics," by Adrian Tomine. (Drawn & Quarterly, 104 pages, $19.95.)

"The book you hold in your hands would not exist had high school been a pleasant experience for me." So begins Adrian Tomine's introduction -- one of two included in this collection of short stories. Today, Tomine is one of the biggest names in comics. His illustrations regularly appear in the New Yorker, and his 2007 graphic novel, "Shortcomings," solidified his place as one of the medium's most gifted storytellers. That 108-page story -- about a young man struggling with his Asian-American identity -- was a masterpiece of nuanced pacing and clean, realistic pencils.

"32 Stories" is a "special edition" of a collection first published in 1995. It collects Tomine's eight "Optic Nerve" mini-comics, which he self-published while still in high school. Drawn & Quarterly has manufactured replicas of those rare mini-comics and packaged them in a fancy box.

These old stories are a fascinating look at the roots of Tomine's obsession with everyday dejection. His stories are brief, just two to four pages, and often revolve around the daily miseries of ordinary people. They're also quite funny. For Tomine, even a trip to the barber can go awry. His black ink artwork was messy, but drawn with purpose.

These 32 tales are a far cry from the craftsmanship of "Shortcomings," but they give a unique glimpse at the genesis of a major talent.

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"Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories," by Gabrielle Bell. (Drawn & Quarterly, 112 pages, $19.95.)

In comics, the best art is sometimes the simplest.

Gabrielle Bell's minimalist pencils work wonders in her latest collection of short stories about youthful malaise.

Bell rarely frames her characters in close-up. Rather we observe from afar. It's an appropriate distance, because many of the situations Bell creates for her characters sting with the tension and awkwardness of real-life relationships.

Emotional truth is her objective. In "One Afternoon," a young woman learns that her husband has died in a plane crash. At first she is sad, but then quietly elated -- she's finally free of a relationship that bottomed out long ago. Days later her husband returns very much alive. He says he was bumped to another flight, when in fact he hadn't flown anywhere -- he was with his mistress. The two are once again stuck together, lying to each other.

These stories are all slices of life, but a couple wander off course into surrealism. Cecil (of the title) feels unappreciated by her boyfriend. Out on the street she transforms into a chair. She's picked up and brought into a stranger's apartment, where she concludes, "I've never felt so useful."

These dreamy pieces seem out of place among the rest of Bell's stories. But they still illustrate what is most interesting to her -- that we either triumph over daily rejection, or we allow it to consume us.

Tom Horgen


 

Featured artists

Seth
Adrian Tomine
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell
George Sprott: (1894-1975)
32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




  32 Stories, Cecil and Jordan in New York and George Sprott reviewed by The Montreal Gazette

Updated July 27, 2009



Graphic Lit: Get Used To It

By Ian McGillis 07-19-2009 COMMENTS(1) Narratives

Filed under: Pavement, George Sprott, Adrian Tomine, comics, graphic novels, Chris Ware, Clyde Fans, comix, Kaya Oakes, Seth, Gabrielle Bell, Quarterly, Drawn &

I was drawn to Kaya Oakes’s Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture because of the title’s shout-out to Pavement’s debut album, a work that hogged my Walkman circa 1992-93 to the point where I’ll probably never need to listen to those songs again. (And I mean that in the kindest of possible ways.) But I’m glad Oakes pulled me in, because among her book’s many astringent perspectives on all things indie is a chapter that helped me crystallize why I’ve been feeling so evangelical about the increasingly ubiquitous but still frequently misunderstood corner of the literary marketplace tagged variously as comics/comix/graphic literature.

Tracing the form from its early-20th-century stirrings, Oakes eventually identifies the point where comics publishers (Fantagraphics being at the forefront) twigged that a whole new market could be opened up with a simple repackaging expedient: gathering serial comics into single-volume collections “that could be sold in any respectable bookstore.” That use of “respectable” is of course laced with deliberate irony on Oakes’s part, acknowledging as it does the long and tangled history of the form’s stepchild status within the wider literary world. Sometimes, as Oakes astutely points out, it’s a mere matter of labeling: “Calling comics ‘graphic novels’ also opened them up to an audience that accepted the idea of comics as ‘real’ literature more easily than it swallowed the concept of a comic book, which can carry an air of disposability except for an audience of collectors.”

Confession time: I was, from a very early age, one of those “real literature” high-and-mighty types. I didn’t grow up with comics. As a child I looked askance at my peers with their Archies and Green Lantern and Mad obsessions, occupied as I was with weightier tomes like Stan Mikita’s I Play To Win, Harry Sinden’s Hockey Showdown and Farley Mowat’s The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be. (Mowat was a near neighbor of my grandmother in Port Hope, Ontario; as a young boy I once espied him on the street and was convinced for years afterward that all writers had to smoke pipes and have big bushy beards and that therefore I would never be a writer. But that’s a whole other story, I guess.) It was only shamefully recently, with exposure to Chris Ware’s mind-bogglingly complex and beautiful Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, that the richness of which this form is capable was made manifest to me. Suitably humbled, I worked my way back through Art Spiegelman and R. Crumb and forward to their inheritors. And discovered that one of the two or three most prominent proponents of this culture was Montreal’s own Drawn & Quarterly, who—wouldn’t you just know it?—have a varied line of spring and summer titles for our consideration.

32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics by Adrian Tomine is the publishing equivalent of one of those finely curated demos-and-outtakes collections beloved of indie music labels. If you love the band, you need to have it; if you just like the band, you’ll be curious to check it out but will probably find you can live without it. Tomine’s Summer Blonde and Shortcomings are note-perfect portrayals of young educated urbans adrift: shitty service industry jobs, romantic disaffection, identity confusion, all depicted with crisp visual line, deadpan dialogue, and a willingness to look closely into seamy corners of life many would be content to leave private. Fans of those perpetually popular titles now have the chance to see Tomine working toward his mature style in 32 Stories’ seven facsimile editions, gathered into an attractive box, of the Optic Nerve mini-comics that originally drew him to D & Q’s attention. For review purposes, well, I couldn’t really put it any better than the author does himself, in his introduction:

“If you’re a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, you might say that these comics are youthful, energetic, and even enlightening in terms of the evolution they chart. If you’re feeling less charitable, you’d probably describe them as amateurish, scatter-shot, affected, and deeply derivative.”

I’m glass half full guy myself, but there you have it.

Working similar thematic and stylistic terrain to Tomine is Gabrielle Bell. Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories divides roughly in two. The first half’s stories are set among the New York art world, where the struggling often rub up against the fabulously rich. In “Felix” a middling art student finds herself in the home of a famous sculptor, hired to give drawing lessons to the artist’s alienated adolescent son. Teacher and student form a touchingly awkward bond while the father develops a suspiciously noblesse oblige attraction to the young woman. Multiple layers of emotion and psychology are implied with minimal dialogue and spare visuals: the settings are almost exclusively interior, the characters defined and confined by their environment. Bell can convey all we need to know about a relationship by how far apart or how close she places two people on a couch. The second half, more autobiographical if Bell’s available bio is anything to go by, focuses on a teenage misfit in rural Northern California. Here Bell allows herself a more relaxed line and a broader emotional palette, even venturing, in the remarkable “My Affliction,” into the realm of full-blown surrealism. Readers may well be reminded of The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, and will feel an agreeable frisson on learning that Bell is now indeed collaborating with Michel Gondry.

Seth first came to my attention with his stunning design of Aimee Mann’s Lost In Space CD, a package that very nearly single-handedly redeemed the visual limitations of a format soon to pass away unmourned. Born in Clinton, Ontario in 1962, Seth is the established master of a subject he has made his own: the stultifying melancholy of past-their-prime small towns and the thwarted lives therein. It’s a world he’s able to depict so well because of his own clearly conflicted relationship with his subject matter. Here is a man not at home in the modern world, drawn instinctively to the mood and aesthetic of a fading place and time even as he puts that bygone world’s pathos under an unsparing spotlight. If you’re looking for a cinematic equivalent, think David Lynch, but without the gratuitous unpleasantness. The title character of the magnificent new picture novella George Sprott: 1894-1975 is of a type that will ring bells with readers of Clyde Fans, It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken and Wimbledon Green. Emotionally repressed, a distant ineffectual father, a serial philanderer, small-town TV host Sprott nonetheless manages for decades to pass himself off as a cuddly avuncular minor celebrity. That he’s an unknowing figure of fun to anyone with experience beyond his constricted world—that he is in many ways a deeply unlovable man—doesn’t compromise the sympathy with which Seth draws him.

Another favoured Seth theme, the unreliability and subjectivity of memory, gets a good airing here, as figures from Sprott’s life recall events in a contradictory tangle of accounts that only serves to underline the ultimate futility of any attempt to “sum up” a life. Visually George Sprott takes all Seth’s customary strengths—subtle shifts in framing, a limited colour palette that can render the slightest variation powerful in impact, dialogue and text-heavy pages melded seamlessly with wordless passages—and by dint of the book’s lavish outsized format, brings it all to a whole new level. Quite aside from its undeniable literary and artistic merits, George Sprott is a downright beautiful thing, an artifact you’ll like holding in your hands and having in your home. Which brings me to an x-factor about graphic literature, something I think of whenever I hear non-converts complain that graphic novels can appear a bit pricey. At their best, these books provide the strongest possible bulwark against the feared death of the book-as-object: they give us something that Kindle will never be able to duplicate.

In a near-future posting on this very blog, I’ll explore in some detail the world of the late Tove Jansson, the sui generis Swedish/Finnish writer-cartoonist whose complete Moomin comic strips are being gathered by Drawn & Quarterly in a sumptuous series that is now at four volumes and counting. Meanwhile I urge all good people to at least dip their toes into the pool of graphic literature—the water may feel cold at first but that never stopped you from learning to swim, did it?--and leave you, for old times’ sake, with something from a band who knew a thing or two about the bittersweet task of taking the underground to the masses.


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CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK reviewed by Bookforum

Updated July 21, 2009


Jul 15 2009
Cecil and Jordan in New York by Gabrielle Bell
Karin L. Kross

Fans of filmmaker Michel Gondry may already be familiar with some of Gabrielle Bell’s work without knowing it. “Cecil and Jordan in New York,” the title story of Bell’s new collection, was recently adapted by Gondry into the short film Interior Design, one-third of the tripartite Tokyo! This deceptively simple fable contains the best aspects of Bell’s work: a sharp eye for human foibles, especially in relationships, and a dry, melancholic sense of humor. Jordan is an aspiring filmmaker, and his girlfriend Cecil accompanies him to New York, where her isolation and loneliness grow until she decides to transform herself into a chair. She’s picked up by a passerby and quickly adapts to her new life as a household object. When the stranger who took her home is out of the apartment, Cecil turns back into a girl, but otherwise, she’s simply a chair, observing in the story’s poignant and stinging final line that she’s “never felt so useful.”



Cecil and Jordan In New York collects several of Bell’s comics that were previously published in Mome, Kramer’s Ergot, and other anthologies beloved of the indie-comics readership. These anthologies, while providing a showcase for surprising new talent, also have a tendency to be overly earnest and heavy-handed and disappointingly similar in their visual style. Bell has her own weaknesses along those lines. Some of the autobiographical stories and the stories concerned with artistic angst and urban anomie, though perceptively written and executed with technical skill, are weighed down by their relentlessly heavy mood and self-consciousness. Other creators have proved more adept at parsing the difficulties of being an artist and the feeling of alienation in childhood and adulthood; Eddie Campbell has done it with more humor, and Alison Bechdel with a more refined literary sensibility.



Bell is at her best when she uses a lighter touch. “My Affliction” takes elements of fantasy and dream logic to explore the complexity and uncontrollability of love and desire. In “Gabrielle the Third,” she focuses her powers of observation on a pair of pigeons, dubbed Copper and Gabrielle Jr., nesting on her windowsill. The birds make her think of “two homeless people arguing in gibberish, driven insane by the elements, endlessly complaining in a sustained, high-pitched, hysterical lament,” and at first they aren’t entirely welcome guests. But soon they and their chick, Gabrielle the Third, are a daily part of Bell’s life, and perhaps even family: “I worry about when the day comes for Gabrielle the Third to learn to fly. One missed step, and all of their work is for nothing.”



The final story in Cecil and Jordan In New York is one of the strongest. “Helpless” is a day in the life of two teenaged best friends, Sidney and Cecil. They play with construction materials, go swimming, fend off the advances of a pair of creepy older hippies, and run into some minor trouble with the police (who they refer to as “Yogi and Boo-Boo”). Bell paints their activities with a sense of whimsy and adventure that is positively infectious. The story is sweet, funny, and by virtue of its placement at the end of the volume, haunted by the sense of heartache that the reader suspects is awaiting the girls when they grow up. One wishes that they might stay in this fearless, fun-loving place forever, and never find themselves trapped in a life where the best option is to turn into a piece of furniture.


Karin L. Kross is a writer based in Austin, Texas, and a former comics columnist for bookslut.com.
 
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  CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK reviewed on NPR's Best Summer Fiction List

Updated May 29, 2009


Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories, by Gabrielle Bell, Drawn and Quarterly, Hardcover, 195 pages, List Price: $19.95



NPR.org, May 26, 2009 · In the popular imagination, summer means "vacation" in much the same way that fall means foliage, winter means snow, and spring means Administrative Professionals' Day. But let's not kid ourselves: There's more to summer than sun, sand and cocoa butter. Many of us, in fact, will manage to squeeze in only a few days of quality lazing by pool, lake or sea. Any responsible list of suggested summer reading must acknowledge this grim truth.

Here, then, is a list of books for the whole of your summer. Although this selection includes books that are nominally classified in various genres (mystery, science fiction, humor, graphic novel), these are not frothy, forgettable reads. You'll find suggestions for days that are lazy, hazy and/or crazy, as well as for Days that are, respectively, Memorial, Father's, Independence and Labor.

The short stories in cartoonist Gabrielle Bell's collection Cecil and Jordan in New York vary widely in tone and format, but they share Bell's deadpan humor and unerring sense for the inner lives of wounded characters. In some of her best stories, like "Year of the Arowana," she makes use of less-than-reliable narrators to set up an intriguing tension between the words we read and the events she illustrates.

Whether she's capturing a wistful childhood memory ("Summer Camp"), exploring complex romantic entanglements ("Felix," the collection's most accomplished story) or just riffing (as in the funny, dreamlike "My Affliction"), Bell's strong narrative voice ensures that her impulse for introspection never descends into navel-gazing. She's not afraid to allow a touch of the fantastic to creep into her work, as in the collection's mordant, sweetly surreal title story, which was adapted by Michel Gondry for the recently released art house film Tokyo!.
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CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK reviewed by The North Adams Transcript

Updated May 29, 2009


Autobiography and fiction create alluring mix
By John E. Mitchell, North Adams Transcript
Posted: 05/29/2009 01:06:02 AM EDT

"Cecil And Jordan in New York Stories'"

By Gabrielle Bell (Drawn and Quarterly)

Seizing the moment for one of the best authors of graphic short fiction, Gabrielle Bell's collection "Cecil And Jordan In New York Stories" moves beyond the clichés of generational slacker comics and imbues the tales of the under the radar generation with an understanding and context that pushes away the typical self-deprecation that eventually becomes just more self-mythologizing.

In any of the stories, the protagonist seems to be the same girl -- sometimes unnamed, though also appearing as Anna, Kristin, Gabrielle or someone else -- which creates a kind of "Everygirl" who retains personal affectations the reader might apply to Bell.

This hints at a strong use of autobiography without giving herself totally to the form. Because of this, the stories have points to them and dramatic build-ups -- although often in subtle, unconventional ways. There are philosophical and emotional conclusions here -- Bell is smart enough to exhibit that she cannot only write about her experiences, but they actually mean something beyond the moment; there is something to be taken away from them other than the slice-of-life situations that bog down so many clueless autobiographical comics.

Included in this volume is the title story, which is the basis for one segment of Michel Gondry's film "Tokyo." While much has been made of this story in press coverage of Bell's book, it's really one minor and metaphorical portion of a larger investigation in regard to creative partnerships and interaction -- whether one has to actually be the major force in any creative work or movement, or if there is some validity to being sidelines support -- and if there is, can that role possibly be of any value to the person in it?

This idea is best spelled out in "Felix," the standout novella in the middle of the book that sees a young, trodden-upon art student become a tutor for a famous artist's son. In the transformation from artist to muse, Bell examines the power of both, as well as the idea that the artist's work may actually be the muse's creation and the irony of a male artist failing to function in that role for his own child.

At the center of Bell's investigation is inspiration -- who gives it, who receives it and what is done following that transaction. The final partnership in creativity is between author and audience -- "Cecil And Jordan In New York" give readers plenty to hold personally for themselves, as well as a dispatch from Bell's soul.

 
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  CECIL AND JORDAN reviewed by The Contra Costa Times

Updated May 29, 2009


# "Cecil and Jordan in New York Stories" by Gabrielle Bell (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 148 pages). The spirit of indie films is alive and well in Bell's acutely observed character-driven tales about restless living in the Big City. The award-wining Bell reveals a Raymond Carver-like grace and command in storytelling, always staying true to her characters' interior monologues. A-
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CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK reviewed by Time Out Chicago

Updated May 25, 2009


In the title story to Gabrielle Bell’s new comics collection, Jordan feels useless in her new home of New York, so she breaks into someone’s apartment and…becomes a chair. It’s an extreme example of the type of disruption that pops up in Bell’s work, making Cecil and Jordan in New York Stories (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95) compelling and oddly useful.
 
