home home about drawn and quarterly news artists shop shopping cart
Drawn and Quarterly Your Shopping Cart
Home About Artists Shop Events Press New Blog 211 Bernard Store Blog


News Briefs featuring Rutu Modan

( back )


Comic Book Resources Interviews Rutu Modan About The Property

Updated January 7, 2014


"Interview: Rutu Modan Explores 'The Property'"
Comic Book Resources News, Sep 16 2013

"Rutu Modan was one of the leading cartoonists in Israel and a member of the noted artists collective Actus Tragicus when Drawn and Quarterly published her debut graphic novel "Exit Wounds" in 2007. The book received a 2008 Eisner Award and was acclaimed as one of the best books of the year. Since then, Modan has made many short works including an illustrated blog for the New York Times, a serial comic for the New York Times Magazine, and the children’s book "Maya Makes a Mess," which was released last year from Toon Books. Modan also drew "War Rabbit," a collaboration with the journalist Igal Sarna.

Modan’s new book is "The Property," which focuses on Mica, a young Israeli woman who travels with her grandmother to Poland, ostensibly to reclaim property that was seized from the family during World War II. It is a beautiful and thoughtful story that looks at the complex web of relationships between property, memory, money and nostalgia, with a look at family and people who have more in common than they would sometimes care to admit. Modan tells a very personal and specific story, but it a universal story of family and the ties that bind.

CBR News caught up with Modan during her American book tour to discuss the origins of "The Property," how a visit to Poland influenced the graphic novel, her experience teaching at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and more.

CBR News: Rutu, where did "The Property" begin for you?

Rutu Modan: Sometimes it’s difficult to trace back exactly, but after "Exit Wounds" was published I got a request from the New York Times website to write an illustrated blog. Since I had to produce a new story every month I decided not to invent stories -- which takes longer, for me at least -- and write stories about my family members. Each one was about a different member of the family and I wrote stories about my grandmothers. They were both from Poland and they came to Israel from before the war. They were both from Warsaw. They were always fighting between themselves. I wrote these stories and when you write about someone, you have to understand them. You cannot just write from your point of view. Also the stories got good reactions in the comments on the website from people who said, "It reminds me of my grandmother, we had the same relationship." It was really a surprise for me because I think of my grandmothers as very Jewish, very Israeli.

At the time I was looking for an idea for a new novel. I was living in England but I came to Israel for the holidays. I went to a family dinner and my uncle was speaking about property that we had in Poland. After the war, Poland was under the Communist regime so you couldn’t get the property back because all the properties were nationalized. Only in the nineties was Poland open. People here really were angry about Poland and the Polish people. My grandmothers didn’t want to visit. They referred to it as one big cemetery. In the last few years things have changed. We had this family dinner and my uncle was speaking about it and all of the family and they started talking about how wealthy our family was in Poland, but it was just nostalgia. It was dreams about how good the past was. It was a combination of things starting to connect in my head, but I didn’t know what the story was going to be about. I had to discover the story I was going to write.

Had you traveled to Poland before?

Never. I was never even interested in Poland because of how bad my grandmother used to speak about Poland. They almost didn’t speak about the past and the family that stayed there. What they described was negative, if they spoke about it at all. I didn’t even think about Poland as a country. For me it was a place where the concentrations camps were. No more. The first thing that I did when I had this idea was to open Wikipedia and read about the history of Poland. It’s strange because my father was born there. He came to Israel when he was eight. It’s not so long ago. But I was never thinking about it until I had the idea for the story and then I went to Poland.

Early in "The Property," there’s a line where Mica is asked if she had visited Poland and her grandmother says that Mica didn’t want to go and Mica says, "No, you didn’t want me to go." Was that somewhat of a generational truth?

Not in my generation, but in the last fifteen years or so almost every teenager is going to Poland on school trips. They take them to see the concentration camps and memorials and things about the Holocaust. What I wanted to explore is that people lived there. World War II took six years, but Jews lived in Poland for hundreds of years. For me it feels strange that all the thoughts we have about Poland are about these six horrible years. I understood the experience was more complicated than just that.

When you did visit Warsaw and spent time there, did that experience shape the story?

Yes of course. Before I went to Poland, I didn’t even have an image in my head. If you go to Paris even if you’ve never been to Paris you have some image of it. I also tried to meet lots of people. I also talked with people who lived in Warsaw before the war. I wanted to understand what was the relationship between Jews and Poles before the war. I read books. The visit was interesting because it had changed, but I felt very comfortable in Warsaw. In many ways it reminded me of Tel Aviv when I was a child. It’s estimated that sixty percent of Israelis have Polish origins and so maybe the way that things are arranged in shops or how close you stand to a person when you speak to them -- I don’t know. Something. I felt that Israeli culture is much more influenced by Polish culture than I imagined.

The book is about a number of characters who are trying to revive and relive the past -- except Mica, and she’s the only one not there for that purpose.

You described it exactly as I would.

Yet, I would argue that she manages to reconnect to Poland and to the past in a greater way than anyone else.

Yes. That it was also a subject I wanted to deal with -- memory and what we do with memory; this sad and grotesque desire to revive the past or relive the past. Of course Mica is not innocent. She’s just interested in the property, an apartment, but it’s also a home. There is a scene at the end of the book when she discovers that the apartment was sold. Now that she thinks that the property doesn’t belong to her family then she wants to see the apartment because suddenly it’s no longer property, it’s no longer about money -- it’s suddenly something emotional. And the woman won’t let her in. The change is at this point when her attitude towards the property is more emotional, not so practical. In general she’s very practical young woman.

She’s the practical one, and it’s only at the end that Mica gets emotional about the situation.

In the beginning what helps her be active is her grandmother suddenly says that she doesn’t want to look for the apartment. So Mica says, okay, she’s going to find it herself. You have to remember that she came to Poland in a very emotional state because she lost her father just months before. She’s trying to be very practical and very cold, but in fact she’s not as strong and practical as she’s pretending to be. She’s in an emotional state and it’s very easy for her to change.

I loved the relationship between Mica and her grandmother, which I could relate to because of my relationship with my grandmother. We’re close but I can see her having a huge secret on this scale that she’s just kept from everyone for decades.

[Laughs] Is your grandmother Jewish?

No.

Here’s what I’ve found out: all grandmothers are Jewish grandmothers. It’s a state of mind. [Laughs] It’s based on my relationship with my grandmother and some of the relationships in my family. They are fighting, but the relationship between them is strong at the same time. Like in the first scene of the book in the airport, Mica is on the side of her grandmother and not the rest of the people in the airport. She has an obligation to her grandmother even though they’re fighting all the time.

I really liked Mica’s line at end about how the only thing that Jews love more than money is spite. That’s true for all of us.

[Laughs] The stereotype of Jews and money is still very strong and so when I was writing I liked the idea of playing with the stereotype of Jews and money. I wasn’t completely aware of this but I found out in Poland that’s still strong. I was in England and a neighbor was from Poland and I wanted to ask about Poland. I didn’t tell her what the book was about and minutes after we started talking she said that her parents live in a house that belonged to a Jewish family before the war and they are frightened the Jews will come back and take their home. So this is not only a subject here in Israel, but this relationship between Poles and Jews and the past and the present is something that’s alive in Poland, too.

Reading "The Property," I couldn’t help but think of it as a story about contemporary Israel. It’s about property and ownership and nostalgia and the past and groups who have a much closer and much more complicated relationship than many like to think.

You saw the resemblance to the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Very much so -- like the Poles and the Jews, the Israelis and Palestinians share a very complicated story in every sense that we like to simplify.

At some point, I thought maybe people won’t think about it and I was tempted to put it directly into the mouth of one of the characters, but I didn’t want it to be too didactic. I didn’t want it to be so, "I have this message." It really made me think about it because you have people who were forced to leave their house, who lost their property, who lost their home and now after seventy years people live in these places and they feel it is their home. I don’t understand why Israelis don’t see the connection. Some of the same Israelis who are speaking about property in Europe that they want to seize and about their right to get it back, they don’t see the resemblance to the Palestinians who had to leave their homes and many Israelis don’t see why Israel owes them anything. If you ask them they will try to explain to you that there is a difference. Of course there’s a difference, but beyond the differences, what I see are people who are fighting about the past and about their pain and history and ruined lives.

What I also see is how difficult it is to find a story that is the same story. When I went to Poland I think my biggest surprise as an Israeli was that to find out the Polish have a very different story about the past from what I was taught. I was taught a narrative about happened in the war to the Jews and how Poles are. When I meet young Germans, I think we have more or less the same story. There is general agreement about who are the good guys who are the bad guys, what happened when and from that point it’s very easy to find we have the same story and we can make peace. With the Poles I had this feeling all the time that I wanted to tell them what really happened, but I understood that I can’t. Their story for them was true just like mine. We have to accept that they have a different narrative. Israelis and the Palestinians have that problem. We don’t share the same narrative about the past. It’s really difficult to make peace when we are still arguing about the story -- about which story is the best story or the more accurate story.

I’m curious how you work because in the back of the book you list a number of Comic Actors. What was your artistic process like for "The Property?"

When I tell the story, I rely heavily on body language because the characters are very important and the personalities of each character are very important. I don’t use captions, I use only dialogue, so I try to make each of the people have their own way of behaving and moving, not just their own way of speaking. When I worked on "Exit Wounds" I used models. Afterwards I did a short project and I asked a friend of mine to model for me. She’s a professional actress and I found out how different it is to work with an actor. It’s not like a regular person because they have the ability to express themselves with the body and they do they don’t just model, they become the person. It’s amazing.

I had the idea to work with actors. I had a storyboard for the whole book, so I knew exactly what was going to happen in each panel. I had the whole book in a very rough sketch and then I hired the actors and I even dressed them and then they acted the whole book. Just the main characters. The extras I invented. [Laughs] It was a very low budget production. We took the photos in my apartment. It was like children playing. It was a very fun process. I took photos and then when I went to Poland I took photos of locations and I combined them.

You teach at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, which is where you attended art school. What you enjoy about teaching and what you try to do that you wanted as a student?

I was actually quite happy in the Academy when I was studying there. I had a really good time and I enjoyed it very much. In Israel, because of the army service, the students are much older than in other countries, so they’re more mature, they know what they want. They don’t come to the academy to have fun. They come to work. The academy changed a lot because it’s much bigger now. That changes the way you teach, but the relationships between the students and the teachers are still close and strong. I teach many of them in the first year and then again in the third or fourth year.

I like to be an illustrator and comics artist. I spend ninety percent of my time alone in my room and I don’t see anyone. I don’t work with anyone. So I have the opportunity to go out of the house for one day and go to a different city and meet young people and speak with them. I learn from them. They bring books and they show me artists I don’t know. They ask me questions that force me to think about answers I hadn’t thought before. I think it keeps me fresh. I hope. And it’s fun to help other artists to find their way. I like to give advice. [laughs] It’s nice to tell people what to do. And they have to listen to me."
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Rutu Modan and Leanne Shapton at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Rutu Modan And Leanne Shapton Get Stripped"
By Gary Gray
Bleeding Cool, Aug 31 2013

"Now this was one talk I was really looking forward to at the Stripped strand at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Rutu Modan and Leanne Shapton. And why was this one of the ones I was really looking forward to? Well I don’t know about you I’m fed up people banging on about that there are no strong female creators in comics. It’s bullshit, they are out there just creating the work and getting on with it, such as Modan and Shapton.

And even better was the fact that Shapton was a new find for me, I’ve been following comics with a passion for thirty years and I thought I pretty much knew who everyone is. But how cool that theEdinburgh Book Festival was able to feature someone who you maybe haven’t heard of alongside such greats as Morrison and Gaiman. Shapton is a Canadian writer/artist who is published by Drawn & Quarterly and she was there to talk about her latest book Was She Pretty features small poems alongside extremely loose black and white brush drawings that are pushing the definition of actually being a comic to its limit. But it’s published by D&Q so I’ll go with it.

Modan, and if you don’t know who she is get right out and buy her seminal work Exit Wounds, is a Israeli graphic novelist telling fictional works. Well she bills them as fictional works but admits it’s her way of writing about her family without them disowning her.

Teddy Jamieson of The Herald was chairing the talk, and it kicked off with both authors doing a reading/presentation of their work. Also in attendance in the audience was Bryan Talbot who I think was at as many talks as I was over the weekend. Modan talked of her latest work The Tourist that follows an Israeli grandmother and her granddaughter who visit Poland to try and reclaim their property that was abandoned during the Second World War. Moan’s presentation was much more assured than Shapton’s, which was very stilted and her nerves were obviously on display. And that’s no bad thing as it opened her work of twisted relationships to us more.

Modan then talked through her process of how she created the novel, and I was amazed to find out that she had photographed the entire book by hiring models Frank Hampson style. And through this she found the actors taking over the roles and adding to the book things she hadn’t even planned for, such as the 86 year old actress and the actor who had sang at her own father’s funeral, not realising this until after the shoot. She revealed that she had to get the actors to overact silent film style as thecomic’s panel naturally reduced the emotion, and by overacting she got the feeling and feelings she needed. Her aim wasn’t to make the look of the book natural and by overacting it reversely made it more subtle, unlike film where actors aim to dial it down as far as possible. But she found it hard to let go of control to her actors adding stuff describing comickers as control freaks.

Modan then revealed that when she first started in comics that there were no comics in Israel whatsoever, no Tintin and no Asterix whatsoever as comics had always flopped. Luckily she was introduced to them at art school by a lecturer who got her into RAW, Crumb etc and she realised this is what she wanted to do. Not realising she was the ONLY cartoonist in Israel! If she had then who knows, so not for her struggling to break into a male dominated industry, she was it. Shapton said she had started out as an Olympic swimmer (one of her prose novels is about her journey). But I’m struggling to find much more that Shapton said during the talk as she was very shy and not asquotable as the experienced Modan. Modan was dropping stuff in about Gaughan saying that one day someone will invent the perfect art that combines words and pictures. Well as we all know comicsturned out to be that art form. Kind of appropriate to be discussing that point at a Festival where finally the comics art form was being lauded as an art form properly for the first time, or how she had to look up Poland on Wikipedia as it only existed to her as a mass grave. Yes she knew how to give good quote that didn’t impinge on the powerfulness of the story she had written.

Shapton did tell us about her next project for Drawn & Quarterly where she is drawing directly from stills from Sunday night movies where she freeze-frames the movie and draws her impression of what she has seen. But as I say the talk was fairly dominated (in a nice way, she wasn’t overbearing) by Modan who was fascinating to listen to explaining how she visited Warsaw and was told to visit a certain concentration camp, that was better than Auschwitz. But both books looked equallyfascinating, for different reasons, Modans for its tale of a facet of the 20th century’s most shocking event, and Shapton’s examination of failed relationships. And as I say at the start how wonderful to have two great female comickers out there doing such uniquely personal powerful works."
click here to read more


Featured artists

Rutu Modan
Leanne Shapton

           Featured products

The Property
Sunday Night Movies




Tablet Magazine Review's Rutu Modan's The Property and Makes Some Interesting Connections!

Updated November 7, 2013


By Anat Rosenberg
Tablet Magazine. July 31, 2013

"The words Holocaust and graphic novel generally bring to mind Art Spiegelman and his trailblazing, Pulitzer Prize-winning work Maus, which got its start as a three-page comic in 1971. Fifteen years later it was published in book form, paving the way for an unlikely new genre. In the more than two decades since the publication of the granddaddy of Holocaust graphic novels, Anne Frank’s diary has been published in comics form; the story of the Warsaw Ghetto has been turned into a graphic novel, and other children of survivors have embraced the genre to recount their families’ histories—pointing to the fact that, tragically, Spiegelman’s father wasn’t the only one to “bleed history” (to borrow a phrase from the subtitle of Maus).

With two recent publications, Israel has further embraced the form of the Holocaust-related graphic novel: The first is Michel Kichka’s memoir Second Generation: Things I Never Told My Father, which was originally released in French and, like Maus, recounts growing up in the shadow of a Holocaust survivor. The second is Rutu Modan’s The Property, a fictional account of a young Israeli woman and her grandmother who travel to Poland to reclaim an apartment belonging to the family before the war, published simultaneously in Hebrew and English.

At first, these two works appear to be united solely by the fact that they both fall into the “Holocaust graphic novel” category—one is autobiographical, the other is fictional; one is drawn in stark black and white, the other bursts with vibrant color. Yet while profoundly different in narrative and graphic style, Second Generation and The Property have more in common than meets the eye: Both center on family bonds, secrets, and intrigue; both feature journeys to reclaim something tangible or intangible that was lost; both are characterized by a bittersweet intensity and off-kilter humor.

...

Perhaps there is a happy medium, Rutu Modan seems to suggest in her latest graphic novel, The Property. Loosely based on her personal experience of meeting her estranged maternal grandfather, the book opens with an epigraph attributed to Modan’s mother: “With family, you don’t have to tell the whole truth and it’s not considered lying.”

That sentence sets the stage for the fictional story of Regina Segal and her granddaughter Mica to unfold, as the two feisty women travel from Israel to Warsaw ostensibly to deal with prewar property issues. Soon enough, the seemingly straightforward plot thickens into a yarn that’s part love story, part whodunit, part screwball comedy, and part exploration of Jewish-Israeli identity. Modan even uses different typefaces for the different languages—Hebrew, Polish, and English—spoken throughout the novel, adding a graphic element to the drama.

Modan has a knack for using small stories about interpersonal relationships to explore bigger issues: Her first full-length graphic novel, Exit Wounds (2008), delved into complicated life in contemporary Israel, in a tale about a taxi driver who gets a call telling him his estranged father was killed in a suicide bombing. The Property also taps into the zeitgeist of modern-day Israel, where the Holocaust is a perpetual undercurrent and where ever more Israelis embark on “roots trips” across Europe to reconnect with their family histories and, in some cases, recover lost assets.

From the start, Modan depicts the ambivalence that sometimes accompanies such trips. On the plane to Poland, when a guide accompanying Israeli students on a March of the Living trip tells Regina how moving it is to be able to show Mica her old haunts, she responds, “Warsaw doesn’t interest me. It’s one big cemetery,” adding that they’re going simply to claim their property.

Once in Warsaw, however, Regina’s true motives for the trip emerge, as she stealthily tracks down an old love interest—a non-Jewish Pole named Roman Gorski who (spoiler alert) fathered her son, Mica’s late father, before Regina fled to Mandatory Palestine to escape the Nazis. Mica, meanwhile, treks all over Warsaw in search of the lost property; she is alternately accompanied by a gentile tour guide of Jewish Warsaw, with whom she becomes involved, and shadowed by a family acquaintance driven by his own motives.

Unlike Kichka, Modan doesn’t explicitly depict Holocaust imagery in The Property. Instead, her clear drawing style, which is often compared to that of Hergé’s Tintin books, switches from vividly colored panels to sepia-toned ones when characters discuss the past or flash back to it. The only Nazis pictured in the book appear when Mica inadvertently gets “caught” in a reenactment of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and is rescued by the wily family friend.

Fittingly, the action comes to a head as all the characters unite in a Warsaw cemetery on Zaduszki (All Saint’s Day), the day that souls of the dead return to visit their homes, according to Polish tradition. This not only echoes Regina’s remark about Poland being one big cemetery—it also underscores the fact that family skeletons often have a way of creeping back to life despite painstaking efforts to keep them buried."
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Rutu Modan Featured in JWeekly!

Updated November 7, 2013


JWeekly.com
By Howard Freedman

"Off the Shelf: What lurks beneath the surface is always more interesting

There are few lines as resonant for me as William Faulkner’s oft-quoted “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Last month’s flare-up involving restaurateur and former cooking show host Paula Deen restored this lesson to its appropriate Southern context. But Faulkner’s observation also reflects a truth central to Jewish life — we Jews are animated by our history, whether in antiquity or in our recent past, and whether that history inspires us or haunts us.

In Rutu Modan’s new graphic novel, “The Property,” a young Israeli woman and her rather difficult grandmother travel to Warsaw for the grandmother’s first visit to Poland since leaving shortly before World War II. Although the ostensible purpose of the trip is to reclaim an apartment building that their family had owned, it turns out that there is much more to be revealed (which I won’t reveal here) in the course of their time in Warsaw.

With elements of both detective story and screwball comedy, the book portrays uneasy relationships across generation and nationality, with each character guessing at the other’s motivations. Modan suggests that things are always more complicated than we suspect, and that our relationship to the past can fuel how we relate to each other in the present.

Modan also deftly explores the current Jewish relationship to Poland. For example, the book’s depiction of an Israeli teen pilgrimage to concentration camps offers an unflattering vision of how Poland is employed as a pedagogical instrument for Jewish identity formation — as a land with no possibility other than as a cemetery.

This is not to say that Modan romanticizes the country. There is plenty of mutual suspicion to go around in the interactions between the book’s Poles and Jews. But she resists reductionism by honoring the complexity of the stories.

Like Modan’s previous full-length work, “Exit Wounds,” which revolved around a suicide bombing in Israel, “The Property” displays the strengths of the “grown-up” graphic novel. It is elegantly executed with economical line work and a narrative that is confined to dialogue; the restraint helps to keep the story provocative without being didactic. It’s a book I would recommend even to those who lack affection for the medium.

A different sort of history lesson lies in Jonathan Kirsch’s “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris,” whose release coincides appropriately with the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Kirsch provides a detailed account of the saga of Grynszpan, the 17-year-old who walked into the German Embassy in Paris on Nov. 7, 1938 and shot low-ranking diplomat Ernst vom Rath. Germany seized on vom Rath’s death two days later, using it as a pretext for the widespread campaign of pogroms that would become known as Kristallnacht.

I consider myself knowledgeable about the history of the Holocaust, but what I previously knew about Grynszpan could barely have filled two sentences. Although his action is well-known, Grynszpan’s story is not.

Grynszpan was born in Hanover, Germany to a family of poor Jewish émigrés from Poland. In 1936, with life increasingly intolerable under the Nazis, Herschel’s parents sent the 15-year-old to live with relatives in Paris. However, Herschel’s attempts to gain legal residency status in France were rejected, and in 1938 he was formally expelled. With his Polish and German re-entry papers having expired, he was now stateless, and he continued to live in Paris illegally.

In October 1938, his parents and siblings were deported from Germany along with thousands of other Jews originally from Poland. With Poland unwilling to admit them, the refugees lingered in poor conditions in a makeshift transit camp in the border town of Zbaszyn.

Frustration and anger at his family’s plight led Herschel to seek vengeance on Germany. He purchased a gun, shot vom Rath and made no effort to evade capture. In his wallet was a postcard addressed to his parents with a short message that included the words, “I have to protest in a way that the whole world hears my protest.”

Kirsch demonstrates ably that, although there were some spontaneous eruptions of violence against Jews after the attack, the massive actions that broke out following vom Rath’s death were centrally organized from on high, replete with officially authorized phrases to be painted on the windows and walls of Jewish-owned businesses.

Owing largely to the vagaries of bureaucracy and war, Grynszpan was never tried in court. Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels intended to enact a show trial in Berlin, but the crafty Gynszpan foiled it by threatening to testify that he and vom Rath were romantically involved and that the murder was the result of a lovers’ spat.

Grynszpan eventually was killed in German custody, but the circumstances are a matter of speculation.

Kirsch wonders aloud why Jews who fought against the Nazis are widely celebrated as heroes, but Grynszpan is not. Is it because he was young and troubled? Because his target was a low-ranking Nazi with an office job? Because his act came too early? Or because we can’t help laying some of the blame for Kristallnacht on him? It’s a question I’m still contemplating long after having closed the book. Because we’re never done with history."
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




Rutu Modan gets interviewed in The Metro

Updated November 7, 2013


"Comic book artist Rutu Modan: Even Superman was a failure in Israel

By Anthony Cummins
The Metro UK, July 25, 2013

Israeli artist Rutu Modan talks frankly about creating her latest comic book, The Property

I didn’t tell anyone in my family that I’d use them as characters in my new book, The Property. The character of Regina, who travels from Israel to Poland with her granddaughter Mica, draws on a mixture of my grandmothers, both originally from Warsaw. I thought of their clothes and hairstyles, the way they used to talk and how they always referred to Poland as ‘one big cemetery’. The character of Yagodnik is based on my uncle. I love him very much but he’s the most irritating person.

I used a tight frame-by-frame storyboard and chose actors, just like a movie director. After taking photos of them acting out the scenes, I went to Poland, took photos of the locations I needed and then combined everything in the drawings.

I’m almost ashamed to say I don’t feel the lousy political situation in Israel influences me that much in my daily life. Is it because I feel life’s too short and that I have too many things to do to be able to deal with the situation I was born into? Or because I’m too frightened or shallow? I can’t say. I’m not proud of it.

Only in my work – in the black humour, in the obsession with death – can I see traces of what I try to suppress every day. In my stories, the drama is there, but always in the background. Against this background – of the Holocaust, the terror, the occupation – my characters live their small lives, just like me.

Remembering and forgetting are powerful tools for dealing with the complexity of personal history and sometimes they become politicised in manipulative and insincere ways. I’m not against remembering – it was a big motivation in choosing the subject of The Property – but I believe forgetting is important, too. If you can’t forget, you can become very angry and ungenerous, which isn’t a pleasant way to go through life.

Rutu Modan's The Property (Picture: Rutu Modan)Rutu Modan’s The Property (Picture: Rutu Modan)
Israel generally isn’t a country for comics. Things have changed in the past 20 years but when I grew up, there were none at all. When I started out as a cartoonist, there were maybe five artists active here. Even Superman and Tintin were commercial failures in Israel.

I can work 14 hours a day because I like drawing comics more than anything in the world. And I don’t need much sleep – five hours is enough. But the main reason I worked like crazy on The Property was that I was afraid of losing interest if it took too long. I convinced myself that if I didn’t finish on time I’d have to give back the publisher’s advance – it wasn’t true but I succeeded in deceiving myself.

I’ve never heard anyone in Israel argue over whether to say ‘graphic novel’ or ‘comic book’. Comics are so new here, people don’t even know there’s a difference between mainstream and alternative styles. It’s liberating.

The Property by Rutu Modan (Jonathan Cape) is out today."
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  ANSAmed on Rutu Modan's The Property

Updated September 11, 2013


"Jewish culture festival: cartoonist Rutu Modan on her life"

ANSAmed, July 25, 2013

(ANSAmed) - ROME, JULY 25 - Some still ask her: 'Shouldn't cartoons make you laugh?'. Rutu Moda, born in 1966, an Israeli from Tel Aviv, is one of the world's most famous cartoonists with work published by the New York Times, New Yorker and Le Monde. Winner of many awards, she became the star of politically engaged cartoons in 2007 with her first graphic novel Exit Wounds. She is currently in Rome for the Festival of Jewish culture and literature where she presented her latest novel The Property.

'It took me four years to make it', she told ANSAmed. 'Six months of research and three and a half years to write and design it'.

Modan is like an artisan who knows her subject matter and is satisfied with nothing less than perfection. 'To make my illustrations more real, more credible, I decided to use actors who, frame after frame, acted for the book. I selected them, dressed, directed and photographed them myself. And given that a bit of exaggeration works well in comic strips, I ask them to act as if they were in a silent movie'.

The result is a small masterpiece which tells the story of a family similar in many ways to the author's family.

'The Property talks about an Israeli young woman, Mika and about Regina, her grandmother. The two leave together from Israel to Poland, the country where Regina was born and which she was forced to leave due to the anti-Semitic persecution.

They are on a mission - at least on the surface - to claim back family property seized by the Nazis and then nationalized by the Communists. But the grandmother has a secret objective...', said Modan. 'Like Regina, my grandma was born in Poland and she too, after fleeing the country, did not want to go back. She called it 'the great cemetery', a term also used by the grandmother in my book. I never heard about Poland and when I decided to write the book the first thing I did was to go on Wikipedia and read about it'.

But the similarities don't end here: 'My family, like many others, has always talked about property left behind. Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust did not have homes to go back to: everything had been destroyed or nationalized by the Communists. There was a great difference from what happened in France or Italy: for example, Primo Levi talks in one of his books about a 'house' to go back to'. The theme of 'property' sees the light here: 'After studying for the book I discovered this is a very sensitive political issue both in Poland and Israel. And most of all I realized the evident analogy between the stories of Polish Jews and Palestinians who still have the keys of homes seized from them a long time ago'.

However, the artist noted, 'it would not be correct to define The Property a political book - at least not as a first instance. I wanted to tell the story of a family which can reach out to everyone: Japanese, Koreans, Italians'. (ANSAmed)
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




Rutu Modan talks about process and The Property

Updated September 11, 2013


"Comic book artist Rutu Modan: Even Superman was a failure in Israel"

by Anthony Cummins
Metro, July 25, 2013


Israeli artist Rutu Modan talks frankly about creating her latest comic book, The Property

I didn’t tell anyone in my family that I’d use them as characters in my new book, The Property. The character of Regina, who travels from Israel to Poland with her granddaughter Mica, draws on a mixture of my grandmothers, both originally from Warsaw. I thought of their clothes and hairstyles, the way they used to talk and how they always referred to Poland as ‘one big cemetery’. The character of Yagodnik is based on my uncle. I love him very much but he’s the most irritating person.