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  CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK reviewed by Newsarama

Updated May 5, 2009


Article: A few words about every single story in Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories By Gabrielle Bell

May 1st, 2009
Author J. Caleb Mozzocco
cover

The eleven short stories that make up Cecil and Jordan In New York: Stories By Gabrielle Bell (Drawn and Quarterly) all flow so effortlessly into one another, and compliment one another so strongly that the experience of reading it was like that of listening to an album.

The songs might have been written over a period of years, come from a variety of inspirations and have been originally put down in different practice spaces and studios in different cities or different countries, but when you listen to them as an album for the first time, they’re part of a seamless, unified whole, and seem like that’s the way they were meant to be all along.

That’s what this book is like.

It collects Bell’s stories from a variety of anthologies—Kramer’s Ergot, Mome, her own Lucky—but there’s nothing fragmented about the collection. There’s a consistently honest, observational tone that overrides the stylistic difference and narrative choices in each of the stories, differences that may only be apparent on a second, closer reading and binds the stories together.

Here are a few words about every single one of them.

“Cecil and Jordan in New York”

The title story is a wonderful act of subversion, a short magical realist story that reads like any of Bell’s Lucky stories. The young, female narrator talks about her and Jordan’s moving to Brooklyn and trying to stay out of the way of those putting them up.

And then, halfway through, she turns into a chair.

This is the story which director Michael Gondry has adapted into Interior Design for his part of the trilogy film Tokyo.

Visually, it’s the least Gabrielle Bell-looking story in the collection, a brightly-colored story in which few of the lines are black, and even the narration boxes and dialogue bubbles are blue rather than white.

“I Feel Nothing”

A young woman is awakened by her upstairs neighbor at 8 a.m. and invited to talk, drink some whiskey and do a lot more. She’s tempted to take him up on some of his offers, like blowing off work to spend the day with him, and, through a nine-panel grid, considers a life with him, and then without him. This one’s black and white, and features some very nice, subtle manipulation of panel layouts.

“Year of the Arowana”

This is a six-page story in which a young woman writes a letter to a friend of hers, relating an evening out in which she and another friend met a favorite poet in the East Village and end up spending the evening with him and a friend of his.

It’s a surprisingly complete and dense story that, like many of the other shorter ones in the book, feels a lot bigger and longer than it actually is.

This one’s black and white, but with purple shading, and each page is a strict six-panel grid.

“One Afternoon”

Based on Kate Chopin’s “Story of An Hour,” this seven-pager packs a devastating emotional punch, and functions as one of the strongest demonstrations of the incredible economy of Bell’s work. In the space of a single page, she shows her main character reacting to and coming to grips with the news that her husband has just died.

It’s also a nice demonstration of a strength of comics in general, allowing Bell to show such a complex series of tumultuous emotions in a simple, silent series eight drawings, rather than having to turn to words and communicating them verbally, as Chopin did.

“Felix”

The second color story in the collection, this one is softer and more subdued in its palette than the title story, and does feature black lines and white dialogue bubbles.

At 34 pages, it’s a much longer story than the vast majority of these, and tells the story of a young art student who is hired by a rich, famous artist she admires to tutor his young, unhappy son. There’s no narrator in this one, making it a very natural story, and here Bell stacks her panels so that the eye moves horizontally more than vertically.

“Robot DJ”

A short story of a group of friends who were close knit as teenagers trying to reconnect at a concert featuring their former favorite band together. The black and white in this story is quite stark, and there’s no shading; this one is strictly regimented into nine-panel grids.

“My Affliction”

This was one of my favorites. It’s a nineteen page, shaggy dog narrative in which the young narrator goes through a sequence of events that seem to come from an epic dream, only it’s rather tightly controlled, so that the events relate to each other in a way dream events might not, no matter how crazy the single events are. And they’re pretty weird. It opens, for example, with the protagonist being dropped by her boyfriend, a giant she calls The Behemoth, and then stopping in mid-air, where she’s stuck for several days, until a heavy rain pushes her close enough to a tree that she can climb the rest of the way down.

This is another strictly black and white story, and Bell’s line is looser and more jittery than in any of the other stories.

“Summer Camp”

A six-page story in which the young, female narrator that might or might not be Bell runs away from home and returns to her summer camp in the off-season. For, like, a day.

“Hit Me”

Fine lines and extremely delicate cartooning are used in service of a story that might be autobiographical and might not—so many of Bell’s protagonists look like Bell that it’s really hard to tell. It’s a few days in the life of brother and sister with an unhappy home and an unhappy school life. This is from a 2007, Ariel Schrag-edited anthology Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics From an Unpleasant Age.

It’s some of Bell’s best art work in the book, and is another one color over black and white comic.

“Gabrielle The Third”

This one’s gotta be autobiographical right? The main character looks just like the author’s comic book avatar, and her name’s even Gabrielle.

It’s the story of a little family of pigeons that live right outside the narrator’s window, and her relationship with them…and her own mother.

“Helpless”

The final story in the collection is another black, white and purple one, this one featuring two girls trying to amuse themselves throughout a night out. It’s more a series of events than an actual story, but it certainly captures and communicates the feeling of being in the glorious (and too-short) period of growing up when you’re no longer a child, but you’re not quite an adult yet, and still subject to your parents and city curfew laws, if only for a little while longer.

And that’s a few words about every single story in Cecil and Jordan in New York.





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CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK reviewed by The Village Voice

Updated April 30, 2009


Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories
Gabrielle Bell
Drawn & Quarterly

Gabrielle Bell's deftly drawn and perceptively written tales may not always take place in New York (certainly not the ones set in a Northern California hardscrabble post-hippie community), but they definitely evoke classic New Yorker short stories by the likes of Ann Beattie and Lorrie Moore. Bell crystallizes twentysomething angst so well that you want to put your arm around her characters and assure them that everything's going to be just fine, even though you suspect otherwise. You hardly notice how much emotional information Bell crams oh so deftly into her work until you hit something like the page in "I Feel Nothing" that telescopes an entire doomed relationship into nine wordless panels. The book's 34-page centerpiece, "Felix," has as much to say about both the contemporary art world as about the hopes and fears of its art-student protagonist.
 
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  CECIL AND JORDAN IN NEW YORK reviewed by Newsarama

Updated April 30, 2009


Cecil and Jordan in New York
Written & Illustrated by Gabrielle Bell
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

The latest collection of short fiction by Gabrielle Bell, Cecil and Jordan in New York shows noticeable maturity and confidence in comparison to Bell’s earlier works. The comics here are assured and precise, blending the naturalism of Bell’s “young people in the city” settings with a running thread of surreality – a young woman becomes, literally, a piece of furniture to feel more valuable, and a towering giant dominates a relationship with another young woman.

Most of the stories have coherent themes tying everything together, but there’s also a sameness that leaves all of the stories jumbled together in the reader’s mind after finishing the book. The recurring presence of young adults, mostly women, unsure of their place in the world, at school, in a relationship, in a workplace leaves a vague sense of sameness to the entire affair.

As an artist, Bell’s work is solid, in both color and in black and white. She imbues each scene with a quiet normalcy, with stiff but functional backgrounds that keep each scene grounded in the moment Bell’s trying to portray. She’s adept at moving the camera around to keep the page engaging and lively.

Overall, Cecil and Jordan in New York is a solid effort, but readers who aren’t fans of Bell or similar mundane slice-of-life comics aren’t likely to find this book changing their mind.
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CECIL AND JORDAN reviewed by The Comics Reporter

Updated April 21, 2009


April 20, 2009

CR Review: Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell

Creator: Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell
Publishing Information: Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, March 2009, 152 pages, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781897299579 (ISBN13)

It's fun to take a step back now that we're a decade or so into comics more-concerted push into film as a feeder art form and take a summary look at the medium's current influence with cinema. Unsurprisingly, comics in film sort of looks like comics itself. For far too many people, comics in the movies means superhero comics in the movies. In that arena, Marvel seems to be pressing forward with DC following, with Batman being the sole exception. No on really knows what to do with Wonder Woman. There seems to be an unconscious effort by multiple actors to get fans on board with each and every company 's pressing need to make money, no matter how this might work out -- or not -- for individual creators. Scattered success stories elsewhere are largely ignored, even when they're artistically fruitful. The end result is that comics seems a long way from having the more complex relationship to the film industry that prose and theater enjoy: an open-ended relationship that involves mining characters and properties to a certain extent but also allows room for bringing potentially useful voices into the creative fold.

Of all the cartoonists and comics creators with an opportunity to make that sort of impression in television and film in the years ahead, one of the most compelling is Gabrielle Bell. Bell's four-page "Cecil and Jordan In New York" has been adapted by Bell and director Michel Gondry into Gondry's segment of the omnibus film Tokyo!, which began a run in the art house circuit last month. A lot of press was done in support of the movie, Bell was involved, and the extent of her creative contribution sounds significant. She not only worked on the adaptation but, drawing on information made in various asides, looked at locations, assisted in casting and was a presence in the director's ear during filming. This is interesting in that Bell's strengths as a young cartoonist tend to be revealed in smaller, more immediate choices on the page. The specificity of detail in Bell's stories may help makes them universal. Their conceptual strength may help make them appealing. But it's the specificity of her creative choices on the page that helps make her formidable.

A new collection of Bell's comic work, Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories By Gabrielle Bell, also arrived this Spring. It contains the title story adapted for the short film and features more of her earliest short-story comics than it seems to the looser, autobiographical work by which she made her initial impression in comics circle. Included is a story that on reflection was almost certainly informed on some level by the beginnings of a relationship Bell enjoyed with Gondry. It may be the ambition and reach on display, but something about the collection feels more open and engaging than the stories did when they appeared individually, or in other efforts to bring Bell's work to a wider audience. Patterns begin to emerge.

There are a variety of gradations in narrative tone throughout the collection. This matches several tweaks in visual approach, slight variations story to story, particularly when it comes to how the cartoonist employs shading but also in how the staging of her figures. As handsomely designed as just about anything D&Q does these days, this grouping of Bell's comics has been rightly lauded for their tone, their attention to emotional nuance and for the snapshot they provide of urban isolation leavened by moments of strangeness. My primary interest, however, is that they're executed in a resoundingly professional and even occasionally thrilling manner. A second look at the material provided by this new volume suggests a cartoonist whose specific artistic choices testify to a more restless creativity than communicated in paeans stressing age and outlook and shared experience. There's a genuine, idiosyncratic artistic sensibility at work that animates the material past the cartoonist's initial choices. Like the best comics, it's hard to boil the work down, difficult to summarize why it works. Bell does things that surprise the reader. Several such moments exist throughout this book, focusing and perhaps even diverting slightly the more concerted flow of the main narrative of which they're a part.




April 20, 2009


CR Review: Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell

image

Creator: Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell
Publishing Information: Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, March 2009, 152 pages, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781897299579 (ISBN13)

It's fun to take a step back now that we're a decade or so into comics more-concerted push into film as a feeder art form and take a summary look at the medium's current influence with cinema. Unsurprisingly, comics in film sort of looks like comics itself. For far too many people, comics in the movies means superhero comics in the movies. In that arena, Marvel seems to be pressing forward with DC following, with Batman being the sole exception. No on really knows what to do with Wonder Woman. There seems to be an unconscious effort by multiple actors to get fans on board with each and every company 's pressing need to make money, no matter how this might work out -- or not -- for individual creators. Scattered success stories elsewhere are largely ignored, even when they're artistically fruitful. The end result is that comics seems a long way from having the more complex relationship to the film industry that prose and theater enjoy: an open-ended relationship that involves mining characters and properties to a certain extent but also allows room for bringing potentially useful voices into the creative fold.

Of all the cartoonists and comics creators with an opportunity to make that sort of impression in television and film in the years ahead, one of the most compelling is Gabrielle Bell. Bell's four-page "Cecil and Jordan In New York" has been adapted by Bell and director Michel Gondry into Gondry's segment of the omnibus film Tokyo!, which began a run in the art house circuit last month. A lot of press was done in support of the movie, Bell was involved, and the extent of her creative contribution sounds significant. She not only worked on the adaptation but, drawing on information made in various asides, looked at locations, assisted in casting and was a presence in the director's ear during filming. This is interesting in that Bell's strengths as a young cartoonist tend to be revealed in smaller, more immediate choices on the page. The specificity of detail in Bell's stories may help makes them universal. Their conceptual strength may help make them appealing. But it's the specificity of her creative choices on the page that helps make her formidable.

imageA new collection of Bell's comic work, Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories By Gabrielle Bell, also arrived this Spring. It contains the title story adapted for the short film and features more of her earliest short-story comics than it seems to the looser, autobiographical work by which she made her initial impression in comics circle. Included is a story that on reflection was almost certainly informed on some level by the beginnings of a relationship Bell enjoyed with Gondry. It may be the ambition and reach on display, but something about the collection feels more open and engaging than the stories did when they appeared individually, or in other efforts to bring Bell's work to a wider audience. Patterns begin to emerge.

There are a variety of gradations in narrative tone throughout the collection. This matches several tweaks in visual approach, slight variations story to story, particularly when it comes to how the cartoonist employs shading but also in how the staging of her figures. As handsomely designed as just about anything D&Q does these days, this grouping of Bell's comics has been rightly lauded for their tone, their attention to emotional nuance and for the snapshot they provide of urban isolation leavened by moments of strangeness. My primary interest, however, is that they're executed in a resoundingly professional and even occasionally thrilling manner. A second look at the material provided by this new volume suggests a cartoonist whose specific artistic choices testify to a more restless creativity than communicated in paeans stressing age and outlook and shared experience. There's a genuine, idiosyncratic artistic sensibility at work that animates the material past the cartoonist's initial choices. Like the best comics, it's hard to boil the work down, difficult to summarize why it works. Bell does things that surprise the reader. Several such moments exist throughout this book, focusing and perhaps even diverting slightly the more concerted flow of the main narrative of which they're a part.

image* in "Cecil and Jordan in New York," the story of a girl that becomes a chair is supported by a color palette that brightens as Cecil finds satisfaction in her new life as a chair. Colors further suggest relationships character to character, and who is an amenable partner for whom. This is crucial because of how late in the narrative the transformation takes place, which shifts the onus from the practical details of that occurrence and into their more general meaning in the course of Cecil's life.

* in "I Feel Nothing," there's an impressive sequence where the protagonist thinks through the implications of a decision regarding a neighbor. This is shocking because it's a complete reversal of the narrative's focus to that point. Bell then underlines this shift by depicting the actual run of events that follow the protagonist's decision far past the point where many authors might have ended their story.

* the dance of physical proximity on a sofa that concludes "Year of the Arowana" is one of the showier set pieces in the collection, but on a second look it's a compelling blend of body language and post-dated narration that works against what you're seeing. The way Bell teases the last line into the situation means we end on uncertainty that challenges everything we've seen so far.

* in an adaptation of Kate Chopin's "The Story Of An Hour" called "One Afternoon," Bell digs into that story's most famous moment (the main character feels free when she learns of her husband's death) through a one-page sequence where the protagonist tosses and turns in a way that subtly suggests a change in physical perspective regarding ordinary circumstances that mirrors the emotional awakening. Played with less subtlety, the entire story might have been capsized. Then, as is the case with "I Feel Nothing," Bell repeats the effect in a more standard reverie on the page following in way that serves to heighten the effect of the key passage.

* in "Felix," the active plot progression is supported by several near-hypnotic -- and by some cartoonists' professed outlooks completely unnecessary -- sequences in which the title character moves from one place to another, gearing himself up for whatever encounter is about to take place, stepping outside of himself in a way that proximity to others seems to rarely allow. What other cartoonists might have skipped over altogether become a crucial window into understanding how he and his tutor relate to one another, and how he sees the world in a broader fashion.

* shifting perspectives dominate "My Affliction," including a few where we look right at the character and I think only one where we see the dreamlike story unfold from her perspective. The shifts underline the humor at the length and elaborate ridiculousness of the dream story, the emotional up and downs detailed and almost embarrassing incidental detail brought to bear.

* in "Summer Camp," one of the collection's more universally evocative stories, our lead briefly runs away to a summer camp after latching onto the positives of last summer's experience and comparing them to the misery of school. The fact that summer camp is still out there somewhere, and the thought it might offer some of the same comforts year-round that it does for a few days between grades, is something that has to have occurred to a lot of children. Bell's depiction of the dissolute-looking physical plant and the events that follow is practically festooned with sublime, minor-key touches. Two of the best are the oddly powerful and specific way Bell describes her character's semi-epiphany during the time she spent there, and the humorous glaring and grumbling in which she engages when the adults that locate her don't take her directly home.

In a popular culture dominated in many ways by film and from within a medium whose industry seems even more merrily dominated than most, it's exciting to watch someone who might have those opportunities that's fully engaged in the creative process, someone whose work with smaller moments is as important to the final result as something you could bring into a pitch meeting. Gabrielle Bell's comics don't just offer an interesting character, or central idea, or even a unique texture (something about comics' contribution to film that's also underrated). Bell's best comics are well executed, too, sometimes oddly so, and nearly always her choices bring to the reader a stronger overall artistic experience. That's a rare gift, and it's one that as a comics reader I don't mind sharing with as many media as Bell would care to explore.






 
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  CECIL AND JORDAN in NY Magazine's Vulture Blog

Updated April 17, 2009


Love and Art in New York City: Exclusive Comics Excerpt From Gabrielle Bell’s Cecil and Jordan
4/16/09 at 12:00 PM

If a world-famous painter asked you to give drawing lessons to his 12-year-old son, what would you do? Brooklyn cartoonist Gabrielle Bell tells stories of lost women and confused girls, casting about for connection in a world that often ignores them. Sometimes her stories follow the logic of dreams; sometimes they are brutally realistic. First published in MOME, Kramers Ergot, and elsewhere, Gabrielle Bell's short stories have been collected for the first time in Cecil and Jordan in New York, out this month from Drawn & Quarterly.

Vulture's Comics Page is proud to present an exclusive eight-page excerpt from Cecil and Jordan in New York, a collection of short graphic stories by Gabrielle Bell.


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Cecil and Jordan in New York reviewed in Anthem Magazine

Updated April 16, 2009


04/07/09
Gabrielle Bell Tells Us About Her Life

Text: Nik Mercer

One of our favorite comic artists, Gabrielle Bell, has been a busy girl recently. Back when she was dating director Michel Gondry, the London-born, NYC-dwelling graphic novelist co-penned Interior Design with the auteur as part of the wonderful Tôkyô! trilogy and produced Kuruma Tohrimasu, a collection of drawings, with the man as well. Because of her non-film work, we've unfortunately not seen all that much illustrated work.

That's changing now, though: Drawn & Quarterly just dropped a new anthology of her short story work entitled Cecil and Jordan In New York Stories. (The title tale is actually what Interior Design is based off of.)

As usual, Bell crafts her episodes with a delicate yet sparse ink line, an autobiographical tone veiled by a subtle surrealism ("Cecil and Jordan," for example, revolves around a woman who morphs herself, by will, into a chair), and a simple curiosity that is enthralling to engage in. Bell reads like your melancholic, soft-spoken bohemian friend who's into beat poetry and classic foreign films.

One of the most exciting aspects of the book is Bell's distinctly improved technical abilities. She plays around with color for what the first time, experiments with different line qualities, and aims for a precision that's still markedly hand-drawn but not quite as wobbly.

Buy Cecil and Jordan In new York Stories
 
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  GABRIELLE BELL interviewed by Newsarama

Updated February 27, 2009


Comics
Talking With Gabrielle Bell About Cecil and Jordan
By Michael C. Lorah
posted: 11 December 2008
NEWSARAMA


True-to-life comics work best when the author has experiences to draw from, and Gabrielle Bell has had lots to work with. Fortunately for readers of anthologies such as Kramer’s Ergot and Mome, as well as fans of her own solo work, Bell’s chosen to share her experiences via comics.

With two Ignatz Awards (Most Outstanding Minicomic, 2003; Most Outstanding Short Story, 2007) on her shelf and several well-received collections – 2003’s When I’m Old and 2006’s Lucky – she’s firmly established as one of the must-watch creators in the industry.

Her next collection, Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell from Drawn and Quarterly, collects eleven tales of young adults looking for their place in the world, romantically, professionally and personally. Troopering through a cold, she took time to answer questions about the new book.

Newsarama: Gabrielle, all of the stories in Cecil and Jordan in New York been published before in various anthologies, correct?

Gabrielle Bell: Yes. It’s really my best work. While I was working on Lucky, I was doing short pieces for anthologies and Lucky was sort of a side thing. The anthology pieces were what I really put everything into.

NRAMA: There’s a nice mix of fiction and autobiographical stories in here.

GB: Semi-autobiographical.

NRAMA: Right. You seem to have back-loaded this collection with the autobiographical stories; there are four consecutive stories about women who share your name.

GB: Yeah, those are pretty autobiographical.

NRAMA: The other stories then are semi-autobiographical, with strong elements of fiction in them?

GB: Yeah.

NRAMA: After working Lucky, was fiction something you want to do more of now?

GB: Well, I’ve been doing fiction for a long time now too. My first book, When I’m Old, was a lot of fiction. I’ve been working on fiction stories all along; it’s really the kind of fiction that draws on autobiography, so I don’t really always draw the line or define a story as one or the other completely.

There’s definitely something I’m doing differently between Lucky and these short stories. In a short story, even if everything “happened” in the story, there’s still a certain fictional aspect. Like maybe rearranging the order of events to make it more dramatic. But in Lucky, even if things are changed around a little, I’d be more inclined to call it autobiography.

NRAMA: Most of the stories were very realistic, you could clearly see them happening to a person. Except two stories, “My Affliction” and “Cecil and Jordan in New York,” which both having almost a parable quality to them. Why did you approach those stories in that manner?

GB: It’s hard to say. I wasn’t really making a conscious choice. The chair story, “Cecil and Jordan,” a friend of mine, actually the girl Cecil is based on, gave me the idea. I needed to do a story for Kramer’s Ergot, and while I was fishing around for ideas, she offered up that story. I tried it and sort of expanded it, and it seemed to work out. I wasn’t trying to do something magical.


Cecil and Jordan, page 12
ENLARGE IMAGE
And then “My Affliction” came from a writing exercise that I was doing. Actually, I was doing an experiment with my left hand, because I’d had a right-hand injury at that time. I was just scripting comics with my left hand and going where they seemed to take me. There were a lot of aborted attempts and things that didn’t really work out, but that story was not only drawn with my left hand, but also written with my left hand, which seems to have a different tone.

NRAMA: That’s interesting. I’ve never thought to try something left-handed to see how it affects the tone.

GB: Yeah. I didn’t think of it that way. Clearly, it affects the tone of drawing, but in retrospect, it affected the tone of my writing too.

NRAMA: The character Cecil is in two stories, “Cecil and Jordan in New York” and “Helpless,” although she behaves differently in each story. When you say that a lot of your fiction has semi-autobiographical elements, do characters like Cecil serve as something of a stand-in to capture aspects of your life?

GB: Cecil is sort of a stand-in for a friend of mine, actually. But it’s not really how she is. In “Cecil and Jordan,” I’m portraying her as shy and sort of shrinking. In “Helpless” I have her as very aggressive and totally bold, not shy at all. I think she’s got both of those in her, a combination of the two. And there’s other things going on too.

NRAMA: Each story can only capture so many facets of a person, sure. On the subject of “Helpless,” I’m always interested in how creators work music into their characters’ lives when the music is obviously something important to that character. Since comics are silent, it’s not really a natural fit, so I was curious about your approach to that story and why you framed it around a song.

GB: I didn’t think about that. Generally, I try to stay away from music in comics, because it doesn’t work. In movies, it works; it’s really magical, because there’s this quality to music that creates an emotion that you can’t recreate by just writing down the lyrics.

Even in this comic, she’s playing the guitar, but she’s not very good. So it’s more depicting that she’s not very good. She gets halfway through the first line and has to pause because she can’t keep up with the strumming and changing of the chords.

NRAMA: So in this case, it becomes more about her than the music?

GB: Yeah, and the words of the song. Music, I don’t think it’s the best thing to do; unless you’re a really good artist who can portray the feeling of music. But even then there’s this whole other part of the body that’s experiencing comics.

NRAMA: Most of the stories are in black and white. A few are in color. Was there any rhyme or reason to that, or were the color choices made because of the original anthology publication?

GB: I think it had a lot to do with where it was originally published. The long one, “Felix,” they asked me to do it in color. And Kramer’s, they said I could publish in color as well. I’m not that partial to color, but it seems that as a cartoonist, you don’t have a lot of opportunities to experiment with it, so you take it when you can.


Cecil and Jordan, page 29
ENLARGE IMAGE
NRAMA: You colored everything yourself, Gabrielle?

GB: Yes. It’s so time-consuming. I’d rather spend the time creating the story. I’m more interested in the story than the art usually.

NRAMA: One thing I find interesting about autobiographical and semi-autobiographical storytelling is like you said about Cecil, one story she’s shy, the next she’s outgoing. You’re only seeing things from a certain angle, one set up to serve the particular story being told. Is it hard to balance the different facets of a person and remain focused on the part of them that drives the story?

GB: No. I try to be true to the character as much as I can. I don’t want to make a person look bad, but I try to create characters. The real person that the character might or might not be based on is not really them to me. They’re just somebody that I drew from. And I draw from other people, so it’s more like a composite character. The character becomes this other person once it’s on the page, and it becomes more about what would this character do rather than what that person did.

NRAMA: Okay, Gabrielle, if somebody’s flipping through your book on the shelf or in a bookstore and they stop on one story. Which one do you want them to read to convince them to pick up the book?

GB: Are you asking what my favorite child is?

NRAMA: I guess I am.

GB: It’s really hard to say, because I cannot read them objectively. I’m quite proud of “Hit Me,” and “Cecil and Jordan” I’m proud of, partly because it’s visually appealing. I’m proud of them all for different reasons than why another person might like them. “One Afternoon,” where the woman thinks her husband died, was the first comic I made that felt like a real comic, not like something that looked like a comic. I can’t quite explain why, but there is something very important about that one to me.

“My Affliction” is pretty entertaining, though if you’re just flipping through the book, and maybe you want to read something that will make you laugh.

NRAMA: Any plugs, Gabrielle?

GB: I’m working on another group of stories that will probably be interconnected, and another issue of Lucky. That’s about it, two different sides of my brain. Fiction and more Lucky.
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GABRIELLE BELL interview with the Daily Cross Hatch, pt 4

Updated September 4, 2008


Interview: Gabrielle Bell Pt. 4 [of 4]
Brian Heater
DAILY CROSS HATCH
19aug08


The final story in the latest issue of Lucky stands quietly aside from the rest of the book. “When I Was Eleven” follows the story of a young Gabrielle Bell so enamored with her experiences in summer camp the year before that she steals away from the day to day grinds that come with being an 11-year-old, opting to live out her days at the camp in the off-season.

It’s quiet, reflective, and arguably the most powerful piece in the book—in its own way, the story also goes a ways toward defining the grownup Bell who occupies the remainder of the issue.

As such, a discussion of the piece seemed an ideal place to close out our interview with the artist.


You describe the pieces in Lucky as being almost like blogging, in terms of their immediacy, but there’s a piece in the new issues called “When I was Eleven.”

Ah yes—I liked to sometimes include extra stuff like that, as well.

Did you just sort of stick in in at the end, or is the piece somehow consistent with the rest of the book?

Um, it’s not really consistent, but I happened to have this comic that sort of fit in with the book. I think it’s too much to blast the audience with pure autobiographical work.

But “When I was Eleven” is pretty autobiographical, no?

Yeah, it is.

Did something jump out about that story that made it something that you wanted to tell now, in the context of Lucky?

Well, an anthology asked me to submit a story, and I submitted that. They rejected it, so I ended up putting it in Lucky.

Have you ever considered collecting some of these stories from when you were much younger?

Um—that story and stories like that are going to be in upcoming collection, but I would like to do more of those stories, too. What do you think? Do you think I should?”

I do. That might actually be my favorite story in that issue.

Really, you think so?

Yeah. I understand reading it why it was an important moment in your life. I think it fits the context of the story in the sense that there are certain moments in our lives that we can point to that have made us who were are today.

Yeah.

Does this strike you as one such moment?

Possibly, yeah. I don’t know, there’s something about me always trying to escape. I remember, when I was in kindergarten, we were all walking in a line back to class. I think I was at the end or close to the end, and I started thinking, “why do we have to stand in this line?” So I sort of jumped out of the line and walked on my own. The other kids shouted at me and I got back into the line, because I was sort of shamed into it [laughs].

You were a little attempted non-conformist in kindergarten.

And then in that story, where I run away from home and I try to live in summer camp, it was a similar thing of my wanting to jump out of my expected life and go into the life I wanted. It’s that urge to step out of line. I think there’s always an urge in me to break free of my life. In that way, that story defines that a great deal. It was a very calculated attempt to break out of the life that was given to me [laughs]. And the thing is that you can’t just break out of it—you can’t just break free. You have to slowly work at it.

Are there any moments in your recent life that are sort of on-par with stepping out of line in kindergarten or escaping to a summer camp?

Good question—it’s getting harder and harder [laughs].

Doing something creative that you have full control over is sort of a manifestation of that though, right?

Yeah, doing comics is definitely a manifestation of that. I’ve been working slowly at it. I did decide to step out and do comics, but it’s still been a long, long process.

Do you think they speak more about you as a person than they did when you started? Have you gotten better at expressing yourself?

I think I express myself well enough. There is a this attitude with comics where you have to keep it like a comic, but I’ve really pulled away from that, I think. My comics don’t have to have punchlines. But there is still that tradition of lightness. I don’t let myself get too heavy with my autobio stuff. I keep doing light things because I don’t want to embarrass anyone or make anyone feel bad. And to be honest, I don’t want to embarrass myself or make myself look bad, which I think is to my detriment, when I look at people like Joe Matt or something.

Does the addition of humor make your personal expression more or less truthful?

It’s not like I’m hiding behind humor. It’s just one way at getting at the truth.

 
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  GABRIELLE BELL interview with the Daily Cross Hatch, pt 3

Updated September 4, 2008


Interview: Gabrielle Bell Pt. 3 [of 4]
Brian Heater
DAILY CROSS HATCH
12aug08


In this third part of our interview with Gabrielle Bell, we discuss the artist’s burgeoning solo career, years of anthology work, and the key differences between Lucky volumes one and two.

[Part One][Part Two]

You worked on a screenplay with Michel Gondry, recently. Is that the first time you’ve really separated your art from text?

Yeah. I think it’s harder to write screen, because in comics, I write things out in a storyboard kind of way.

You don’t storyboard your screenplays?

Well, I haven’t tried it yet. I’m really new at the screenwriting.

Can you talk about the projects that you’ve been working on, in that space?

Weeeeeell, let’s see. The screenplay for the short film that we did. Michel wrote most of it, and I wrote the ending. We sort of worked very closely on it. We threw out different ideas and went back and forth. And then I would go through it and try to clean out the awkward parts—sort of Americanize it, in a way, even though it’s a Japanese film. Then you have to go through the whole process of Japanesifying it [laughs]. And then I helped him to write another script. He wrote the whole thing, and then we went through it, line-by-line and talked about what worked and what didn’t, and what could be changed. We wrote that, but it’s still being reworked, again and again. The difference I guess is that, with comics, I’m the authority, but with this, someone else is the authority.

Is that your first real experience collaborating on a large scale?

Um, yeah. I don’t really like to collaborate that much [laughs]. I made an exception for Michel.

Was it difficult working with someone, especially when working on a pre-existing piece?

Sometimes it was difficult, and other times it was a great pleasure.

Did the difficulty lie in the inability to express your own voice in the work?

I guess the question of having it be a movie was the difficult part.

Creating something for other people to work with or just operating in a new medium?

Both. I guess it’s just really being out of my element, in movies. I know what works in comics, I don’t really know what works in film. In the first draft of the screenplay, I had people waterskiing in this brief dream sequence, and Michel said, “you can’t just write that in, do you know how expensive it is to have people waterskiing.” Or in another, I had someone playing a piano, which was a very big deal, bringing a piano into the room. In comics, you just draw a piano, or you just draw people waterskiing. In movies, you have to think about the physical possibilities. There are just so many logistics that I wasn’t quite familiar with. I’m a little more familiar with now.

It’s funny to hear that coming from Michel. I’d imagine that, on a whole, reading one of his scripts would be something of a logistical nightmare…

Yeah, but then there’s a lot of problem solving and a lot of hands-on approaches to things. He’s thinks about these things, beforehand.

Did you feel similarly out of your element when you first started working in comics?

Not really. Comics, especially alternative comics, have this sense that you can just invent your style as you go. I think I did feel a bit of pressure when I was starting to get noticed, and people started to give me feedback. There was a pressure to top myself that’s always there, but that’s a healthy pressure, I think.

Is there a big distinction in your mind, between the first and second volumes of Lucky?

Yeah, definitely. Volume One was sort of experimental. I was feeling things through.

Why did you split them, initially?

I didn’t really draw the line. I stopped doing Lucky for a while, and then at one point, I just wanted to pick it up again.

So, initially you set out with the intention of ending the series at three issues?

Yeah—actually, I can’t really remember if I had it in my head that I just wanted three issues.

How large of a gap did you leave between the two volumes?

I guess it must have been a couple of years. I was working on stuff for different anthologies.

What prompted the decision to go off and work on those more dissonant pieces?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision. It was more that a lot of anthologies were asking me to do different stuff, and I could never refuse, because I never like being left out [laughs]. I did the Drawn & Quarterly Showcase and Kramer’s Ergot and Mome.

Is there a marked difference between that work and what goes into Lucky?

Well those are short fictional stories, for the most part. And if they were ever autobiographical, they were very removed. They were very fictionalized accounts that were very removed.

Removed in terms of the time that occurred between the events and your writing?

Yeah. Lucky’s more immediate. I think of it kind of like blogging.
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GABRIELLE BELL interviewed by The Daily Cross Hatch, Part Two!