I used a tight frame-by-frame storyboard and chose actors, just like a movie director. After taking photos of them acting out the scenes, I went to Poland, took photos of the locations I needed and then combined everything in the drawings.

I’m almost ashamed to say I don’t feel the lousy political situation in Israel influences me that much in my daily life. Is it because I feel life’s too short and that I have too many things to do to be able to deal with the situation I was born into? Or because I’m too frightened or shallow? I can’t say. I’m not proud of it.

Only in my work – in the black humour, in the obsession with death – can I see traces of what I try to suppress every day. In my stories, the drama is there, but always in the background. Against this background – of the Holocaust, the terror, the occupation – my characters live their small lives, just like me.

Remembering and forgetting are powerful tools for dealing with the complexity of personal history and sometimes they become politicised in manipulative and insincere ways. I’m not against remembering – it was a big motivation in choosing the subject of The Property – but I believe forgetting is important, too. If you can’t forget, you can become very angry and ungenerous, which isn’t a pleasant way to go through life.

Rutu Modan's The Property (Picture: Rutu Modan)Rutu Modan’s The Property (Picture: Rutu Modan)
Israel generally isn’t a country for comics. Things have changed in the past 20 years but when I grew up, there were none at all. When I started out as a cartoonist, there were maybe five artists active here. Even Superman and Tintin were commercial failures in Israel.

I can work 14 hours a day because I like drawing comics more than anything in the world. And I don’t need much sleep – five hours is enough. But the main reason I worked like crazy on The Property was that I was afraid of losing interest if it took too long. I convinced myself that if I didn’t finish on time I’d have to give back the publisher’s advance – it wasn’t true but I succeeded in deceiving myself.

I’ve never heard anyone in Israel argue over whether to say ‘graphic novel’ or ‘comic book’. Comics are so new here, people don’t even know there’s a difference between mainstream and alternative styles. It’s liberating.

The Property by Rutu Modan (Jonathan Cape) is out today.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Jweekly.com reviews The Property

Updated September 11, 2013


"Off the Shelf | What lurks beneath the surface is always more interesting"

by Howard Freedman
jweekly.com, July 18, 2013


There are few lines as resonant for me as William Faulkner’s oft-quoted “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Last month’s flare-up involving restaurateur and former cooking show host Paula Deen restored this lesson to its appropriate Southern context. But Faulkner’s observation also reflects a truth central to Jewish life — we Jews are animated by our history, whether in antiquity or in our recent past, and whether that history inspires us or haunts us.

freedman_howardIn Rutu Modan’s new graphic novel, “The Property,” a young Israeli woman and her rather difficult grandmother travel to Warsaw for the grandmother’s first visit to Poland since leaving shortly before World War II. Although the ostensible purpose of the trip is to reclaim an apartment building that their family had owned, it turns out that there is much more to be revealed (which I won’t reveal here) in the course of their time in Warsaw.

With elements of both detective story and screwball comedy, the book portrays uneasy relationships across generation and nationality, with each character guessing at the other’s motivations. Modan suggests that things are always more complicated than we suspect, and that our relationship to the past can fuel how we relate to each other in the present.

Modan also deftly explores the current Jewish relationship to Poland. For example, the book’s depiction of an Israeli teen pilgrimage to concentration camps offers an unflattering vision of how Poland is employed as a pedagogical instrument for Jewish identity formation — as a land with no possibility other than as a cemetery.

This is not to say that Modan romanticizes the country. There is plenty of mutual suspicion to go around in the interactions between the book’s Poles and Jews. But she resists reductionism by honoring the complexity of the stories.

LIToffthesehelf_grynszpan_normal_sizeLike Modan’s previous full-length work, “Exit Wounds,” which revolved around a suicide bombing in Israel, “The Property” displays the strengths of the “grown-up” graphic novel. It is elegantly executed with economical line work and a narrative that is confined to dialogue; the restraint helps to keep the story provocative without being didactic. It’s a book I would recommend even to those who lack affection for the medium.

A different sort of history lesson lies in Jonathan Kirsch’s “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris,” whose release coincides appropriately with the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Kirsch provides a detailed account of the saga of Grynszpan, the 17-year-old who walked into the German Embassy in Paris on Nov. 7, 1938 and shot low-ranking diplomat Ernst vom Rath. Germany seized on vom Rath’s death two days later, using it as a pretext for the widespread campaign of pogroms that would become known as Kristallnacht.

I consider myself knowledgeable about the history of the Holocaust, but what I previously knew about Grynszpan could barely have filled two sentences. Although his action is well-known, Grynszpan’s story is not.

Grynszpan was born in Hanover, Germany to a family of poor Jewish émigrés from Poland. In 1936, with life increasingly intolerable under the Nazis, Herschel’s parents sent the 15-year-old to live with relatives in Paris. However, Herschel’s attempts to gain legal residency status in France were rejected, and in 1938 he was formally expelled. With his Polish and German re-entry papers having expired, he was now stateless, and he continued to live in Paris illegally.

LIToffthesehelf_theproperty_normal_sizeIn October 1938, his parents and siblings were deported from Germany along with thousands of other Jews originally from Poland. With Poland unwilling to admit them, the refugees lingered in poor conditions in a makeshift transit camp in the border town of Zbaszyn.

Frustration and anger at his family’s plight led Herschel to seek vengeance on Germany. He purchased a gun, shot vom Rath and made no effort to evade capture. In his wallet was a postcard addressed to his parents with a short message that included the words, “I have to protest in a way that the whole world hears my protest.”

Kirsch demonstrates ably that, although there were some spontaneous eruptions of violence against Jews after the attack, the massive actions that broke out following vom Rath’s death were centrally organized from on high, replete with officially authorized phrases to be painted on the windows and walls of Jewish-owned businesses.

Owing largely to the vagaries of bureaucracy and war, Grynszpan was never tried in court. Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels intended to enact a show trial in Berlin, but the crafty Gynszpan foiled it by threatening to testify that he and vom Rath were romantically involved and that the murder was the result of a lovers’ spat.

Grynszpan eventually was killed in German custody, but the circumstances are a matter of speculation.

Kirsch wonders aloud why Jews who fought against the Nazis are widely celebrated as heroes, but Grynszpan is not. Is it because he was young and troubled? Because his target was a low-ranking Nazi with an office job? Because his act came too early? Or because we can’t help laying some of the blame for Kristallnacht on him? It’s a question I’m still contemplating long after having closed the book. Because we’re never done with history.

click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




More love for The Property from The Jewish Daily Forward

Updated September 11, 2013


"Israeli Graphic Novelist Rutu Modan Draws on Her Family's Secret History: In 'The Property,' Artist Explores Her Polish Roots"

by Tal Kra-Oz
The Jewish Daily Forward, July 18, 2013

In Israel — a country almost entirely bereft of homegrown graphic novels — Rutu Modan is a one-woman industry. Her new book, “The Property,” published in both Hebrew and English, follows Mica, a young Israeli woman on a trip to Warsaw with her grandmother Regina, ostensibly to track down and reclaim the property owned by Regina’s family before she left for Palestine, the Nazis invaded Poland and all was lost. But Regina’s motives soon turn out to be more complicated, as a decades-old love affair is slowly revealed, with startling repercussions for Mica.
Modan, who is in her 40s, brown-haired and blue-eyed, spoke with me on a Saturday afternoon at a café near her home in central Tel Aviv. “The Property” is the latest in a long line of work. In fact, she was well on track to becoming a cartoonist before she was even aware that such a medium existed. She started drawing at the age of two, realizing only in retrospect that her pictures always had characters in them, and told stories. “But,” she said, “there were almost no comic books around — a Tintin book here, a Tex book there — and so I never understood that this was considered a separate medium. For me it was just the way I expressed myself.”
During her military service, which she spent as a youth counselor, a friend introduced her to the work of Edward Gorey, whose grotesque, faux-Victorian style was an early influence. Later, as a student at Jerusalem’s prestigious Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design — where she now teaches — Modan encountered Art Spiegelman’s Raw magazine. Her mind was blown. “I fell in love,” she said. “I knew that this was what I wanted to do.” Two months later she had a weekly strip in a local Jerusalem paper; the strip was fairly experimental and populated by oddball characters, and it whet her appetite for longer and more intricate stories. She was a founding member of the avant-garde comic artists collective Actus Tragicus, and collaborated closely with the writer Etgar Keret, with whom she shares a taste for the macabre, on a number of projects.
As Modan’s thematic scope — and the sheer length of her work — grew, she refined her draftsmanship, incorporating a realistic style more reminiscent of Hergé’s Tintin than of Gorey’s ghoulish drawings. A full-blown graphic-novel was only a matter of time. “Exit Wounds,” published in 2007, was the bittersweet tale of a taxi driver on a search to uncover whether or not the unidentified body of a terrorist attack victim was that of his estranged father. A breakout hit, it won the Eisner Award from the comic industry for Best Graphic Album and was translated into 12 languages.
As in “Exit Wounds,” where deeply tragic — and unique — circumstances served as the backdrop for an exploration of universal themes, “The Property” boldly takes on Big Themes — the Holocaust, efforts to reclaim long-lost property and what Poland means to Israelis, to name a few — only to use them as a launch pad for a sometimes scathing, but always loving, examination of family.

Modan, who is of Polish descent on both sides of her family, had very little interest in Poland growing up. Like all Israelis, she knew that Poland was the land of the Holocaust, Auschwitz and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. But after receiving warm reactions, from Jews and non-Jews alike, to autobiographical strips featuring her almost stereotypically Polish grandmothers, she decided to explore her family’s origins. Around the same time, there was talk of retrieving lost property, something that for many years, under Communist rule, had been out of the question.
With her grandmothers long dead, Modan never went on a journey like the one portrayed in her book. Besides, she said, “my grandmothers never wanted to go back. They had no interest in seeing how the city had changed. For them it was one giant graveyard.” For Modan, “The Property” was an opportunity to imagine what such a trip might have been like. Regina, a grand Polish matriarch of the sort that has become a veritable institution in Israeli culture — an object of both ridicule and admiration — is in many ways an amalgamation of Modan’s two grandmothers.
Stemming from her ambivalence to the Holocaust-centric tours of Poland that so many Israelis take, Modan pledged that on her research trips to Warsaw she would avoid the concentration camps and memorial sites, and seek out the Poland of today. But those sites quickly caught up with her. On her first visit to Warsaw, her younger sister suggested a hip-looking café she’d spotted in a guidebook. “We took a cab there,” Modan recounted, “and discovered that the café was right in the heart of the old Jewish ghetto.” They chatted with an Israeli couple that warmly recommended a visit to the Majdanek camp, “because it’s much scarier than Auschwitz.” That line found its way into the book.
The more Modan learned, the more Poland, and Israelis’ perception of it, fascinated her. “We are angrier with the Poles than they are with the Germans,” she said. “The Germans share our version of what happened, and that makes it easier to move on.” But the Polish narrative was completely different: “They play down their history of anti-Semitism and cooperation with the Nazis, which are the main things we remember about them. They view themselves as the victims, and that makes it that much harder for us as Jews, as Israelis, to get their story.” Tomasz, a cartoonist who befriends Mica in the book, is at work on a comic-book retelling of the Warsaw uprising of 1944, a subject of national pride, while Mica, like most Israelis, is only familiar with the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943. Despite the different narratives, Modan felt comfortable in Warsaw, which reminded her of the Tel Aviv of her childhood. “But I felt no nostalgia there,” she said. “I have no trouble giving up Poland, it isn’t my lost homeland. But perhaps that’s because I’m not a very nostalgic person.”
The book’s epigraph is a quote by Modan’s mother: “With family, you don’t have to tell the whole truth and it’s not considered lying.” Modan says that her family’s secrets inspired her story. Her maternal grandfather abandoned the family when her mother was very young, and growing up, Modan had never met him, until, when she was 13, she attended a family wedding. “We were standing by the buffet and suddenly my mom pointed out a man and said, ‘You see him, that’s my father.’ After my mom introduced us, he nodded and walked off. That was the one time I saw him. It was a defining moment for me, because it was then that I realized that blood relations can sometimes be meaningless. That a family member loving you is in no way a given.” Modan said she had no qualms about exposing family secrets in her work because, she said with a smile, her relatives usually have trouble recognizing themselves.
There is a rare humanness to her characters that Modan says she can’t take full credit for. After storyboarding her book, she hired local actors to play out the scenes. The actors’ body language was incredibly helpful in conveying subtleties, particularly in a medium where facial expressions are usually limited to a few basic emotions. Dvora Kedar, the octogenarian who played the part of Regina, gave a particularly powerful performance. Kedar is beloved by Israelis for her role in the hit ’70s film “Lemon Popsicle,” in which she portrayed what was to become the quintessential Polish mother in Israeli cinema.
These days, Modan is on a “vacation from creativity.” She said the year she spent working on the 220-page book felt more like two, because of the 12-hour days she spent working on it. She is hopeful that despite the book’s specificity, readers around the world will be able to understand. After all, she said, “Everyone has grandmothers. These sorts of relationships, that kind of nostalgia for the past, the drive to get rich quick — are things everyone can relate to. Questions about loss and how we remember lost loved ones are universal.”

Tal Kra-Oz is a writer and law student living in Jerusalem.


 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  The Guardian calls The Property a contender for graphic novel of the year

Updated September 11, 2013


"The Property by Rutu Modan - review"

by Rachel Cooke
The Guardian, July 14, 2013

This moving tale about a grandmother's long-buried wartime secret is a contender for graphic novel of the year.

In Rutu Modan's second full-length graphic novel, Mica Segal, a young Israeli woman, travels to Warsaw with her paternal grandmother, Regina, to help her reclaim the apartment building her family was forced to give up in 1940. On the surface of it, this is a quest that should bring the two of them closer, particularly since they are both mourning Mica's father, lost only recently to cancer. But almost from the moment they get on the plane, the cracks in their relationship begin to appear. Not only is Regina irascible, haughty and mistrustful to the point of paranoia when it comes to the Poles, she is also in possession of a long-buried secret. Little does her granddaughter suspect, but even by the usual standards of such trips this one will be difficult: a wild goose chase as well as a painful excursion into the past.

On one level, then, Modan's book is an old-fashioned page turner: just what is it that Regina is hiding, and how has she managed to keep it out of sight for so long? (Unlike most comics, The Property is superbly plotted.) But it's so much more than this. For Modan, nothing is sacred, not even the Holocaust, and her satirical impulses are always at play, whether she is sending up the queasy tourist industry that now relies on its memory ("Personally, I prefer Majdanek to Auschwitz," says a schoolteacher, going over his class's itinerary on the flight to Warsaw), or the efforts of 21st-century Poles to make reparation for what happened to their country's Jews ("I really miss the ghetto," says a woman from the Society for Jewish Memorialisation, a group that organises "re-enactments" in which young people wearing yellow stars are rounded up by pretend Nazi soldiers). All this education and public anguish: does it do any good, or is it just for show? About this, Modan seems to be ambivalent. And people will reveal themselves. "With your determination – I promise – you'll die a landlord," Mica's Polish lawyer tells her, cheerfully, when she is thwarted by an awkward legal truth. The expression on her face – should she laugh or slap him? – is priceless.

I know it's only July, but I feel certain this will end up being my graphic novel of the year. Modan has it all. Her drawings are fantastically expressive, with the result that her characters are as many-layered as those you'll find among the pages of a traditional novel. She is witty and wise, cool-headed in a world of feverish opinions. Most impressive of all, though, is her technique when it comes to matters of pace and deep emotion. Early on, for instance, Regina prepares herself for an important encounter. Modan does not tell us who she is about to meet, but we register its looming weight thanks to a series of wordless panels. We watch the old woman slowly apply her lipstick, pat her collar, put on her earrings. She looks proud, even tough. But then there comes a final frame in which her mirror face briefly dissolves, and we suddenly grasp the reality. Behind all that pressed powder, she is still a girl, really: vulnerable and trembling inside.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




World Literature Today reviews The Property

Updated September 11, 2013


"Miriam Katin. Letting It Go. New York. Drawn & Quarterly / Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 2013.
isbn 9781770461031"

by Rita D. Jacobs
World Literature Today, July-August 2013

Seven years ago, Miriam Katin made an impressive debut with the publication of her first graphic novel, We Are On Our Own (see WLT, Mar. 2007, 66), a Holocaust tale of running, hiding, and escape. With Letting It Go, she confirms her place as a significant graphic novelist. A vivid storyteller, Katin manages to capture interior monologue and external narrative seamlessly with deft and elegant strokes, both verbal and pictorial. Her central character, Miriam, is a middle-aged, married Holocaust survivor and artist whose only son, Ilan, decides to live in Berlin and wants to become a Hungarian citizen, his right because Miriam was born in Hungary. This initiating incident is central to the tale, but it is in the details of the story that we find the surprise and delight in this work. An imagined catastrophe resulting from explosions of beautifully designed German products plugged into many American kitchen outlets leaves us with no doubt about the narrator’s fears. Nor is there doubt about her sense of humor. A meditation on procrastination cites Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu and then has her wandering the apartment only to land in front of the refrigerator peering into a container thinking, “A la recherche des sardines perdus.” Katin wears her learning lightly, and in both word and image she conveys humor while revealing buried and not-so-buried fears. There is also a fascinating shift in perspective embedded in the movement of her tale. One moment she tells her son that the ground of Germany is soaked with the blood of Jews after he tells her that Berlin is where art is happening; the next she goes to visit her mother, with whom she still speaks Hungarian, and is told by her that Ilan is just like her, running and never caring who is left behind. These shifts in perspective are remarkably fluid, made more so by the fact that there are no frames to these illustrations. A page of drawings swings from an interior thought to a conversation to a dream, from a ground view to an aerial, and from present to past. Yet so compelling is Katin’s narrative that the reader is fully engaged and never set adrift. There is horror here, to be sure. On her first visit to see Ilan in Berlin, where he is living with his non-Jewish Swedish girlfriend, Miriam struggles between the comfort of modern Germany and the ghosts of the past. In fact, every time she spends a night in a German hotel, her body rebels in rather graphic ways. Making peace with the past and reconciling memory with current reality is at the heart of Letting It Go. After traveling the difficult journey with Miriam, the reader is much richer for the experience and has an equally hard time letting it go. Katin’s remarkable work gets under the skin.

Rita D. Jacobs
Montclair State University
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Two D&Q titles make Amazon's best 10 comics of the year thus far!

Updated September 11, 2013


"Amazon reveals its 10 best comics of the year - so far"

by Kevin Melrose
Comic Book Resources, June 24, 2013

Because it’s apparently never too early to get a jump start on best-of-the-year lists, Amazon.com has rolled out a rundown of the best comics and graphic novels of the year so far, led by Gilbert Hernandez’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story Marble Season (Drawn and Quarterly). Here’s the full Top 10, arranged according to sales:

1. Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido and others (Marvel)

2. Solo: The Deluxe Edition, by various (DC Comics)

3. Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 1: The God Butcher, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic (Marvel)

4. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley (First Second)

5. MIND MGMT, Vol. 1, by Matt Kindt and Brendan Wright (Dark Horse)

6. The Property, by Rutu Modan and Jessica Cohen (Drawn and Quarterly)

7. The Comics Journal #302, edited by Gary Groth (Fantagraphics)

8. Marble Season, by Gilbert Hernandez (Drawn and Quarterly)

9. Iron: Or, the War After, by Shane-Michael Vidaurri (Archaia)

10. The Creep, John Arcudi, Scott Allie and Jonathan Case (Dark Horse)

The editors’ picks for the best of the year so far in each category can be found here.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Rutu Modan
Gilbert Hernandez

           Featured product

The Property




Comics Alternative Podcast declares The Property "more than worth the wait"

Updated September 10, 2013


"Review: Rutu Modan's The Property

by Derek Royal
Comics Alternative Podcast, July 4, 2013

Rutu Modan is one of Israel’s most notable comics artist, and she is certainly the nation’s most visible representative in the United States. First gaining recognition as a co-founder (along with Yirmi PropertyPinkus) of the Actus Tragicus collective in 1995, she has since gone on to distinguish herself as a solo creator, specifically with Exit Wounds (2007) and the collection Jamilti and Other Stories (2008). Her work has also been featured in The New York Times‘ blog, “Mixed Emotions” (2007), and in the now defunct “Funny Pages” section of The New York Times Magazine, “The Murder of the Terminal Patient” (2008). In May of this year she released her second long-form work, The Property (Drawn & Quarterly). It is the story of Regina Segal and her granddaughter, Mica, who travel to Warsaw for seven days to recover something her family lost during the Second World War. Having emigrated to Israel with her parents right before the outbreak of the conflict, Regina is divorced from the horrors that confronted other Polish Jews and their families. Over fifty years later she returns to her birthplace for what at first appears to be a simple act of property reclamation, but ends up becoming an emotional and highly personal journey that neither she nor Mica anticipated.

That last sentence has a ring of the cliché to it, and it is to Modan’s great credit that her narrative never falls prey to that tendency. The story’s premise may seem overly familiar to those acquainted with Holocaust literature or the writings of second-generation survivors, but The Promise is not really a book about Holocaust or its “after.” It is first and foremost about a woman who lost her lover and now ventures back to confront those choices that ended the affair. The reality of the Holocaust is always there as the story’s backdrop, but it is never given center stage as the narrative’s modus operandi. Unlike other Shoah or second-generation novels, this is not the story of a survivor who returns to confront a horrific past or a child of survivors who must witness the source of her family’s disfunction. Modan gives us the potential for that kind of narrative through Regina and the younger Mica, but her concern here is much more localized and idiosyncratic. We can see this through the figure of Avram Yagodnik, Regina’s future son-in-law who just Property2happens to be traveling to Warsaw at the same time for a cantor’s convention. He more than any other character in the book represents a post-Holocaust awareness of Jewish identity. He is actually traveling to Warsaw for the same ostensible reason as Regina and Mica, to recover the family’s stolen property, but he does so clandestinely and more within the context of Jewish justice (even though his real reasons for reclaiming the property, as we come to find out, are just as personal, albeit less emotional, then Regina’s). Modan’s inversion of the post-Holocaust journey convention is perhaps best seen toward the end of the book, where Regina, Mica, Avram, and Mica’s new Polish (boy)friend, Tomasz, are at a crowded cemetery for Zaduszki (the Polish day of the prayer for souls). In the midst of everyone honoring the dead, Avram breaks out with a Jewish funeral prayer — he is a cantor, after all — that is often sung throughout Israel at Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies. What at first could be read as an act of Jewish reappropriation becomes a misguided, and comedic, attempt at ethnic affirmation. Regina hits Avram in mid-prayer, and then calls him out for what he really is: another false claimant to her property. This event, along with the absence of any traumatic flashbacks — the only Nazis in this story are harmless actors recreating Ghetto scenes for the city’s Society for Jewish Memorialization — and the total lack of Polish anti-Semitism, all suggest an ironic and highly nuanced kind of post-Holocaust narrative.

At the same time there is a lot more going on in the book than just Regina’s confrontation with her past. Mica is arguably the story’s co-protagonist, and her relationship with the gentile Tomasz, as well as her reactions to Avram, place her in a Jewish context informed by generational differences. And Tomasz himself – especially Tomasz — stands out a key figure in the text. He is a comics artist who uses his job as a Warsaw Jewish tour guide as a source for his illustrations. He represents through his art both the current condition of the former Warsaw ghetto (especially the Jews who visit in commemoration) and Poland’s darker past, and with a sketchbook that includes romantic encounters as well as drawings of German soldiers and Gestapo figures. If one were looking for a stand-in for Modan and her relationship with the Jewish past, then Tomasz would be the first candidate.

In all, The Property is an ambitious book comprising diverse figures and conflicting motives. And Modan’s art, reminiscent of the ligne claire style yet more realistic in its expression, certainly carries the weight of the story. It may have been more than five years since Rutu Modan’s last novelistic work, but the payoff here is more than worth the wait.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Jamilti and Other Stories
The Property




  Rutu Modan records her week for The Paris Review

Updated September 10, 2013


"A Week in Culture: Rutu Modan, Cartoonist"

by Rutu Modan
Translated from the Hebrew by Sivan Ben-Horin.
The Paris Review, June 27, 2013

Sunday

I have no idea how this happened, but apparently I’ve agreed to give a talk to the entire pre-K and first grade at a local school. A total of seven classes.

While I do, in fact, also illustrate children books, it’s really due to my interest in books and less to my interest in children. It’s not that I don’t like children—I’m quite fond of mine—but speaking to children is a bit scary. They don’t know they’re supposed to hide it if they’re bored.

I show the kids books I’ve illustrated, share my work methods, and even throw in a professional secret: I can’t draw horses’ feet. During the Q&A, a curly-haired girl persistently raises her hand and when I call on her she says, “My mother looks much younger than you.” But all in all, I realize that between these kids and my students at the art academy there is no big difference in understanding.

I return home exhausted and spend the afternoon in bed reading an old book, published in 1958, I purchased at a second-hand store titled Education in the Eyes of Humor. Despite its humorless title, this anthology of short stories by classic authors is very amusing. The subject is parent-teacher-child relationships (one of Chekhov’s stories is about a widowed lawyer who discovers that his six-year-old son is smoking; Kornel Makuszynski, a well-known Polish author, writes on the brotherhood of test cheaters at his high school). Unsurprisingly, most of the authors describe themselves as horrible students, as constant disappointments to their parents, and complete failures in being part of the system. I thank God Ritalin wasn’t available then.

In the evening, I attend Lysistrata at Habima Theater. It’s a loose musical interpretation of Aristophanes’s comedy. In this version, the Israeli military’s top brass is putting on Lysistrata under the conduction of the original Lysistrata herself (the ancient Greek one) who has appeared out of nowhere and with whose authority they must now comply. With the exception of Lysistrata (the actress Lilian Berreto), all the roles are played by men, including the rebellious wives who won’t sleep with their husbands until they cease fighting.

I already saw this play a couple of weeks ago, but this time I’m backstage witnessing the costume changes, which are no less amusing than the play itself.

Monday

Morning: I’m going to Asaf Hanuka’s studio. For the past five years, Asaf has been publishing a comic strip titled The Realist and is now working on a graphic novel with his twin brother, Tomer, who has returned from New York after twenty years. Their studio, situated in the basement of a Tel Aviv apartment building, is full of paint brushes, canvases, and watercolors, just the way an illustrator’s studio should look. I’m a bit jealous. Since I began working on the computer, my paints and brushes are tucked away in drawers. I only went over to pick up a book, but in this comics-challenged country of ours, Asaf is one of the few comics artists I can speak to about our profession. And so I found myself staying for a three-hour conversation that only two people of the same profession can have: you besmirch the field, gripe about the present, and make gloomy predictions, and at the same time are astonished at how the rest of humanity has not chosen such a line of work.

Afternoon: Hila Noam, a former student of mine, has come over for some advice. She’s stuck with the ending to a story she’s working on. It’s part of an independent anthology to be presented next winter at the International Comics Festival in Angouleme, France. I recommend replacing the vehicle at the end of her story with a plane, but my suggestion is poor, as apparently the anthology’s theme is “Bus.”

Tuesday

I didn’t partake in anything cultural all day, unless you count arguing on the phone with the owner of a large book chain a cultural act. She tried to persuade me to let her sell my new graphic novel, The Property, at an eighty percent discount, which turned into an argument about who is at fault for the poor state of literature (and/or authors). In a joint effort, we manage to end the conversation on a friendly note and pass the blame on to the government.

In the evening, I drag my teenage daughter to a play at a charming venue called the Store. Befitting its name, it’s located in a store in the heart of one of the city’s not-so-pleasant commercial streets. The store has been converted into a tiny theater that can hold perhaps an audience of twenty-five.

The play, Papercut, is a side-splittingly hilarious yet touching parody ŕ la Mad Men about a secretary, nicknamed “the Bulldog” by her friends, who is secretly in love with her boss. The play is a one-woman show by Yael Rasooly, who is also the director and the playwright. She uses paper cutouts for the sets and props as well as for the other characters in the play.

Wednesday

Keren Taggar, an illustrator, sent me her sketches for William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy. I read the book in my youth, and even back then I could sense the humanity, humor, and deep sadness lying underneath. It’s a bold and pleasing move on behalf of the publisher: the book is destined to be part of a series for young adults, which is extraordinary, since nothing really “happens” in it and there’s not a happy ending.

Over the phone, Keren and I discuss the difference between illustrating for children and adolescents, which sends me to my own library to find Little Women. The illustrations in the edition I own simply floored me at age twelve. The illustrator, Albert de Mee Jousset, drew the March girls exactly as I imagined them!

I tried to search him once on the Internet, but all I could find was a mention on some Web site that noted he received only two thousand dollars for the illustrations. I find it surprising that the going rate for book illustration hasn’t really changed over the past hundred years.

Afternoon: catastrophe—the Internet is down. The entire household is having an emotional breakdown, especially after we’re informed that the technician won’t arrive until Friday. Two whole days sans Internet. Will we make it? What’s more, we don’t have TV. My daughter takes off for Blockbuster, returning with a pile of DVDs to help us through the crisis.

We feel as though we’re in some sociological experiment. Suddenly the entire family assembles in the living room to watch the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, or, as we girls like to call it, “The Real Darcy.” The men of the house hang around, supposedly to complain about the screening’s female agenda.

Before bedtime, I scold the disgruntled children: “Two days with no Internet! What’s the big deal?” I, by the way, am set, as I’m teaching tomorrow at the academy, which has fantastic Internet service.

Thursday

In the morning I meet my carpool at the café. We’re driving to the Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design in Jerusalem. Every semester I’m in a different carpool, during which I develop these tight friendships due to the fact that I spend a good three hours, once a week, in a small, enclosed space with the driver. I don’t even see my husband this much. I’ve had the opportunity to ride with a manic video artist (alarmingly, while driving, she’d whip out her iPhone and take pictures), with a group of instructors from the fine art department (who would adamantly disparage every opening they’d attended the previous week), and with an interactive-design instructor (app recommendations and free IT advice). I intend to become a well-educated individual by retirement.

This semester, my carpool consists of two typographers. Most of the time, they argue about “good letters” and “bad letters” while I float in the backseat.

I teach a course in comics for third-year students. Most of the work is done in class, and I’m there to assist them with their personal projects, which include writing, drawing, and production.

To one of them, I recommend shortening his six-hundred-frame script, reminding him that the semester ends in four weeks. The student explains that his comic is in the “stream of consciousness” genre, thus refusing to edit it whatsoever.

Fortunately, most of them are not like that. One student, raised in the USSR, is drawing a booklet about his grandfather’s super-Communist brother who was killed in World War II. Another one has written a poetic and funny script about a friendship between a balloon artist and a whale.

Working with a good student is an entry to an unfamiliar world of ideas and images. It’s a visit into the mind of someone whose age, gender, culture, and, at times, mother tongue is different from mine. As Anne Shirley of Green Gables said, teaching is an equal source of both misery and joy.

Classes were cut short today due to a farewell party being thrown for our most tenured professor, Avi Eisenstein, who is retiring after forty years in academia, during which he’s taught more than four thousand students, including myself. These events tend to be quite boring, except that Avi is an eccentric and amusing individual and, like every good professor, a performer at heart. He enjoys being spoken about and even more to speak himself, about himself. When he gets onstage he says, “I wrote down what I’d wanted to say, but now I feel like talking about other things.” He then dramatically tosses his papers up in the air, and they scatter all over the stage. He smiles: “To be honest, I practiced that toss all week.” The audience, mostly comprising former students, roars with laughter.

It’s seven P.M. and I’m famished, but the buffet selection has only fruit. I sadly chew on a slice of melon while dreaming of a burger.

On the way home we have to stop by an opening at the Tel Aviv Museum. One of the department’s instructors is in a group show.

As is written on the museum’s wall, the show “brings together Herman Melville’s great novel, Moby-Dick, and works of art, while examining the ways in which the readings and interpretations of the novel echo questions of representation and project on the readability of the visual image.” In other words, these are illustrations. (Sorry, my friends from the art world!).

Friday

Still no Internet.

I escape the household’s gloomy atmosphere and go out with my best friend, the author Yirmi Pinkus, to visit Dvora Keidar. She’s an eighty-nine-year-old actress at the height of her career: she’s currently in five different productions, two of which are leading roles. I fell in love with her three years ago when I saw her onstage as an aging prostitute in a red slip and platforms.

Yirmi introduces Dvora to his newborn baby boy. Once Dvora is done admiring him, they turn to discuss The Seagull, which they recently saw together. Dvora couldn’t stand the play. She claims the production was sloppy: the buttoned pillowcases used onstage only came into use years after Chekhov’s death.

At home, I take advantage of the fact that the Minister of Nutrition (my husband) is not around and make pizza on pita, a favorite of mine since college. The children and I eat in front of the screen (double crime), watching Once Upon a Time, a French animated series (dubbed, of course!) from the seventies that explains world history. While the kids watch the beheading of the animated noblemen (in the episode on the French Revolution), I call the Internet provider. “The situation is dire,” I tell the courteous young man from customer support. “Soon we’ll have no choice but to read books.” He doesn’t quite get the joke and offers his deepest condolences, but that’s about all he can do for me at the moment.

I retreat for an afternoon siesta with Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Sayings, perhaps the most beautiful book by one of the best authors. Ginzburg was the daughter of a socialist family living under the Italian Fascist regime before World War II. The family had close ties with revolutionary activists, and she herself married the head of the anti-Fascist political movement, Leone Ginzburg. These dramatic events are told in the book through small occurrences and catch phrases, which turn a group of people into a family. The book was reissued with a new translation, and I’m delighted to find passages that were omitted from the previous edition. I think thirty years of Fascism in Italy, to those who lived back then, was a reality they doubted would ever change. And maybe here, too, in my embroiled country, we expect some quick solution that will solve everything at once. On the other hand, to overcome Fascism, Italians had to endure some of the most murderous periods in history. The thought brings me down, and I doze off.

After dinner, my husband and I catch a show at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival. To be honest, neither of us are big jazz fans, but one of the performers tonight, Alexander Levin, is Lilian’s son (the actress from Sunday). He’s only seventeen (at least half the age of the rest of the ensemble members) and has already been named an up-and-coming Israeli jazz musician. Regardless of his age, he easily conquers the stage and audience. I forget I don’t like jazz. With tears in my eyes, I recall him at the age of two, on the sofa at my house, munching on a cookie and watching Snow White.

Saturday

One of the sure ways to know your children have grown is when weekends have become easier than weekdays. Just a few years ago I’d awake Saturday morning in a panic: What’s the plan for today? This morning I don’t even bother getting out of bed for at least two hours. I try to read the newspapers lying around from yesterday, but the continuous hair-raising scandals spread out page after page do me in. Sorry, it’s my day off. I prefer Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun. Christie’s scandals, as lethal as they may be, are preferable to reality, for there’s always only one villain and he’s always found out. Usually, he’ll also bother to commit suicide before he even goes to trial. Christie, in the most guilt-awakening manner in a fan like myself, is a shameless racist. But at least she’s an equal-opportunity racist: the Jews are ugly and greedy, the French extort, the Arabs are childish, and the Americans rich and loud, and only very rarely is the killer from the working class—he must not be smart enough, in Christie’s opinion, to plan a murder befitting Hercule Poirot.

In the afternoon, I meet with Yair Qedar, who’s working on a documentary series about Israeli poets. His next film is on Bialik, Israel’s national poet. Due to the lack of filmed footage, Yair, the director, worked with an animator named Jewboy. Jewboy creates abstract and lyrical movie clips to accompany the narration of the poet’s unfilmed years. I’ve been invited, along with some other people, to view the films in progress and give my opinion on whether they “work.”

Being that Bialik is the national poet, anyone who’s been through Israel’s education system had to study and get tested on his work. The conclusion is that everyone I know thinks Bialik poems are boring. Fortunately, my high school literature teacher found an excellent way to spark our interest in the great poet: at the age when reading the word bosom can cause shortness of breath, he taught us only Bialik’s love and erotic poems. Just before the matriculation exams, he quickly taught us also a couple of his national poems. That’s what I call a first-rate educator personality.

When I get home, the children inform me that the Internet technician texted that he’ll be arriving tomorrow morning. Hallelujah!
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




The many forms of the past: The Jewish Daily Forward on The Property

Updated September 10, 2013


"Rutu Modan's Secrets and Revelations"

by Tobias Carroll
The Jewish Daily Forward, May 28, 2013


The past takes many forms in Rutu Modan’s graphic novel “The Property.” There is Regina, an elderly woman returning to Poland from Israel for the first time in over 60 years; overzealous re-enactors encountered by her granddaughter Mica on the streets of Warsaw; slides of far-off nations that Roman, a novelist, looks at as he recalls his youth; and a graphic novel with its roots in Polish history being written by Tomasz, who becomes smitten with Mica while working as a tour guide.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  NPR focuses on The Property

Updated June 25, 2013


Women Find More Than They Bargained For In 'The Property'

NPR, June 25, 2013

Israeli graphic novelist Rutu Modan's deceptively clear and simple line work — she can conjure a face in two dots and a single, expressive pen stroke — is a deliberate artistic choice. Narratively, Modan's work (including the acclaimed Exit Wounds and her Jamilti and Other Stories) lives in the realm of the indistinct, the undefined and the hotly disputed. In her books, conflicts between family members, lovers and nations all occur in the context of Jewish cultural history. Her clean and often brightly colored illustrative style serves in part to lift the fog of war, allowing us to see these conflicts, be they emotional or military, with new eyes.

Take The Property, her latest book, in which Mica, a young woman in her 20s, accompanies her proud, irascible and very proper grandmother, Regina, from Israel to Warsaw to reclaim the deed to an apartment building their family was forced to abandon in World War II. More than a difference in years separates the women; in their own ways, both are still grieving the death of the person who united them — Mica's father, Regina's son.

What begins as a simple tale involving dusty legal agreements and building records is soon snarled with complications and mysterious entanglements: We learn that Regina has told her granddaughter only half-truths about her family's past in Warsaw; meanwhile, Mica meets a handsome Polish artist with motivations of his own; and a nosy family friend tags along, expressing far more interest in the family's inheritance than seems proper.

Modan delights in bringing the subtlest emotional shadings to vivid and often comical life on the page, as when, soon after their arrival in Warsaw, Regina sneaks a look at the local phone book and makes a startling discovery. Modan lets this moment land on the old woman, and on us, in a wonderful sequence of wordless panels in which Regina's facial expressions take on a fleetingly broad, even cartoonish quality — we watch the haughtiness that has defined her character up to this point crumble into shock. The artist isn't coarsening her characterization, but is instead availing herself of the comics medium to define and delineate the roiling emotions underneath her story's surface.

Dominika Weclawek/Courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly
Something similar occurs in a series of panels showing Regina preparing for a meeting of mysterious importance. She applies makeup, dons earrings and primps before allowing herself to stare into the mirror with an expression that mingles regret and worry. Sequences like this, which encourage the reader to linger before turning the page, are useful, given The Property's pacing and plotting, which depend on a comedy of errors and assumptions — characters are forever refusing to divulge everything they know, causing other characters to leap to conclusions that cause still other characters to misconstrue what they've learned and so on and on until the great, final-act reckoning.

Said reckoning, appropriately enough, takes place in a cemetery on Zaduszki, the Polish day of the dead. In a moonlit graveyard, long-buried family secrets finally stand revealed amid the uncanny glow of hundreds of colored candles placed atop tombstones. Because, as the characters of this wryly funny and ultimately wrenching graphic novel come to learn, nothing about the past stays buried forever.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




CBR on Rutu Modan's Family mysteries and strong line art in The Property

Updated June 25, 2013


Review time! with The Property

Comic Book Resources, June 11, 2013

Rutu Modan’s first graphic novel was superb. Will the follow-up be at the same level? It’s a question to boggle the mind!

The Property, by the aforementioned Rutu Modan, is published by Drawn & Quarterly and costs $24.95. I’ve read some graphic novels this year better than it is, but not many. That’s all you need, right?

Oh, I kid. You know me. So what’s up with The Property? Well, Modan gives us Mica Segal and her grandmother Regina, who fly out of Tel Aviv on their way to Warsaw to stake a claim to some property her grandmother owns. Early on, Modan nicely provides us with an interested fellow on their flight, who quizzes Regina so we get some exposition. She wasn’t in Poland during the war – she left just before it began, and her granddaughter has never been there, because Regina seems to think reconnecting with your past is worthless. Regina is only interested in the property, as she tells us that her father was a successful factory owner before the war. She brought Mica along because, as she says, she’s too old to be running around town. On the plane, they meet Avram Yagodnik, a son of one of Regina’s friends whom Mica knows vaguely. He’s a fairly unctuous fellow, and Mica quickly discovers that he has an odd interest in her business in Warsaw. Then, when they land, Regina looks at something in the hotel’s phone book and suddenly is no longer interested in the property and wants to return to Israel. That, of course, makes Mica suspicious, and she decides to hunt down the lawyer connected to the case and find out what’s what. Along the way she meets Tomasz, with whom she begins a tenuous affair. Regina, meanwhile, visits an apartment that has been converted into a restaurant (which is kind of weird; I guess that’s normal in Poland, but it threw me for a second) and briefly meets the old man living there. But who is he? So, yeah, there’s a lot going on.

Modan presents this as a nice little mystery – it’s not life-or-death, of course, but there’s still a lot going on and I don’t want to give all that much away. Regina is obviously not telling Mica everything, but what she’s not telling her might not be quite what we expect. It informs the way she reacts to a lot of what’s going on in the present, including how she’s dealing with the death of her son, Reuben (Mica’s father), which happened recently, and Mica’s relationship with Tomasz. Avram obviously has an agenda, and we slowly learn what that is, and even Tomasz has a bit of an agenda. Modan does a nice job slowly unspooling this story, not belaboring too much, providing exposition when it’s necessary, and exposing the family secrets rather gently. Regina believes she has something to be ashamed of, but as we learn more about her and what happened 70 years ago (the story is set in 2006, if I’m picking up on something a character says correctly), we figure out why she believes that and what drove her to keep secrets. As the book moves along, the word “property” takes on different meanings, and Modan introduces different ways we can own something and what that means. Even small things have importance, as every character comes to learn, and “property” doesn’t necessarily mean something tangible, and perhaps the intangible is more important. What does Regina actually own? That’s the mystery at the heart of the book, but there are a few different answers.

I don’t want to be too detailed about the plot, but the plot isn’t everything, because Modan is dealing with fascinating characters. The first scene of the book shows Regina trying to board the plane while carrying a bottle of water. She gets indignant when the security guard tells her she can’t take it on, showing him that the seal hasn’t been broken, sprinkling him with some of it to show him it’s not an explosive (man, if she pulled that in this country, she’d be in Guantanamo!), and finally chugging it right there in front of him. Mica tells her that they can just buy another one very cheap on the other side of the gate, but she tells her granddaughter, “It’s not the money, it’s the principle. I have a right to drink my water!” Now, ignoring the fact that she could be quoting my mother, this attitude is a key to understanding Regina – she is vaguely a stereotypical Jewish mother (or grandmother), but she also cares more about principles than money, despite some of the statements she makes. Mica is also a good character – she tries to be modern and unlike Regina, but occasionally she can’t help herself. Even Avram, who seems like a caricature, slowly begins to reveal hidden depths as we understand what he’s doing there. We might not like him, but Modan still makes him a three-dimensional character. Another interesting thing Modan does is to keep the Nazi history of the city at arm’s length. Regina left Warsaw before the Nazis invaded, and while the Holocaust is always present, Modan treats it rather oddly, as something that the Poles feel far more guilty about than Mica, for instance, feels bad about. In a lot of ways, this is a complex exegesis of the remembrance of the Holocaust, even as Modan doesn’t really go into too much – everyone is somehow touched by the events of the 1930s and 1940s, and it’s interesting watching the people worrying about restoring the Ghetto or getting high school kids interested in the Holocaust when Mica has more pragmatic concerns. Modan does turn this on its head a bit at the end, when the threads come together a bit on Zaduszki (1 November), basically All Souls’ Day. Obviously, the remembrance of the dead is going to bring up certain things, and Modan skillfully shows how the characters in the book honor those who have died. It’s a nice moment and a nice culmination to the search for the property.

Modan’s clear line art style is strong throughout. She creates interesting, lived-in characters, neither gorgeous nor particularly ugly – they’re just people. It’s impressive how she shows Regina and another character in 1939 and decades later, and you can see the resemblance, because Modan’s style means that she doesn’t embellish her character’s faces too much, but the similarities are still there. Mica is an attractive woman but not stunning, and it’s interesting that Tomasz draws her (Tomasz is a comic book artist) a bit more attractive than she is in real life, but still captures her likeness (Modan does a nice job making “Tomasz’s” artwork slightly different from her own). She also does a wonderful job with reactions and body language – we can tell without words that Mica and Tomasz really like each other because of how they move around each other. The setting is excellent, too – Modan gives us a very good sense of Warsaw and where the characters move in the city. She also does a nice job with the colors – she drops in bright colors in clothing, mostly, which offsets the relative drabness of Warsaw. It’s not a stereotypical filthy Eastern European city, but it does look like an older, more exhausted place. As it’s viewed through the haze of nostalgia, the brief scene in 1939 is stunningly colored with bright blues, greens, and pinks. It’s beautiful.

Exit Wounds was about a family mystery, too, albeit a different kind of family mystery. The Property isn’t quite as visceral as that book was, but it shows the same things that made that book so good – fascinating characters, an intricate plot, interesting revelations, and Modan’s mastery of both the writing and art of comics. You should already own Exit Wounds, however, so do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I doubt if you’ll be disappointed.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Bitch Magazine highlights Lisa Hanawalt and Rutu Modan

Updated June 5, 2013


"Four Brand New Woman-Created Comics You Should Acquire Immediately"

by Sarah Mirk
Bitch Media, May 31, 2013

Spring has felt like a blockbuster season for great new comics from my favorite artists.

Lots of comics artists debut new work before they hit the road for conventions in the spring—heading to big indie-friendly comics shows like VanCAF, TCAF, and Chicago’s upcoming CAKE before the clustercuss of San Diego ComiCon in July—so May and June are an excellent time to be a comics reader. This is also an excellent time to become a comics reader. Whether you’re looking to pick up your first graphic novel or add new titles to your long list of must-reads, here are four of my favorite new books from female comics artists. Pick ‘em up!

MY DIRTY DUMB EYES – Lisa Hanawalt (Drawn & Quarterly)

For an entire week, I carried My Dirty Dumb Eyes in my bag and forced it into the hands of whatever friends I ran into. “Read these comics about dogs!” I screeched. “I know it’s strange, just read it.” The response was always the same: confusion, exclamation, laughter. Why are Lisa Hanawalt’s bizarre, moderately disturbing drawings so deeply funny? I will never be able to explain the mystery of why her skillfull paintings of cats dangling from helicopters and historic people pooping crack me up, but suffice to say that Hanawalt’s gorgeous renderings resonate with a dark part of my brain, making me burst out laughing at images I’ve never seen before and will never fully comprehend. Plus, the lady knows how to tell a good story. My Dirty Dumb Eyes gathers together comics published around various parts of the web with some new illustrations. Even though I’d already read many of the pieces collected in the book—like her review of The Vow and dispatch from a Toy Fair—it was a joy to read them through again. And then again. And again.

....THE PROPERTY – Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)

Translated from Hebrew, The Property is a rare story that feels like both honest personal history and gripping fiction. Rutu Modan's story follows an Israeli woman and her Polish-born grandmother as they travel to Poland, attempting to settle some World War II-era family property issues, but really exploring Jewish identity and their own independence from both family and history. Modan is an expert of gesture—she captures complex emotions and feelings with just a few simple lines. It's clear she does her real-life research: the book's final page names the people on whom the drawings are based and even credits a "location finder" in Warsaw. The result of Modan's keen eye and hard work is a deep, complicated story told through pared-down images; it's a fantastic use of comics as a medium. I would strongly advise against beginning this book, as I did, at midnight. You will stay up reading until 3am, until your head is sore and you’ve forgotten where you are.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Rutu Modan
Lisa Hanawalt

           Featured products

The Property
My Dirty Dumb Eyes




Rutu Modan interviewed by Maisonneuve

Updated June 5, 2013


"Properties of The Past: Interview with Rutu Modan"

BY Haley Cullingham
Maisonneuve, May 31, 2013

COMIC BOOK ARTIST RUTU MODAN ON THE INFLUENCE OF FAMILY AND HISTORY IN HER NEW WORK, THE PROPERTY.

For comic book artist Rutu Modan, creating characters involves as much action as thought. The Israeli artist has long asked friends to act out panels from her meticulously planned storyboards. “I like to use body language in my characters,” she says. “Each character has his own way of moving.” For her latest novel, The Property (Drawn & Quarterly), she hired actors to stage scenes from the tale, of family dynamics and historical scars, in her apartment. “We were like kids, playing an imaginary game,” She says. Modan’s process may be unique, but to the actors it seemed natural. “What do they know about comics? They thought, This is how comics are done."

Modan is a reliable source on the medium: she’s been drawing comics since she was five. The Property is her second solo graphic novel, and the book evolved out of a series she created for the New York Times website. Two columns, one each, were inspired by her grandmothers. From there, she developed the story of Mica, a young woman who has just lost her father and is accompanying her grandmother Regina from Israel to her former home in Warsaw to take back the family’s old apartment. While Mica is eager to help Regina reclaim what is rightfully hers, Regina’s feelings about returning to Poland are more complicated. Modan renders her ambivalence in expert strokes of elderly crankiness. But there’s more to Regina’s resistance than Mica realizes.

The Property depicts lost-in-translation moments between a new generation of Israeli young people and the generation of the “big war.” “Suddenly, there’s this nostalgia for Poland,” says Modan. “Because of the stories they’ve heard from their parents, how wonderful it was, how rich we were, maybe. It was not always true, but this is part of thinking about the past.” This has led to a conversation in Israel about the property lost in the war. Modan explains that young people think treasures wait for them in Poland, or, as in The Property, at least some anemic form of justice for the suffering of their elders. Mica longs to reclaim her grandmother’s apartment because she feels Regina deserves to get it back. But, as Modan explains, reclaiming what was lost is complicated not only by trauma but bureaucracy.

During the war, the city was destroyed by bombs. “If you look at a photo from ’45 of Warsaw, you see a desert,” Modan says. The communists moved in and rebuilt. Property was nationalized. After the fall of the Soviet Union, people who had fled other parts of Poland began to slowly reclaim what had been taken from them when they were forced into ghettos and concentration camps. But in Warsaw, ex-pats had to not only have proof of ownership, but also proof that they had made an attempt to get their property back before 1948. “People who went to the Ghetto didn’t always keep papers. Most of the archives were burned down,” Modan says. “If you think about the survivors, they were fighting to create new lives, to build a life from the ruins. So to find a letter that they wrote, it’s possible, but...” She trails off.

This history and the resulting family dynamics influence The Property in equal measure. Mica and Regina’s familiarity and fights are as intertwined as a strand of DNA. They’re shadowed on their trip by a frustrating family friend, claiming to be in Warsaw for a conference. “He’s based on my uncle, who’s a very nice and very irritating person,” Modan says. Both women find romantic foils in the city, and Mica’s Polish paramour is inspired by a combination of Modan’s husband and herself.

When I ask Modan—who says she can tell me so much about property reclamation in Poland that she could be a lawyer—whether it was the familial or historical elements that interested her more about writing this story, she says, “It’s not one thing. Family relations are always part of my stories, that’s my life. And family’s not always easy to have. I was interested in how history influenced a life, or mostly this generation, the generation of the big war.” There’s a unique narrative here, the story of people who have experienced something they could probably never begin to describe to those who came after. “Their lives suddenly went in a different direction than they planned, due to history,” she says. “And I was interested in the way we deal with the past.”
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Publishers Weekly looks into Rutu Modan's The Property

Updated June 5, 2013


"Rutu Modan: Family Fictions"

By Grace Bello
Publishers Weekly, May 25, 2013

“For me, a father is supposed to be someone who loves you,” says Israeli author and comics artist Rutu Modan. But, she says, “being a father is a choice you can make, it’s not necessarily somebody who’s close to you.” Modan is talking about her family’s fraught relationship with her grandfather, which partly inspired her new graphic novel, The Property, due out next month from Drawn & Quarterly.

Modan, a pioneer of alternative comics in Israel, is best known for her graphic novel Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly, 2008), which introduced her work to readers across the globe and earned her the 2008 Eisner Award for best new graphic novel. Her comics and illustrations have been featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Le Monde, and other publications. What’s intriguing about Modan’s work is her ability to translate specific experiences into stories that feel universal.

The Property began with the author’s own family conflicts and history. Modan’s mother grew up without a father. He left home when she was seven and moved to another country. “When I was 13, I went to a family wedding with my mother. Then suddenly, my mother pointed at some old man and said, ‘That’s my father. This is your grandfather.’ He was standing there, drinking orange juice. And I was shocked. He was a stranger.”

Modan started to develop the idea for her graphic novel over four years ago. The haunting moment with her grandfather influenced her, as did her family’s complicated ties to its homeland: Modan’s grandmother came from Poland, but she turned her back on her native country when she fled to escape from the Nazis.

None of her family spoke Polish anymore, no one wanted to return, and no one discussed it. “My grandmother referred to it as ‘the land of the dead’—‘one big cemetery,’ ” Modan says. “And I wasn’t interested in Poland. Which is strange, because all the family came from there.”

Inspired by her family origins and family secrets, she wanted to write a story about a Jewish grandmother who, with the help of her granddaughter, reclaims her property in Poland that was seized during the war.

But when Modan embarked on a novel about her family’s country of origin, she needed to learn about Polish history and culture. She knew so little about the land that the first thing she did was turn to Wikipedia for answers. She also spoke with Polish folks in Poland and in Israel, read books about the conflicts between Jews and Poles, and visited Poland herself.

In fact, this nuanced, touching story took Modan more than two years just to develop. She describes her process (after the research is complete): “First I write the whole script. I know what’s going to happen in the story; I write the dialogue. Then afterward I make the storyboard and start drawing. And then it took me another year to draw it. So it was a very long and quite painful process. And also fun, really.”

In the book, grandmother Regina and her Israeli granddaughter Mica return to Regina’s hometown, Warsaw, to reclaim the property that her Jewish family had to abandon when they fled the Nazis. But while Mica assumes that they’re there for her family’s land, her grandmother has motives of her own—motives that unearth her hidden past during an era of Jewish struggle in Poland.

“For me, it’s about many things,” says Modan. “It’s about the relationship between [the two women], and the relationship of the grandmother and her past, and Mica and her past. Mica’s father is dead—he’s the generation between them. So it also involves Mica’s personal history, the grandmother’s personal history, a generation gap, and the relationship between Poles and Jews—which is very complicated.”

In the ’90s, Modan self-published her comics in Israel through Actus Tragicus, the comics collective that she cofounded with Yirmi Pinkus. There was no alternative comics scene in Israel so they created one for themselves.

Although they published in English rather than Hebrew and attended the annual Angoulęme International Comics Festival in France in order to court a global audience, her readers were few. She says she only had about 500 readers back then: “It was people who liked alternative comics, people who were interested in international stuff—it was a very small circle.”

But honing her voice and her drawing style for years, she hit her stride with Exit Wounds. That novel takes place in present-day Tel Aviv, where Koby meets Numi, a woman who claims that the unidentified victim in a recent terrorist bombing was Koby’s estranged dad—and her lover. But rather than explore violence in Israel, Modan chose to focus on emotional violence—Koby’s hatred of his father, Numi’s self-loathing, the pair’s complex relationship as they learn more about Koby’s father—against the backdrop of political conflict.

“Exit Wounds was a big break for me for sure,” Modan says. It was her first full-length graphic novel, and it came out in Israel as well as in Europe and the U.S. and was translated into 10 languages. “I was hoping people would like it, but I didn’t have this kind of expectation.”

Modan’s voice stands out, not only because there aren’t many Israeli comics artists—or many female comics artists—but also because she deals with complex issues of self, family, and culture.

Françoise Mouly, art director of the New Yorker and founder of kid’s comics publisher Toon Books, published Modan’s children’s book, Maya Makes a Mess, in 2012. She says of Modan, “You get a sense of the ambivalence of a contemporary person in Israel.... She’s an Israeli artist accepting conflicting feelings that have more questions than answers.” In Modan’s graphic novels, what’s terrifying isn’t terrorism, it’s the more subtle strife that we inflict on ourselves as a result of, and in spite of, what’s going on around us.

The appeal of her work comes not only from the intricacy of her characters’ relationships, which are set against rich cultural backdrops; it also arises from what Mouly calls Modan’s “inviting and pleasing” visual aesthetic—in particular the line of her drawing: “She uses ligne claire—the clear line—to deal with storylines that are murky and ambiguous, which lends power to her work.”

Indeed, her simple style emphasizes her subjects’ facial expressions and body language, which throws their subtle emotions into bold relief. This creates an intimacy with the reader that comes not just from Modan’s skill as an artist but, above all, from her keenly sensitive observations. Mouly says, “Usually the amount of skill an artist has is inversely correlated with what he or she has to say. But Rutu, she’s a skilled artist and a great writer. I see a lot of artists who draw well, but that’s not enough.”

Modan’s influences come from art, literature, and film alike. “I’m interested in Daniel Clowes and Edward Gorey,” she says, pointing to artists of contrasting styles. “But influences are not always direct. For example, Edward Gorey—I used to do comics in his style. But now my style is very far from that. But the influence is still there—the humor.” Certainly The Property contains its share of darkly funny moments, including Mica getting caught in the middle of a Warsaw Ghetto Uprising reenactment—and being saved by a man who slaps a Nazi using his shopping bags.

In addition to illustrators and comics artists, she’s a big fan of Hitchcock. Her love of cinema shapes the way she approaches her work: “I usually prefer to tell the story through the dialogue or through the actions of the protagonists, and not so much through what they have in their heads.” She says her choices also stem from literature, and that she’s inspired by Italian antifascist novelist Natalia Ginzburg—“the way she tells a story about big things, through regular people.”