Updated August 5, 2008


Interview: Gabrielle Bell Pt. 2
By Brian Heater
THE DAILY CROSS HATCH
August 4, 2008

The diary strip has become a nearly ubiquitous form of expression in the world of alternative comics, and while there’s certainly something to be said for that old adage about writing what you know, it’s rare to come across an artist that breaks free from the pack.

Thanks in large part to her primarily autobiographical series, Lucky, Gabrielle Bell has managed to do just that, with oft introspective short stories that focus more on the power and humor of universal experiences than the pursuit of extraordinary circumstances.

In this second part of our interview with the author, we discuss the ups and downs of autobiography and the role that the Internet has played in Bell’s storytelling.

[Part One]

Are autobiographical comics inherently self-indulgent?

I think you need to evaluate that on a case by case basis.

Were you reading other strips in that style when you first went ahead with Lucky?

Not really in any consistent way.

Not with the intention of influencing your work?

Well, like I said, I’ve been doing diary comics since way before I knew that other people were doing them. Perhaps it was other people doing them that gave me the courage to do them myself.

You mentioned working on pieces that you had no intention of ever releasing. Are those diary strips?

No. I think it’s sort of the difference between a diary strip and a personal journal or essay. Lucky sort of started out as diary strips, recounting something that had happened. But even then I was selecting themes to bring out, because there is always an element of storytelling. Nowadays it does seem like a diary, but I’m really looking for something else. I like diary strips, too, but I’m really trying to bring stories out of them.

The “Myspace” story in the new Lucky is certainly more fantastic than just straight diary. Is that an area that you’re interested in pursuing further?

In that case, it’s more of a personal essay. It’s starts as a diary, because something will happen and I’ll write about it, but that’s more of a launching pad. I like that kind of stuff very much. I’m always aiming for stuff like that, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

You’re looking for less straightforward methods for telling the same story.

Well, I guess the idea is my being addicted to the Internet, which I guess is something that people struggle with, nowadays. I was just making a story around that.

Having you being working with the Internet much, in terms of the comics that you’re creating?

I use it a lot for general research, but I actually don’t use the Internet very well [laughs]. I was reading an article about the way the Internet affects the way we read—I guess it sort of proves his point that I couldn’t read the whole article—but it was about how we read and look at some things here and there and go from link to link and skim things. We don’t really read whole articles. Our concentration is very fragmented. It affects the ways that we read books and magazines. Most people are reading less. I think that I never really learned how to read in that fragmentary way, because I still read novels.

That’s interesting, because most of the pieces in Lucky are only a couple of pages.

Yeah, well, it takes me a long time. I wish I could write a graphic novel. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing for people to jump from subject to subject and skim links. Our attention is divided up. We can be reading an article and checking our e-mail at the same time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it’s a good skill. Unforuntately, I don’t have it.

Multi-tasking.

Researching and reading on the computer and the Internet.

Is it the lack of technical savvy or more an investment in the physical format that sees so much of your work coming out in print?

Well, I don’t really read a lot of comics on the Internet myself. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it. Maybe I’m just getting old [laughs].

[Continued in Part Three]

–Brian Heater
 
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  GABRIELLE BELL interviewed by The Daily Cross Hatch

Updated July 30, 2008


Interview: Gabrielle Bell Pt. 1
By Brian Heater
THE DAILY CROSS HATCH
July 29, 2008

In the decade or so since she first began distributing her work through the standard channels of black and white photocopied minis, Gabrielle Bell has fairly quickly become one of the more beloved autobiographical cartoonists in alternative comics, thanks in large part to her long-running, recently revived title, Lucky, which captures the life of a 20-something artist with frankness and unexpected humor.

In 2003, Bell moved from the Bay Area to Brooklyn. She’s appeared in a number of popular of anthologies like Fantagraphics’ Mome, and in 2006, Drawn & Quarterly began publishing Lucky, beginning with a hardbound collection of the title’s first volume. Bell has also begun to dip her feet into filmmaking waters, working with with acclaimed filmmaker Michel Gondry. The first fruits of their labor, Interior Designs is an adaptation of a piece that Bell created for the Kramer’s Ergot anthology.

We sat down with Bell upon the release of the latest issue of Lucky to talk about craft, autobiography, and what winds up on the cutting room floor.


Looking at the new Lucky [Vol. 2 # 2] versus some earlier issues, it seems like the text has become a bit more sparse, even as the becomes more detailed. Do you feel like you’ve shifted your focus at all?

Oh sure, yeah. The text has gotten shorter, you think?

Certainly in parts.

I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily changed my focus. I just feel like I’m trying to refine my craft. Lucky is—actually, with most of my comics—I don’t have too much loyalty to consistency. I’m more interested in holding my point-of-view. Maybe that’s why I tend not to commit to longer works. Comics are so unwieldy, and I still have a lot to learn from doing short works.

When you say “honing your craft,” are you speaking mostly about the art itself?

Well, the writing too—the two together. Art as storytelling, for example.

At what point did the two come together for you?

Um, I don’t know—probably 12 or 14 years ago. I mean, they’re the two things that I like to do the most, so it made sense to try comics.

Had you not stumbled into the world of alternative comics, do you think you might have attempted to combine the two by some other means?

Possibly. It’s hard to say. It’s hard to try to look at the past and predict things like that. I don’t think it would have been possible not to have discovered the world of alternative comics, at some point or another. It was much too in my line of view. There’s no way I could have missed it.

In terms of consistency—which you said before wasn’t of utmost importance to you—what sorts of themes hold Lucky together as a cohesive piece? What keeps you going on that specific title?

[Pauses] I think the sorts of issues that I deal with translate very well to comics. There are going to be stories to tell, as long as I live. And I know that it’s not for everyone, but there’s always going to be an audience, too.

Is there anything specific to your own experiences that makes for an interesting read, or is it more dependent on your abilities as a storyteller?

I have to say, I think it’s more dependent on my abilities as a storyteller. But I try to look for things that people can relate to, rather than things that are interesting for their own sake.

Were you doing a lot of autobiographical work, prior to Lucky?

Some, yeah. They weren’t really being published, though, but I did do a lot of autobiographical short stories. Lucky came more from a diary. It was shaped into a story.

Were you hesitant to work on something so personal? Is that why a lot of it went unreleased for a while?

Yeah, that is a tricky thing, respecting people’s privacy. You have to be very careful with stuff like that. Now I think was just trying to refine my storytelling and find my voice.

So it was more about the privacy of others than your being afraid to put yourself out there?

A lot of it had to do with the fact that I wasn’t sure if the work was good enough. I think that before you release anything, you have to practice at it, for a while, and in order to fully open yourself up and be true to a story, I think you kind of have to do it privately for a while. If you sit down and think that everything is going to be published, it’s going to inhibit your creativity, a little bit.

Was there a point for you when it was clear that your work was publishable, or did you ultimately just want to get it out there?

Well, I think it’s more of the latter. I just wanted to start getting stuff out there. But I definitely do comics with intention of publishing them and others with the intention of not publishing. Sometimes I do comics that are sort of in-between and I think that maybe I could publish it, and then when I finish, I realize that it’s not publishable. And then there’s a lot of stuff that just ends up on the cutting room floor.

Are there any consistent things that come up which make works unpublishable?

Generally it’s just because it’s not interesting enough, or it just embarrasses me, in one way or another. Usually when I do Lucky, there will be several more pages that I don’t release, because they’re just kind of boring. The comic could really be twice as many pages. I kind of have to weed through stuff I’ve written down and comics I’ve done. It’s not necessarily that the most interesting things that happen get published—there are a lot of personal and sentimental things that I write.

The personal and sentimental do or don’t make the cut?

I think that they do. It really just comes down to instinct. The themes are often my shyness or alienation—disconnenction from others. I think that everyone has those feelings, but sometimes I feel like I’m being redundant or hammering the point too much, so I’ll leave stuff out for that reason.

[Continued in Part Two.]
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




LUCKY VOL. 2, #2 reviewed by The Daily Cross Hatch

Updated July 23, 2008


THE DAILY CROSS HATCH

Lucky Vol. 2 Issue 2 By Gabrielle Bell
17 July 08

Lucky Vol. 2 Issue 2
By Gabrielle Bell
Drawn & Quarterly

What makes your life so damned interesting? It’s one of those key questions that has steadily devolved into cliché, over the years, something that every artist flirting with autobiographical modes of expression must ask themselves, a question that will no doubt be repeated ad naseum with every subsequent interview and public appearance, a phenomenon that seems to go double in the world of independent comics, where autobiography is very nearly the default form of narrative structure. For those who have led lives chalk full of extraordinary circumstances, the answer is clear. For the vast majority of us, things are decidedly less cut and dry.

Until recently, perhaps—with her large-scale acclaim in the comics medium and forthcoming forays into the world of film—Gabrielle Bell largely occupied the latter category, leading a fairly typical existence as a young artist, bouncing around various big cities. It’s a life that carries over into this second volume of her largely autobiographical series, Lucky. This second issue is a collection of vignettes whose subject matter really deviates from the sorts of goings-on to which, one expects, a large portion of her readership can directly relate. Any atypical experiences, like, say, co-scripting a film with Michel Gondry, largely occur outside 8.5 x 5.5 card stock that envelops the book.

Such narrative modesty proves a wise decision on Bell’s part, never straying too far from the everyday—oft internal—struggles that defined its predecessors. And while it will doubt be fascinating to watch her sometimes introverted protagonist confront that mythological beast, Hollywood, should she pen her own seemingly inevitable version of Our Movie Year several issues down the line, the author clearly still has ample fodder to mine from more seemingly banal topics.

Unlike Pekar, that spiritual forefather to every subsequent work of graphic autobiography that has dabbled in the mundane, however, Bell’s magic doesn’t always rely solely on life’s in-between moments. Rather she often opts to let her visuals paint their own truths, be it through overly literal translations of a friend’s story that she’s chosen to reappropriate, or fantastical graphic depictions of one of her own otherwise straightforward tales, like her struggle to wean herself off of Myspace, which culmitnates with a panel in which the author is stabbing her page’s physical personification (ostensibly stabbing herself) in the chest, whilst dousing a wall of flames in the hall it occupies with a canister of gasoline.

The book’s other highlights seemingly occupy the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Bell’s storytelling is oft at its best when at its most quiet and internally reflective. The most powerful moments of “When I was Eleven,” a brief childhood aside that closes out the book, occur in a handful of largely wordless panels that make up much of the story’s midsection. Narration would have no doubt seemed a touch overbearing, juxtaposed with the emotionally powerful silent images of a young Bell walking alone through an autumn leaf-covered summer camp.

It’s a lesson Bell demonstrates that she has happily learned at various moments in the latest issue of Lucky, which, while growing more complex visually—thanks in no small part to Bell’s far more confident lines and newfound affinity for shading—regularly finds the author more confident working with fewer words. As Bell’s visual style has come more into its own, she has proven herself more and more willing to let it relieve her text of much of its storytelling load. It’s Bell’s increasing mastery in the delicate balance of these two sometimes opposing forces that make even the most banal moments of her life so incredibly readable.

–Brian Heater
 
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Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

           Featured product

Lucky, Volume 2 #2




  GABRIELLE BELL interviewed by AM New York

Updated July 22, 2008



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Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

           Featured product

Lucky, Volume 2 #2




LUCKY and EXIT WOUNDS on Heeb's Best Of list

Updated September 20, 2007


1. Nick Bertozzi, The Salon (St. Martin's Press)
2. Bryan Talbot, Alice in Sunderland (Dark Horse)
3. Walt Holcombe, Things Just Get Away From You (Fantagraphics)
4. Bob Fingerman Recess Pieces (Dark Horse)
5. Allison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Houghton Mifflin)
6. Kim Deitch, Alias the Cat (Pantheon)
7. Gabrielle Bell, Lucky (Drawn & Quarterly)
8. Douglas Rushkoff and Liam Sharp, Testament (Vertigo)
9. Rutu Modan, Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly)
10. Harvey Pekar, Dean Haspiel & Friends, American Splendor: Another Day (Vertigo)
 
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Featured artists

Gabrielle Bell
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Lucky (hardcover)
Exit Wounds




  LUCKY Vol. 2 # 1 reviewed by The Comics Reporter

Updated September 6, 2007


Lucky vol. 2 #1
Gabrielle Bell
Sept 5, 2007
THE COMICS REPORTER

Aside from issues of quality regarding the work itself, Gabrielle Bell's entry into the slowly revitalizing alternative periodical market makes for one attractive publishing package. It's small enough to make for an intimate reading experience without losing detail, it's attractively designed, and it's stuffed with comics of sufficient enough narrative density that it demands a fully engaged reading experience -- in other words, there's no way you could read it in the store -- all for a reasonable price by today's standards. If something of this obvious quality came out once a week from at least one of the alt-comix publishers, the one-time every-Wednesday customer base for such comics might even be restored.

Bell splits her book between an autobiographical story and a fantastic, dream-like tale -- in fact, it may actually be a dream, I'm not certain. The diary comics are dated up top and follow Bell through a comics art show (SPX, I'm guessing, complete with a trip on the Chinatown bus) and a performance related visit to Canada. I found this material to be much more potent on a panel to panel basis than some of Bell's earlier works. She's worked richer blacks into a style I remember being dominated by the line work. The insights are frequently humorous, and a few of the epiphanies are downright lovely. I'll never for the life of me understand it when people make snotty calls for autobiographical comics to come solely from people who lead freak-show, outlandish lives consisting of drunken, sloppy adventures. I mean, I love those comics, too. I could even play a solid game of Comparative Escapades if I had to. But certainly sensitivity to what you're seeing, the skill with which an experience is related, or an insight into some aspect of the human condition are also factors that contribute to worthwhile art. I don't know how they'll be printed for posterity, but I liked those stories' inclusion here. It feels like Bell is working to improve, pushing through a variety of storytelling strategies, trying on comics for size.

This is true in the second story as well, the kind of comic that you used to see first generation alternative comics artists drop from subsequent collections short of "complete" volumes. "My Affliction" feels less assured but has its own noteworthy moments. I love an image of Bell sleeping on the floor of a closet, and the creepy yet still slightly endearing visual of Bell climbing into someone's lap, forcing intimacy onto at least two reluctant subjects. I'd read more stories like that one, although I can't help but think there's a greater end to come through the autobiography, off-hand critics be damned.
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky, Volume 2 #1




LUCKY Vol. 2 # 1 reviewed by CBR

Updated August 23, 2007


Lucky Vol. 2 #1 Review
Posted by Brian Cronin
August 23rd, 2007

The next volume of Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky series starts off with an interesting comic package. Most of the issue details Bell traveling with a power point presentation of a surreal comic book adventure called “My Affliction,” while the rest of the comic is “My Affliction,” giving the comic a wonderful mix between auto-biographical comics and a fantasy tale. Both halves of the book are quite good, making for a very nice comic book.

Bell’s depiction of her travails over first putting together her presentation on the computer, practicing her performance, and then actually going on the road and GIVING the performances is quite endearing, while also at the same time, illuminating into the inner workings of a independent comic book creator.

One of the most interesting scenes in the comic shows Bell “stealing copies” of her mini-comic at a print shop. She handles the manic nervousness beautifully.

Heck, manic nervousness describes much of the comic, and it is depicted quite well, from Bell worrying about missing her Chinatown bus to a show or her dwelling upon whether she is being too assertive (or rather, even making any sense) at a panel discussion.

Her artwork has a nice style to it, it is extremely detailed, while still maintaining a cartoony feel. It is actually pretty darn impressive, now that I think about it, as she manages to include all the little nice touches to scenes, like showing bottle accumulate on tables as time goes by during a performance. Such attention to detail is impressive.

The star of the comic to me, though, is most likely the comic that Bell was touring with, “My Affliction,” which is a bizarre tale of a giant who captures Bell and puts her in a cage, but the whole thing is basically a metaphor for poor decisions she has made in her lovelife with choosing men who are bad for her (my favorite bit is where she falls for a man because she owned his mynah bird for a time, so she was used to the man’s expressions via the mynah bird). It’s really a quite impressive look into Bell’s pysche, while at the same time, it still tells a cohesive adventure story - an extremely surreal one - but a cohesive one, nonetheless.

And you have to be impressed by a story that can actual draw pathos out of a rottweiler possibly being crushed by a rat trap.

Recommended.
 
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky, Volume 2 #1




  LUCKY reviewed by Mental Help

Updated August 22, 2007


Lucky
by Gabrielle Bell
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Aug 21st 2007



Lucky is a collection of three Lucky comic books chronicling Gabrielle Bell's life in 2003 and 2004 as she lives as a low-income artist in Brooklyn. Bell is in her twenties and has a boyfriend, Tom, and for the first issue, much of their time is spent dealing with roommates and finding apartments. Her drawing style is simple (reminiscent of Sally Forth) and she uses quite a few words. In issue #1, she gets 6 or 8 cells per page, while for issues #2 and #3, she increases the size of the cells so that there are just four per page, and often with less text. There are 3 short extra stories at the end.

Through the book, we see Bell's style developing, becoming bolder and more eye-catching. Her stories also develop: the initial focus on her relationship with her boyfriend and their search for an apartment may hold interest for other Brooklyn residents, but most people will find it rather tame. In issue, she depicts her visit to the Dia Center for the Arts, which is the county's largest modern art museum, and that's a little more interesting. Her visit to a yoga class is quite funny. Issue #3 has a story about her job teaching two 12-year-old French boys is maybe the strongest in the book, because it again funny and it is less about Bell and more about the family of the boys. There are only so many stories about the trials and tribulations of being an indie comic book artist living in Brooklyn that most of us want to read, and Adrian Tomine's latest collection has been explored some of that. Bell's work is pleasant and it has its own character, but it is on the bland side. Her work shows promise, and it's worth looking out for her future publications.
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Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




Wizard reviews Anders Nilsen and Gabrielle Bell's MoCCA panel

Updated June 26, 2007


[MoCCA] DRAWN AND POWER POINTEDLY
Creators Gabrielle Bell and Anders Nilsen talk about their latest Drawn and Quarterly releases and the events that inspired them

By Brian Warmoth
Posted June 25, 2007 12:45 PM

Two Drawn and Quarterly creators stepped up to the microphone to discuss their work Saturday at the 2007 MoCCA Art Festival. Both of their comics grew out of relationships, but the differences between the endings that inspired their stories, and the styles and personalities behind them, marked the wide spectrum of perspectives at work at one of comics’ largest indie publishers.

Seeming shy and a little giggly, writer-artist Gabrielle Bell, who was accompanied by fellow D&Q creator Anders Nilsen, presented a reading from her recent diary-style comic Lucky. She let the comic, and an enlisted friend, handle her stories’ loud noises and climactic moments of peril.

Bell showcased a story from Lucky #2 entitled “My Affliction,” which fantastically depicted a series of whimsically romantic relationships strung together and rhythmically punctuated by her main character being left behind to stumble upon someone new and begin another infatuation. The creator said that the story sprang from a major breakup.

“I would write one page a day and I would make it up as I went along,” Bell explained. “I used my dreams. Then, when I finished it, I re-did the whole thing just to make it have more continuity. I put in some foreshadowing, jokes and things like that.”

She referred to her first drafts of the comics as a “dress rehearsal,” which laid the groundwork for her rewrite, which extended the entire process to about 40 days by the time she concluded the book.

Nilsen followed Bell’s cheerfully optimistic romp with more sobering and contemplative slideshow, balancing out the panel with a look at his graphic novel Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, which collects letters, photos and other memories of his fiancée Cheryl, who died after a bout with cancer in 2005.

“The book is more or less a document of our life together,” he described, showing pictures and reading from correspondence he included.

Nilsen also showed scenes from his comic Big Questions, which he said he hopes to see collected later this year. The images consisted of satellite photos of the Earth that Nilsen captioned with drawings and text.

Both creators fielded questions following their readings about their work and backgrounds, including the value of formal education in their careers. “Gabrielle and I come from two different backgrounds in regards to that, because I did go to art school and did some comics in undergrad,” Nilsen responded. “[I found] that the instructors were very supportive of doing [comics], but they had very little to offer, so I ended up dropping out and doing it on my own.”

“You’re on your own,” Bell smiled. “It is changing,” she added, citing programs that are spouting up in art schools around the country.

Bell also responded to one audience member who noticed the looser lines she used in Lucky. Anders revealed that Bell had in fact done the book left-handed, “which is why the drawings are wobbly,” she added. “I had an injury at the time. It worked out well because it was shaky, but it was consistently shaky, whereas my right-handed drawing is slick but not as consistent,” Bell explained. Clearly, the lack of a functioning right hand didn’t stifle her creativity.
 
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Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow
Big Questions #9: The Lost and Found




  MOOMIN, LUCKY, CURSES and AYA in Punk Planet

Updated May 25, 2007


PUNK PLANET

click here to download the PDF (793.62 KB)


Featured artists

Gabrielle Bell
Tove Jansson
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book One
Lucky (hardcover)
Aya




LUCKY reviewed by Comics Worth Reading

Updated April 9, 2007


Graphic Novel Reviews
Johanna Draper Carlson
2007-04-06
LUCKY by Gabrielle Bell

Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky is a diary comic unlike most others. It’s the honest portrayal of life as a struggling artist, realized with unusual detail and subtlety. There have been plenty of those types of stories before, but Bell excels at involving the reader, making clear her feelings and the points behind what she chooses to include.

Even the introduction is in comic form, explaining key elements that went into the three minicomic issues reprinted here (with additional stories). As we begin, Bell lives in Brooklyn, working odd jobs and struggling to pay the bills in a series of rented rooms. Usually, these types of stories make me think “thank goodness that’s not me”, but in Bell’s case, it seems inspiring, even with all the challenges and sacrifices. After all, the experience produced this book, so it couldn’t have been that terrible.

The book’s roots as a series of minicomics are visible, but the panels are finely delineated. The art is clear and direct, as are the events, presented with a dry sense of humor. It’s hard to believe that this is drawn more quickly than her other work, given its precision and fine lines. It’s smoothly easy to read. The binding is handsome, with the feel of a diary in the hand due to its lightweight pebbled hardcover and photo album-like black spine and triangular corners.

The figures have simple faces, with dots instead of features, but they’re surprisingly effective. They have a sense of being caught at just the right moment while moving, providing a flow to their actions. As the book progresses, stories become longer, panels larger, and Bell begins using solid black areas to ground her figures. The subjects change from claustrophobic rooms to more external concerns, like displaying and selling art and attending a yoga class.

Throughout, there’s a sense of, not exactly optimism, but determination. Bell is influenced by Ariel Schrag (Potential), but these stories are more adult for all that they include much less sex and drugs. I could identify with her opening conundrum, balancing the need for solitude, from which artistic creation springs, with the desire to spend time with a loved one. These aren’t flashy, dramatic conflicts, but much more universal ones.

My favorite sequence comes late in the book, when Bell’s work as an artist’s assistant leads her to imagine potential futures: losing her own work in the more famous or eventually gaining valuable experience. This book shows that the latter has already happened.

Bell’s previous book was When I’m Old And Other Stories. An excerpt of Lucky is available online, and the publisher’s website has a PDF preview. Bell has been interviewed by Tom Spurgeon and Paul Gravett.
 
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




  SFist recommends Bell, Huizenga and Nilsen tour

Updated April 5, 2007


SFIST.COM
February 13, 2007
SFist Tonight

Catch Drawn & Quarterly cartoonists Gabrielle Bell (Lucky), Kevin Huizenga (Curses), and Anders Nilsen (Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow) at the Booksmith (1644 Haight St), the SF stop on their West Coast book tour. The cartoonists will be presenting a slide show of their work, answering questions and signing their latest D+Q releases. Kevin Huizenga's short story collection, Curses, promoted Huizenga as "one of the brightest, most interesting new comix authors to appear in the last five years" by Time.com. In drawings featuring a sly, understated line, Huizenga offers an insightful portrayal of life's mundane drudgery as well as its philosophical complexity. The lead character in many of Huizenga's stories is Glenn Ganges, a suburban everyman. Gabrielle Bell's Lucky chronicles the downs and outs of the hipster-artist lifestyle.
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




Seattle Weekly highlights Bell, Huizenga and Nilsen tour

Updated April 5, 2007


SEATTLE WEEKLY
Saturday 2/17
Graphic Art
Drawn & Quarterly

Despite the success of adult-themed graphic novels like the Pulitzer Prize--winning Maus and Craig Thompson's Blankets, a first-love story that won raves in 2003, going public about your love of graphic novels still might make you feel dorky and weird. (Unlike in Japan, where businessmen and schoolkids read manga on public transit, we seem to associate the graphic novel with neurotic collectors). Three artists from Montreal-based publishing house Drawn & Quarterly may hold the power to turn the reputation of the graphic novel around. Endearing N.Y.C. cartoonist Gabrielle Bell imparts her woes, wins, and daily happenings in Lucky, a collection of three editions that span one year from May 2003 to 2004. Whether she's chronicling her romantic struggles or the frustrations of paying the bills, the minimal text paired with the simple, sweet illustrations conveys more even than other more long-winded forms of literature. Anders Nilsen, the man behind the heartbreaking Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, evokes unavoidable swells of emotion as he takes the reader through his fiancée's losing battle with cancer via postcards, notes, drawings, and writings. And Kevin Huizenga's Curses twists the everyday tightly with the out-there, exploring territory that ranges from evil monkey hallucinations to hunting down a giant bird whose feathers hold the key to curing infertility. D&Q has sent these comic genuises out on the road together, spreading the gospel of the graphic novel to the masses.
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  Willamette week spotlights Bell, Huizenga and Nilsen tour

Updated April 5, 2007


WILLAMETTE WEEK
Drawn and Quarterly Artists at Reading Frenzy Tonight
February 15th 2007

Three comics authors with new releases from the excellent Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly will present their work at Reading Frenzy at 7 pm tonight. They're on a West Coast tour together, during which, I'm assuming, a lot of self-deprecating jokes are cracked and a lot of awesome portraits are drawn. Hopefully they're selling a lot of books, too, because all three artists are touring on some pretty nice work.

Kevin Huizenga's Curses finds the author's flagship character, Glenn Ganges, doing battle with starlings and (literally) fighting for his fertility. Huizenga's stories are understated and suprisingly well-researched, and his art maintains the simple elegance of a Sunday strip, while at the same time hinting at a vastness that extends far beyond the book's pages. It's deep stuff.

Anders Nilsen's new book, Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, is a heartbreaking mixed-media memoir that both ruined my day and inspired me to call my mom. It's short but dense, and really moving.

I haven't finished Gabrielle Bell's comic journal, Lucky, yet, so don't spoil it for me. She has a good observational sense of humor and the rare ability to translate those observations to ink without cluttering a page and confusing the eye.

Tonight's event is free, but plan on spending $15-20 per book. Reading Frenzy is at 921 SW Oak St.
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




SF Weekly makes Huizenga, Nilsen and Bell tour a top pick

Updated April 5, 2007


West Coast Slide Show & Discussion Tour
Tuesday, Feb. 13
Drawn Out

In his book Curses, Kevin Huizenga again dips into the life of Glenn Ganges, a suburban Everyman flirting with mythology and spirituality, who bears resemblance to Dagwood Bumstead. In one tale, he drifts into a 19th-century ghost story about hallucinatory visions brought on by green tea; in another, a trip to the mailbox turns into a meditation on the "Lost Boys of Sudan." The work is so alive you can picture it -- actually, it's hard not to. Curses is a collection of comics put out by Drawn & Quarterly, the influential home of artists like Charles Burns, Chris Ware, and Adrian Tomine. On the publisher's West Coast Slide Show & Discussion Tour, Huizenga appears with Anders Nilsen, whose Don't Go Where I Can't Follow features an intimate collection of drawings, letters, and photographs in memory of his fiancée, and Gabrielle Bell, who reveals a Brooklyn twentysomething life full of bad apartments, bad roommates, and bad jobs in Lucky. Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole) , San Francisco
 

Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  SFBG promotes Huizenga, Bell and Nilsen book tour

Updated April 5, 2007


San Francisco Bay Guardian
Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga, and Anders Nilsen

In his book Curses, Kevin Huizenga again dips into the life of Glenn Ganges, a suburban Everyman flirting with mythology and spirituality, who bears resemblance to Dagwood Bumstead. In one tale, he drifts into a 19th-century ghost story about hallucinatory visions brought on by green tea; in another, a trip to the mailbox turns into a meditation on the "Lost Boys of Sudan." The work is so alive you can picture it -- actually, it's hard not to. Curses is a collection of comics put out by Drawn & Quarterly, the influential home of artists like Charles Burns, Chris Ware, and Adrian Tomine. On the publisher's West Coast Slide Show & Discussion Tour, Huizenga appears with Anders Nilsen, whose Don't Go Where I Can't Follow features an intimate collection of drawings, letters, and photographs in memory of his fiancée, and Gabrielle Bell, who reveals a Brooklyn twentysomething life full of bad apartments, bad roommates, and bad jobs in Lucky. Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), San Francisco
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




East Bay Express mentions Bell, Huizenga and Nilsen tour

Updated April 5, 2007


Three for the Road
High-profile cartoonists bring their troubles to Comic Relief.
By Kelly Vance

Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky series takes us into the life of an insecure New York graphic artist who frets about such things as having to kiss French people on both cheeks, and coping with an obtrusive documentary film crew – her own life, in other words. In the “Glenn Ganges Stories” collected in Kevin Huizenga’s Curses, nobody can pronounce the name of the poor schnook protagonist (Danzig? Genghis?) as he makes his way across a suburban wasteland trying to live the American dream. He may harbor Zen visions but he resembles Tintin’s slacker offspring. These comics characters are such navel gazers, so worried about everything, almost whiny. Recognizably middle-American 21st-century.
But then we come to Anders Nilsen’s Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, a diary-style account of the happy days he spent with his girlfriend Cheryl before she died of cancer, an ordeal which he also documents. It’s enough to break your heart. Then Bell’s, Huizenga’s, and Nilsen’s oeuvres come into focus simultaneously. All three graphic authors seem to arrive at more or less the same beaten, forlorn, yet hopeful juncture. Maybe that’s why their publisher, Drawn & Quarterly of Montreal, is sending them on tour as a trio to promote their respective D+Q books. All three are touted as the future of cartoon storytelling, and all three appear at Berkeley’s Comic Relief Sunday afternoon (3-5 p.m.) to show slides of their work, field questions, and sign their books. DrawnandQuarterly.com
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




  Nilsen, Huizenga, Bell tour mentioned by LA City Beat

Updated April 5, 2007


ILLUSTRATE, MY LOVE

If the latest generation of cartoonists – those who illustrate the mundane, ironic, and quietly revelatory aspects of modern life – made valentines, what would they consist of? A toothpick and a glittery sticker? A scrap of found lace and a chocolate ladybug? Get a hint tonight, when Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga, and Anders Nilsen, three cartoonists published by Drawn & Quarterly, appear at Skylight Books. As part of a national tour promoting their books Lucky (Bell), Curses (Huizenga), and Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow (Anders), the three will present a slide show, sign copies, and speak about their work and the passions that fuel it, whether existential, cathartic, or merely, deeply, poetic. 7 p.m. Free. 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 660-1175. Skylightbooks.com; Drawnandquarterly.com.
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow




Gabrielle Bell interviewed on Inkstuds

Updated March 19, 2007


Gabrielle Bell
Thursday, March 15th, 2007


Gabrielle Bell is one of my favorite cartoonist out there right now. She does some excellent slice of life autobio work, and is developing into in my personal opinion being one of the more important modern creators. Check out her collection Lucky, from Drawn & Quarterly as well as short stories in the anthology Mome from Fantagraphics.

Click link to listen
 
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Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

           Featured product

Lucky (hardcover)




  NY Sun praises Lucky

Updated March 7, 2007


Cartoonish Prestige
Books
By NADIA BERENSTEIN
March 5, 2007

Ms. Bell's illustrations are simple, efficient, and serene, yet they transmit a palpable current of vulnerability. Ms. Bell is a keen observer of the small frustrations and serial disappointments that afflict the young, artistic, and indifferently employed, and her understated humor simultaneously diffuses the pervasive melancholy of her stories and hones its edge. In contrast to Ms. Bell's spare arrangements, Ms. Doucet's feral, gamy work is like a caterwaul from a forgotten underground. The work collected in this recent volume depicts her characters inhabiting a collapsing, claustrophobic world littered with hostile objects.
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Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Gabrielle Bell

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Block magazine reviews Lucky

Updated February 16, 2007


A Graphic Novel for the Williamsburg Soul
Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky
By Cathy Erway

Gabrielle Bell has had it with herself: her five roommates, her lack of permanent employment, her drawings, her relationships, her lack of knowing how to use the scanner at the internet garage, and darn it, everything. But the next day, life is looking pretty good. For all the same reasons.

A graphic novel about life in Brooklyn through the lens of seemingly perpetual PMS, Lucky is Bell’s opus to the everyday of the young struggling artist. In 2003, Bell moved to Williamsburg and began sketching a comic strip diary of her life. While moving from one apartment to the next, juggling freelance illustration assignments, and making the brunt of her rent payment from nude artist modeling and other odd jobs such as jewelry assembly and teaching drawing lessons to rich, precocious children, Bell kept a detailed account of each day. The third installment of the self-published comic series that came out of her graphic diary, Lucky, went on to win an Ignatz comic book award, and this past fall, Drawn & Quarterly published the compilation of the four-comic series in hardcover, also titled, Lucky.

With a blunt self-consciousness that often turns hilarious, Bell etches out a year’s worth of minor events: seeing mediocre improv comedy, selling comics on Bedford Ave., attending a yoga class, being obsessed with anything French, picnics in McCarren Park where little is said. Bell’s straightforward graphic style captures the look and feel of Williamsburg and Greenpoint among her community of artistic friends, lonely streets and barely-legal housing situations, and mimics her deadpan storytelling.

When asked why she began the Lucky series shortly after moving to the neighborhood, Bell explains: “I'd been keeping a comic diary on and off through the years, but it was never very interesting unless my life was in some kind of flux or upheaval. It's then that I'll begin to look at things and listen to people.” Throughout Lucky Bell depicts everything from the jabberings of people on the street, interiors of coffee shops on Bedford Ave., and the solace of taking in a clear view of Manhattan from her black tar rooftop while huddling underneath a laundry exhaust pipe that blasts warm steam in the winter.