“Except for one project that I wrote—family stories for the blog on the New York Times Web site—my work is always fiction,” Modan says. It’s true that, while The Property is based on her own struggle to understand her lineage and Exit Wounds originated from an attack in Tel Aviv portrayed in David Ofek’s documentary No. 17, her personal experience and the events going on around her are merely inspiration for her fictional narratives.

“The fact that it’s fiction allows me to invent it and make it more like a story and not just a documentary of what really happened—which is not always dramatic enough,” she says.

For Modan, fiction is also a more comfortable way of telling a story. “I don’t want to expose my family or myself,” she says. “I don’t want to tell my family secrets.” So instead, it’s her characters who reveal their secrets—whether they want to or not.

In Exit Wounds, Koby and Numi are forced to confront the life that Koby’s father hid from both of them. And in The Property, unfinished business propels Regina to return to her “dead” homeland, the site of her dark secret.

In both novels, Modan’s subjects avoid the truth until it becomes inescapable. But when they finally reveal what they’ve been evading, life doesn’t become any more clear; everything is not illuminated. Modan says, “In my experience, nothing is completely serious, nothing is completely sad, nothing is completely funny.”

It brings to mind the incident with her real-life estranged grandfather at the wedding. She says that when her mother spotted him, he came over to meet them: “He said ‘hi,’ and we said ‘hi.’ And that was all.”
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




Literary luminaries call out Clowes, Brown and Modan for notice.

Updated June 5, 2013


"A roundup of graphic novels worth reading"

The Chicago Tribune, May 25, 2013

....Daniel Handler, the author aka Lemony Snicket

Where to start: Kyle Baker's "Why I Hate Saturn" is great for beginners. It has a twisty-but-linear story that feels like a smart, weird HBO series — the kind you rewatch just to catch all the surprises.

An essential: Dan Clowes' "The Death-Ray" is everything a graphic novel should be: The story is colored like an old comic but sinks in like a book, and its fragmentary technique moves the story so speedily so that you might not notice that its structural inventiveness would have bagged a Pulitzer had it been entirely textual. It's often overlooked, although that might be because Clowes has given us at least four other essential graphic novels....

....Anders Nilsen, author of "The End" and "Big Questions"

An essential: Aside from the stuff I read as a kid — particularly Tintin — the comics that were most influential to me were Chester Brown's work in the '90s. His autobiographical work is the best in comics, but his otherworldly "Ed the Happy Clown," for me, is a real masterpiece of the medium. It's some of the most inventive, exuberant, funny, strange and disturbing storytelling on the planet. True brilliance. It's been out of print for years, but was finally reissued last year.

Where to start: A great starting point for someone new to the medium might be the work of Rutu Modan. Her book "Exit Wounds" of a few years back was really wonderful, touching on large world events, but on a very human scale, with very real characters navigating human foibles. Her drawing and color are both straightforward and beautiful....
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Rutu Modan
Daniel Clowes

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
The Death-Ray




  The A.V. Club reviews The Property

Updated June 4, 2013


"New comics releases include several superhero debut issues and an impressive graphic novel exploring family and history"

By Noel Murray And Oliver Sava
The A.V. Club, May 7, 2013

In Rutu Modan’s Eisner-winning debut graphic novel, Exit Wounds, the Israeli cartoonist explored modern life in her homeland via the story of a cabbie and an ex-soldier who ride around Tel Aviv together, trying to find out whether the cabbie’s father has been killed in a suicide bombing. Modan’s second graphic novel, The Property (Drawn & Quarterly), is set in Warsaw, but it too is really about Israel, and how the lives of its citizens continue to be affected by catastrophic world events and fateful choices made long ago. The book follows a young TV producer named Mica as she accompanies her grandmother Regina to Poland, the country where Regina was born and raised before she fled to Israel as a young woman, escaping both the Nazis and a shameful secret. Mica’s been told that their visit is an errand, to reclaim an apartment building their family owned before the war. But Regina really means to find someone she lost when she left, and to hash out what really happened between them. Mica, meanwhile, is juggling the attentions of a handsome local tour guide and a nosy family friend, while working on her own to solve a mystery that her grandmother refuses to explain.

As with Exit Wounds, The Property is beautifully drawn, with soft, flat colors that explode brightly when the scene requires, and with Modan’s thin, clean line matching her clear-eyed depiction of her characters. Also as with Exit Wounds, Modan relies too often on melodramatic storytelling beats, throwing up artificial roadblocks via simple misunderstandings between the characters, to keep the plot churning. But The Property is about more than just its plot. It almost doubles as a travelogue, getting into the particulars of Poland’s historical-tourism industry, which draws Jews looking to reflect on and even relive aspects of the Holocaust. The title of the book refers not just to Regina’s apartment building, but the legacies that get passed down between generations—be they memories, heirlooms, or even attitudes toward other people and other countries. Modan adroitly captures the complexity of the Jewish relationship to Europe, where so many Jews built and lost families and fortunes. There’s a deep ache within The Property, as Modan’s characters think about what might’ve been, and decide to replace that sense of mourning with a sense of possibility. [NM]
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




Rutu Modan discusses her book The Property with the National Post

Updated June 4, 2013


"A Q&A with Rutu Modan, author of The Property"

by Mark Medley
National Post, May 11, 2013

Rutu Modan’s 2007 graphic novel Exit Wounds, about a young Israeli man investigating the mysterious death of his estranged father, established her as a cartoonist to watch. She’s about to publish her second full-length book, The Property, which follows Regina, an elderly Polish Jew, as she returns to Warsaw with her granddaughter, Mica, ostensibly to reclaim an apartment abandoned during the Second World War. As they explore modern Warsaw, Mica realizes her grandmother might have ulterior motives for returning to the city of her birth.

Modan is in Toronto for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which takes place this weekend at the Toronto Reference Library. As well, the Tel-Aviv-born artist, who currently lives in England, will appear at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre on Sunday, May 12 at 5 p.m. for a special presentation of The Property.

She recently conducted an e-mail interview with National Post Books Editor Mark Medley.

Q: Tell me about the origins of The Property? What compelled you to tell this story?

A: The idea came to me after I have written a story about my grandmother for an illustrated blog [for] the New York Times web site (Mixed Emotions, 2008). I was never close to my grandmother, who wasn’t the most easy person in the world. But writing the story made me, maybe for the first time, think about her as a person and not only through her role in my life. So, you can say, the book is a kind of an imaginary trip I took with my grandmother to Poland. She died 15 years ago — it is too late for us. It is one of the best thing art can give us, to fill what we missed in real life.

Q: Your mother provides the book’s epigraph: “With family, you don’t have to tell the whole truth and it’s not considered lying.’ Do you believe this? Isn’t it worse to lie to one’s family?

A: My mother didn’t say it is good to lie to your family, just that you don’t have to tell the whole truth, always. There is a big difference. You can interpret it in few ways: that sometimes in order not to hurt other person feelings you don’t tell or do tell certain things, or maybe that in order to live together as a group we must respect each other — and our own — privacy and that family members are allowed to have secrets, we don’t have to share everything and so on. I like to leave it open for the reader to decide. Anyway, I didn’t use this sentence as a guideline for family life or as a personal belief, but more because I thought it represent well the relations of the family in the story.

And I also thought it is kind of a funny epigraph.

Q: What’s your relationship with Warsaw? What approach do you take in capturing a city you’re not as familiar with?

A: Even though my family is originally from Warsaw (from both sides) I never really felt any connection to this city. In my family nobody spoke about Poland as nothing but “the land of the dead people” which they meant their relatives and friends that died there. I remember my grandmother saying she was not interested even to go for a visit, since she heard the city has changed so much that you cannot recognize it. When I had this idea for the story, suddenly it occurred to me, how twisted it is — understandable, but still — that I think about Warsaw only as a city in the past and not as a real place. It was interesting, and a challenge, to write about a place that I know so little about. And from an illustrator point of view, it was fun to draw such a different view, architecture and atmosphere than my regular subjects.

Q: This is a graphic novel, but, since you’ve often written about your family, I wondered if there are any autobiographical elements in The Property?

Sure, there are a lot of autobiographical elements in the story, but since the story is so much about family secrets, you won’t expect me to reveal them. The great thing about writing fiction, is that it allows you to tell secrets but since they are disguised it’s okay.

Q: I recently read Letting It Go by Miriam Katin, which is also published by Drawn and Quarterly. Have you read it? I found a lot of similarities between the two books, especially this idea of an older person distrusting a place they left in their youth. Are older Jews still wary of Poland in the way Regina seems to be?

A: I still didn’t read Katin’s book, so I will answer only the last part of the question: older Jews, at least those I know, are still quite angry with Poland and the Poles. Many of them felt they were betrayed by their homeland. Maybe it’s also because it is still so painful for them to think about the past. The younger generations, though, become more and more interested in this country. Many people travel their, not necessarily to look for properties but maybe to understand their past and connect with their roots.

Q: The last page of The Property has a list of “actors.” Do you always model your characters on real people?

A: Not always. I used to ask friends to model for me for certain movements, but I liked the effect so much that this time I decided to make the book almost like a low-budget film. I hired professional actors and directed them according to a storyboard. I even used wardrobe and props. What I tried to achieve is that the characters will feel very much alive, like they were real people. Another benefit this method gave me is that the photos became my sketches, so my first drawing, which many times tends to be the most free and interesting, becomes the final drawing.

Q: At one point, Regina wonders how many times can you start life all over again? Do you have an answer?

A: It is suppose to be an open question. And the answer depends on personality, age and what are your possibilities. Actually, I stole this line from a woman I know. She is 75, was widowed twice, and she said this line when she told me about a marriage proposition she got from an Italian duke — it’s a true story — that asked her to move from Israel to Italy and live in his castle with him.

She refused, by the way.

 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Comics Worth Reading reviews Jerusalem and The Property

Updated June 4, 2013


"The Jewish Experience in Graphic Novels: How to Understand Israel, Jerusalem, Letting It Go, The Property"

By Johanna Draper Carlson
Comics Worth Reading, May 12, 2013

...In contrast, this is far from Guy Delisle’s first travelogue. Previously, he’s shown us life in Shenzhen (China) and Pyongyang (North Korea). Those are countries we think we understand the bad things about, and his experiences there play to our assumptions. However, this book is more challenging, due to our mixed perspectives on Israel.

(Well, maybe you’re sure who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes to the Arab/Jewish struggles. I’m not. I wish peaceful solutions were more obvious, because then maybe more people could agree on them.)



Delisle and his family are spending a year in Jerusalem because his partner works for Médecins Sans Frontičres, which we know as Doctors Without Borders. Their first struggle is understanding exactly where they are. Their apartment is in the east part of Jerusalem, previously an Arab village, so according to Israelis, they’re in their country, but by other versions, they’re in the West Bank, which should be part of Palestine. That confusion is only the first example of a duality that complicates the everyday events of caring for two small children in another country.

In contrast to his previous books, Delisle is much more focused on the domestic in Jerusalem: Chronicles From the Holy City. Everything is complicated by having parallel systems. For example, whether you’re going to the Arab Quarters or not determines which kind of bus you take. The call to prayer for Muslims wakes their daughter just when she’s dropped off to sleep. Since they’re not particularly religious (at one point, Delisle declares his atheism), the way the city shuts down on Saturday surprises them. Much of his time is spent trying to negotiate getting the kids back and forth to school.

There are more disturbing challenges, as well. The couple is separated when border crossings are closed due to security events for an unknown length of time. (His wife works in Gaza, the most restricted region, with only one crossing.) Delisle visits a security checkpoint with an observation group working for the end of Palestinian occupation, which turns into a battle of stones and tear gas grenades. Whenever he travels internationally, returning is an ordeal because of the particular areas in which his wife works. Time is spent in a region full of militant settlers and worrying how to get in to help an area under heavy bombing.

Delisle’s panels don’t often use close-ups. They’re medium shots, to show us lots of the flavor of the surroundings. That approach also makes Delisle’s figures seem small and overwhelmed, sharing the complexity of living in the region. The color consists of monochrome tones of grey or taupe, creating an oppressive, unsettling mood, with the exception of full color for maps or historical moments. Yet in the midst of struggle, there are small moments of human bonding, whether attending an expat party or taking a day at the beach or simply meeting the neighbors at the local playground.

If he’d spent more time there, he would have become more comfortable. By the second half of the book, he’s found a place to work and is beginning to settle into a routine. He draws himself having an art exhibition and discussing comics with students. Just as he begins to understand, it’s time to leave.

The struggles Delisle goes through simply to live comfortably for a year may make the reader sympathetic to those being oppressed, not necessarily because of the politics, but just out of concern for those downtrodden by any bureaucracy. Jerusalem: Chronicles From the Holy City is a dense, lengthy, rewarding read that uses the personal to shed new light on the political. If you’re only going to read one of these books, make it this one.

...

The Property
by Rutu Modan, translated by Jessica Cohen
Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 US

Like Miriam Katin, the characters in The Property are still dealing with Holocaust ramifications. Mica and her stubborn grandmother are traveling from Israel to Warsaw, Poland, in order to find out what happened to the family’s property during the War. This story is fictional, though, which means everything ties together much more neatly than you’d expect in real life.

Much like a grown-up Tintin, Modan’s story features strong, clear lines and a pervading sense of mystery. Relatives are dreaming of reclaiming property that would provide a financial windfall. A family friend, Avram, appears on the same trip, but it’s unclear what his motives are, although his pushiness quickly becomes annoying. The grandmother has mood swings and is keeping secrets from her descendent. The granddaughter meets a tour guide, who turns out to be a comic artist and becomes involved in the situation. Later, there’s a crazy historian who wants to recreate the ghetto but conveniently provides some key clues.

One nice technique is how the trilingual aspects are handled — capitals are used for Hebrew, italics for Polish, and mixed-case for English. There’s also a sequence where the grandmother, in a cab to her old apartment home, sees how the city used to look, colored sepia through the window. It’s immediately clear what’s going on, an accomplished use of the comic language by Modan.

As the two women struggle with their pasts and each other, I found myself engrossed, curious to find out what would happen. It’s a real page-turner, and the easy-to-read style makes it happen smoothly. I liked the sensation of hope throughout the story. No matter the affect of the secrets revealed, even if unsettling, there’s a feeling that things are improved because of the entire experience.

click here to read more


Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
The Property




Paste Magazine gushes over Rutu Modan's The Property

Updated June 4, 2013


"The Property by Rutu Modan"

By Hillary Brown

Paste Magazine, May 16, 2013

To say The Property is an excellent book short-changes it a bit. Rutu Modan’s second big story for adults builds on the intelligence of her debut graphic novel, Exit Wounds, which won an Eisner for Best New Graphic Novel in 2008 as well as multiple best-of placements. If Exit Wounds was Modan’s Rushmore, than The Property is her Royal Tenenbaums: her earlier work an announcement of presence, her latest a wide-ranging and ambitious (and more comfortable) creation.

The Property presents the story of an elderly Polish emigré in Israel (Regina) who returns to Poland with her granddaughter (Mica), ostensibly to reclaim property confiscated during World War II. The narrative is straightforward and novelistic in many ways, but the way Modan unfolds her tale is rich and subtle, full of individualized detail. As an artist, she excels at rendering streetscapes, and there are many to be seen here, laid out with clear perspective and precise lines with bold color. Her character design is similarly simplified, flattened to a few details that manage to express a multitude of emotion.

If Modan’s work both as a writer and artist could be summarized, it may come down to a single word: economical. “Brevity” is almost right, but not quite. Modan never approaches minimalism, but she does measure out the number of words in a panel and the number of configurations into which a single face can contort, then focuses on removal. The story follows suit in this design of omission as well. Characters often don’t understand various discussions because of a language barrier (Modan renders different tongues intelligently through the use of typographic devices). Families and couples prefer to keep one another at a distance, sneaking around or communicating via signs and allusions rather than talking. It’s both frustrating and, from the perspective of an overly confessional world, a rediscovered way of approaching problems. The book uses old literary mechanisms (a decades-old secret! a tragic love affair!) to make something simultaneously entertaining, thought-provoking and as beautifully specific as it is expansively relatable.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  LA Times loves "tightly plotted" The Property

Updated May 2, 2013


"Rutu Modan's graphic novel 'The Property' journeys through the past"

David L. Ulin
Jacket Copy, LA Times, 26 April 2013

A curious double — or is it triple? — vision marks Rutu Modan’s graphic novel “The Property” (Drawn & Quarterly, 222 pages, $24.95), which involves a grandmother and a granddaughter on a journey through the past. Unfolding over the course of a week in Warsaw, the book traces their efforts to determine the fate of a piece of property: an apartment left behind in the lead-up to the Holocaust. It’s a situation complicated by a variety of competing agendas, which is not uncommon when it comes to family.

Modan makes this explicit from the outset with an epigraph — “With family, you don’t have to tell the whole truth and it's not considered lying” — credited to her mother, Michaela Modan. It’s a telling comment, and not just for what it says about family, but also about the graphic novel, which is, by its nature, an art of reconstruction, of invention, relying as it does on hand-drawn images to masquerade as windows onto the recognizable landscape of daily life.

Such a tension becomes more overt the more autobiographical the project: I think of Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” progenitor of every comic ever written about the Holocaust, which willfully confronts the contradictions of form (and history) by rendering Jews as mice and Germans as cats, a metaphor that grows increasingly effective the more the author breaks it down. Modan doesn’t have this sort of deconstruction in mind with “The Property,” but she never forgets that her images stir proximity and distance, luring us in with a very real intimacy that, at the same time, can never offer more than an approximation of the world.

This is not to say that “The Property” is experimental — far from it, in fact. The story is as straightforward as the characters are not. The grandmother, Regina, and her granddaughter, Mica, are shadowed on their trip to Warsaw by Regina’s daughter’s fiancé, who wants to make sure any money that comes out of the visit is equally shared. In the meantime, Mica connects with a Polish tour guide and comics artist, while Regina seems less interested in the property, and her rights to it, than in revisiting another, more personal piece of her past.

The book is tightly plotted, with a twist (or two) that feels entirely organic to the movement of the narrative. Modan is masterful at creating complex motivations, exploring the confusion her characters create in each other and, more fundamentally, in themselves.

Shortly after arriving in Warsaw, Regina provokes a fight with Mica for what appears to be no reason, although, we later come to realize, it’s part of an elaborate ruse. I don’t want to give anything away here, but let’s just say it all circles back to that epigraph, and the secrets we keep from those we love most and who love us — which is, of course, the key complication of family.

As for Modan, she knows the territory; born and raised in Tel Aviv, she is also the author of the 2007 graphic novel “Exit Wounds,” which brings a similarly complex, and personal, perspective to the aftermath of a suicide bomb. Here, the crises, the explosions, are less overt, but no less powerful for being so. The story may resolve, but the lives within it never do, bound as they are by their own history.

“It still hurts as much,” Regina tells her granddaughter late in the book. “But now it’s mixed up with other things.”
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




The Property and You're All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack on Robot 6

Updated May 2, 2013


From "What Are You Reading? with James Hornsby"

Brigid Alverson
Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources, 21 April 2013

(...) Well, I just ended the weirdest week of my life -— I live just north of Boston, ’nuff said — so the package of advance review copies from Drawn and Quarterly couldn’t have been a more welcome distraction. And when I opened it up, I thought “They read my mind.” The first book out of the box was Tom Gauld’s You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack. I thought Gauld’s graphic novel Goliath was the best graphic novel of 2012, so I’m predisposed to like anything he does, but I have to admit Jetpack is very different in tone. Gauld’s trademark style—silhouetted figures, simple settings, muted palette—remains the same, but the subject matter is much lighter. The book is a compilation of short gag comics originally drawn for the UK paper The Guardian. This is comics for the well-read, filled with knowing jokes about literary and film tropes. Some of them made me laugh out loud, while others are almost like abstract exercises that stretch the capabilities of the medium a bit. It’s a smart, funny, handsome little book that is a nice read and would be a great gift for a Serious Reader as well.

The term “graphic novel” is used these days to refer to pretty much any comic in book format, but Rutu Modan’s The Property really feels like a novel. The story of a young woman and her grandmother who travel from Israel to Warsaw to reclaim property lost during the Holocaust, it has a fairly complicated plot and an interesting cast of characters. It’s not a simple read, but it is impossible to put down, and Modan takes full advantage of the economy that the comics medium provides, letting the pictures provide the setting and descriptions and the dialogue carry the story. In one sequence, for instance, the grandmother looks out the window of a cab and sees the modern Warsaw cityscape morph into the Warsaw of her girlhood. Modan also uses changes in palette to signify shifts in time and place, and each of her characters has a distinct personality that you can take in at a glance (although things are not always quite what they seem). There is a particularly beautiful scene toward the end that is set in a cemetery, done mostly in dark, muted colors, punctuated only by the bright colors of the candles that visitors have placed on the graves. There is no question that this will be one of my picks for the best book of 2013. (...)
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Rutu Modan
Tom Gauld

           Featured products

You're All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack
The Property




  Rutu Modan hits "a new high" in The Property: SLJ

Updated April 16, 2013


"Advanced Review: The Property"

Angela Carstensen
School Library Journal, 20 March 2013

Coding How We Speak Family Secrets

Rutu Modan has proved to be an adept storyteller as well as creator of visually rich images of both characters and their settings. She’s been published to some acclaim in the US as the author and cartoonist of a collection of short stories (Jamiliti and Other Stories) and an early reader graphic novel (Maya Makes a Mess) as well as her first solely authored and drawn adult graphic novel (Exit Wounds, also teen friendly). In The Property, however, the very language—or choices of languages—elevates the evidence of her craft and insight to a new high.

Using typefaces to distinguish among the Hebrew, Polish, and English spoken by various characters at different and telling points in the story is just one element in this linguistic exposure of characters keeping and divulging secrets. Because neither Russian nor Ukrainian is understood by either of the main characters—a young Israeli woman travelling in Warsaw with her elderly emigrée grandmother—when others speak either of these, scribbled lines appear in their speech balloons and the reader is as reliant on secondary characters’ translations as are Mica and her grandmother.

Modan utilizes yet another layer of language as well to impart interactions, relationships, and secrets her cast attempt to keep from each other. While sequential art well done utilizes postures, expressions, and spatial distances to convey trenchant information, and she of course employs all eloquently in her clear line work, by making the stranger who tries to befriend and woo Mica a cartoonist himself, we—and she—become privy to how he feels about her from his sketchbook. Thus, visual language becomes another means of communication—and the revelation of secrets—between characters as well as between author and reader of the novel.

Modan’s use of text is almost exclusively reserved for dialog, with the exceptions urban exterior signs and onomatopoeia employed to mark such environmental sounds a character’s gesture would elicit (the click of a lock, the thumping of fists on a door, etc.). A mark of the refined level of her work is that the reader never feels uninformed or that the characters are speaking unnaturally in order to convey information not handled by the visual component.

Beyond all this, the story itself calls on the reader to speak, to converse, to share responses and experiences with family secrets. The “multilingual” nature of the narrative invites the book’s introduction to teens for whom English is an additional way of communicating beyond their native tongue. And while political history, social norms past and present, and religious components of strife all find depiction here, ultimately it is the effect of one and another family secret—a universal experience—that rings through in every language Modan employs in this story.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




The Property among Globe and Mail's picks for spring

Updated April 16, 2013


From "Spring foreword: A guide to some of the season’s most anticipated releases"

Globe and Mail, 12 April 2013

(...) Israeli comics artist Rutu Modan had incredible success with her first graphic novel, 2007’s Exit Wounds, and she seems likely to repeat her good fortune with The Property, a stunning book about a family’s attempt to reclaim property lost during the Second World War. Modan’s drawings are precise and evocative, with rich yet restrained colouring and detail. The Warsaw she imagines, shaded with a mournful tone but full of vivid characters, feels alive on the page. (...)
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Publishers Weekly on The Property: "beautiful, fully realized story"

Updated April 15, 2013


Publishers Weekly, 15 April 2013

Modan (Exit Wounds) has proven to be one of the most accessible of graphic novelists, with a cinematic presentation and the ability to capture the complexity of larger human experience within smaller family dramas. Her latest work takes readers on a trip to Warsaw with Mica and her grandmother, Regina, both from Israel. Their purpose in Poland is to check on some long lost property that Regina’s father owned prior to the Holocaust; she fled during the war, thus becoming the only family member to survive. The understanding that families were fractured and lives rerouted after WWII is nothing new, but the particulars provide the story here—family secrets and the measure of shame, historical and current attitudes between Poles and Jews, the changing views of cross-culture collusion when a hint of romance is involved, and the ways in which we don’t so much reinvent ourselves as repurpose. The pursuit of old family documents is concurrent with the unearthing of family secrets, but Modan doesn’t dole out the revelations with alarm or melodrama, but rather with a casual good nature toward her subjects, backed up with art somewhat reminiscent of Tintin but revealing the deepest memories of guilt and loss with merely the twitch of a line. A beautiful, fully realized story that’s as much “novel” as “graphic”.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




The Property in Booklist

Updated April 15, 2013


Ray Olson
Booklist, 15 April 2013

TV producer Mica Segal accompanies her grandmother, Regina, on the old lady’s first return to Warsaw since she fled, pregnant by a gentile with Mica’s late father, to Palestine in 1939. On the plane, the son of a friend of Regina’s ebulliently accosts the women and thereafter seems to show up wherever they go, even separately. Mica shakes him by dodging into a café, where she meets a charming Pole who leads Jewish history tours. Not by chance, Regina comes on her own to the same café to meet an old man who lives in the building—yes, Mica’s grandfather. While the purpose of the trip is to assert Regina’s title to a building her parents had owned, what develops is an intrafamilial tiff, an ultimately fulfilling reunion, and the possible start of a romance. Modan’s dialogue is smart and nuanced to match a drawing style awfully reminiscent of Hergé’s Tintin and up to the most complimentary comparison with it. Nicely varied panel size and earth-tone coloration further distinguish this gratifying work of comics realism.
 

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

The Property




  Words Without Borders interviews Rutu Modan

Updated February 28, 2012



A Necessary Distance from Reality: An Interview with Rutu Modan

By Meg Storey
Words Without Borders
Interview conducted May 2011

Rutu Modan is a rarity. One of the few established comics artists in Israel, she is also one of the few established female comics artists in the world. After graduating from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Modan began writing and illustrating comic strips and stories for Israel's leading daily newspapers, as well as editing the Israeli edition of MAD magazine with Yirmi Pinkus. In 1995, she and Pinkus cofounded Actus Tragicus, an internationally acclaimed collective and independent publishing house for alternative comics artists. Drawn and Quarterly published her full-length graphic novel, Exit Wounds, in 2007 and her collection, Jamilti and Other Stories, in 2008. Exit Wounds was also published in England, France, Italy, and Spain and was named Best Comic of the Year by Entertainment Weekly. In 2007, the New York Times ran Mixed Emotions, Modan's visual blog about her family.

I met with Modan in her home in central Tel Aviv in May of 2011.

Meg Storey: Which comes to you first—the images or the story?

Rutu Modan: It’s difficult to say. I think the main reason I became a comics artist is that I always drew; from a really early age, I was drawing all the time, but it was always connected to some story. So for me, comics is really the perfect medium. Sometimes, the inspiration comes through an image and sometimes through a story or an idea. But usually I write the whole script; I don’t draw before I finish writing. I write descriptions of what I’m going to draw, but I don’t make any sketches, though in my head, I already see it visually. But it really depends. The book I’m writing now is a combination. It started with an idea to write a story about a grandmother and a granddaughter who are going to Poland to look for the property the family had before World War II. I had never been interested in Poland, and I didn’t know anything about it [Modan's family is from Poland]. My grandmother never spoke Polish; my family completely erased Poland from the map. I was talking to a friend of mine whose husband was in the embassy in Warsaw, and I asked her, “If I go there, what do you recommend?” And she told me, “Oh, there is one thing that is incredible that you must see. It’s All Souls’ Day, and the cemeteries are full with people. They stay there all night and light candles; it’s beautiful.” And the minute she told me about this, I knew that I must see it and that it would be connected to the story I was going to write. So I went to Poland to see it, and it was mystical and touching. So I imagined this image, and somehow I knew that it must be part of the book.

MS: Your work is often based on autobiographical or real events. One thing I noticed is that Mixed Emotions is very funny—you’re making fun of your family and yourself—but the humor in your fictional work tends to be more absurd or dark. Is there something about autobiographical writing that alters the role of humor in your work?

RM: I hope that each of my stories has some humor in it, because it is part of how I see the world. And I think that living in Israel is the influence of macabre humor in my stories. This is part of Israeli life. You can be depressed, or you can choose absurdity and use humor to live, to stay sane. It was a different experience writing Mixed Emotions. The tone was different. I didn’t write a script; I wrote a story. And I guess the fact that it is funnier is connected to the fact that it is more autobiographical, because maybe humor was a good way to deal with the fact that I was writing about my family and I knew that they were going to read it. And when I write fiction, maybe I allow myself to be more serious, and also more absurd, because I can invent whatever I want, and with my family, I can’t invent too much.

MS: Has that experience made you want to do more blogs?