Born in England and raised in Michigan and California, Bell feels lucky to have moved to New York. No stranger to messy loft apartment share situations, Bell has endured cats who whine at her door, roommates who want nothing to do with one another, bugs, no cell phone reception except on the roof, and bad decorating. But to Bell, who still resides in Greenpoint, “the advantage of living in New York is not that of making connections or meeting the ‘right’ people, but of being surrounded by creative and challenging artists. If you are doing something interesting then people want to know you.”

At its most introspective moments, Lucky transcends the mundane, everyday existence of the artist in lofty dream sequences that catapult Bell to success, respect, and yes, good luck. And it’s about time they were realized.

Gabrielle Bell’s previously published comics include the collection When I’m Old and Other Stories published by Alternative Press, and the self-published comic books, Book of Insomnia, Book of Sleep, Book of Black, and Book of Lies. Her comics have appeared in magazines such as Stereoscomic, Bogus Dead, Orchid, Shout! Magazine, and Drawn and Quarterly Showcase and has published comics online at www.serializer.net. She looks forward to beginning another Lucky series and keep writing fictional comics.

Buy a copy of Lucky at www.drawnandquarterly.com, or at select book stores.
 
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




  LUCKY reviewed by Venus Zine

Updated January 19, 2007


Venus Zine

Arts
Reads

'Lucky' by Gabrielle Bell
An honestly drawn graphic novel chronicles the downs and outs of the hipster-artist lifestyle
by Sarah M Seltzer

At first, the title of the graphic novel Lucky seems misleading. After all, Gabrielle Bell has given us an autobiographical portrayal of everything unlucky about her bohemian twenty-something life -— you know, the kind without a trust fund. From leaky, crumbling sublets in Williamsburg to low-paying jobs that help fund an artist's lifestyle, from unreasonable roommates to constantly moving homes and friends, Gabrielle Bell's simply-rendered drawings and narrative drive home the stable instability of her existence. Bell's pen-and-ink line drawings in black and white do a great job of conveying the drabness she describes, and their style and size changes depending on the epoch she's chronicling. With a few dashes, she manages to create recognizable, human characters and punctuate her backgrounds with the details of urban life.

In Lucky, Gabrielle spends her time drawing, looking for new sublet situations, helping her boyfriend and friends look for new sublets, and working a series of Craigslist-ish jobs — nude model, art tutor, jewelry maker, artist's assistant and impromptu street vendor. She describes the hilarity, doubt, and humiliation of her ventures with a mix of honest understanding and irony. Each series of journal entries takes place during a separate month-long or so period of time, so the reader gets the effect of moving in and out of Gabrielle's life, seeing how it’s changed over the course of a year, but mostly how it hasn't.

But beneath the repetitive angst of Lucky's world are a series of sweet, quirky relationships that make us realize just how lucky our heroine is. There's her boyfriend Tom, who joins her on endless quests for living situations and jobs, and a sturdy group of buddies who attend lesbian performance art, crash NYU parties, and take road trips to upstate New York together as ways to break up the monotony of their lives.

They do riotous things, like banging at a skylight over a dinner party to disturb the assembled yuppies below, or spend hours talking to each other only through walkie-talkies. They have urban picnics and search for the perfect park bench, and argue about the meaning (or lack thereof) of a massive conceptual art exhibition. The best moments come from the frenzied back-and-forth of this witty peer group, which may remind readers of their own circle of buddies. These moments of hilarity and tenderness provide the perfect foil to Lucky's introspective, insecure musings.

Lucky is a perfect present for thirty-somethings with nostalgia for their down-and-out in an outer borough days, twenty-somethings still in the thick of those days — or even privileged would-be bohemians of either age who claim to "totally relate" to Gabrielle's experience (but really don't).
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




LUCKY reviewed by KGBBarLit

Updated January 19, 2007


Book Reviews

Gabrielle Bell’s LUCKY
by Carrie Jones

Drawn & Quarterly, November 2006
112 pages, $15.96Gabrielle Bell’s autobiographical, award-winning minicomic, Lucky, is now an elegant hardback thanks to Drawn & Quarterly. In Lucky, Bell shapes her everyday experiences into short stories about apartment woes, crappy jobs, and picnics in the park. Included are a few extra stories and an enthusiastic intro that graphically describes the evolution of Lucky and the accident (irrevocably losing issue number two at an airport), which proved an unexpected, yet encouraging artistic stimulus for Bell.

The first two chapters of Lucky, comprised of issues one and two, focus on Gabrielle and her boyfriend Tom’s housing search in the crazy New York City rental market, and their struggle to remain financially sound. The diary format is a lot stricter in these first two issues, as each story is a dated entry and Gabrielle’s struggles—the hassles of roommates and relationships, her insecurities about her art, and the torture of mindless jobs—fold on top of one another as the pages go by. Bell harnesses the anger and frustration of small humiliations in a story about encountering a boorish male comics “fan.” She depicts his moronic ramblings about women cartoonists with a cutting exactness, making the return to somber self-reflection in the final panel a bit of a disappointment.

Bell marks a positive change in her writing with issue three. In her introduction she remarks that although she felt the subject matter was too revealing, she decided to publish it at her friends' urging. Her friends were on point: this issue won the Ignatz award for “Outstanding Minicomic” in 2004. One memorable story riffs on the collision of Bell’s Francophilia and her experience teaching cartooning to two precocious French preteens. To their delight, the boys’ sexually-charged teasing—Brother one: “You don’t know how to draw a ‘vag-in-a!’ It has a thing at the top here!" Brother two: “I know! I’m drawing the view looking out from inside the ‘vag-in-a!’”—makes Gabrielle painfully uncomfortable, and the effect is hilarious.

In fact, Lucky is at its best when Bell steps outside of her daily routine. With that distance, her exceptional gift for capturing intense moments—whether funny, poignant, or just bizarre—is striking. Such is the case in “Mom,” where Bell imagines herself as a young girl, trying to understand a mysterious adult world. When she sees her mother reading silently, she demands that her mother “read it for real.” So Gabrielle’s mother reads a story of ornate and twisted love aloud, and we see a young Gabrielle return to her toys, aware that she had trespassed into a place she was not ready for.

The black-and-white illustrations in Lucky are spare and elegant, yet amazingly evocative. Though Lucky is driven by dialogue and Bell’s explanatory notes, her lines convey emotion and action with seeming ease. When she steps up background elements, such as in the art- and nature-filled story that starts issue three, the extra details are a pleasant addition to Bell’s exploration of the tension between the self and the confusing, inconsistent world in which she dwells.
 
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




  Gabrielle Bell interviewed for SMITH mag's Memoirville

Updated January 18, 2007


SMITH
Memoirville

An Interview with Gabrielle Bell, author of Lucky
Loaded by Jennifer Shreve
Excerpt: Lucky by Gabrielle Bell
Posted on January 8th, 2007 in Excerpts

In simple line drawings and clear, evocative prose, Bell documents life as a twentysomething New York artist with both universal relatability and her own unusual perspective. Sure, there is angst and self-doubt, ambition and small victories, but there is also the quest for the perfect loft-bedded room in a Brooklyn apartment full of strangers. Bell covers a series of menial day jobs, but prefers nude modellng and jewelry assembly to waitressing and espresso-pressing. She captures the mundane rhythms, instability, and ennui of young New York creative life, while making it completely engaging and sometimes strangely lovely.

Below, an excerpt. Here, an interview with Gabrielle Bell.
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




Gabrielle Bell Interviewed at Bookslut!

Updated January 18, 2007



 
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




  LUCKY reviewed in Time Out Chicago

Updated January 5, 2007


Time Out Chicago
Issue 96: Dec 28, 2006–Jan 3, 2007

Books

Review

Lucky
By Gabrielle Bell. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95.



Gabrielle Bell possesses a good-natured, understated sense of humor that carries only a pleasant whiff of the self-deprecation that many cartoonists slather on like cheap cologne, and it’s mirrored to smart effect by her spare drawing. In Lucky—a collection of three issues of Bell’s autobiographical journals—eyes and mouths are little more than tiny dots; bodies and backgrounds take shape from delicate but decidedly unfussy lines. Such simplicity also pairs well with Lucky’s subject: the banalities of life as a young, marginally employed artist in überhip Brooklyn. Which, as lives go, is all very romantic in its forced minimalism—until it isn’t.

Steeped in an almost Beckettian ennui, “Lucky #1” finds Bell grudgingly modeling nude for art classes, halfheartedly searching for service-sector jobs, and navigating the tricky politics of group-living situations. The book gets off to a bit of a slow start, and it’s pleasing to find that in “Lucky #2,” the wittiest of the trio, the anecdotes grow into fun everyday-life stories. Bell encounters an overzealous yoga instructor and a boorish comics buyer. And #3, for which Bell won a 2004 Ignatz Award for best minicomic, is both wry and poignant. Poking fun at herself, she writes, “In order to sustain us through mind-numbing jobs, it is necessary to tell ourselves lies.” We finished the book feeling that Bell had come out of her shell, and we’re eager to read more. Now, when comics are à la mode, she’s a talent to watch.

—Susannah Felts
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




BELL & HUIZENGA in the Harrisburg Patriot News

Updated January 5, 2007


GRAPHIC LIT
Friday, December 22, 2006

Huizenga rates in comic art ranking


There have been a number of up and coming cartoonists in recent years, all vying for the title of "best new comic artist."

Few of them, however, seem as worthy of that mantle as Kevin Huizenga.

Having spent a number of years toiling in the world of avant-garde anthologies and Xeroxed minicomics, Huizenga has produced an impressive body of work in a remarkably short time.

Recently he's bumped up to the "big time," (relatively speaking) with two new ongoing series, "Or Else" from Drawn and Quarterly and "Ganges" from Fantagraphics, part of their new Ignatz line.

Now a new book, "Curses," collects many of the short stories that appeared in those anthologies and minicomics, most of which feature Huizenga's twentysomething everyman, Glenn Ganges.

Like the author Nicholson Baker, Huizenga often uses everyday events to explore a character's stream of consciousness. In "Lost and Found," for example, Glenn reads a junk mail ad, which in turn leads him to contemplate the fate of abducted children, the Lost Boys of the Sudan and his own desire for a family.

Family, children and the longing for both play a big role in "Curses" as many of the stories focus on Glenn and his wife's attempts to have a baby.

Another reoccurring theme is the fragility of our own short lives, as the nature of hell and the afterlife is contemplated in several pieces ("Jeeper Jacobs," "Jeezoh"). In Huizenga's world, the sacred and the profane don't just intertwine, they are the same.

"My stories are about objects and ideas and landscapes, not just the dramatic relationships between characters." Huizenga said in a recent e-mail exchange. "I want to draw comics about more than characters solving problems in a series of scenes."

Huizenga's art is deliberately light, simple and proudly cartoonish, in the vein of artists like E.C. Segar ("Popeye") and John Stanley ("Little Lulu"). That goes a long way toward making some of the more heady and poetic aspects of his stories palatable. Glenn's face, for example, is little more than a few dots and curved lines.

Glenn, however, is not an autobiographical stand-in for Huizenga, though some of the viewpoints may be similar.

"Glenn has to become his own man. Right now he's like a generic, distorted version of me," Huizenga said. "In a way he's how I can write about my own experiences without getting caught up in the messy details and distortions that autobiography would require."

"Ideally I would like to create a cast of characters that could embody different aspects of myself but stand as individuals too -- something like Charles Schulz's relationship to the 'Peanuts' gang," he said. "But I've a long, long way to go."

The best story in the book is "23rd Street," an inspired retelling of the folk tale "The Feathered Ogre."

Here, Glenn goes on a mission through strip-mall America in search of a mystical item that will finally enable him and his wife to have a baby.

It's the author's ability to combine the transforming myth of folklore and our world of Wal-Marts and Mobile stations that makes the work take flight. (In one sequence, for example, Glenn has a transforming vision by squirting "enchanted gasoline" into his eyes.)

I'm not spoiling too much by saying that success does eventually come for Glenn and his wife, but, as the title of the book implies, it arrives with some tragic, unforeseen consequences.

In my own stumblebum fashion, I've only hinted at the skill displayed in "Curses." While many art-comics fans are no doubt already familiar with these stories, the book is a perfect introduction for those unacquainted with the artist and his ever expanding world.

'Lucky' Bell:

Another new cartoonist worthy of high praise is Gabrielle Bell, whose new book, "Lucky," (Drawn and Quarterly, 112 pages, $22.95) collects a number of minicomics she did a few years ago.

At first hearing, Bell's comics sound like the sort of stereotype one automatically thinks of in regard to indie cartoonists: Autobiographical tales, focused on mundane details and events filled with heavy narration and a smidgen of angst. Dull news to some of you, no doubt.

But Bell's dry sense of humor, combined with her thin, sparse, yet graceful artwork belie any preconceived notions you might have about her work. She's far too talented to be pigeonholed.

"Lucky" doesn't represent her best work. You'd have to turn to the new "Drawn and Quarterly Showcase" to see that. But it is an entertaining collection and underscores the notion that Bell is a cartoonist to watch out for.


CHRIS MAUTNER
 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Gabrielle Bell

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Curses
Lucky (hardcover)




  Round-Up in the Calgary Herald

Updated December 21, 2006


Books & The Arts
Graphic Fiction: Adult comic books are storming the literary world -- here's a roundup of the best of the season

Nancy Tousley
Calgary Herald
17 December 2006
C1 / Front

As few as three years ago, graphic novels were found in the Humour sections of mainstream bookstores, if they made it through the door at all. Many didn't. They looked too suspiciously like the much maligned comic book.

Now there is really no reason to keep apologizing for graphic fiction. These special books, which tell their stories with words and pictures, a.k.a. cartooning, are now being prominently displayed under their own category, with sales in North American adding up to more than $250 million a year, and climbing.

They are being published by mainstream and university presses as well as by alternative presses and self-publishers. They are being anthologized and the Best American Series has added comics to a list that includes short stories, nature and science writing, and sportswriting. The New York Times has even added a graphic fiction feature called The Funny Pages, currently running a story by the Canadian cartoonist Seth, to its trend-setting Sunday magazine. And this year, a graphic novel achieved a first by being selected as a finalist for a National Book Award in the United States.

Be warned, though. If you are after plain old comic books, don't look here. Not everything is novel length, it's true, but whatever the length don't buy graphic fiction for the kids before reading it first, unless its the chunky second volume of Hank Ketchum's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1953-54 (Fantagraphics Books, 653 pages, $29.95) or The Complete Peanuts 1961 to 1962 by Charles M. Schultz (Fantagraphics Books, 314 pages, $35.95). Some graphic fiction might contain nudity, profane language and violence, as the TV disclaimer says, or tackle issues way over the kids' heads.

Most of the graphic fiction in this roundup is in the literary vein. For readers unfamiliar with the genre, anthologies are a good place to whet your appetite. From inside the comics world come the scrumptiously printed Drawn & Quarterly's Showcase No. 4, a select menu of three new artists (Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch), and Big Fat Little Lit, edited by Art Spiegelman (Maus) and Francoise Mouly, a banquet spread from Jules Feiffer and Maurice Sendak to Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns. And Big Fat Little Lit is intended for young readers.

Two new hardcover anthologies from hitherto unlikely publishers of graphic novels are The Best American Comics 2006, edited by Harvey Pekar and Elizabeth Moore (Thomas Allen, 336 pages, $29.95), and An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories, edited by Ivan Brunetti (Yale University Press, 400 pages, $31.74). Pekar and Brunetti, both cartoonists, have edited very handsome books that include masters of the form and relative newcomers.

There are overlaps in the cartoonists, of course: Lynda Barry, R. Crumb, Ben Katchor and Chris Ware are included in both books. I'd give the beautifully produced Yale anthology the edge for its broader scope.

Its mix includes venerated American elders such as George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Frank King (Gasoline Alley) and Schultz (Peanuts), and Canadians Marc Bell, Chester Brown, David Collier, Julie Doucet and Seth -- artists on the cutting edge of the form.

Canada's distinctive contributions to cartooning get a new history all their own in the cleverly designed Invaders From the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe by John Bell (Dundurn, 192 pages, $40). And high time, too. Most Canadians are clueless that Superman, Prince Valiant, Cerebus the Aardvark and Spawn were all created by Canadians. Bell, a senior archivist at Library and Archives Canada, aims to introduce us to our own popular culture.

Canadian cartooning started in earnest back in 1849. Bell follows it to the present, through the Dawn of the Comic Book (1929-1940), the Golden Age of Canadian comics (1941-1946), the Comix Rebellion (1967-1974), Alternative Visions (1975-1988), and new developments since 1989.

Among the latter is Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly, 272 pages, $17,95) released in paperback this year. If you don't own this brilliant bestseller yet, now is the time.

Why keep looking south of the border? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Not the least is Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese (First Second, 233
pages, $13), which was nominated for a 2006 U.S. National Book Award in the Young People's Literature category.