RM: At the time it was very difficult for me, not writing with drawings, but writing with words. I felt like it was going to kill me. But now I do regret that I didn’t continue writing a few more of those stories, because I got some very touching reactions. When I publish a book, I rarely get reactions from the public. But on the Internet, it was so immediate, and people wrote such personal comments, not just “Oh, I like it” or “It’s funny,” but really personal stories, and it was like talking with people. The first time I read the comments, I was crying. It was incredible. I felt a connection with the readers. It was very rewarding.

MS: Reunion and connecting with a lost relative or someone who’s missing is a constant theme in your work. Do you think that this is a result of the world you live in—Israel—or is it a consequence of the world we all live in?

RM: It might be strange to say, but I didn’t notice that the theme of the missing person, especially the missing father, is so prevalent in my work until a few years ago. I’m not 100 percent sure why it’s so strong in my stories. In the past ten years, it’s probably because both my parents died, and this is one of the biggest influences on my life. They disappeared. But I think that for me the main theme in my work is family and the connections within the family. And when you take someone out of the family, it’s a good way to explore the connections. What happens when you break up the family? What still keeps it a unit? What makes it continue to function or to stop functioning?

MS: “Bygone” is the first of your stories set in Israel. Was it a conscious choice before that not to set your stories in Israel? And later a choice to do so?

RM: It was conscious in that I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t know how to put the location into the stories without losing the personal. I didn’t know how to combine them. This place is very complicated. To be an Israeli artist means you are always expected, not only by the audiences abroad and in Israel but also by yourself, to take a stance, to say what your point of view is on events. It’s difficult and it’s also frustrating, because there are so many things that you want to talk about before you speak about politics. So I wrote stories that are set in Sweden, or in a place I’d never been, or the time was Victorian, or no time at all. Setting stories in Israel was influenced by my work with Etgar Keret, whose stories are very connected to Israeli culture and to Israel as a location. But it was something that I developed slowly.

MS: There isn’t much of a tradition of comics in Israel. Do you feel that is changing? And if so, did Actus Tragicus play a role in that shift?

RM: I believe we did, yes. You cannot compare it to what’s happening in Europe or the States or Japan. But when Actus Tragicus started, there was nothing. There were no comics shops, there were no comics conventions. Now, many young people are doing comics. But the main thing is that Israeli publishers started to publish comics and to translate comics, which they didn’t really do before. Maus was published here a few years after it was published in the States, and it wasn’t very popular. I don’t think it was even because it is about the Holocaust; it was just that people didn’t know how to read it. It was like the first time people saw films and ran away from the cinema. They didn’t know how to handle it. Even today, there are people who ask, “How do you read it? Do you look first at the pictures and then you read the text?,” as if it’s a very complicated process. When Exit Wounds was published in Israel, I did get some reviews, but not by anyone who writes about literature. It was always either an illustrator or someone who’s interested in comics. But I was happy just to have reviews, because when Actus published books, it was very difficult to get reviews, because people didn’t know how to read comics, and I think that’s changing.

MS: You were a little nervous what the reception to Exit Wounds, which revolves around the mystery of an unidentified victim of a suicide bombing, would be in Israel. Did people have a strong reaction to the storyline?

RM: No, I think I had good reactions. People weren’t upset.

MS: What about the story “Jamilti,” in which you portray a not-very-likable Israeli whose fiancée has an encounter with a Palestinian suicide bomber? The story puts the bomber in a sympathetic light and makes the reader wish that, in another world, the bomber was the fiancé.

RM: For me, the main thing in that story is the people we miss, that maybe we have the opportunity to meet really wonderful people, but we cannot because we have decided we hate them—and it’s not only Israelis, I’m talking about Palestinians as well—and since I have this privilege to speak about the personal life, about feeling, I do not have to take everything into consideration. I don’t have any illusions that I can go into the head of a bomber and see what he thinks, and I don’t have any illusions that my stories are going to influence anyone to change his political stance, and by all means, I don’t think that it’s good to bomb people anywhere, but I want to explore this idea of missed connections. The story is based on something I read in the newspaper. There was a bombing in a falafel shop in Jerusalem and an Israeli went inside because he was a paramedic, to see if there was someone to save, and he gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a guy lying on the floor and afterward he found out it was the bomber. And what happened in the real event was even more powerful than what happens in my story. The paramedic lives in a settlement and he is right-wing and he is religious and it was an Arab man he was giving mouth to mouth to. And when he wrote about it, he didn’t see what I saw; he wrote about how he was horrified by this and the first thing he did was go to the hospital to see if he had caught some sort of disease from the bomber. If I were to write that as the story, it would be a terrible story! Also, it would be too much. So I had to cut out quite a big piece of it and change it and make it more subtle in order to say what I wanted to say, what I saw in this story, and what this man wasn’t aware of, that it was a wounded person, and it was a person, and if you don’t know who it is, you want to save him. This is the first reaction. And then when you know who it is, suddenly everything changes; you want to kill him, bomb him.

MS: You wrote in the author’s note to that collection that at some point you realized life is bizarre and grotesque enough to base a story upon and this insight and understanding affected your drawing style as well. How so?

RM: When I started doing comics, I was still at the art academy. It was the late eighties, and I was really influenced by Raw magazine and by the graphic design of the era, the very grotesque drawings, so my stories and my characters were very exaggerated and ridiculous. And little by little, my stories became more realistic, because I realized that I don’t have to exaggerate anything; in fact I have to do the opposite. For example, the death of my mother and her sickness—there is nothing to exaggerate there. In order to make it possible to handle it or speak about it, I had to do the opposite. And it was the beginning of 2000, the first Intifada, I had a small kid, and I felt very vulnerable. So the stories became more mature. I didn’t feel that I had to shout in order for people to hear me. Also, after drawing for so many years, I became a better draftsman, I could draw more realistically, so other things started to become interesting to me rather than making things even more grotesque.

MS: Do you feel that your style is not locked into a specific look, that it varies and can shift from story to story?

RM: Yes, and I think this is also connected to living in Israel—in a good way, for a change. Since there is no tradition of comics, you don’t have to decide what style you are. I know from friends who work in the States that art directors want to know what your style is and you have to stick to your style, and if you have two styles, you make two different portfolios. But when I started, illustration in newspapers and magazines was something new here, so they would give me the dimensions, and I would do whatever I wanted. I couldn’t laugh about the Holocaust and I couldn’t laugh about dead soldiers. These were the two things that I was not allowed. There was no tradition, so I didn’t feel that I had to follow anyone. I was influenced by American artists, I was influenced by European artists, I was influenced by what I happened to see in shops when I went abroad. But I think that was good. One of the things I didn’t know, for example, was that it’s a male profession. I didn’t have any idea that it’s unusual for a woman to do comics. When I started going outside of Israel and telling people I am a comics artist, they would say, “Wow, it’s a profession of men,” but I never thought of it as a feminist step. On the contrary, it almost doesn’t pay, it’s something you can do at home, you don’t have to go outside, you don’t have to yell at anyone. And I think it makes you freer if you don’t make a conscious choice to go in a direction that you’re not supposed to. I wanted to do comics, so I did comics. I didn’t even question if it was art or not, if it was mainstream or not. I didn’t like superhero comics, but I didn’t think that what I was doing, that what Raw magazine is doing, is different than Superman. I didn’t say, “This is comics and this is not comics.”

MS: That’s interesting, because I think in the States there is somewhat of a distinction: “I write graphic novels, not comics.”

RM: Yeah, or the opposite: “I’m interested in comics, what is this artist stuff?” So when you don’t have a tradition, sometimes it’s an advantage. You can decide what your tradition is by yourself.

MS: The last thing I wanted to talk to you about is the piece that was published in Words Without Borders, "War Rabbit," which is more of a journalistic piece and which you wrote while you were living in Sheffield, England. I’m curious why you decided to write a journalistic piece and whether living abroad had any influence on it.

RM: I don’t think it’s connected to the fact that I was living in Sheffield at the time. We came back to Israel for the Christmas holidays, and the Gaza War had started. I was against the war. A few months before, I had received an invitation to do comics journalism for a French publisher that was publishing an anthology of comics journalism, and I said that I wasn’t interested, because I wanted to do personal comics. I didn’t think comics journalism was for me. Then I went to Israel and there was a war, and I suddenly felt that it was possible to do journalism. Not because my ideas on the war were so important or so unique, but because it would be published by a French publisher, and I would have a chance to say something about what was happening that was more complicated than what I assumed the French saw on TV—or even what Israelis saw on TV. So I asked a friend of mine who is an old-time journalist who goes to Gaza and Ramallah and meets with the scariest terrorists and interviews them to take me with him to see people who live near the border. At the beginning, I didn’t want to do the piece with him; I just wanted him to take me there. But he said, "Maybe we could do something together," and I said, "OK, why not?" We went twice, and it was very interesting for me to watch him work. It was an adventure. And everything in the story is true: the story about the rabbit and all that happened with Bibi. We didn’t invent it.

MS: Do you think that there was something about the fact that you were making a comics piece that allowed you to go to a war zone and meet these people? For instance, I found the movie Waltz with Bashir very moving, but it’s not a movie I could have watched if it wasn’t animated. Or reading Joe Sacco’s work, Palestine and Footnotes in Gaza—

RM: Or Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis—

MS: Yes, exactly. There’s something about having it be a comic that does make it easier to read about difficult things.

RM: This is what art can do: detachment from reality. You must have this detachment in order to make you able to take difficult things in, and that is something that art can do. Marjane Satrapi can show a person cut into pieces and so you know that in Iran they cut people into pieces. And what was even more genius about Waltz with Bashir is that Ari Folman put in real footage at the end to say, “But remember. It’s not an animation. People died. It’s real violence.”

MS: Will you do more collaborative work?

RM: It was a very interesting experience to go to talk to people. But as much as it was fun working with Igal, it immediately affected the style of the drawing in a way I cannot control. Life is so short and there is so little time and everything takes me so long, and there are so many stories I want to do. I know there are people out there who can make a book a year. Unfortunately, I am not this kind of person.

Read more: http://wordswithoutborders.org/article/an-interview-with-rutu-modan#ixzz1nhnlNcD3

click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Jamilti and Other Stories




RUTU MODAN's JAMILTI reviewed by Tor.com

Updated August 18, 2011


Though I'm sure I'd have to fight pretty hard to prove graphic novels as a medium are part of the literary mainstream, I'd argue that folks like Harvey Pekar, R. Crumb, and more recently Adrian Tomine, are closer to the mainstream than a hardcore science fiction or fantasy writer. Indeed, at the point at which all these guys have been featured in The New Yorker, I'd say their literary pedigree is fairly well established. But what about narrative in serious graphic novels which dabbles in the fantastic while still remaining outside of genre conventions? One of my favorites is the collection by Rutu Modan called Jamilti

Modan's more famous graphic novel is a single narrative called Exit Wounds, but prior to the publication of that book she'd put out these shorter pieces in a variety of outlets. Jamilti collects these shorter pieces into one volume, which arguably highlights some of her best work. Thought not all of these pieces have fantastical elements in them, the two that do are clear standouts among this author/artist's work.

"King of the Lillies" tells the grotesque tale of a plastic surgeon who alters all of his patient's appearances to resemble that of a specific woman named Lilly, a woman he loved. At the start of the story, Lilly is the daughter of a patient who previously died under the surgeon's care. The surgeon subsequently falls in love with Lilly and asks her to live with him which she does for a time, but eventually leaves him unexpectedly. This results in a bizarre quest to transform all of his patients into Lilly. In an odd twist, several of the patients he transforms actually enjoy their new appearance as looking like Lilly is viewed as some kind of perfect ideal. All the new Lillies end up living together with the doctor in a sort of disturbing harmony, complete with matching outfits. The unsettling and surreal quality of the story is only made creepier by the absolutely amazing illustrations.

I'm not the first to point out the relationship between the style Modan employs here and Edward Gorey. This is interesting because she's not limited to only this style, but uses it effectively. There is actually quite a bit of originality to the style, but the muted colors combined with the macabre subject matter certainly call to mind Gorey, as well as the prose of Poe or Lovecraft.

In terms of fantastical musings, the other standout is called "Homecoming." This tells the story of a seemingly senile old man who is overjoyed at what he believes is the return of his dead son. An airplane is circling the home of this family, which the father insists contains Gadi, even though Gadi was shot down in action years prior. The radio reports indicate that the plane is likely a terrorist suicide bomber, but the parents are having none of it. Told from the perspective of the daughter and her boyfriend, the story seems to be a straightforward tale of senile parents holding out misplaced home for a resurrection. At the end of the story, when the plane crashes, a decapitated corpse is indentified by the parents as definitely NOT being Gadi. However, the story concludeds on a wonderful line with the daughter and her boyfriend getting into a golf cart to search of the missing head at which point she says, "I have a feeling we're going to find that it really was Gadi."

This is where, for me, Modan crosses into that area of imagination that makes certain kinds of fiction so enjoyable. Yes, we can take the line from the daughter as a sarcastic one and one that indicates she too is just holding out hope. But there's more to it than just that. At the point at which numerous characters believe a supernatural event is taking place, then for all intents and purposes it might as well be. Because all fiction is ultimately bent around the perspective of the characters, if they believe in magic, then the magic in the story is somewhat real. When I refer to magic here, I don't necessarily mean literal magic, ala Harry Potter, but rather that otherworldly quality that permeates pretty much all fiction, whether it be something as realistic as Raymond Carver, or fantastical like Ursula K. Le Guin. By having surreal and emotional illustrations be part of the storytelling process, Rutu Modan is already acknowledging that what she is presenting to you is fantasy. In this way, the work of a literary graphic novel has much in common with metafiction, which in turn is a sort of cousin to science fiction and fantasy.

So with the stage already set with beautifully disturbing illustrations, when Modan introduces concepts like a lost son back from the dead, or a colony of surgically altered women who all look exactly alike, the emotional results are splendid. If you enjoy Gorey, or Lovecraft, or Poe, you'll love her. You'll also love her if you just like a good short story. And these have pictures!
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




  Spotlight on RUTU MODAN at Comics Should Be Good

Updated September 1, 2010


SHE HAS NO HEAD!
SPOTLIGHT: RUTU MODAN

by Kelly Thompson

I don’t know how I missed out on Rutu Modan’s work for so long, but man am I glad I finally discovered her.

Modan, an Eisner award-winning illustrator and writer worked as an editor for the Hebrew edition of MAD Magazine after graduating from the Bezarel Academy of Art & Design. She founded Actus Tragicus Comics Group in 1995 with Yirmi Pinkus and was awarded the Young Artist Of The Year award in 1997 and the Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award in 1998 by the Israel Museum. In 2005 she was chosen as ‘Outstanding Artist’ by the Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation. All leading up to her 2008 Best New Graphic Novel Eisner award for her first graphic novel, Exit Wounds…which would be my first toe dip into her brilliance.

Exit Wounds, a touching but unsentimental tale of a female soldier (Numi) that seeks out her older boyfriend’s adult son (Koby) after her boyfriend goes missing and she fears that he’s been killed by a bomb in Hadera. As Koby and Numi work together toward unraveling the mystery of whether Koby’s father has in fact perished in the bombing, their own lives – both their strengths and weaknesses – are uncovered.

Modan’s story is heartfelt, emotional, and moving without ever dancing toward cloying sentimentality – no easy feat when dealing with a love story – even a modern non-traditional one. I suspect it’s the honesty and the rawness of Modan’s characters – evident in both her writing and illustration – that keeps the book from ever going in that direction.

The art…I won’t lie, it’s not going to be for everyone, but it is SO for me. The flat color palette is a perfect choice and the heft and roundness of Modan’s characters is so unique and refreshing that I just find myself staring at the imagery she creates – lingering over the look of her pages. Her inking is a strange flat consistent line, that looks soft instead of like a hard black. And though I wouldn’t normally think I’d be a fan of such a stripped down inking style (I tend to love more voluminous Jamie Hernandez type inks), it works so well with her drawing style that I can’t help but be transfixed by the final look. Modan’s drawing style also well fits the tone (and substance) of the book nicely – the art is significant enough that it can carry the serious weight of the story without getting bogged down or exceptionally dark or dreary. Also refreshing from a female positivity standpoint, is that Modan’s female protagonist (Numi) is not beautiful in any traditional sense, certainly not by traditional comic book standards, and really Koby (our male protagonist) isn’t either. And it’s fitting I suppose that in a non-traditional love story of sorts, we would get non-traditional leads – just another way in which tonally Modan has hit her mark.

Exit Wounds quickly became one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in recent years, and as I put it down I went looking for more Modan – as much as I could find. The next piece I found was a 17-chapter story called The Murder of the Terminal Patient published by The New York Times and available here in its entirety. Published once a week from late June of 2008 through November of 2008, The Murder of the Terminal Patient is a quirky, funny, and yet melancholy tale literally about the murder of a terminal patient. Modan’s style is similarly effective here as it was in Exit Wounds – consistent and yet flexible, bending to a very different kind of story with ease and demonstrating her power as a storyteller.

Next I found Modan’s memoir piece Mixed Emotions for the The New York Times Visual Blog, a series of six stories about Modan and her family, published from May through October of 2007, and available in their entirety at the link above. I have to say, next to Exit Wounds; a few of the pieces here are my favorites of Modan’s work. In dealing with the often-sensitive subject matter of families – Modan manages to be both unflinchingly honest and to also find the beautiful sometimes painful humor in those situations and illustrates them with precision. Though her abilities as a superior storyteller were already obvious to me, seeing her deftness with memoir – often a tricky non-fictional hybrid of sorts – really solidified what a force she is on the comics scene and the fresh rarely seen perspective she can bring.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




JAMILTI AND OTHER STORIES reviewed by The Jerusalem Post

Updated June 12, 2009



+ Recommend:
facebook del.icio.us reddit newsvine fark
What's this?
Decrease text size Decrease text size
Increase text size Increase text size

Jamilti and Other Stories
By Rutu Modan
Jonathan Cape
176 pp., $19.95

Photo: Courtesy

First published in 2007, Rutu Modan's best-seller Exit Wounds introduced the English-speaking world to the preternatural talents of the Tel Aviv-born illustrator and writer. Already well-known here - Modan is a mainstay of the popular Actus Tragicus comic imprint - her debut graphic novel, an existential narrative of a young man searching for his father, garnered multiple awards and commendations internationally, including a prestigious Eisner Award. Oddly enough, Exit Wounds was not available in Hebrew until late last year - it was originally written in English. Now, the process has been reversed, with the publication of Jamilti and Other Stories, a collection of her earlier work originally published in Hebrew and translated into English for the first time.

Perhaps Jamilti presents best as an exercise in appreciating the development of Modan's talents as an illustrator and storyteller. Spanning a decade - the oldest of the stories was originally published in 1998, the most recent last year - one feels that it is possible to chart the evolution of her capacity to manipulate the genre, especially the tools of the illustrator with which she conveys, effectively, the underlying sentiment of her short tales.

In the earlier stories - "Jamilti," about a nurse whom is inadvertently caught up in a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, and "Bygone," a poignant vignette about memory, loss and deception - her illustrations are willfully exaggerated approximations of the human form. Heads are elongated, limbs improbably distended. Nonetheless, her figures maintain the ability to add volume to the stories - a sneer here, a gesture there, the grace with which they complement the narrative belied by their visual clumsiness.

The stories themselves share a dry, mordant wit. Loosely, they read more as observational pieces than fully formed and neatly packaged stories with distinct beginnings and endings. They are much like life itself, one might suggest, and perhaps Modan's gentle satire can be interpreted as her informed comment on the world as she sees it. Certainly, even in the more improbable of the stories, like "The Panty Killer" - a serial killer roaming the streets of Tel Aviv, gracing victims with underpants draped over their head - one perceives a wistfulness, a melancholy perhaps tapping deeper into the unconscious than immediately evident.

The most fully formed story in the collection is the last and most recently penned. "Your Number One Fan" follows an Israeli called Shabtai who dreams of making it big in the music scene, to Sheffield - where incidentally Modan, "much to her surprise" presently lives - where he has been invited to take part in an event. Ignoring overwhelming evidence to the contrary ("FYI, Sheffield is the home town to Joe Cocker," he snaps at his sceptical girlfriend), he convinces himself that it is the first rung on the ladder to fame and fortune.

Of course it is no such thing. His hostess is a petit bourgeois philo-Semite most certainly lacking the musical connections that Shabtai imagines her to possess; the showcase itself is at the local Jewish community center. "You never told me it was a Jewish community center," he snaps at her. "Why," she replies, bemused. "You got something against Jews?"

A complicated construct featuring Israel's ambiguous relationship with the Diaspora and old school provincialism about making it big abroad is distilled bitingly into three comic panels; this, as much as anything else in the collection, highlights Modan's talents as well as the effectiveness of the comic book medium for storytelling when wielded in the right hands.

 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




  JAMILTI AND OTHER STORIES and BURMA CHRONICLES reviewed by Times Online

Updated May 19, 2009


Graphic novels: Jamilti and Other Stories by Rutu Modan and Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle
The Times review by Neel Mukherjee

One of the unquestionably joyous highlights of publishing two years ago was the introduction to the English-speaking world of the Israeli graphic novelist, Rutu Modan. Exit Wounds was a witty, authentic, visually and stylistically beautiful, all-colour account of an unexpected love story unfolding in Tel-Aviv against the context of a suicide bombing in Hadera. Jamilti & Other Stories is a collection of her earlier work and, unlike a lot of such retrospectives, which can easily give off the feel of ‘bottom drawer’ doodles, this is even better than Exit Wounds.

It is a collection of seven short stories, each one illustrated in a different style, with the final story, ‘Your Number One Fan’, executed in the Hergé-like style we saw in Exit Wounds: clean lines; black dots for eyes; mobile, intensely expressive faces; surprising depth of field. The title story, a tale of a suicide bombing witnessed by a young Israeli woman who is about to get married, contains that sting-in-the-tail that is the hallmark of the textbook short story but this twist is a subtle, devastating and endlessly interpretable one, the almost-closed eyes of the woman over the final three panels at once eloquent and unyielding with meaning. ‘Bygone’, the only one drawn entirely in black-and-white with astonishing clarity, is set in a family-run ‘theme hotel’ in Naharia and also delivers a potent punch towards the end, this time in the form of a family secret that has been staring us in the face since the beginning. ‘The King of Lillies’, a festival of chrome and ochre yellows, oranges and browns, is about a cosmetic surgeon who, haunted by the sudden disappearance of his beloved Lilly, takes to remaking scores of his patients in the image and likeness of his lost lover. When Lilly turns up towards the end, the conclusion is very far from the expected. There is even a serial killer story, ‘The Panty Killer’, drawn with gleeful grotesquery, that manages to be suffused with sympathy.

Modan tells her stories with impeccable economy, each picture really worth a thousand words. Almost every story here has the depth of an Alice Munro short story and that crucial interpretive indeterminacy, something withheld, something that resists pinning down. Above all, it’s the deep humanity of her works that is so startling; she holds it forward in all its ragged, fallible, flawed wholeness and we feel almost an enlightenment after reading them.

Far from this unbounded generosity is Guy Delisle’s tone in his latest, Burma Chronicles. Delisle garnered a lot of praise for his first travelogue graphic novel, Pyongyang, which gave a fascinating peek into North Korea, one of the truly closed societies in the world. His second, Shenzhen, while still anthropologically interesting and informative, and marked by better artwork than Pyongyang, was distorted by a crude xenophobia: page after page was devoted to whingeing about how the Chinese don’t look like ‘us’ (first-world Caucasians), smell like us, eat like us, speak like us, even urinate and defecate like us. Now that’s a blindingly original revelation.

With Burma Chronicles, the account of his year in Myanmar in the company of his wife, Nadčge, a doctor for the Médecins sans Frontičres, and their baby son, Louis, this attitude has become a nasty default option. What could have been another riveting piece of journalistic storytelling gets repeatedly short-circuited by the hypercomplaining presence of Delisle himself: it’s too hot, there are constant power outages, the military regime running the country is appalling, there are too many mosquitoes, the food sucks, the built structures are crap, there is a random unavailability of things in the supermarket, the bus journey to Mudon is terrible … and so it goes.

All the observations are true yet a book is not just about the ‘what’ but also about the ‘how’; swinging between the poles of faux-naiveté and an innate sense of superiority Delisle can only give these truths an unsavoury spin, which boils down to one question: why is Burma not like the white, liberal-democratic first world? This is the difference between, say, Marjane Satrapi or Joe Sacco and Delisle. Satrapi and Sacco have been incandescently critical of Iran and Israel, respectively, yet their criticism is rounded, without a trace of condescension, whereas Delisle’s chronicling of difference careens over into a sneering ‘Us vs Them’ arrogance. His clinical self-absorption works as both occluding filter and black hole so that, on one hand, nothing about Burma survives unclouded by this carping perception and, on the other, everything is sucked into the vortex of Delisle’s relentless moaning. On top of that, the details of Nadčge’s MSF work show up Delisle’s self-centredness as crass and puerile. Early in the book, he observes, “I’ve often sat in on all the big questions that are the fodder of debate in humanitarian circles. I don’t have much to say.” Surprise, that.

click here to read more


Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Burma Chronicles
Jamilti and Other Stories




JAMILTI AND OTHER STORIES reviewed by The Guardian

Updated April 30, 2009



Tales of Tel Aviv

Michel Faber is impressed by the early work of one of graphic fiction's stars

We are at an interesting point in the evolution of comics, comparable to the juncture reached by pop music in the mid-1960s, when academics started praising the Beatles' Aeolian cadences and comparing Bob Dylan to Keats. The comics scene, ignored by serious lit lovers for decades, has stockpiled a vast amount of fiction, much of it aimed at adults. Suddenly, that material seems to have reached critical mass, and even the snootiest readers have realised they've been missing something.

In this climate, reviewing new graphic work is both easier and more difficult. It's no longer necessary to convince people that comics can be more than Batman or the Beano. On the other hand, anything with any merit tends to get overpraised and is routinely spared the sort of critical scrutiny brought to bear on everything else, from a new Zadie Smith novel to the latest Star Wars flick. The mainstream press almost never measures a graphic novel's actual achievement against its unfulfilled potential. New converts, reluctant to show their cluelessness about the ninth art, merely parrot the publishers' hype.

Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds, published in 2007, is an emotional whodunit set in modern Israel, in which a taxi driver and a female ex-soldier try to discover the identity of a man killed in a bomb attack. It's a well-constructed tale, told with understatement and quiet insight - the graphic equivalent of a decent literary novel. I liked it but was uneasy about the extravagant accolades it garnered. Now, emboldened by those accolades, Jonathan Cape is issuing Modan's earlier work, a selection of shorter pieces that originally appeared in various anthologies as far back as 1998. The author's afterword, and interviews she's given elsewhere, make it clear that she regards these stories as steps towards artistic maturity, a gradual progression that ended in Exit Wounds. If that book was no masterpiece, does this mean that Jamilti and Other Stories is a ragbag of juvenilia?

Not at all. In my view, Jamilti is the more interesting book, and it raises important questions about current notions - held by both consumers and creators - of how comics for grownups ideally ought to function. The younger Modan is rougher at the edges, quirkier, more self-consciously arty. Apart from the most recent piece, "Your Number One Fan", there's nothing here that could easily be made into a movie. "The Panty Killer", a madcap thriller about a rash of underwear-enhanced murders in Tel Aviv, is wickedly witty, but the wit is in the artwork and its playful juxtapositions. Without the cinematic pacing that makes Exit Wounds a quick read, almost every panel invites a long, leisurely look. The fantastically dowdy dresses of the women and the blowsy wallpaper of their homes are riots of intricate design and colour.

The oldest of the pieces is "King of the Lillies", one of the first comics published by Actus Tragicus, the Israeli artists' collective of which Modan was a founder member. In this elegantly bizarre fable (set in a fantasised pre-war Sweden) the Lillies are a Sapphic troupe of women, surgically altered by a plastic surgeon in the image of his long-lost beloved. The influence of Edward Gorey is unmistakable, not just in the archaic style but also in the characters' eerie dignity in the face of grotesque calamity.

In time, Modan came to recognise that grotesque calamities - and the dark humour of denial - were in plentiful supply in her country. Her subsequent stories address Israel's mingled complacency and fear as the war with the Palestinians drags on. In the resonantly powerful title story, a nurse's chance meeting with a suicide bomber casts a shadow of ambivalence over her imminent marriage to her macho boyfriend. In "Homecoming", a senile father continues to believe that his son, shot down over Lebanon, will return. Then a plane starts to circle the kibbutz, and the family gather on the beach where the father has scrawled "welcome home" in the sand. Told in 30 full-page panels, "Homecoming" feels like a children's book that maintains a spirit of innocence in a terrifying world.

In "Bygone", Modan attempts to exorcise her own grief at losing both parents when young, through a queasily erotic fantasy about orphaned sisters running a spooky hotel. Drawn in monochrome, with up to nine panels per page to increase the sense of emotional claustrophobia, "Bygone" could have been an eye-straining mess, but Modan's highly developed skills in composition, and her gift for capturing psychological nuances with a few lines, make this not just readable, but involving and fun. The lost-parent theme turns up again in "Energy Blockage", a sad farce played out in the tacky world of quack medicine scams.