Clearly drawn and nicely coloured, this funny and gentle story combines the lives of three unlikely characters -- a Chinese American boy Jin Wang who wants to fit in, the Monkey King and Chen Wei, a comical embodiment of noisy negative Chinese stereotypes -- in a surprisingly twisty story about difference and self-acceptance.

The pain of adolescence and middle age sets the melancholy tone and slow, pensive drift of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library #17 (Drawn & Quarterly, 64 pages, $22), the second instalment of Rusty Brown.

This full-colour book, published by Ware, continues the events of the snowy school day in #16, in which Rusty discovers he has super powers and meets Chalky White. But it moves more deeply into the lives of main characters, who include Ware himself as the high school art teacher who tokes with his students in the back seat of a car.

Ware's exteriors of snow falling on the midwestern school work wordless magic that carry the distant, sad and beautiful ache of revisiting the past.

Two new books set in New York, which couldn't be more different, represent changing generations of artists and styles. Will Eisner's New York: Life in the Big City, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman (W.W. Norton, 448 pages, $37.50), is a hustle-bustle of vignettes of people, grates, streets, front stoops and buildings by the grand old man of American comics, a master of figural gesture, who died last year. The book collects four of Eisner's later graphic works, from 1986 to 1992, dedicated to the overflowing city that inspired him.

Lucky by Gabrielle Bell (Drawn & Quarterly, 112 pages, $22.95), which won an Ignatz award, is a terrific, wryly humorous journal in simply drawn black-and-white comics about the discomfort and ennui of being a poor, self-aware, twentysomething in New York, who models for art classes and dreams of becoming a successful artist. Bell's characters come from a generation also mined by Adrian Tomine and Daniel Clowes, but they and her drawings, which begin to recall Marjane Satrapi as the diary progresses, are clearly and engrossingly her own.

Former Calgarian Jillian Tamaki gives Edmonton a stream-of-consciousness treatment in The City of Champions in her book Gilded Lilies (Conundrum Press, 120 pages, $20), which combines nearly wordless stories and pen and brush drawings. The softcover book by this graduate of the Alberta College of Art & Design has the fresh feel of a sketchbook and shows off Tamaki's adept drawing skills.

To round out our tales of cities is Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly, 148 pages, $24.95), a graphic memoir that takes us behind the scenes of Chinese life and customs at street level, which most of us know little about, such as going to the dentist, which freaked out the French Canadian animator, who was working in Shenzhen, a city separated from the rest of the country by electric fences and armed guards. His heavily shaded pencil drawings recreate the grim look and barebones existence of a cold, oppressive city.

Ghost of Hoppers by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books, 120 pages, $23.95) and La Perdida by Jessica Abel (Random House of Canada, 275 pages, $27.95) present complex stories about the misadventures of Latin American women by first and second wave graphic novelists, respectively. Ghost, the 22nd volume of the groundbreaking Love and Rockets series, continues the vivid, in-depth story of Maggie Chascarrillo, his punk chicana hero who now is divorced and managing an apartment building in the San Fernando Valley.

The lively panels of La Perdida form a complete graphic novel about Carla, a naive young woman who has a Mexican father she doesn't see and goes to Mexico to find herself -- only to wind up involved in a kidnapping.

It seems fitting to end with Kim Dietch, a first wave graphic novelist, and two non-fiction books that defy categorizing. Deitch's latest offering, rendered with his distinctive crosshatching, is Shadowland (Fantagraphics Books, 180 pages, $23.95), a collection of improbable yarns about one Al Ledicker, Jr., the owner of a sleazy carnival where the goings-on get very surreal.

Also surreal, but in an entirely different way is The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon (Douglas & McIntyre, 133 pages,
$21), a dramatic and chilling way to read the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission in 2004.

Last -- this isn't everything on my desk but I have to stop somewhere -- from Scott McCloud, the cartoonist who wrote and drew Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics, comes Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels (HarperCollins, 264 pages, $28.95).

Watching a cartoonist dissect and discuss the elements of cartooning in cartoon form is quite simply fascinating.

ntousley@theherald.canwest.com

Colour Photo: Courtesy, Yale University Press / Excerpt from It's A Great [sic] Life if You Don't Weaken by Seth, in An Anthology of Graphic Fiction,
Cartoons, & True Stories; Photo: (See hard copy for photo description).


Featured artists

Chris Ware
Guy Delisle
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

ACME Novelty Library #17
Lucky (hardcover)
Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China




Publisher's Weekly First Annual Comics Week Critic's Poll

Updated December 21, 2006


The First Annual PW Comics Week Critic's Poll

This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week on December 19, 2006

Regular PW writers and reviewers were polled for up to ten of their favorite graphic novels. The results came in as follows with a listing in descending order of the books that received the most votes, followed by selected comments from the critics.

Participating in this year's poll were Chris Arrant, Chris Barsanti, Ian Brill, Steve Bunche, Johanna Draper Carlson, Kai-Ming Cha, Sunyoung Lee, Heidi MacDonald, Dan Nadel, Jason Persse, Calvin Reid and Douglas Wolk.

[D+Q mentions:]

Four votes

Curses by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)

"Huizenga's stories feature spare but architectonic drawings that slyly explore philosophic quandaries, often through the eyes of Glenn Ganges, an everyman protagonist who offers an engaging and thoughtful wonder at life's complexities."


Two votes

Lucky by Gabrielle Bell (Drawn and Quarterly)

"Bell is has a wicked ear for dialogue and draws some of the most nuanced body language in comics. Her first book of mature work displays her talents to great effect. Despite the familiarity of the subject matter—20-something ennui—Bell makes it all new again with her eye for detail."


Honorable Mention:

Abandon the Old In Tokyo by Yoshiharu Tatum (Drawn & Quarterly)

Ed the Happy Clown by Chester Brown (Drawn and Quarterly)

Or Else 3 by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)



In addition to giving us their picks, a few critics were offered the chance to comment on the year in comics.

Dan Nadel

Despite all the interest and activity from major publishers, this year once again demonstrates the virtues of small, brilliant publishers like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics. Nurturing unique artists, growing with them, and releasing quality work remains the best (and oddly unique to these two companies!) business model. All the hype and money in the world can't beat it.

And, it's been a great year for reprints. I kept them out of my list to somehow make it easier. My favorites are Jeet Heer and Chris Ware's superlative Gasoline Alley series and Dark Horse Comics'edition of Russ Manning's Magnus Robot Fighter. About as far apart on the spectrum as you can go, but why not? Frank King and Russ Manning both understood body language and space extremely well, but put it in service to, um, very different content. Drawn and Quarterly's Moomin book and Tatsumi series are also favorites, as well as Fantagraphics' Popeye book.

Douglas Wolk

No getting around it: this was the best year for English-language comics ever. There's so much good stuff, new and old, coming out, because there's an audience for it like there's never been before, which means that there's an economic scaffolding to support it, and that scaffolding is not going away. My other career is writing about pop music, and not much music this year has impressed me; at one point, I worried that my taste was just ossifying as I got older and nostalgic about the records of my youth. Then I looked at the stack of new graphic novels next to my desk and realized it was just that music in 2006 paled in comparison to comics. The golden age is right now.

Jason Persse

The graphic novel has been a "legitimate" art form for a while now. Does that mean we can start calling them comics again? With the average cost of a single comic book at around three dollars, it has become cheaper for collectors and casual readers alike to await the trade paperback of even the most common super-hero stories.So what does this mean for the very definition of "graphic novel?" Do serialized stories count? Is there such a thing as a graphic novel purist? Is there an existing orthodoxy for a medium that is, by its very nature, unorthodox? Well I'll just go ahead and champion the loose-constructionist view and say that, from super heroes to the most iconoclastic "art" comics, the graphic novel is just a longer, more expensive comic book.It's also the most exciting frontier in the publishing industry.
 

Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

Curses
Lucky (hardcover)




  CURSES and LUCKY reviewed in Orange County Weekly

Updated December 18, 2006


People We Know

The characters in two graphic novels remind us of ourselves
By Cornel Bonca
Thursday, December 14, 2006

Most novelists wouldn’t dare to launch their careers with a book about the little things that happen to them on their way to trying to launch their careers as novelists, but Gabrielle Bell’s [Lucky] (not quite a graphic novel but a collection of graphic novelettes and short stories) is so modestly simple in its conception and in its graphics that it disarms any criticism that she’s narcissistic.

Though blatantly autobiographical, especially in a first section which is written in the form of daily diary entries, Bell’s Quarterly entry, “Lucky,” gives us a sweetly fragile world that’s doubtlessly familiar to that army of post-collegiate urban and suburban bohos who wear thrift clothes, string part-time jobs together to pay the rent, hang out and get depressed, and write (or paint, or act, or whatever). Bell’s main character, Gabrielle, spends her days and nights helping her friends move from one tiny overpriced Brooklyn apartment to another, modeling nude for arts classes (which she hates doing, crying afterwards in the changing room), going to performance art shows or museums with friends, coping with roommates who communicate via refrigerator note, tutoring annoying 12-year-old boys, whacking bugs that crawl up her bedroom wall, and negotiating her relationship with her boyfriend, Tom, whose career and apartment situations get him so paralyzingly depressed that at one point he altogether goes limp and “plays dead”: Gabrielle has to carry his full weight from a couch back to their bed.

Luckily, Tom doesn’t weigh very much. Nobody in this book does, actually: they’re all slim, slump-shouldered, shapeless, sexless. Though Gabrielle’s friends are all artist types, they’re not particularly liberated: there’s little drinking, no drug taking, and nobody seems to have the energy or disposition for lust. It’s a Calvinist bohemian scene—much more an East- than a West Coast thing—where a bunch of young men and women devote themselves to the hard work of making art, and care little about money, success, or conventional forms of pleasure. When it comes to anything but art, they’re meek as mice, afraid to call landlords about holes in the bathroom wall, and nonplussed when confronted with people who express powerful emotions. Bell conveys it all with a tender honesty that makes us feel protective toward her characters. Bell’s ink drawings are endearingly primitive, especially in the diary section: everyone’s eyes are simple little dots, and it would be difficult to tell characters apart if it weren’t for their hair. The characters tend to stand apart from each other, as if they’re suspended in space or are afraid to touch, and a striking loneliness (even among friends, even among couples) pervades the drawings. The book gives off the same quality of wistful lonesomeness that so much of 1980s culture specialized in: indie films or R.E.M albums and the stories of Raymond Carver or Frederick Barthelme.


* * *


Kevin Huizenga’s Drawn and Quarterly contribution, “Curses,” is set not in bohemian Brooklyn but deep in Wal-Mart country (the actual setting is Grand Rapids, Michigan, but with its planned communities, strip malls and fast food joints it could just be Anyburb, USA). Huizenga’s ambitions are so much greater—and his graphic talents so much more developed—that the book transcends its blighted settings. It in fact is transcending one’s boring world by burrowing into myth, history, folk tale, even science and theology—into imaginative and intellectual pursuits that can help link us all through the separations of time and space. This is a hell of a debut, and announces the coming of age of a writer who could in time approach the achievements of his obvious hero.

This book of graphic short stories centers around Huizenga’s alter ego Glenn Ganges, who lives in a quiet tree-lined suburb with his wife, Wendy, but the stories unlock themselves from realistic time and place as soon as something catches hold of Glenn’s obsessive consciousness. In “Lost and Found,” Glenn’s trip to the mailbox to get his mail becomes a prolonged meditation on lost and displaced people. Fixating on those “Have You Seen Us?” cards that come almost weekly in the mail detailing lost and kidnapped children, Glenn goes into a reverie about these children’s lives. But while he’s meditating on that, he sees two black young men go by, whom he identifies as Sudanese refugees that the town has lately taken in.

Through Glenn’s consciousness, Huizenga recounts their horrible history, characterized by war atrocities and loss of family, while the drawings show the refugees walking bewildered through Target-like superstores bursting with merchandise. The story makes the 20 steps to and from the mailbox a postmodern sociopolitical adventure of the most painful and disorienting sort.

Another story begins with Glenn speaking directly to the reader: “Well, I certainly don’t expect you to believe me, but here goes,” and launches into the story of how as a college student he became obsessed with the subject of “vision,” which led him to research and study so intense that it appears he began seeing things. Right on campus he kept seeing a dog that had a man’s severed hand in its mouth. It stalked him everywhere he went.

Was it a real vision, like those experienced by American Indian teenagers who were attempting to contact the Great Spirit? Or just hallucination caused by stress and overwork? He thought the latter until four years later, when he came upon nearly 200-year-old letters brought to him by a neighbor, letters that recounted the experiences of a Reverend who was so disturbed by increasing visions of being followed around by a monkey that he finally killed himself. These letters are a conduit into a long-gone history that illuminates Glenn’s fragile psychology.

One story uses the actual language of a boy’s adoption papers—presumably Huizenga’s, though that’s not clear from the text—and puts them into frames that simulate Japanese watercolor paintings of waterfalls and moss-covered crags. The story of the boy’s parents and their “reason for relinquishment” is ordinary—the mother is a factory girl impregnated by a man who didn’t stick around. But juxtaposed against images of nature’s enduring stillness, the history of these parents is told under the aspect of eternity and takes on a sort of melancholic universality as a result. Other stories include “Jeepers Jacobs,” about a fundamentalist theology professor writing a (thoroughly researched and argued) paper on the existence and quality of Hell, in between playing golf with Glenn and his other suburban buddies; and “28th Street,” an adopted folk tale in which Glenn enters a magical world in order to overcome the curse that’s prevented his wife from getting pregnant. The sight of Glenn wandering through the suburban Waste Land—the story resolves itself literally in the basement of a shopping mall—in a search for fertility pointedly recalls and updates T.S. Eliot in a provocative way. Huizenga is a major talent.


LUCKY BY GABRIELLE BELL. 111 PP. $19.95.
CURSES BY KEVIN HUIZENGA. 145 PP. $21.95.

AVAILABLE AT WWW.DRAWNANDQUARTERLY.COM
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Kevin Huizenga
Gabrielle Bell

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Curses
Lucky (hardcover)




LUCKY by Gabrielle Bell reviewed on Sequart.com

Updated December 18, 2006


Deadpan: Gabrielle Bell's LUCKY

High-Low #47 by Rob Clough
13 Dec 2006

LUCKY started as a strip on serializer.net (as Bell's Home Journal), then a series of minicomics. They were an exercise in doing quickly drawn diary comics, a counterpoint to Bell's more polished "serious work", as she notes in her introduction. (Notably, Bell is so immersed in commmunicating in the language of comics that even the intro is done as a comic.) Yet the strong narrative quality shown in the stories and her dry wit make these strips unlike typical journal comics. I've written extensively about Bell in this column before, and LUCKY displays everything I love about her work: deadpan humor, restraint, simplicity, distance and an absorbing series of narratives.

Bell's line is a lot looser here than her work in places like MOME or the DRAWN & QUARTERLY SHOWCASE, reflecting the immediacy of something drawn quickly in her sketchbook. Her refined style keeps the pages clear and easy to follow, creating a sort of momentum where one's eye is compelled to quickly fly from image to image. Bell doesn't use black space that much, relying soley on her line to tell the story. It's remarkable how absorbing a read this is, considering that Bell is relating quotidian observations. Comparing this to her earlier work, she's clearly internalized the lessons of how to craft images that operate in full harmony with her dialogue.

The first chapter of LUCKY covers the daily events over about a five week span. That played out as about a page per day, with 6-8 panels per page. The subject matter is not unfamiliar for fans of autobio comics: finding apartments getting a job, squabbling with one's lover, etc. What makes it compelling (other than the pleasure of looking at Bell's line) is her writing. Bell started working as a nude art model, a job she despised. "Imagine sitting inside of a box exactly the size and shape of your body...Whenever I am doing something unpleasant or boring, I remind myself of that feeling and I begin to enjoy myself again. (This line isn't moving! Argh! I hate this!...Wait a minute, I'm not modelling, hey this is kind of fun!)" Later, she notes "I started modelling originally because I didn't want to do anything. I wanted to be paid to do nothing. But it turns out that doing nothing is one of the more difficult things to do." Beyond just going on about her own life, Bell relates an interesting story about the house she lived in, how it came to be, and what it's like to be a struggling artist in Brooklyn.

The second chapter begins with Bell relating to us that she lost a sketchbook that had the original contents of that section, but that she simply did them all over. Instead of shorter daily entries, Bell flows together several longer stories and abanons the journal structure altogether. She writes about losing her sketchbook, sitting in on a yoga class, having a picnic with her boyfriend and selling comics on the street. The latter story is my favorite, as Bell endures a series of socially awkward moments. There's the macho nerd comics fan who harrasses her about women in comics; the two friends who stop by, don't purchase anything and then deliberately walk around the block so as not to pass by her way again; and a misunderstanding with her boyfriend about the whole thing. My favorite thing about this story is the undercurrent of seething rage and frustration that Bell never expresses directly, even as she endures idiots.

The last chapter is one that Bell describes as the most introspective as these comics. Indeed, though there are three distinct set pieces, it's Bell's flights of fancy that make these stories the funniest in the book. Bell teaches cartooning to two teenaged French boys, works as an art assistant and in a jewelry factory. The segment where she's an art assistant finds Bell fantasizing that the woman she's assisting will go on to fame and fortune thanks to her contributions (like drawing a control panel or a gloved hand), leaving her unable to find art jobs of her own thanks to everyone thinking she's copying her boss! In the jewelry factory, Bell starts thinking about how much she loves France, but how little she knows about it. She starts fretting about the mechanics of how to kiss someone hello and decides to write to her "pen-pal" Gerard Depardieu. She signs off the letter with a vulgar French phrase that those teen boys assured her meant "Best friends forever" and asks him how to kiss.