"Your Number One Fan", composed after the author's recent relocation from Tel Aviv to Sheffield, is a low-key, wry vignette about a wannabe rock star performing at a Jewish buffet in that city. Like Exit Wounds, it's drawn in a style Modan describes as "more realistic, more clean", reminiscent of Hergé's ligne claire; indeed, it has a somewhat Tintin-esque look. And, without the detective elements that enlivened the slowburn romance of Exit Wounds, this tale of mediocre misfits stays just on the right side of humdrum. "When I was young," Modan has said, "I wanted my work to be unique, so I made it surreal and grotesque. Now I find myself mostly doing the opposite: I make things more subtle than what really happened. I'm really not interested in exaggerating life any more." This mistrust of anything mystical or expressionist, and the aspiration to make one's drawing style ever more transparent and matter of fact, applies not just to Modan but to many other well-regarded comics creators of recent years, such as Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Alison Bechdel, Dan Clowes, Seth and others. Their cool objectivity and droll observation promote an almost documentary aesthetic. While this can yield impressive results, I can't help thinking that it represents a retreat from the limitless potential of handcrafted visual art. In her "mature" work, Modan produces indie movies on the page, just waiting to be discovered by Hollywood. In her earlier pieces, her art is bolder, stranger, more surprising. I hope that Jamilti enjoys enough success for Modan to reconnect with techniques she's supposedly outgrown, and be inspired to display the full depth and range of her extraordinary talent.

• Michel Faber's The Fire Gospel is published by Canongate

 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




  Exit Wounds, Burma Chronicles and Sleepwalk in Telegraph's Top Ten

Updated April 6, 2009


The Top Ten Comic Books

Understanding Comics: the

Invisible Art

by Scott McCloud

(HarperCollins, Ł14.99)

Peerless comic-about-comics, the medium’s first serious example of literary criticism and a valuable and often very funny work of popular aesthetic philosophy.

Exit Wounds

by Rutu Modan

(Jonathan Cape, Ł14.99)

This tremendous work of fiction perfectly captures the gloss and grime of Israel in peace and war. It has a dark wit and a distinctive look.

Burma Chronicles

by Guy Delisle

(Jonathan Cape, Ł14.99)

A personal chronicle of Delisle’s time under the Burmese dictatorship with his wife (an aid worker) and young son.

Persepolis

by Marjane Satrapi

(Vintage, Ł7.99)

A mordantly funny chronicle of the author’s childhood in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran.

Promethea

by Alan Moore

(Titan Books, various volumes)

A beginner’s guide to the history of occultism in the form of a feminist superhero epic, incorporating some of the most adventurous narrative and didactic techniques in contemporary comics.

Sleepwalk

by Adrian Tomine

(Faber & Faber, Ł9.99)

Ice-cool vignettes of disenchanted urban life, some with memorable stings in the tail, by one of comics’ most exciting young creators.

Achewood

by Chris Onstad

(www.achewood.com)

Hands down the funniest web comic, an extravagant tale of oversexed cats, retarded otters, robots and the like, with dialogue that rarely ventures far from comic genius. Updated twice weekly, and free to read online, it has people cackling and rolling in their office chairs.

The Invisibles

by Grant Morrison

(Titan Books, Ł17.99)

A full-time mental series about a band of time-travelling British anarchists seeking to avert the annihilation of world consciousness. Incredibly clever, totally barking.

Krazy and Ignatz

by George Herriman

(Fantagraphics, various volumes, Ł13.99 each)

The inimitable ancestor of contemporary alternative comics: the perennial love quadrilateral between a cat, a mouse, a dog and a brick. One of the most good-hearted and amusing works of mortal man.

Alice in Sunderland

by Bryan Talbot

(Jonathan Cape, Ł18.99)

Centuries of local history, John Lennon, Alice in Wonderland, George Formby and the Empire Theatre in Sunderland. Glorious, panoptic and precise; one of the oddest and cleverest comics there is.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Sleepwalk and Other Stories
Burma Chronicles
Exit Wounds




JAMITLI, AYA OF YOP CITY and BURMA CHRONICLES reviewed by The Star Tribune

Updated February 27, 2009


Books
Tom Horgen
December 25, 2008
STAR TRIBUNE

Here is proof that the power of comic books has reached a worldwide audience. And I'm not talking about all the money that superhero movies make overseas. These three stories -- set in Israel, the Ivory Coast and Myanmar -- represent the field's rich diversity, which is celebrating an all-time high thanks to publishers like Drawn & Quarterly. These comics (or graphic novels) each tell stories specific to a different small corner of the globe. Lucky for us that comics speak a universal language.

Jamilti And Other Stories
Rutu Modan

When the graphic novel "Exit Wounds" was released last year, it heralded the arrival of a top-tiered talent in Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan. Her colorful art popped off every page with lifelike movement. And her story was a page-turner, as it followed a young Tel Aviv man on the trail of his estranged father who might have been killed in the latest suicide bombing. Modan also took a controversial stance: As an Israeli, she spoke firsthand of the random violence that informs daily Tel Aviv life, but she also voiced a deep empathy for the other side.

It's a surprise, then, that Modan's second book isn't another full-length story, but instead a collection of stories, many of which aren't even new (most were made pre-"Exit Wounds"). But "Jamilti and Other Stores" is still a fascinating read. Storywise, she is again focused on the sudden violence that numbs everyday Israeli life. Artistically, you can watch Modan bloom from an early sketchy style to her current love of defined lines, which give her characters a three-dimensional quality.

From these seven stories we learn that she's a bit of a mystery writer, often leading us down twists and turns until the big reveal. Take the 10-page title story that opens "Jamilti." In it, a young Israeli woman storms off after a fight with her crude fiance, only to be nearly killed in a suicide blast outside a Tel Aviv cafe. Searching for other survivors, she finds a dying man with his legs blown off. As she leans over him, he suddenly kisses her and says "Jamilti" before paramedics rush him away. Later, without mentioning the kiss, she asks her fiancé if he knows what "Jamilti" means. He says it's Arabic for "my beautiful one." It's classic Modan.

Aya of Yop City
Marguerite Abouet, Clement Oubrerie

Writer Marguerite Abouet, a native of the Ivory Coast, has done something extraordinary for her Western readers. She's given us a vision of her homeland that has nothing to do with war, famine or any of the many atrocities that clog our minds when we think of Africa. That's not to say we should forget those images of suffering; it's just foolish to view an entire continent through a one-dimensional lens.

Abouet's viewfinder is focused on everyday life in the Ivory Coast's capital city, Abidjan, a place filled with bright colors and mischievous comedy. She sets "Aya of Yop City" during the 1970s, a time when the country's booming economy was the envy of Western Africa. In a working-class district nicknamed Yop City, the characters Abouet introduced in her must-read 2007 debut (simply titled "Aya") are still struggling with one intense, uncompromising problem: young love.

Chief among them is Aya, a young woman who acts like a den mother to her group of girlfriends, each on the prowl for Mr. Right. Abouet finds humor in their unpredictable exploits, and has the perfect artist to bring it all to life. Clement Oubrerie's artwork is light, almost doodling pencils flushed out with bold colors. He adds a whimsy to every interaction. Even the panels that frame everything are loosely hand-drawn, as if they were floating on the page.

Of course, life in the Ivory Coast wouldn't always be so cheery, as the country would fall into economic and political turmoil during the 1980s. But for this moment, in "Aya of Yop City," Abouet isn't concerned with that. And isn't that a statement in itself?

Burma Chronicles
Guy Delisle

Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle has carved out a niche for himself, traveling to oppressed Asian countries and writing about his experience. He's not an aid worker or a journalist. His day job is in animation, which has landed him gigs in China and North Korea. He just happens to be a keen observer of cultural ambiguities and the way life carries on under repressive conditions. So after each trip, he publishes a comic travelogue in stylized black-and-white.

First came "Pyongyang" and "Shenzhen." Now he's on to Myanmar (formally Burma), where the country's military dictatorship made headlines in 2007 for brutally crushing anti-government protests. Delisle was there two years earlier, not as an animator but as a companion to his wife, who's with Doctors Without Borders.

Delisle is a humorist, which makes writing about Communist states or the junta in "Burma Chronicles" a bit unusual. That's why he uses a familiar comedic motif: He's a stranger in a strange land. While this approach can generate passages of humor and peculiar discovery (they play Karen Carpenter nonstop in Burmese grocery stores), Delisle can sometimes come off as the snooty foreigner. He's also prone to rambling on about his trivial, culture-clash discomforts. But all this has a purpose. Delisle loves depicting his own cultural naivete in order to give readers a better understanding of what he saw.

In one instance, Delisle naively assures his Burmese friend that change will come once the country's 76-year-old dictator dies. His friend explains that change was expected after the last dictator, but he was replaced by another. "So I don't see much reason for hope," he tells Delisle. The cartoonist doesn't say anything else.

 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya of Yop City
Burma Chronicles
Jamilti and Other Stories




  RUTU MODAN interviewed by Inkstuds

Updated February 27, 2009


Rutu Modan is one of the most exciting creators putting work out right now. Her book Exit Wounds got a lot of people hyped for a good reason. Be sure to check out her New York Times strip as well.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Jamilti and Other Stories
Exit Wounds




JAMILTI, AYA OF YOP CITY and BURMA CHRONICLES reviewed by The Patriot News

Updated February 27, 2009


CHRIS MAUTNER
Novels focus on foreign culture
Friday, November 28, 2008
Patriot-News

One of the things that comics do remarkably well is provide the reader with a tangible sense of place.

Unlike prose, which must rely on verbal descriptions, or photography, which can only show you a small section of a scene, comics can immerse you in a landscape, be it town or country, giving you a concrete feel for a particular area, real or imaginary.

Three new graphic novels from the small press publisher Drawn and Quarterly underscore that idea by focusing on cultures and countries far outside of the U.S.'s boundaries.

"Jamiliti and Other Stories" by Rutu Modan.

Though not an official follow-up to her acclaimed 2007 book "Exit Wounds," this collection of short stories by Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan nevertheless proves that she's much more than a one-trick pony.

Modan's tales deal with longing and isolation, though a sly bit of satire frequently shines through, as in "The Panty Killer," an unusual murder mystery, or "Homecoming," about a family that is forever waiting for the return of the prodigal soldier son.

The early stories here tend to take on a fairy tale tone, while more recent work, such as the title story, focus on the characters and the way they brush against one another.

No doubt some of Modan's themes are lost to American audiences. You get the sense that there are issues specific to Israeli concerns. That doesn't change the fact that these are wonderful, haunting tales though, that should only further cement Modan's reputation as a first-class storyteller.

"Aya of Yop City" by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.

This is a sequel to last year's "Aya," a charming look at life in the Ivory Coast during the late 1970s, when the country was prosperous and on the verge of modernity.

Thankfully, everything that made the first book so delightful is evident here as well. More soap opera than social drama, "Yop City" finds its characters continuing to make fools of themselves in the pursuit of love and/or success, with issues of gender, class and colonialism well hidden in the background. Only headstrong Aya, the Greek chorus of the book, has any sense.

The book risks turning its large cast into cartoonish types at times, but they remain winning and likable even when some of them are exhibiting inane or frustrating behavior.

This is a sumptuously illustrated book; Oubrerie's art gives you a real sense of the particular place and time. Ultimately though, it's the characters you remember best. Even if you don't know the country, you know these people.

Advertisement








"Burma Chronicles" by Guy Delisle.

Having already chronicled his travels to China and North Korea (in "Shenzhen" and "Pyongyang," respectively), Delisle ventures into Myanmar with his young son and wife, (her job for Doctors Without Borders providing the reason for the trip).

This is Delisle's best book, a subtle yet pointed look at life in a totalitarian state. Delisle focuses on the everyday minutiae of expatriate life with humor and insight.

At times it seems as if Myanmar could be anyplace, until he abruptly runs into the poverty and cruelty pushed down upon the country. A visit with a bed-ridden elderly woman, for example, strikes home hard, and not for the reasons you might suspect.

Delisle exhibits a basic, blocky style here but is able to convey a wide range of emotions and issues. It's an indelible portrait of a people forced to live in ugly circumstances that stays with you long after you've put the book down.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya of Yop City
Burma Chronicles
Jamilti and Other Stories




  JAMILTI reviewed by Boston Globe

Updated February 27, 2009


JAMILTI AND OTHER STORIES
By Carlo Wolff
November 23, 2008
BOSTON GLOBE


Rutu Modan's "Jamilti" is a story collection in which the artistic style varies by literary theme. Profoundly feminist and imaginative, the gifted Israeli artist populates her stories with characters struggling to make sense of a world spinning out of control. Here, the gyre widens around politics and sex, sometimes separately, at times together: "The Panty Killer," its multihued art simultaneously stark and ornate, is gruesomely funny, while the black-and-white "Bygone" probes white lies that can preserve a sense of family.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




JAMILTI reviewed by Gutter Geek

Updated January 29, 2009


Rutu Modan, Jamilti and Other Stories
Matt Dube
GUTTER GEEK
January 22, 2009


When Drawn and Quarterly published Rutu Modan’s graphic novel Exit Wounds last year, it made the Israeli cartoonist into something of an alternative comics star in the United States. Exit Wounds, the story of a young man drawn into searching for his philandering father by one of the older man’s newest conquests, appeared on a number of significant 2007 “Best of Lists,” and Modan was awarded an Eisner this past year for the “best new graphic album.” Now D & Q have published a collection of seven of Modan’s short stories in the collection Jamiliti and Other Stories, giving us a chance to appreciate more fully Modan’s talents and interests.

Short stories in comics suffer the same neglect short stories face in traditional literary circles, seen as ancillary to longer works, whether its the graphic novel or novel. This neglect of the short form is even more pronounced in comics, where the nature of serial publication means that a reader can go through his or her whole reading life without reinvest his or her attention and affections in a new cast of characters, a new narrative ground zero. The risk of this neglect, though, is that it might lead us to overlook a substantial talent, like that Modan shows in her collection. It’s true that the title story and Modan’s celebrated graphic novel both concern that aftermath of a suicide bombing, but the way that material is treated is very different: in Exit Wounds, it was an invitation to adventure, of a sort, but in “Jamiliti,” it triggers analysis that leads to the end of a love affair. The range of stories collected in this volume allows us to get a greater sense of Modan, to show what is really in her as a writer as opposed to what the terms are of a particular story. She has a deft hand for comedy, especially the black comedy of complicated adult relationships. So, in maybe the collections most successful piece, “Homecoming,” a woman’s present day romance is threatened by what might be the return of her husband after eight years in Lebanese captivity, flying to her in the cockpit of a Lebanese warplane! Or maybe it really is a Lebanese suicide bomber, coming to destroy a kibbutz mostly populated by senior citizens. Whatever the truth, the story forces an inward shrug of stunned disbelief. Modan’s stories braid together the really terrifying and the unsettlingly unreal in ways that feel like her signature, her style, her peculiar and satisfyingly idiosyncratic vision of the world.

There are other elements, of course, that we might note as characteristic of her style: many of her stories feature medical services in one way or another, whether characters are ambulance drivers, or as surgeons, or the setting is a hospital. Likewise, even though the style of representation in these stories varies widely, from the crude anatomy of “Energy Blockage” to a clair-ligne style like that seen in “Your Number One Fan” and familiar to readers of Exit Wounds, Modan always dresses her characters with care. However distorted or unreal the bodies might look, the clothes the characters wear are always telling. It’s an added treat, then, that the story “King of the Lillies,” about a plastic surgeon who is part-Pygmalion, comes with a paper doll you can cut out and dress how you’d like.

Modan, I hope you see, shows an equal interest in the visual and the verbal; her vision applies to plotting and her visual choices. In this collection, that interest in the visual lends the stories different color palettes, from the speckled water color tones of “Jamiliti” to the flat colors of “Your Number One Fan” to the almost smudged black and white lines of “Bygone.” Poe said that the short story peculiar strength was in its ability to shock, something we felt most clearly when we came to the end of the story, and Modan’s endings deserve attention on a visual as well as a verbal or plotted axis. In many of the stories, Modan exploits that kind of compressed snap that Poe looks for in the successful story ending. Visually, this means that Modan recurs to using what film scholars would call “the reverse shot” as a closing image: she will use the final page to establish a focal point of view, a character who serves as our eyes, and then, in the final panel, she will break that shot, to disrupt the visual rhythm either for a reaction, as is the case in the tart put-down at the end of “The Panty Killer,” or else the story will stay behind as the focal character moves away, as is the case in “Bygone” which allows Modan to extend the story past the boundary of the page, leaving us with a sustained lyrical note. The range of Modan’s skills as a storyteller and visual artist should establish her as a serious comics creator, one who has a distinctive voice, one who can draw upon varied opportunities in terms of how to structure and present a story. These skills transcend any single story, long or short, and can be best recognized in a collection like this one.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




  MOOMIN 3, AYA OF YOP CITY, JAMILTI and more reviewed by The Boston Phoenix

Updated January 16, 2009


RED COLORED ELEGY
MOOMIN 3
BURMA CHRONICLES
BERLIN: CITY OF SMOKE
JAMILTI
AYA OF YOP CITY
Mike Millard
December 2, 2008
THE BOSTON PHOENIX

...Meanwhile, Seiichi Hayashi's RED COLORED ELEGY (Drawn and Quarterly, $25), drawn in 1970 and 1971 in all spare lines and stark minimalism, uses techniques derived from anime for a story exploring the tension between the personal and the political.

Elegy is just one of many globe-hopping books (each of them $20) put out this year from Montrűal's consistently excellent Drawn and Quarterly. MOOMIN: BOOK THREE is the latest compilation of Finnish cartoonist Tove Jansson's charmingly peculiar Moomin comic strips, which took her hugely popular Scandinavian hippopotamus-esque trolls and syndicated them first in London's Evening News in the '50s and later across Europe and the world.

Guy Delisle's BURMA CHRONICLES finds the Quűbűcois cartoonist traveling to another part of the planet few outsiders have seen. In his previous books, Pyongyang and Shenzhen, Delisle experienced the walled-off worlds of authoritarianism by himself. This time, having his wife (a worker with Műdecins Sans Frontičres) and child in tow makes for a slightly different perspective on life behind the curtain of a censorious, soul-crushing regime. Delisle deals with serious subjects, but his cartoony, workmanlike style is well-suited to his genial observations of the good-hearted people in this profoundly damaged nation.

Jason Lutes's BERLIN: CITY OF SMOKE, the second volume in his fiction trilogy chronicling the gloaming of the Weimar Republic, is drawn in a detailed and assured ligne claire style — one that's all the more remarkable for the vastness and exactitude of Lutes's scope: communists and national socialists, Jews and American jazz men, all interacting in a city fraught with tension as fascism and war gather on the horizon.

Israel's Rutu Modan, introduced to North America last year with the excellent graphic novel Exit Wounds, quickly established herself as one of the most humane and creative artists around — one whose bold sense of color and composition is as refined as her feeling for the subtle undercurrents of her characters' emotions. JAMILTI AND OTHER STORIES, a collection of her shorter pieces, continues to cement that reputation.

Finally, Côte d'Ivoirian Marguerite Abouet and Frenchman Clement Oubrerie's AYA OF YOP CITY (a continuation of last year's Aya) is drawn with happy, vibrant strokes: perfect for these warmhearted tales of an earthy cast of characters living together in 1970s Abidjan. It's nice to see, as Abouet puts it, a continent not defined by "war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on."

click here to read more


Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Tove Jansson
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Aya of Yop City
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book Three
Jamilti and Other Stories




RUTU MODAN interviewed by Publishers Weekly

Updated November 28, 2008


Meet the Joie de Tel Aviv: Graphic Novelist Rutu Modan
by Nisha Gopalan
Publishers Weekly
11/10/2008

At age 42, writer-illustrator Rutu Modan has been creating comics for over a decade now, amassing a hipster following in her native Israel. But it wasn't until she released her graphic-novel debut, last year's coolly complicated familial drama Exit Wounds, that she finally earned international praise from both the comics cognoscenti and the ever-discriminating literati, which culminated in her original blog ("Mixed Emotions") and strip ("The Murder of the Terminal Patient") for The New York Times. Modan, however, is still making up for lost time. That explains why her recent release, Jamilti and Other Stories, is actually a collection of tales—among them, stories about a nurse at a suicide-bombing and two lovesick sisters with a complicated past—written throughout her comics career. It's a fascinating document of how she's gracefully honed her knack for subtle, unresolved, melancholic storytelling. PWCW spoke to the thoughtful, self-deprecating artist—currently residing with her husband and two kids in Sheffield, England, while he completes his post-doc research—about relating to American audiences and living down Exit's hype.

PW Comics Week: What are the differences in the ways Americans and Israelis receive your work?

Rutu Modan: There's an exotica Americans find in my stories that's lost on Israeli readers. Israelis can be—and are—more critical. They know how things look, they know the reality I am describing. For example in Exit Wounds, Numi—the female soldier—serves in a base in the middle of Tel-Aviv. Every Israeli knows that those who serve in that particular base are usually from well-connected families; it's considered a good job compared to others. There is no way you can translate that. Or in Jamilti, the story "Your Number One Fan" talks about the ambivalent relationships between the Israelis and the Jewish communities abroad. These themes might be lost on a foreign audience.


PWCW: Looking back at your old work in Jamilti, how would you say your style has changed?

RM: I came from non-comics culture—I started becoming interested in comics relatively late, in my mid-20s. I had a few comic strips in newspapers, and the style of both narrative and drawings were macabre and grotesque. The oldest story in this collection, "The King of the Lilies," was the first long story that I wrote, and I thought I needed to make everything extreme and spooky in order for it to be interesting. Time passed and I learned that reality is grotesque and extreme enough—especially in Israel—and that I didn't have to try so hard. So in my later stories, I tried to be more and more simple. That influenced the style of the drawings, too. They became more realistic, more connected to my surroundings—people, places, colors.

PWCW: Why do family and family secrets play such a big part in your work?

RM: You can witness all human interactions on the largest scale in a family: love, hate, jealousy, disgust, power, control.... And every family has secrets. You cannot live so close to other people and tell each other everything; it would be a disaster. It is the subtext: the thing no one talks about but that influences everything. And when the secret is revealed, usually the fear was greater than the [secret] actually is. My family was especially secretive. My parents hid things from us, from each other, from their brothers. It was mainly to try to pretend that their life was perfect, that they were perfect. Being secretive became a second habit in all the family—never tell where you are going or where have you been. Even if it is completely unimportant, like the supermarket. Maybe it is a way to have some privacy in the suffocating atmosphere of a family.

PWCW: How personal, then, are the stories in Jamilti?

RM: Jamilti and Exit Wounds were based on real events that I read in the newspapers. I mixed them with personal experiences and the experiences of people I know…and invented things around them. Like, "Your Number One Fan" [in Jamilti] was based on this time I was invited to have an exhibition in Sweden, and no one came to the opening. At the time my ego was really hurt, but when I told my friends about it they all laughed. And I had to admit to myself it was funny. I find that the lowest points in life are the best material for stories, and humiliation makes for the funniest stories.

PWCW:In your stories, you seem to treat bombings as an everyday reality—is this to say the Israeli people have resigned to the fact that violence is simply a way of life?

RM: In the last decade—following the disappointment from the Oslo agreements, the second intifada, and the Rabin assassination—many Israelis regressed into pessimism. They didn't believe in a solution anymore. The common and fatalistic point of view is that "this is the situation, and we just have to learn to live with it." It's both depressing and dangerous because it brings passiveness and apathy: You retreat into your own little life just hoping nothing bad will happen to you personally. "The enemy" becomes like an abstract demon, you don't even try anymore to think about him as a person—it is too complicated to do it, anyway.

PWCW: But would it be incorrect to view the title story, "Jamilti," as a compassionate view of a Palestinian?
RM: In "Jamilti", the TV broadcaster announces that "No one was wounded in the attack," even though someone was killed [in the suicide bombing]—the terrorist. Rama, the heroine of the story, doesn't know the guy she was trying to save was a terrorist, and she's only able to see him as a man because of this. My intentions were not to criticize this, or to approve of it. But I wanted to shed light on this point and maybe remind myself that even those who want to kill us are people. The compassionate view is not only for Palestinians—though I do not approve of terrorism or its motivations—but I was expressing my sorrow for that tragic blindness we insist to share with those we call "our enemies."

PWCW: Why do many of your stories end on notes of uncertainty?

RM: Usually the main issue is somehow [resolved]—but only "somehow," because I believe that in real life nothing is ever completely closed. "They live happily ever after" is not even a beginning of a new story—it is just in the middle of one. At the end, I don't try to solve everythingin my protagonist's life. There is not a final solution for anything.

PWCW: You've spoken about the lack of comic books growing up in Israel. What is the comics scene like now?

RM: It has developed rapidly in the last decade. There are many young artists around, more comics events—which are still much too small to call festivals—and the number of comics shops in the country has increased from one, five years ago, to the impressive number of four. The scene is mostly independent—90 percent is self-published, but more established publishers are willing to consider publishing comics. What I think is a pity is that as much as the scene grows, it becomes more mainstream in nature and more male dominated. It used to be almost 50 percent women and more underground in style, which is more my taste.

PWCW: Whose work most excites you right now?

RM: Beside the comics artists I work with in Actus [a collective of which she's a member], I like the work of the Hanuka brothers [Asaf and Tomer], the creators of the Bipolar series, which did well in America, too. They are very talented and serious artists, and their work is evolving all the time. I am also interested in the work of Jiro Taniguchi, a wonderful alternative-manga artist. He has a wonderful sense of pacing and rhythm in his stories, and the drawings are amazing. His books are finally being translated into English [from Japanese].

PWCW: How much of a mixed-bag are those Exit Wounds reviews? Do you ever fear your future work won't live up to these high expectations?

RM: I won't deny it was very pleasant that Exit Wounds was received so warmly. I was surprised that it attracted any attention at all; it is still a bit unbelievable to me.… Sooner than expected, the feeling-good-about-myself morphed into anxiety, stress, and pimples. It is a scientific fact that success is not good for your skin. But I am 100 percent sure that making graphic novels is all I want to do.… And there are some fantastic skin products out there nowadays.


PWCW: What can we expect from you in the future?

RM: I just finished a serial-comics story for The New York Times Magazine, "The Murder of the Terminal Patient," and I am working on a new story for The Times of London in the same format. After I finish that project, I might start a new graphic novel or take a break for a while and do something completely different, like illustrate a children's book, which is another passion of mine.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Jamilti and Other Stories
Exit Wounds




  JAMILTI reviewed by Book By Its Cover

Updated November 26, 2008


JAMILTI AND OTHER STORIES
Rutu Modan
10.13.08
BOOK BY ITS COVER

Going through the archives I was surprised I hadn’t ever written about Exit Wounds, which may have been my favorite graphic novel of last year. Everyone should check it out. It’s a super story about modern day Tel Aviv where there’s a bombing and this guy tries to find out if his estranged father was a victim. A new book just came out by the same Israeli author/artist Rutu Modan which is a collection of short comics. I, again, enjoyed her work a lot. The short stories are bizarre and a little dark and very entertaining. In just seven stories there’s love, betrayal, obsession, politics, an explosion, a plane crash, plastic surgery, an electric lady and a panty killer. And the drawings just happen to be really awesome too. Rutu makes some nice stylistic choices when drawing her characters. Some parts are somewhat normal realistic cartoon body features and then some parts will be totally exaggerated. There’s some beautiful palettes and textures for each of the stories and although each are different, they all seem to stay in this old timey 1940s-50s look. You should definitely pick up a copy of this book here. (You might have also seen Rutu’s work in The New York Times Magazine which has been publishing her stories for a little while now.)
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




D+Q SHOWCASE 5, BUN FIELD and JAMILTI reviewed by Dans Ta Bulle

Updated November 26, 2008


dimanche 26 octobre 2008
Épisode 51 : Rutu Modan, Drawn and Quarterly's Showcase 5, Amanda Vahamaki et Violaine Leroy

Programme chargé pour cet épisode 51. Julie y parle de l'album collectif Showcase volume 5, périodique publié annuellement par Drawn and Quarterly. De lŕ, elle se penche plus particuličrement sur une auteure finlandaise nommée Amanda Vahamaki, et d'un album en particulier : Campo di Baba.
Christophe parle du premier album de Violaine Leroy paru ŕ la Pastčque : La rue des autres.
Et Julie reprend le micro pour terminer avec un recueil de courtes histoires de Rutu Modan : Jamilti and other stories.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Rutu Modan
Amanda Vähämäki

           Featured products

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Five
Jamilti and Other Stories




  JAMILTI reviewed by NewsOK

Updated November 26, 2008


Funny, strange, sad stories in mix
"Jamilti and Other Stories” collects seven short stories by Rutu Modan, the writer-artist of "Exit Wounds,” one of the best graphic novels of 2007.
— Matthew Price
October 26, 2008
NEWSOK

Six of the seven works in "Jamilti” predate "Exit Wounds,” but Motan shows here, again, why she’s one of the premiere voices of Israeli comics.
The strongest is "Bygone,” the one black-and-white story in the collection, in which the family ties among three sisters in a themed hotel in Israel are explored. The middle sister discovers her family’s deep secret after falling for a hotel guest.
All seven stories are very good in varying degrees. One focuses on a plastic surgeon that keeps remaking his lost love; another is about a divorced mother who believes she can heal with electricity flowing through her hands.
The lead story, "Jamilti,” is about wedding dresses and suicide bombers.
Modan has an art style reminiscent of Herge, though parts of "Jamilti” are intentionally cruder.
Alternately funny, sad, and strange, this collection of works by Modan is absolutely worth reading to experience one of comics’ most original voices.
— Matthew Price
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by Haaretz

Updated November 26, 2008


Comic milestone
By Rachella Zandbank
20/10/2008
HAARETZ

Rutu Modan's debut graphic novel, "Exit Wounds," originally published last year in English and now out in Hebrew translation, is first and foremost a spellbinding tale that is filled with passion - concealed and overt, restrained and free-flowing. Modan belongs to the category of comics artists who are also "film directors." She knows how to tell a story and how to use all the visual means at her disposal to convey to her readers the full meaning and complexity of the universe she constructs and the narrative she relates. Just as in filmmaking, one must approach comics with an open mind, constantly paying attention to what the image on the page is doing to the story, and what it says that the text omits.

The plot of "Exit Wounds" centers on Koby Franco, an Israeli cab driver who meets up with a tall, gawky female soldier named Numi, who has a rather odd agenda: "Remember that suicide bombing in Hadera three weeks ago?" she asks him. "Hadera? You mean Haifa," Koby replies. "No, not the one at the restaurant. The one in the bus station cafeteria," Numi explains. She tells him that she thinks that the unidentified man killed in that attack was Koby's father. How does she know this? She saw an item belonging to him at the blast site on TV, and has tried unsuccessfully to reach him since the bombing.

Modan rightly credits the initial idea for her story to David Ofek's amazing documentary "No. 17," which recounts the fate of a bombing victim no one could identify. Ofek began filming on the assumption that the victim was a migrant worker. From this premise, his film takes off on an astoundingly powerful journey of encounters with Israel's haves and have-nots.

By way of free association, Modan was also inspired by her recollection of a guy she dated in her youth. When he had neglected to call her for a whole week, she was sure he had died. In the end she called him, only to find out that he was perfectly healthy, just not interested in seeing her again.

Modan merged Ofek's film and her personal experience of rejection to arrive at her novel's starting point: It turns out that Numi had been having an affair with Koby's father, and she is convinced that the bombing explains his sudden disappearance. From here on the story focuses mainly on Koby, whose relationship with his father has been rocky for a long time; Numi's theory reignites tremendous rage toward the man who always managed to let him down. This longing for a loving father figure is a powerful motivation for Numi, too. In their shared quest, both characters have to bid farewell to all sorts of primal needs to make room for something else, more mature and liberated, to grow.

Modan's drawings bear the clear influence of the "clean-line" method adopted by Herg? (the creator of Tintin) and other European comics artists, but using more realism and emphasizing the nuances of body language, gestures and relations between characters that become sharply evident in the way the scenes are designed. Her characters' facial features are "Tintin-like" to the extent that she frequently makes do with dots for eyes or lines for eyebrows and mouth. For the most part, however, she demonstrates well how much such markings can in fact contain.

As Modan herself admits, the novel's "narrator's voice" is expressed through line and style: It is a gentle voice, full of understatement, that views each one of the characters at eye level, never ridicules them or jokes at their expense. Even though her backdrops - the streets and homes that constitute the setting - accurately portray Israeli reality, the soft colors deliberately ignore the harsh Israeli light; it is also likely that the choice of winter for the temporal setting seeks to somewhat soften the events recounted.

Modan is an expert at spreading panels on a page and knows how to direct the readers' eyes to the important frames, the dramatic moments. She switches between points of view, just like a director with an omniscient perspective does, whenever she wants to present an event from various angles, covering each of her heroes' emotional reactions.

Like David Ofek's pursuit, Koby and Numi's quest takes them to assorted nooks and crannies in Israeli life, from the home of Koby's aunt and uncle - who are substitutes for the parents he lacks, where a photo of their son killed in a war hangs on the wall - through Numi's wealthy home, with a mother and sister who seem like caricatures out of an American soap opera, to the people at Hadera's central bus station, including the Filipina cleaner, who is utterly anonymous to everyone around her.

Whoever is familiar with Ofek's film will recognize direct influences here and there, such as the portrayal of proceedings at the forensics institute, where lunch is discussed while people handle a fresh body; or the character of the older woman, salt of the earth, an old flame of the father's youth, whom Koby and Numi unearth in their search. But their quest is primarily a deeply personal one, and the reality in which they live serves as a backdrop to which Modan gives real presence, while at the same time accepting that private daily life is usually overpowering.

"Exit Wounds" recently won Modan the U.S. comics industry's Eisner Award for best graphic novel - a great honor. The responses this award elicited among those unfamiliar with Israeli reality were interesting: Readers waxed enthusiastic about Modan's ability to convey a complicated reality in which terror attacks and other types of murderous violence have become a routine part of life.

A serious shortcoming of the Hebrew translation (published by Am Oved) lies in the banal choice of title, "Karov Rahok" (a Hebrew idiom which has several meanings), compared to the lovely English original, which was put out by Drawn and Quarterly. Aside from that, the book's transformation into Hebrew is almost flawless (almost, because even though numerous frames in which Koby is driving were redrawn to avoid creating a situation in which switching linguistic direction, from English to Hebrew, would turn him into a British driver, a few frames were overlooked, including on the first page of the book). The dialogue sounds natural and a great many nuances of Israeli reality find their rightful place. It suddenly seems strange that an outsider could be able to get it.

The lettering, that crucial concept in comics, deserves special praise here: The manual drawing of the text was done by hand (by Ishai Mishory), and perfectly, in a manner that illuminates why lettering is an inseparable part of comics and how it contributes to the ambience - in this case to the intense intimacy the text conveys.

In case it is still not clear: "Exit Wounds" is a moving and extremely beautiful work of art, a milestone that will hopefully become the "pied piper" of Israeli comics, in whose wake all of the mice who draw will emerge from their holes, and create, with blood and sweat, more and more works of this caliber.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  JAMILTI reviewed by Newsarama

Updated November 26, 2008


Best Shots: The Stand, End League, 13 Chambers and More
Jamilti and Other Stories by Rutu Modan
reviewed by Michael C Lorah
2008-10-13
NEWSARAMA

Rutu Modan’s role in the Israeli comics collective Actus put her on the international comics scene, but it was last year’s hit Exit Wounds that truly cemented her reputation as a comics artist to watch. Her new book, Jamilti and Other Stories compiles six pre- and one post-Exit Wounds short stories that she’s authored between 1998 and 2007, and though none of the strips included here match the humanity and cartooning talent of her breakout book, each tale does offer some insight into the evolution of an extremely talented cartoonist.

The title story and the wide-open panels of doom-laden “Homecoming” are closest to Exit Wounds, dealing with families and young people in modern Israel. “Jamilti” is a thoughtful look at bigotry and emotional disconnects, while “Homecoming” contrasts the optimism of survival, depicted as near ignorance, against the fretting of inevitable letdowns. “Energy Blockage” and “Bygone” are family studies, the search for a lost parent, the desire of a child for stability and belonging. “Energy Blockage,” with its open line work, feels light despite the rumble of darkness at its core. Sarah’s inquisitive pursuit of her father, removed from her life by her parents’ tumultuous separation, stings with its emotional honesty and protagonist’s willingness to manipulate. “Your Number One Fan” and “The King of the Lillies” are effective tales about obsession and, particularly in “Your Number One Fan,” the ups and downs of a creator trying to find success and acceptance.

Since most of the stories appeared in Actus anthologies, all of which have been based around themes or formats, several of the stories don’t seem physically suited to the page dimensions of Jamilti and Other Stories. “Homecoming”’s full panel pages are blown up to an uncomfortable degree, highlighting some of Modan’s awkward anatomy, and “YNOF” is landscaped, so readers will have to turn the book sideways to take in the final story. Modan’s ability to lay out a page effectively is shown even in the earliest stories, and her character acting and designs are strong throughout. She also plays with her style at times, using a lot of open white space in “Bygone” rather than grey-toning and spotting blacks throughout the page. The anatomy, as mentioned, is distorted and uncomfortable in several stories, which some readers might not like.

Though it doesn’t read the same heights as her Eisner-winning effort Exit Wounds, Modan has a clear winner here. Each story has something going right for it, and readers are likely to find at least three or four standouts. Keep watching for Rutu Modan. After winning this Eisner for Exit Wounds, she’s cementing her credibility as a must-watch cartoonist with Jamilti and Other Stories.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




JAMILTI reviewed by ComicMix

Updated November 26, 2008


Review: 'Jamilti & Other Stories' by Rutu Modan
Collected shorter comics by the author of 'Exit Wounds'
by Andrew Wheeler
Mon Oct 13, 2008
COMICMIX

Rutu Modan came to the attention of most American comics readers last year, when her graphic novel Exit Wounds was published to great acclaim. Exit Wounds went on to hit a number of top ten lists, and won the Eisner for Best New Graphic Novel. But no cartoonist comes out of nowhere – Modan had been writing and drawing shorter comics stories for a decade. Those would be these stories, which have now been corralled between two covers.

Jamilti collects seven stories, all of them but the title piece originally published in anthologies from the comics collective Actus (of which Modan was one of the two founders). (“Jamilti” itself was originally published in Drawn & Quarterly, Vol. 5, for those seeking closure.) Modan’s style has changed slightly over the years, but her artistic progression isn’t obvious. Her most recent work – Exit Wounds, “Your Number One Fan” from How To Love, the currently running serial The Murder of the Terminal Patient – have a tighter, cleaner line and solid blocks of brighter, purer colors than her earlier stories, but that’s more of a tightening of what she was already doing than anything else. The stories before that bounce back and forth from color to black and white, with the drawing similarly getting looser and tighter as Modan worked out what she wanted to do.

“Jamilti,” from 2003, opens the book with Modan’s loosest drawing style, nearly primitivist in its broad outlines and crayonish colors. It focuses on a young Israeli bride-to-be, a nurse with a fiancé she’s coming to realize is racist and cruel, when she rushed to the scene of a suicide bombing to rescue the only person she finds there. It has the shape of a modern prose short story, stopping just before what we expect will happen between Rama and her brutish bridegroom-to-be.

“Energy Blockage” comes from the 2004 Actus anthology Dead Herring Comics. A young woman narrates her family’s story: her father ran out fifteen years ago, when the two daughters were young, and their mother tried to commit suicide with pills. She didn’t die, but had a vision and came back with “electricity” in her hands that she uses to cure the illnesses (mostly childlessness) of gullible women. Her two daughters help her run the business, until, one day, their runaway father’s new wife comes in for treatment, and the narrator forces a confrontation. This story is a little more old-fashioned – it’s heavily narrated, for one thing – but it also ends on a note of uncertainty.

“Bygone” sees Modan working in black and white for the only time in this anthology – it’s a longer story from 2003’s Flipper, Vol. 2. It’s another tale of two sisters – though they also have a much older third sister who acts like a mother to them – living in and running a small, heavily-themed hotel somewhere in Israel. It’s another story of family secrets, which our teenage heroine discovers after a bit of rebellion with a hotel guest.

“The Panty Killer” is both serious and frivolous, a crime story about a murderer who leaves victims with panties on their heads. (It’s from The Actus Box, in 2001.) It turns out to be another family story, with another mother and daughter, and another secret from the past coming back to damage the present.

After that comes “Homecoming,” which is told entirely in full-page, almost children’s book-like panels. The art style is also the closest to “Jamilti,” though it’s more careful and detailed here. (It’s from the 2002 Actus anthology Happy End, a title I presume was meant to be deeply ironic, unless this story was the odd man out there.) A plane circles a kibbutz by the sea – the government believes it’s being flown by a terrorist bomber, but one man is sure that it’s his son, a pilot who was shot down over Lebanon eight years before. But the story, as usual for Modan, is focused on a young woman, the lost pilot’s wife. The big panels give the story weightiness and seriousness, and an open feeling that fits the seaside setting.

The oldest story in the book is “The King of the Lilies,” from 1999’s Jetlag. Modan talks in her afterword about how, at that point, she could still only set her stories among strange people far away – acrobats and surgeons a hundred years ago in Sweden. This one is a story about a daughter, but she’s more acted upon than acting – the focus is her adopted father, the surgeon. (If I were an armchair psychologist, I’d say that Modan was still working her way towards writing about things closer to herself – writing about the daughters, and not them men watching them.)

And last is “Your Number One Fan,” the newest story in the book. It was originally published in How to Love, which I reviewed a few months ago. Modan has completely moved beyond mothers and daughters here, in this story of a frustrated Israeli musician who gets a chance to go to England for a concert that’s not at all what he expected. In context with her other work, it really shows Modan broadening her scope.

Jamilti is a mixed bag, as the first collection of anyone’s short work would inevitably be. Modan’s earlier stories are quite accomplished, but there’s no denying that she’s gotten better recently – Exit Wounds crystallized her strengths, and she’s moving forward and upward from that. So Jamilti may be a bit disappointing for fans of Exit Wounds – too focused on family stories and too tentative – but there are still some fine stories here.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




  JAMILTI reviewed by The Oregonian

Updated November 26, 2008


Graphic Novel Review: Jamilti
Posted by Steve Duin
October 12, 2008 22:18PM
The Oregonian

I believe I was one of the rare critics on the planet who didn't include Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds on my list of the best graphic novels of 2007. To compound my embarrassment, Drawn & Quarterly has collected seven of Modan's earlier works in Jamilti and Other Stories.

I surrender. I'll never slight Modan again.

This is an extraordinary collection of stories, painfully unique and blissfully unpredictable. Time and again, Modan begins in the unlikeliest of places -- a theme hotel, a plastic surgeon's sanitarium, or the office of "The Electrical Lady," an overweight fraud who deigns to heal the lonely and the desperate with the currents in her fingers -- as if she's determined to prove that none is a match, or a formidable hurdle, for her creativity as a storyteller.

The theme hotel is the hiding place for a woman who shares Evelyn Mulwray's secret in "Chinatown." The sanitarium is a cut-and-paste wonderland where the surgeon is turning every woman who stumbles through the gate into a carbon copy of his lost love. And the Electric Lady is, among so many other things, the mother of two children who've never forgiven their father for walking out on them and forcing them to sell snake oil for the rest of their lives.


Modan delivers seven stories in this collection -- all but one of which predate Exit Wounds -- and each one strikes a haunting, off-beat chord. A Jewish folk singer meets his #1 fan in a manner that is both breathtakingly painful and stunningly endearing. A series of brutal killers is traced to a nightclub -- the Caravan Club, which sports a perverted host named "Mr. Goldschmidt" -- and a decade-old routine in which a woman agrees to remove her underwear to win a toaster.

And on a lonely beach by Kibbutz Sdot Yam, a young married couple waits to be liberated from her increasingly senile father, who in turn waits to be reunited with his prodigal son, shot down over Lebanon eight years before.

Modan is one of the great stars of Israeli comics, a member of the comic collective Actus Tragicus and an illustrator whose "Mixed Emotions" (including "My First Time in New York City" and "The Most Popular Girl in Warsaw") is a huge hit at the New York Times. She just won the Eisner for Exit Wounds, and these short stories will, as they greet a larger audience, only add to her stature among fans of the graphic arts and provocative story-telling.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




JAMILTI, BURMA CHRONICLES and AYA 2 reviewed by The National Post

Updated November 26, 2008


Sharpening themes, gaining focus
Ian McGillis
Friday, October 3, 2008
Nationalpost.Com

Jamilti and Other Stories
By Rutu Modan

Aya of Yop City
By Marguerite Abouet
and Clement Oubrerie

Burma Chronicles
By Guy Delisle

Even at this advanced date, reviews of graphic literature are apt to slip into a faintly apologetic tone. Praise is common but often qualified, as if it's assumed that true literary depth comes in spite of the form instead of growing naturally from
it.

Well, can we all just get over that? No less a figure than Chip Kidd has observed that "graphic novels have taken over the conversation about American literature," and a similar trend is happening worldwide. The field, in which Montreal's Drawn & Quarterly is arguably among the world's top two or three publishers, is experiencing a renaissance that shows no sign of fading. Three of D&Q's new titles, coincidentally all drawing on international themes, can serve as perfect examples.

Held up by consensus as one of the peak achievements of the genre is the Israeli Rutu Modan's 2007 book Exit Wounds, a novel that - in its classically clean visual lines and sharp, unsentimental portrayal of young love amid political turmoil- feels like a dream fusion of Herge, Truffaut and Coetzee. Jamilti and Other Stories now gives fans a chance to see how Modan honed some of the elements that came to full fruition in Exit Wounds.

Often depicting how everyday life learns to accommodate random violence, these stories also trace Modan's arc from an artist prone to romanticizing others' pasts into a confident chronicler of her home country's present reality, with special emphasis on family and identity.

As Modan's themes sharpen and gain focus, so too does her visual style, to the point where the final piece, Your Number One Fan, leads seamlessly into the flawless economy of Exit Wounds.

Aya of Yop City continues the story begun in Marguerite Abouet's award- winning 2007 debut, Aya. Set in a working-class district of Cte d'Ivoire's former capital city, Abidjan, in the late 1970s, the books offer a time-capsule slice of life in a place that, at the time, was a shining example of indigenous post-colonial success.

In many ways, Abouet's deceptively complex interwoven narratives - of female bonding, awkward courtship, class tension, unwanted pregnancy - could be happening in any reasonably comfortable late-20th-century setting. But that, paradoxically, is the key to Abouet's power: She presents her stories with unassuming universality, letting the specific political dimensions work their way in from the margins by implication.

Aiding her immeasurably is the French artist Clement Oubrerie; theirs is the perfect complementary relationship, producing something greater than the sum of its considerable parts. Saturated with rich colour, Oubrerie's work is stylized enough to evoke West African folk art without losing the crucial element of realism that gives the reader a you-are-there sensation.

The Aya stories have attracted a strong following among African expatriates in France, as well as readers internationally, so it will be very interesting to see whether Abouet - and, one hopes, Oubrerie along with her - extends the chronology into Cote d'Ivoire's more recent history. The essential sweetness of the Aya books would presumably come under severe stress should harder times be depicted; how the authors respond to that challenge would surely make for a fascinating continuation of an already unique body of work.

Quebec comics artist and animator Guy Delisle made his first book-length impact in 2006 with Pyongyang, an autobiographical account of a surreal stay in North Korea. That book's strength was its ability to inspire amused sympathy for its feckless (and not always likeable) narrator while offering documentary-quality perspective on a mystique-shrouded hot spot. The author's follow-up, Shenzhen, employed a similar strategy, and now Delisle returns with Burma Chronicles.

This time the everyman is a house husband, largely confined to Rangoon while his wife does field work with Mdecins Sans Frontires. The necessity of caring for his preschool son, and the occasional forays afforded by his wife's job, give Delisle the opportunity to mix domestic minutiae with broader observations and reportage.

There's little narrative flow to this account, something emphasized by Delisle's style of inserting blocks of explanatory type at the top of his small black-and-white frames while employing minimal dialogue.

Nor is the incorporation of historical background always handled smoothly. Nonetheless, by the end, the reader has a real sense of the strangeness - sometimes sinister, sometimes comical, sometimes downright baffling - of life under an oppressive and secretive regime.

"In a country without journalists, gossip is king," observes our narrator.

Delisle provides his own kind of journalism, though, one that incorporates gossip and seemingly everything else an observant if often queasily disoriented visitor can glean.
 

Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya of Yop City
Burma Chronicles
Jamilti and Other Stories




  JAMILTI reviewed by Nextbook

Updated November 6, 2008


Inside Stories
Rutu Modan’s devastating, understated comics
BY JASCHA HOFFMAN
NEXTBOOK
10.02.08

Two panels from Rutu Modan’s “Jamilti”“Reality is more grotesque and strange than anything you can invent,” says the Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan. “Sometimes life is too much, you have to tone it down to make art.” Modan’s own work has evolved over the past fifteen years from rather strange and grotesque fables into some of the strongest graphic fiction on the planet. Like the novelists David Grossman and A. B. Yehoshua, and young filmmakers such as Hilla Medalia, Modan has found ways to tell stories that use the flood of bad news in Israel as the backdrop to subtle stories about ordinary people learning how to live.

Modan, who moved to England last year when her husband accepted a post-doc position there, has recently been cultivating an international following. Last year her graphic novel Exit Wounds was released in English to widespread acclaim. This year she drew two very different series of comics for The New York Times. Her memoir blog, “Mixed Emotions,” ventured into the realm of autobiography with illustrated stories about her family, such as the fallout from her youngest son’s obsession with a pink tutu, in an ingenious vertical format that would have been cumbersome on paper but worked perfectly online. Her serial mystery “The Murder of the Terminal Patient,” which follows an underemployed Russian doctor as he navigates the hierarchy of an Israeli hospital to investigate a suspicious death, is one of the best comics to have appeared in The New York Times Magazine.

Modan’s visual style may at first appear somewhat plain, but she has a masterful skill for pacing and perspective, a keen eye for postures and facial expressions, and a command of composition and color that rivals the old masters of Sunday comics. Her illustrations recall the whimsical work of Little Nemo creator Winsor McKay, or, as Douglas Wolk has suggested, the “clear line” style of Tintin creator Hergé, where simple characters stand out against finely drawn landscapes to make for an oddly affecting sense of reality. One might wonder how such talent was incubated. Part of the answer arrives this month in the form of Jamilti and Other Stories, a collection of Modan’s early comics released by the Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly. Over a decade’s worth of genre experiments veering from fairy tales to crime fiction, Modan emerges in its pages as a storyteller of rare insight and restraint.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1966, Modan’s career has run parallel to the rise of a serious independent comics scene in Israel, which in the past fifteen years has grown large enough to provide a decent market for domestic graphic fiction. Months after first seeing Art Spiegelman’s outlandish magazine RAW as a student at the Belazel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Modan began to publish comic strips that ranged from the absurd to the macabre in local papers. “Since there was no comics tradition” in Israel at the time, she says, “I could do anything I wanted.” In 1993 she was hired to edit the Israeli edition of MAD magazine, along with artist Uri Pinkus. When it folded, Modan and Pinkus decided to start their own comics collective. “If we were going to lose money, better to do exactly what we like,” she says.

The first meeting of the Actus Tragicus collective was convened, as chance would have it, on the evening in 1995 that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. The group stayed up all night concocting conspiracy theories in which Rabin survived the shooting. It would be too simple, though, to conclude that this founding trauma set the artists on a path to darker or more cynical work. “This event didn’t change our art,” Modan says. “Israeli reality gives you so many opportunities to be macabre.” Her story-length comics, published in a series of Actus anthologies over the past decade, appeared to seize as many of these opportunities as possible. An early one reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm features a forlorn plastic surgeon who tries to rearrange his patients’ faces in the image of his lost love. In a later story, as hardboiled as it is preposterous, a series of dead bodies turn up bearing the signature of a new serial killer: a pair of panties on the head.

In recent years Modan’s work has become more understated and more revealing as she has grown to engage more fully with contemporary life in Israel. Refusing to shy away from the catastrophes in the headlines, she also refrains from commenting directly on pressing issues like war and terrorism. Instead, Modan tells stories about ordinary people who are confronting their own emotional weaknesses, even as they project strong exteriors to the rest of the world. “In Israel we try to live like political events have no influence on our lives, and most of the time we succeed,” Modan explains. “But it’s a delusion, even if we are not at the center of the drama.”

How thick a skin must you have when you live in a society under siege? This question lies at the heart of Exit Wounds. It follows a bitter young taxi driver as he searches for his deadbeat father, with the help of his father’s wealthy, estranged girlfriend. Its earth tones and mellow pace have a lulling effect on the reader, even as the prickly dialogue reveals enough emotional damage to leave a metal tinge in the throat. The book draws much of its power from the particularly Israeli confusions that drive the story. Was the father tragically ripped away from his son by a suicide bomber before they could reconcile, as it might first appear? Or does the bombing merely give him an alibi to escape from the demands of his own loved ones? In refusing to uncover the truth about what became of his father, is the son succumbing to the fantasy that his life is immune from political events? Or is he simply refusing to give in to the terror-induced hysteria around him? The book offers no clear answers.

The threat of suicide bombings, and the unexpected ways they can twist the mind and the heart, are also central to a pair of the most haunting stories in Modan’s collection. Both are based on real events. In “Jamilti,” the new collection’s title story, an Israeli woman, on the eve of her wedding, rushes to the aid of a man wounded in a suicide bombing. She later learns that the handsome man to whom she gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was the bomber himself, his own sole victim. Though the plot may sound contrived, Modan has adapted it from a true story, in which a medic found himself questioning his conservative beliefs after reviving a man who turned out to be terrorist.

“The real situation was too political,” Modan says. “I wanted to turn it into something more personal and less clear, without a message.” The reader comes away from the story with a strong sense of the heroine’s confusion, and the anger and pity—perhaps even intimacy— she feels for a man who moments earlier would have been willing to kill her. It is a feeling that is both sobering and dizzying. Although the moral question of whether it was right to revive the bomber is in the background of the story, she says, “my heroine doesn’t think about it. When she kissed this guy, she felt the possibility of a connection with a human being—and she cannot erase it because she found he is a terrorist. Confusing? I think it should be.”

Four panels from “Jamilti”Such retrospective games of conscience continue in her story “Homecoming,” in which a small airplane begins to circle around the shore near a northern kibbutz. Since the pilot does not identify himself, the crowd that gathers cannot know whether he is an airborne suicide bomber or a missing soldier coming home. Their hunches reveal their own needs: the father of the missing solider is sure his son has returned, while the suitor of the soldier’s girlfriend is confident that the pilot must be a terrorist.

When the plane is finally shot down by the air force, leaving an unidentifiable corpse on the beach, the bystanders swap positions instantaneously. The father clings to hope by proclaiming that the dead man was not his son, while the suitor asserts that he probably was the soldier coming home after all. The tone is wry, but the message is unsettling. As a demonstration of the idea that, as Modan puts it, “everyone has their own self-serving reasons for their political beliefs,” the story does its job. But there is also a rich irony in the fact that, from the ground, one cannot tell the difference between a murderer and a prodigal son. And the confusion is mutual: a Palestinian militant might consider his aerial mission to be a perverse sort of homecoming.

In the years since she drew these fables of war-torn Israeli life, Modan’s focus has shifted from the moral to the psychological. Since Exit Wounds, her stories have tended to home in on smaller accounts of ordinary Israelis at war with themselves. “Your Number One Fan,” the only comic in the collection that was published after Exit Wounds, deals with a smug Israeli rock musician invited on his first international tour, which turns out to be nothing more than a pitiful slot at the social hall of a small synagogue in Sheffield, England. The visual style is crisper than ever, but the plot itself might seem rather slight, a step down from the dramatic turmoil of her previous subjects. From this tale of small-time narcissistic delusion, though, Modan has brought out truths about the Israeli artist abroad: the inflated expectations of international fame, coupled with a love-hate relationship with the diasporic Jewish communities (often the most loyal foreign public for Israeli culture).

Cultural criticism aside, “Your Number One Fan” is ultimately the story of a man who goes looking for swarms of admirers but unintentionally finds something more rare and valuable: a single person who likes his music enough to accept him despite his indecent behavior. As the story ends, it is not clear whether he will ever realize the importance of this, perhaps because that lone admirer is a middle-aged British divorcee without a shred of indie credibility.

In the not-so-gentle downshifting of one wannabe’s artistic expectations from the stadium to the kitchen table, the story might also say something about Modan’s own recent shift from addressing major events to describing more intimate ones. She is surely capable of harnessing her talent in pursuit of an epic that would reveal something profound about what it means to be an Israeli. Instead, she’s stubbornly trying to understand her characters in a personal way, making the point that their dramas are not disconnected from the fraught context in which they’re set

click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




JAMILTI, BURMA CHRONICLES and AYA reviewed by The Onion AV

Updated October 10, 2008


Reviewed by Noel Murray, Keith Phipps, Tasha Robinson
THE ONION AV
September 29th, 2008

Rutu Modan's acclaimed graphic novel Exit Wounds offered a fine introduction to her spare style and clear-eyed representation of life, love, and armed conflict in modern Israel, though the story itself played out a little flatly—like a dry, well-meaning indie film. The pre-Exit Wounds collection Jamilti And Other Stories (D&Q) gives a fuller representation of Modan's talent, jumping from true-crime stories to subtle slices of life, with varying art styles and structural approaches. The book's best story is "Bygone," a tale of insurance fraud and non-traditional families that builds to a touching surprise ending, but really, all seven stories in Jamilti deal smartly and unconventionally with the idea of fluid family relationships and how they influence individual identity. Exit Wounds may have been overpraised, but Modan is still clearly one of the most promising creators working in comics today…A-

After the immersive "on assignment in a repressive country" stories of the superb Pyongyang and Shenzhen, animator/cartoonist Guy Delisle takes it relatively easy in The Burma Chronicles (D&Q). Delisle accompanied his wife—a Doctors Without Borders administrator—on her 14-month posting in The Union Of Myanmar, but since he wasn't working there in any official capacity, he doesn't have as many anecdotes this time out about dealing with the government via terrified low-level bureaucrats. Instead, he spends most of his days taking care of his infant son and taking note of the petty problems of authoritarian states: Internet filters, censored news reports, power shortages, and the like. At 262 pages, The Burma Chronicles is a little too exhaustive, but the accumulation of detail about supermarkets, bookstores, and local festivals goes a long way toward humanizing a country that barely gets mentioned on the evening news unless something awful is happening there…B+

In Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie's debut graphic novel Aya, Abouet introduced an eclectic cast of middle-class and scrambling-to-get-by characters living in the Ivory Coast in the late '70s. Aya Of Yop City (D&Q) picks up where the first book left off, with the teenage title character serving as the calm center of a whirlwind of extramarital affairs, babies born out of wedlock, and her best friend's romance with a rich kid. As with the first book, Yop City suffers some for being so episodic, without a clear beginning or end, but Oubrerie's art retains its delightful mix of cartoony simplicity and vivid detail, and Abouet continues to write these characters as though she just talked to them yesterday. The Aya-verse is getting richer, and more complex… B+
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya of Yop City
Burma Chronicles
Jamilti and Other Stories




  JAMILTI reviewed by Feminist Review

Updated October 10, 2008


Jamilti and Other Stories
By Rutu Modan
Erika Mikkalo
FEMINIST REVIEW
September 11, 2008

I will confess, I am a former comic geek (geekette?) to a degree. I once blew off writing a paper on King Lear to read Swamp Thing all night, interspersing plucking psychedelic yams with plucking out eyes. I owned a full run of Sandman that was destroyed in a basement flood (albeit it a well-timed one: we really needed the insurance money). A pal once spotted me reading a graphic novel in public and declared, “We’re such geeks that even the women are geeks!”