There are a few extra stories tacked on here, including "The Hole" from a free comic book day anthology from Alternative. This is a great example of Bell combining autobiographical concerns with magical realist techniques, something she's doing more of these days. If there's a single artist that Bell's work in LUCKY reminds me of, it may be Lewis Trondheim's autobiographical comics. There's whimsy and subtlety in those comics, and Bell's work if anything is even more distant. There is certainly emotion on display here, but the stripped-down style and eschewing overt storytelling conventions that oversell feeling. The reader isn't hit over the head with Bell's feelings of alienation and ennui, especially since such feelings are filtered through layers of dry humor and odd anecdotes. Bell's comics aren't necessarily groundbreaking, but they're a sterling refinement of the form. It's hard to imagine autobiographical comics more appealing than these.
 
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




  LUCKY reviewed in the Washington Post

Updated December 13, 2006


The Washington Post
Media Mix section:

COMIC

Lucky
By Gabrielle Bell

Drawn & Quarterly
$19.95

BASIC STORY:
This hardcover collects Bell's award-winning comics diaries, which offer glimpses into her struggle to craft a life worth living, from struggling to make ends meet as an artist's model to endless apartment hunting.

SAMPLE GRAB:
"I started modeling originally because I didn't want to do anything. I wanted to be paid to do nothing. But it turns out that doing nothing is one of the more difficult things to do."
-- Bell details the soul-numbing paradox of her work

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE:
With a selective eye for detail and a knack for capturing tart dialogue, Bell squeezes joy from an underemployed and under-realized 20-something existence.

WHAT YOU WON'T:
You may feel as though you know more about the people Bell meets than the artist herself.

-- Evan Narcisse

GRADE: A-

Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




LUCKY by Gabrielle Bell reviewed in TIME OUT NEW YORK

Updated December 7, 2006


Lucky

By Gabrielle Bell. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95.


Lucky is a spare-looking collection of diary stories, written and first self-published in 2003 and 2004, when comics artist Gabrielle Bell was living in New York City in her late twenties, dealing with those time-honored conundrums of what one wants to do, what one has to do for money, and where one is going to live. They were originally “mini-comics,” meaning the author controlled the printing process with whatever technology she had on hand, so the aesthetic here has a kind of bareness: The simple line drawings are a slight step up from doodles, and the basic layout of wobbly panels features plenty of white space.

The book’s visual aspect is appropriate to its subject matter, the strange textures of mundane life—from weird roommates to what happens in yoga class. Bell takes us in almost excruciating detail through her search, and her boyfriend’s search, for affordable living quarters, which, between their ennui and the shitty Brooklyn loft spaces, feels resolutely depressing.

And yet there are also buoyant moments. The most interesting story lines are not about perennial problems such as real estate and grumpy boyfriends but about art itself. Gabrielle moves from being a nude art model to an artist’s assistant. She and her friends go upstate to visit the Dia:Beacon and run around in Richard Serra’s structures and Bruce Nauman’s constructed hallways. And, finally, in the book’s most winning episode, Gabrielle tutors two rowdy 12-year-old French boys in cartooning. When they choose to draw genitals, she panics. Yet when their father walks in, he bursts out with, “Oh, how creative! It’s the view from the inside of a vagina! That’s great!”

— Hillary Chute
 
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




  LUCKY reviewed in the Boston Globe

Updated November 28, 2006


BOOK REVIEW

Coming of age in a post ironic black-and-white world
By Matthew Shaer, Globe Correspondent | November 25, 2006

Lucky
By Gabrielle Bell
Drawn and Quarterly, 111 pp., $19.95


By the final frames of her debut autobiographical collection, "Lucky," Gabrielle Bell has found a steady job, assembling jewelry at a boutique outside Williamsburg , Brooklyn. The work suits her -- it's easier than the nude modeling that came before, and more lucrative -- but she can't shake the "boredom layered up on loneliness, a gaping emptiness, directly contradicting the rich life I had intended to lead." This is as introspective as it gets in Bell's world. There's a vague spiritual malaise, the feeling that everything could be better, if only given the chance.

"Lucky," a graphic novel that was written and initially self-published when Bell was 27, is in some ways a straightforward and familiar story. In stark black-and-white frames, four to a page, it tracks the progress of a young artist struggling for professional and emotional traction in a city already clogged with people like her. Bell is lost, but she can't find time to get found: There are menial jobs to be undertaken for food money, and there is the ongoing search for an apartment for her boyfriend, Tom. There are art galleries to visit, friends who need support, and crazed, rain-soaked trips to visit siblings in Boston, in a rush to get out of one city, only to get trapped in the next.

But most of all, there is the comic itself, which becomes the one constant in Bell's shake-and-rattle world, and part of the book itself. She slaves over the comic in her free time. She becomes overjoyed when one friend praises it, and despondent when Tom questions its appeal. In this way, "Lucky" becomes the meta-story that drives the entire book: Bell often draws herself hunched over a desk, hammering out a particularly difficult patch of dialogue, while nearby we see a second Gabrielle Bell, going about her work.

The Canadian press Drawn and Quarterly scooped up Bell after her vignettes were published elsewhere, and this edition finally brings some continuity to the story. Bell has become a real person, and is no longer a vague conceptualization of Gen-Y angst. She tastes success, weathers failure, and discovers she has the strength of mind to admit that sometimes, "it is necessary to tell ourselves lies."

"Lucky" is also a startling achievement: a coming-of-age tale -- from hipster Williamsburg, no less -- told without a whisper of irony. This is not to say that Bell isn't interested in shattering pretentiousness where she sees it. In one memorable scene, she attends a lesbian performance-art show, presided over by a woman in "sideburns and a blue wig, who did a modern dance in which she shed her tuxedo," exposing herself. With pitch-perfect dryness, Bell adds that "what was truly disturbing was that she continued to host the show in that costume."

But for Bell, if there is posturing to be found in the local performance-art scene, in the strange sculpture installments that dot local museums, in the cagey attitudes of her 20-something compatriots, it is mostly because hers is a world that lacks the means -- or the will -- to fully understand itself.

On one trip to visit a friend upstate, Bell finds herself sitting alone at the edge of a pond. Gone is the bustle of the city. Ushered in is the sharp, needling feeling of "an emptiness, like any other creature. Nothing original, nothing special." Bell remains sitting until the mud soaks through her shorts, and into her skin, and until "all I felt was my heart beating."
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




SHOWCASE #4 reviewed in the Patriot-News

Updated November 15, 2006


Drawn and Quarterly Showcase No. 4
Drawn and Quarterly, 102 pages, $14.95.

Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch contribute to this annual anthology devoted to (relatively) new cartoonists. Bell and Zettwoch's contributions are the stand-outs here. Bell's story in particular, involving an insecure art student who attempts to teach the son of a famous sculptor, is the best thing she's done yet and well worth the price of admission.
 
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The D&Q Showcase Series
Gabrielle Bell

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Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Four




  Tomine, Bell and Others in NYC 10/26!

Updated October 25, 2006


On Thursday, October 26th at 7PM, Adrian Tomine and Gabrielle Bell will be on a panel along with editor and cartoonist Ivan Brunetti and contributors to the Yale University Press book An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and Truse Stories. The panel takes places at the 92 St Y, 35 West 67th St in NYC.

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Adrian Tomine
Gabrielle Bell

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Summer Blonde (PB)
Optic Nerve #10
Lucky (hardcover)




D+Q to exhibit at SPX in Bethesda, MD October 13 & 14th!

Updated October 11, 2006


Drawn & Quarterly will be at this year's Small Press Expo this Friday, October 13th and Saturday the 14th, which please note, is in a brand new location at the Marriot Bethesda North in Bethesda, MD.

We will have the following new books on sale!

LUCKY by Gabrielle Bell
CURSES by Kevin Huizenga
MOOMIN by Tove Jansson
BIG QUESTIONS 9 and DON'T GO WHERE I CAN'T FOLLOW by Anders Nilsen
FALLEN ANGEL by Nicolas Robel

Previews of all books can be found at www.drawnandquarterly.com

Anders, Kevin and Gabrielle as well as Dan Zettwoch from D+Q SHOWCASE VOLUME
FOUR will be in attendance, here is our signing and programming schedule:

Friday, October 13th:
3:00 - 5:00 Kevin Huizenga & Dan Zettwoch signing
5:00 - 7:00 Gabrielle Bell & Anders Nilsen signing

Saturday, October 14th:
12:00 - 1:00 Dan Zettwoch signing

1:00 - 3:00 Gabrielle Bell & Anders Nilsen signing

3:30-4:30 A panel discussion with Anders, Kevin and Gabrielle "How to Draw
Thinking" from 3:30 to 4:30 on Saturday, in Brookside A. With moderator
Isaac Cates, they will discuss the pleasures and problems of making pictures
that think.

4:45 - 6:45 Kevin Huizenga signing

D+Q staffers Rebecca Rosen and Morgan Charles will be on hand to see that
all goes well at tables #C14-16.

Don't be shy! And stick around Saturday night for the Ignatz Awards where D+Q is up for several awards!


Peggy Burns
Drawn & Quarterly
Director, Marketing & Publicity
http://drawnandquarterly.com/blog/




 
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Featured artists

Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen
Gabrielle Bell

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Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book One
Curses
Lucky (hardcover)




  Meet Gabrielle Bell!

Updated October 3, 2006


On Wednesday, October 4th at 7PM, Gabrielle Bell, along with cartoonist Megan Kelso, will be at Mo Pitkens (34 Ave. A ) in NYC doing a reading from Lucky which comes out this month!
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Gabrielle Bell

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Lucky (hardcover)




The Comics Journal reviews SHOWCASE #4

Updated September 13, 2006


The Comics Journal
Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Written by Dirk Deppey

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase #4
Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch
Drawn & Quarterly
102 pages, $14.95
ISBN: 189659798X

Perhaps the biggest cliché surrounding art-comics anthologies is that they tend to be mixed bags in terms of the quality of the contributions. It's true, for the most part -- anthologies with a sizeable number of contributors tend to find the works on display dividing themselves into A-listers (solid, engaging contributions that you'd buy even if they were the only content in a given book), B-listers (acceptable work that fleshes out many anthologies but are less likely to stand on their own) and C-listers (everything else).

Drawn & Quarterly's Showcase series generally manages to blunt this syndrome by avoiding an overload of different works, instead focusing on two or three cartoonists and giving them a color palette and page count sufficient to let them spread out and fill their pages with considered, complex stories. That the D&Q staff have excellent taste in cartoonists doesn't hurt, either. That said, the "A,B,C" syndrome doesn't entirely go away, if for no other reason than that the reader really can't help but ranking contributions against one another. Still, the results at least reach a higher benchmark.

Case in point: The new fourth volume, which contains work by Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch. Each is a promising cartoonist whose learning curve has already put him or her in the ranks of storytellers to watch, yet still shows every indication of having better work waiting in the wings. If each artist seems to be at a different point along the trail at the moment, they each nonetheless demonstrate a skill and storytelling faculty worth noting.

This volume opens with its strongest piece, Gabrielle Bell's untitled story of, oddly enough, three artistic aspirants at different stages of the growth process. The central character is Anna, a representational painting student whose spirit is slowly being crushed by the preconceived notions of the teachers and fellow-travelers around her. When conceptual sculptor Frank Reinhart hires her to teach his young son how to draw, the stage is set for a philosophical struggle between two competing views of art played out between father and son, with Anna serving as battleground.

This all sounds didactic, but it really isn't; discussions of art occur frequently, but they're framed in a continuum of conversations and slice-of-life episodes that place the characters front and center in the story, as written by an author with a firm grasp on how to tell a satisfying and thought-provoking short story. Bell, no slouch as a representational artist herself, makes no secret of where her loyalties lie in the debate, but still has a firm enough grasp of the gambits and pretenses of the modern art world to provide the reader with what feels like a fairly nuanced portrayal of its inhabitants. By contrasting the complex motivations of an acknowledged master of said world with the simple aims of a child learning to draw, Bell is able to make her case without seeming to hit the reader over the head with a hammer, allowing the tale to circle in on its central theme in a naturalistic fashion, rather than resorting to the clunky aethetic moralizing for which a lesser artist might have been tempted to reach. The result is an engaging short story that presents its themes with dexterity and subtlety, leading to an ending that hints at resolution while implying further complications beyond the last panel. It's not quite a bravura performance, but it's close enough to make you notice.

By contrast, Martin Cendreda's story, "Dog Days," can't help but pale a bit in comparison. A slice-of-life tale involving bored children and their semi-superstitious elders, set against the distant backdrop of a serial killer on the loose, Cendreda's contibution is well-crafted but not particularly original. In some ways, it's as aimless as the children it follows around. This is in some ways the effect for which Cendreda seems to be aiming, and the results are amiable enough -- Cendreda brings an engaging illustration style and sense of visual narrative to the proceedings, and consequently has no problem capturing the reader's attention. The problem is, "Dog Days" feels a bit slight once one reaches the story's conclusion, especially following on the heels of Bell's masterful story.

Dan Zettwoch's contribution, "Won't Be Licked!", feels more solid and innovative, and its storytelling sensibility is different enough to help it stand out from the other two contributions to this issue. Set against the backdrop of Louisville, Kentucky's grievous 1937 flood, Zettwoch's story avoids the naturalism of the previous two tales in favor of a clever, technically accomplished historical travelogue, as we follow a resourceful young man around the town in an improvised boat, visiting each neighborhood and examining what happened from his perspective. Zettwoch has perhaps the firmest grasp of the comics language of anyone to appear in Showcase this side of Sammy Harkham, and while his previous minicomics have seemed at times to almost drown Spiegelman-like in their own conceptual cleverness, here Zettwoch keeps the artifice restrained in service to the narrative. "Won't Be Licked!" is too modest a tale to be called a significant leap forward, but it's clearly a demonstration of Zettwoch's growing maturity as a cartoonist. Alas, like "Dog Days," this isn't a story that could survive scrutiny if left to stand on its own; it's too slight, however entertaining.

None of this is to say that Cendreda and Zettwoch's contributions are bad by any means, but they're both anthology B-listers, a status that only becomes more apparent in proximity to Gabrielle Bell's masterful opening tale. Perhaps the anthology format simply defeats all attempts to overcome its limitations. Even so, together these three short stories manage to flesh out another issue of an collection that, if not the best of its kind, may perhaps be the sturdiest currently being published.
 
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Featured artists

The D&Q Showcase Series
Gabrielle Bell

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Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Four




  Booklist reviews LUCKY by GABRIELLE BELL

Updated August 17, 2006


Bell, Gabrielle. Lucky. Sept. 2006. 112p. illus.
Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95 (1-897299-01-X). 741.5.

Bell’s autobiographical collection portrays concisely the trials, tribulations, and sweet successes of young adulthood and artistic maturation. An independent comics creator cited by her peers with an Ignatz Award for the serial version of this book, Bell takes readers along as she hunts doggedly for suitable living quarters in Brooklyn, fights depression that results from earning more as a nude model than as an artist, meets a series of fatuous potential and actual housemates, tries to sell her zines, takes unrewarding work with a commercially recognized cartoonist, and teaches art to children. Her tidy, black-ink images lay bare architectural oddities, human postures that are part of nonverbal communication, and perspectives ranging from the neophyte yoga practitioner caught in a knot to the surprisingly pleasant surroundings of an urban picnic. Further, her fantasy life is gently romantic and easy to enter. Her stories should appeal to pleased readers of Daniel Clowes or Adrian Tomine. They are palpably real and eloquently understated, with neither a wasted word nor an extra line. ––Francisca Goldsmith


Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

           Featured product

Lucky (hardcover)




Gabrielle Bell's LUCKY reviewed in Publisher's Weekly

Updated August 17, 2006


Lucky
GABRIELLE BELL. Drawn Quarterly, $16.95 (112p) ISBN 1-897299-01-X

This collection of short stories lacks some of the artistic sophistication of most books from art comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly—the drawings are, in fact, about as bare bones as it gets—but it still manages to be completely engrossing. Paradoxically, the stories are interesting—even addictive—because Bell has such a flair for communicating a specific brand of postcollegiate ennui. Her day-to-day existence is a litany of dilapidated rental apartments, low-paying jobs, yoga classes and artistic frustration, but Bell’s straightforward storytelling reveals a true poignancy amid the tedium. Far from being depressing, these snippets of daily life in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y., are comforting in their frankness and familiarity; by settling into the rhythm of the artist’s daily life, the reader experiences the heft of small victories and simple pleasures. Never laugh-out-loud funny, brief tales of yoga roommate miscommunication, ignorant comics buyers, the anguish of nude modeling, and sex-obsessed, adolescent art students radiate good humor and are sure to resonate with a certain stripe of well-educated, underemployed 20-something comic reader. Lucky is yet another sophisticated, nuanced pleasure. (Sept.)

 

Featured artist

Gabrielle Bell

           Featured product

Lucky (hardcover)





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