Granted, I was always more artsy than superhero in my tastes, accumulating Love & Rockets, X (the insomniac architect, not to be confused with The X-Men), Neil Gaiman, Roberta Gregory, Phoebe Glockner… and Julie Doucet will always be in the Pantheon. So shame on me for not knowing about the accomplished Israeli Rutu Modan, recipient of the 2008 Eisner Award for Exit Wounds. Her new collection, Jamilti and Other Stories – jamilti means ‘beautiful one’ in Arabic - portrays quiet poignancy in fine lines.

The seven stories range from current events to an odd anachronistic fairytale. Characters include a nurse, suicide bomber, abandoned children, theme hotel patrons, plastic surgeons, and Internet obsessives. The emotions delicately arrayed include loss, denial, delusion, hope, and the shattering death of dreams. This inspired me to view Modan’s work for the New York Times magazine, and her journals there are consistently honest and accessible, as well as willing to access the absurd. Women are engaged to asses, brandish underwear, direly seek fertility through hucksters, find lost fathers, wear matching yellow outfits, commit murders, put on Snow White costumes, disappear, reappear, play strange instruments, import would-be rockstars, and all this only on the diegetic level. Some of the drawing recalls Hergé, but Tin Tin never gave me quite the kick in the teeth. Like the final panel in these pages, the most powerful moments in life are those when nothing gets said at all.



click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




RUTU MODAN interviewed by Haarezt

Updated October 10, 2008


Funny girl
By Kobi Ben Simhon
August 28, 2008
HAARETZ

There was a great deal of confusion on that festive evening last month in California. The auditorium filled up with people as she sat behind a round table, not believing it would happen to her. Actor Samuel L. Jackson went onstage, followed by a dancer and 12 actors dressed as characters from "Star Wars."

"In the midst of all that, it didn't enter my mind that I would win," says illustrator and artist Rutu Modan in embarrassment, after winning the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for the best graphic novel of the year. "But then they called my name, and from that moment on I didn't feel a thing. I went onstage to receive the prize, but my only desire was to leave the stage as soon as possible. My legs were trembling as they did when I delivered my first child."

"Exit Wounds," Modan's latest book, released this week in Hebrew as "Karov Rahok" (distant relative), reached second place six months ago on New York Magazine's list of the best graphic novels of 2007. Time Magazine also included it on the list of the 10 best graphic novels. Winning the prestigious Eisner Prize, the Oscar of the comics community, was only another high point in an impressive series of successes that have made Modan, 40, the leading Israeli illustrator and comics artist.
Advertisement
On a summer morning, amid the media uproar that surrounds her these days, Modan is trying to maintain inner serenity. "Comics is very lonely work," she says. "Work suitable for a monk. You sit alone in a room for days on end, writing and drawing, torn between a feeling that you're a genius and a feeling that you're a worthless worm. When the work is finished, the last think you want to hear is criticism. You only want people to tell you how wonderful your work is."

Following its critical success and her receipt of the prize, the book has sold over 25,000 copies and it has been translated into 10 languages. "This is a new status with which I'm unfamiliar," says Modan. "On the one hand, until now, when I published my books - independently, of course - I managed to sell 500 copies. On the other hand, nothing has actually changed, I continue to work and to bang my head against the keyboard. But now more people are listening to me, and this is actually the moment I was waiting for. Suddenly all the distractions I had before have disappeared and I can start to work in earnest. For that reason I feel that only now is my career beginning."

Modan was here on a visit in advance of the eighth Comics, Cartoon and Animation Festival, held earlier this month at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. For the past year she has been living in England with her husband, Ofer, who works in computers, and their two children, Michal (13) and Hillel (5). The Hebrew version of "Exit Wounds" was launched at the festival. It is a detective story set on the Tel Aviv-Hadera axis and centering around a shy taxi driver, Koby Franco. One day, an unusually tall female soldier gets in touch with him. She tells him that his father, from whom he is estranged, may have been killed in a terror attack in Hadera. The two then embark on a search.

"This is the first time I have referred to the political situation in Israel in my work," says Modan. She started searching for a story about five years ago, after the Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly asked her to write a book. She found the solution by chance. "One day I saw the documentary by David Ofek, 'No. 17.' It's about a victim of a terror attack who was not identified after a terror attack," says Modan.

"What was strange was that nobody missed him, nobody looked for him. I was grabbed by a moment in the film when a man thinks it may be the body of his son. Of course it wasn't, but he thought that might be the reason why his son had not been in touch with him."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict exists in the book only vaguely, and this was a deliberate decision. "It's very Israeli, the way we treat the situation in which we live," she explains. "We've become accustomed to living in catastrophe but to ignore the danger. I remember that while I was writing the book, I was late picking up my daughter from kindergarten. At the traffic light on Rothschild Boulevard I ran into a friend who told me that terrorists had taken over the Central Bus Station and were shooting. I told him that what he was saying was very interesting, but I had to run to the kindergarten because my daughter was waiting. That was of greater concern to me. And that's crazy. But that's how we live here, in a kind of lunatic divorce from our surroundings."

And how does life infiltrate illustration and writing?

"For me it stems from a desire to explain the disorder in which I live. There is no logic, after all, in all the events that befall us, and I have this desire to organize everything into something coherent and meaningful. The story takes reality and organizes it. I underwent a process until I arrived at this point, where I dare to tell the story. At first I illustrated the stories of others, and slowly but surely I gathered courage and began to write my own story. My sister Dana underwent a similar process. She began her career as an actress and then began to write film scripts. Just as I got tired of drawing for others, she got tired of playing roles that others had written and began to write on her own. The desire not to be only an instrument, but to tell our own story, is something we have in common."

A weakness for pens

Modan was born and raised in the doctors' residences in Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. "It was a neighborhood for employees within the area of the hospital itself," she recalls with nostalgia. "All the children in my kindergarten were children of doctors and nurses. In kindergarten we drew on yellow X-ray paper. It was a protected environment, a neighborhood without roads; the doors were open, like on a kibbutz. I loved to visit my parents in the lab because they gave me access to the office supplies cabinet. Already then I had a weakness for pens. The path to their office passed by the geriatric department; all the old people sat outside, and that sight seemed completely normal to me."

Her father, Prof. Baruch Modan, did cancer research, and in the 1980s he served as director general of the Health Ministry. Her mother, Prof. Michaela Modan, was an epidemiologist who did diabetes research. Modan describes her parents as opinionated and tempestuous. "They didn't conform, they were very ambitious and our home was very achievement-oriented. They were both workaholics. My mother was an old-style feminist, one of those who fought on the barricades for all of us. On the one hand she was a career women who was always fighting to prove that women are equal to men, and on the other hand she bore the burden of the home and the children almost singlehandedly."

The house was almost always a mess, says Modan. "Except for Fridays, there were no orderly meals," says Modan with a smile. "Once the electricity broke down and we lived for three weeks by candlelight, only because nobody had the patience to contact the electrician. I always returned home from school to an empty house, but I loved that. I loved the independence and the freedom, and I admired my mother."

The drama series "Lost and Found," written by your sister, deals with three sisters who take care of their father, who is in a coma that continues until his death. How similar was that to your lives?

"Our parents died years ago. Mother 15 years ago, after a long bout with cancer, at the age of 57. Father, unexpectedly, from a heart attack, almost seven years ago. I think about them every day. It is no coincidence that this misfortune is reflected both in Dana's TV series and in my book. The hero of the book, Koby, is full of anger at his father. When he is convinced that his father was killed, he understands that the estrangement between them existed only in the belief that reconciliation would always be possible. But it isn't. The relationship between me and my father was actually very close. Nevertheless he got on my nerves in thousands of ways. After his death, many of the things about him that drove me crazy suddenly seemed amusing and even sweet. I was full of regret that I couldn't demonstrate that same forgiving attitude when he was still alive."

When Rutu was 10 her family moved to Afeka, in north Tel Aviv. As a child, drawing was a significant part of her daily routine. "I don't remember myself not drawing," she says. "I started to draw before I learned to talk. It became a central part of my identity. Like being tall, or Bulgarian. Not something that one can give up. I was singled out as being talented and therefore I also received a great deal of encouragement from the surroundings to continue to draw. My drawings were mainly graphic stories. Every drawing was a story accompanied by a text that I dictated to my mother. In effect I began to draw comics before I began to read comics."

During the 1970s, comics were almost totally absent from the Israeli experience. Even an attempt to translate Tintin into Hebrew failed. Modan became addicted to the illustrations in advertisements, like the character of Yoav Ben Halav (Yoav the Milkman), a kind of Israeli Popeye, who starred in Tnuva's advertising campaign.

"When I grew up, I got tired of comics; the content no longer interested me," says Modan. "I no longer found myself among the musclemen in underwear, and science fiction didn't speak to me. In terms of my fields of interest, I'm a classic girl, I'm interested only in emotions and relationships. Therefore as an adolescent I drew very little. I was more interested in reading than in drawing. At 13 I preferred reading 'Gone With the Wind' and stories by Pearl Buck. That was an age of a terrible inferiority complex and I decided I couldn't draw. Although I admired Dudu Geva, I didn't even dream of doing anything similar myself."

Dark romanticism

At Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Modan returned to her old love. During her third year of study in the graphic design department, illustrator Michel Kishka opened the first comics course in the history of the school. "For the first clause he brought us into the room, and there was a table with dozens of comic books, in many styles, including Tintin and Asterix, but also a lot of alternative comics, 'Maus' by Art Spiegelman, Raw Magazine, many modern Frenchmen," says Modan. Michel told us 'You have two hours, read.' I began to leaf through the books, and it was like culture shock. Suddenly I saw that comics can actually be any type of story with any type of drawing. Simply a story told with drawings instead of words."

For the first time, Modan felt she was in the right place: "It was like love at first sight. I knew clearly that I had found the ideal mode of expression for me. Perhaps out of this love I also loved the less pleasant aspects of Bezalel, like the competition and the criticism and the crazy work hours. I remember that in the second year we had a project, and I told Daniella London about an idea for some machine that I was planning to build. Something extraordinarily complicated. And then she said to me: 'What do you need all that for? You have to solve every project of yours in drawing, because that's where you stand out.' I understood that she was right, and from that moment I began to be an illustrator. It was a deliberate choice."

While still a student, Modan published comic strips and illustrations in the daily newspapers Maariv, Yedioth Ahronoth and in Haolam Hazeh, a weekly. That career lasted 15 years. In her work she presented ordinary situations with fantastic elements, with plots that were often paradoxical, bordering on the absurd.

"I think the expression that defines her work is 'dark romanticism,' says Eli Eshed, a scholar of popular culture. "Her stories have ostensibly been romantic, but in fact they weren't really. There was something bizarre about them, a type of hidden sarcasm. There was always something weird, even horrible, happening to the characters in her stories."

"At first she was very Victorian," adds Modan's good friend, illustrator and comics artist Yirmi Pinkus. "Her drawings and her stories were surrealistic and grotesque. For example, she had a story about a plastic surgeon who gave all the women who came to his clinic the features of a lover who had abandoned him. Over the years, the centrality of the grotesque elements in her comics declined, and now they are expressed in the secondary characters. In her new novel, realism is far more present.

"In terms of drawing she has undergone a similar process: distancing herself from the distorted and coming closer to more naturalistic drawing, based on nature. There is a more precise description of the scenes. Her style today is a 'crooked' version of the clean, classical French line. She has poured her own Israeli accent into the French language, a unique style that is rich and communicative. For that reason I think that she is today the most outstanding comics artist in Israel. In the 1980s Dudu Geva was in that place. Now it's Rutu."

Without meaning to do so, Modan succeeded in extricating herself from marginal culture at the beginning of her career. One of her first ambitious moves was the attempt to create a Hebrew version of MAD, the American satirical magazine. In 1993 her uncle, Oded Modan, a publisher and comics lover, decided to publish MAD in Hebrew and named Modan editor. Sales were low, however, and it folded after only 10 issues.

That adventure led Modan to a new and no less ambitious project: Together with Pinkus she founded the comics group "Actus Tragicus." They brought in illustrators Itzik Rennert, Batia Kolton and Mira Fridman, and since then they have been regularly publishing alternative comic books and series. "The attitude toward us was ambivalent," says Modan. "On the one hand, they were nice to us because we were an interesting comics group that came from the margins. On the other hand, they claimed we were snobs, maybe because we wrote in English. Maybe our group identity created an impression of that sort. But we first linked up in an attempt to overcome the personal financial problems each of us had with publishing our works. The fact that we have continued for 15 years testifies to the strength of our connection. Even though all the members of the group are very opinionated people, there are a lot of mutual influences among us. I was greatly influenced by Yirmi's writing, Batia was influenced by my drawing style. I think that the members of Actus are the people who most influenced my work. I'm in almost daily contact with them, they're the first people who see my work, and those for whom I write."

From the beginning, Actus has tried to be present at every international comics event. "Because there was not a sufficiently large audience in Israel to provide a financial justification for the books we wanted to publish, we decided to write in English," says Modan.

"The idea was that books in English would be accessible both to the audience of comics readers in Israel, who in any case read English, and to the audience abroad. We knew nothing about the international comics market, about worldwide distribution, about economic feasibility.

"With the first series ("The Little Series") we went to the International Comics Festival in Angouleme in France, pretending we were a full-fledged publisher. That was naivete of the first degree, and the best and most significant thing that I've done in my professional life."

Is it hard to combine a career and a family?

"It's an almost impossible combination. Even if you have a very egalitarian partner and the household tasks are divided between you, it's not easy. I work every possible moment, when the children are at school, at night when they go to sleep."

Does it interfere with your creative process?

"The moment I'm in a creative process, I'm in another world, and it's hard for me to tear myself away from it in order to pick up my son from kindergarten. When I'm in it I really don't feel like suddenly playing Monopoly. It seems so irrelevant to me, but one finds solutions. When I'm writing, I learned that as opposed to drawing, which forces me to sit at a table, I can do the writing in my head while I'm doing other things, while I'm walking to the beach with the children for example. That's why my career and my family intermingle and create a way of life that suits me: chaos."

Modan did not achieve recognition in Israel easily. "During the first years as an illustrator, I was not allowed to illustrate children's books," says Modan. "The fashion at the time was cute drawings at all costs, and my line was considered too grotesque and experimental. It annoyed me that they didn't let me draw, but it didn't stop me, I wasn't bitter about it. Over the years my style became more refined and the publishers raised a generation of editors who were looking for more varied styles."

The first children's book she illustrated, "Dad Runs Away With the Circus" (by Etgar Keret), paved her way into the first rank of children's book illustrators in Israel. That year, 2001, the illustration of the book led to the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration from the International Board on Books for Young People. Afterward began her important cooperation with author and poet Nurit Zarchi. The two created two children's books: "Bathnymph" and "Alma and the Sixth Day at School."

"You have to approach Rutu slowly in order to understand the secret of her charm," says Zarchi, who this week is publishing a collection of 10 of her children's books, re-illustrated by Modan. "She understood my stories thoroughly; she understands so well what the writer needs in the illustration. Because the words cannot create as strong a reality as drawing. Rutu gave my words a time frame, characters, an explanation. What's interesting is that she succeeded in placing a fantastic element within the reality. In the stories she creates a combination of a modern world with non-concrete freedom of thought. She speaks with the new line - comics, television - but does not lose her feeling and her independence. In her illustrations she creates a world rather than copying one."

The New York Times recognized the unique quality to which Zarchi is referring. For the past six months a weekly personal comics series by Modan has appeared in the online version of the newspaper. The series, "Mixed Emotions," has thus far presented personal stories from her life in an ironic light, such as her first visit to New York and the birth of her first child. But in spite of her achievements on the international scene, the significant achievement for Modan will be acceptance of her work in Israel.

"I have no idea what will happen to the book in Israel," she says with evident concern. "It's less important to me how it is received in Italy; I don't know Italians. It's interesting and frightening to see how it will be received here, at home. I would like people to understand that there's a love story here, that they shouldn't be put off by the medium. I hope that the book will arouse curiosity, although I know that it's hard for Israeli adults to get into a comics story. But that's how I tell my story, in drawings. Instead of writing a lyrical description of Tel Aviv, I draw it like that. I have no other choice."W
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Jamilti and Other Stories




  JAMILTI, AYA OF YOP CITY and BURMA CHRONICLES reviewed by The Gazette

Updated September 24, 2008


Graphic novels with drive
Local publisher brings us tales from around the world
Jamilti, Aya of Yop City and Burma
Ian McGillis
Friday, September 19
THE GAZETTE

Even at this advanced date, reviews of graphic literature are apt to slip into a faintly apologetic tone. Praise is common but often qualified, as if it's assumed that true literary depth comes in spite of the form instead of growing naturally from it.

Well, can we all just get over that? No less a figure than Chip Kidd has observed that graphic novels have taken over the conversation about American literature," and a similar trend is happening worldwide. The field, in which Montreal's Drawn & Quarterly is arguably among the world's top two or three publishers, is experiencing a renaissance that shows no sign of fading. Three of D&Q's new titles, coincidentally all drawing on international themes, can serve as perfect examples.

Held up by consensus as one of the peak achievements of the genre is the Israeli Rutu Modan's 2007 book Exit Wounds, a novel that - in its classically clean visual lines and sharp, unsentimental portrayal of young love amid political turmoil - feels like a dream fusion of Hergé, Truffaut and Coetzee. Jamilti and Other Stories now gives fans a chance to see how Modan honed some of the elements that came to full fruition in Exit Wounds.

Often depicting how everyday life learns to accommodate random violence, these stories also trace Modan's arc from an artist prone to romanticizing others' pasts into a confident chronicler of her home country's present reality, with special emphasis on family and identity.

As Modan's themes sharpen and gain focus, so too does her visual style, to the point where the final piece, Your Number One Fan, leads seamlessly into the flawless economy of Exit Wounds.

Aya of Yop City continues the story begun in Marguerite Abouet's award-winning 2007 debut, Aya. Set in a working-class district of Côte d'Ivoire's former capital city, Abidjan, in the late 1970s, the books offer a time-capsule slice of life in a place that, at the time, was a shining example of indigenous post-colonial success.

In many ways, Abouet's deceptively complex interwoven narratives - of female bonding, awkward courtship, class tension, unwanted pregnancy - could be happening in any reasonablycomfortable late-20th-century setting. But that, paradoxically, is the key to Abouet's power: She presents her stories with unassuming universality, letting the specific political dimensions work their way in from the margins by implication.

Aiding her immeasurably is the French artist Clément Oubrerie; theirs is the perfect complementary relationship, producing something greater than the sum of its considerable parts. Saturated with rich colour, Oubrerie's work is stylized enough to evoke West African folk art without losing the crucial element of realism that gives the reader a you-are-there sensation.

The Aya stories have attracted a strong following among African expatriates in France, as well as readers internationally, so it will be very interesting to see whether Abouet - and, one hopes, Oubrerie along with her - extends the chronology into Côte d'Ivoire's more recent history. The essential sweetness of the Aya books would presumably come under severe stress should harder times be depicted; how the authors respond to that challenge would surely make for a fascinating continuation of an already unique body of work.

Quebec comics artist and animator Guy Delisle made his first book-length impact in 2006 with Pyongyang, an autobiographical account of a surreal stay in North Korea. That book's strength was its ability to inspire amused sympathy for its feckless (and not always likeable) narrator while offering documentary-quality perspective on a mystique-shrouded hot spot. The author's follow-up, Shenzhen, employed a similar strategy, and now Delisle returns with Burma Chronicles.

This time the everyman is a househusband, largely confined to Rangoon while his wife does field work with Médecins Sans Frontičres. The necessity of caring for his preschool son, and the occasional forays afforded by his wife's job, give Delisle the opportunity to mix domestic minutiae with broader observations and reportage.

There's little narrative flow to this account, something emphasized by Delisle's style f inserting blocks of explanatory type at the top of his small black-and-white frames while employing minimal dialogue. Nor is the incorporation of historical background always handled smoothly. Nonetheless, by the end, the reader has a real sense of the strangeness - sometimes sinister, sometimes comical, sometimes downright baffling - of life under an oppressive and secretive regime.

"In a country without journalists, gossip is king," observes our narrator. Delisle provides his own kind of journalism, though, one that incorporates gossip and seemingly everything else an observant if often queasily disoriented visitor can glean.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya of Yop City
Burma Chronicles
Jamilti and Other Stories




JAMILTI reviewed by Boston Bibliophile

Updated September 24, 2008


Graphic Novel Monday
Jamilti, by Rutu Modan
BOSTON BIBLIOPHILE
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2008

Jamilti, though released as a follow-up to Rutu Modan's much-praised earlier release Exit Wounds, is a collection of short stories in comic form that actually precedes it. The stories range from the political to the fanciful- there are stories about suicide bombers and the impact of political violence on daily life in Israel, as well as its impact on hearts and psyches, and there are more stories more like fairy tales, about obsessive love and what happens when what you love is only an idea of a person, instead of a person.

Being earlier work, and being in some places intentionally abstracted and even crude, the art is not as polished as that in Exit Wounds; people's bodies and faces are sometimes warped or exaggerated, often to the point of absurdity. For me though, her people looked more like real people- real bodies, real expressions- than photographs would, because they capture a certain emotional chaos and anarchy. Sometimes it's as if their feelings are spilling out through their rumpled clothing and loose, flabby bodies. There is also a fair amount of violence, especially in the title story, about a suicide bombing, whose bittersweet ending was wholly unexpected and absolutely perfect.

Overall I enjoyed the book quite a bit, at least once I got used to Modan's rougher visual style. Another one for the grownups, Jamilti has a visual language all its own and storytelling at different times humorous, sad, ironic and just plain weird. It's not for everyone, but it's a little treasure.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




  RUTU MODAN interviewed by Newsarama

Updated August 14, 2008


Rutu Modan on Jamilti and Other Stories
By Michael C. Lorah
NEWSARAMA
2008-08-04

While she’s just won the Eisner for Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan isn’t about to rest on her laurels. In September, Drawn + Quarterly will release Jamilti and Other Stories, a collection of the creators short stories.

We spoke with her about the upcoming volume.

Newsarama: Rutu, all of the stories in Jamilti and Other Stories pre-date Exit Wounds, correct?

Rutu Modan: All except “Your Number One Fan,” which I wrote after Exit Wounds for the new Actus anthology, How to Love, which was published in January 2008. (Newsarama Note: How to Love was recently released in the U.S. by Top Shelf) It was created after I moved to Sheffield, England, and the story is located in my new hometown.

NRAMA: “Jamilti” was previously in Drawn & Quarterly vol. 5. Excepting that story, have any of them been published in English before?

RM: Except "Jamilti" all the stories appeared in Actus anthologies that were originally published in English and distributed in America and Europe as well as in Israel, but their distribution was quite small and most of the anthologies are out of stock already, so I hope the stories might get a second chance to reach new readers.

NRAMA: You say in the author's note that many of the comics are inspired by old family photos. I can see the family influence in several of the stories. What is it about the photos that gets you thinking about telling stories?

RM: A family photo is a condensed story. Looking at one, you have characters, you have location, relationships, time—everything you need for a story. Somehow it is easier to notice that in old photos. It might be because the photos then were better—people used to choose what they were shooting, and then couldn't delete so easily, compared to how most of us use digital cameras nowadays.

The world (or life) is too loaded; it is difficult to concentrate on the essence of each detail. A photo is like focusing on one moment, which represents a certain idea, a certain truth—exactly what a story does.

I have a large collection of old family photos, most of it my own family, but I also go from time to time to flea markets and look for other families' old albums. When I am out of ideas for an illustration or a story, I often turn to the collection to look for one.

NRAMA: Do you base any panels on those actual photos?

RM: “King of the Lilies” is actually based on my grandmother's album from her teens in Poland of the 1920s. Lily, the heroine, is based upon her image. In “The Panty Killer” I used for the location my Mother's childhood apartment. Also, there are family photos that I used in Exit Wounds. (See attached photos and relevant frames above.)

NRAMA: Getting in to the actual stories, I particularly liked the duplicitous motivations of the daughter in “Energy Blockage,” working to see her father again. I noticed that “Bygone” also has a search for a lost parent as well. What inspired those stories?

RM: There are quite few absent parents in my stories—it wasn't a conscious decision to write about this subject, it just happened. I can think of 2 main reasons. (It is quite personal to answer, like giving myself an analysis.)

1) I lost both my parents some years ago; I miss them a lot, and probably cannot stop waiting for them to come back somehow.

2) The search for lost parents (usually a father) is an archetypal subject in our culture and you have thousands of versions of this subject in literature, from Oedipus to The Darjeeling Limited.

Having said that, in the stories you mentioned (“Bygone” and “Energy Blockage”), the absent parent is only a background theme. “Bygone” for me was more about my own struggle with the new experience at the time of becoming a mother myself, trying to understand what this role actually means. “Energy Blockage” was inspired by an ad I saw in the paper for Luna the Electric Woman. Apparently her powers were able to cure maladies where conventional medicine failed. The advertisement featured a big woman with many spoons and forks sticking to her face, hands and leg. That image was the inspiration for the story.

NRAMA: “The Panty Killer” is very violent compared to your other comics. How did that tale evolve?

RM: Actually, the story is based on a personal experience, which is one of my darkest secrets. I never told anyone till now: it was my high school graduation, a big ceremony. My mother was on the stage giving the parents' speech, which was bad enough, using all the clichés and giving parental advice that no one was interested to hear, and then... she burped! Loudly, into the microphone, in front of the teachers, the parents, not to mention my fellow students. Everybody started laughing, of course, the combination of her pompous speech and the burp was hilarious—not for me. I was devastated. You know how it is with parents when you are a teenager. For years it kept jumping into my mind at unexpected moments, making me red and uncomfortable—even though I knew probably no one remembered it except me.

I found out that miserable moments are good material for stories, especially if they happen to be ridiculous too. So I wrote this script about a woman who is trying to destroy all the people who were witnessing what she thinks was her mother being humiliated. Writing this story really made me feel better, and it was far less violent than murdering all my high school friends.

NRAMA: That’s hilarious! And I was curious about why you approached “Homecoming,” one of the book's best stories, I thought, using only full-page images.

RM: In each of the Actus projects, the first thing we decide on is the format. Each time we change the format, to make it interesting for us. “The Homecoming” was published in an anthology called Happy End. It is a small-format book, 4.5" x 6.5", one panel per page.

All the rest of the comics we did were in more conventional formats, so when the collection was made by Drawn and Quarterly, they had to enlarge the frames to adjust this story to the rest.

NRAMA: Have you re-read most of these stories in the time between them being published and their inclusion in this book? Do you have a favorite?

RM: Usually during the process of creating the story I love it, and after it is published I hate it and cannot look at it without seeing all its faults and all I could fix. The problem is when you finish a project, the minute you finish it you can do it a lot better, because you improved while working on it. After a year or two of estrangement I can start liking the story again—but a bit of a detachment is healthy with one's stories, like with one's kids.

The stories in the collection were picked from stories I did over the last 10 years, and there is something I like in each of them. In “Homecoming”, for example, it was the first time that I managed to put Israeli reality into the comics without making a blunt political statement. “Bygone” is the first story in which I found my own style of writing. In “The Panty Killer” I like the freedom of the drawings, and “Your Number One Fan” is the latest—so it's the one that I stand behind the most.

NRAMA: How do you feel your work has evolved over the course of these stories and into Exit Wounds?

RM: As a young artist I felt the stories has to be “weird”, write about the extreme, and my style was more grotesque, but during the years I learned—the hard way—that life is much more grotesque and weird than anything I can invent. My stories became more realistic, and this influenced the drawing style as well. When writing, I find myself reducing real life, which is often too dramatic or too symbolic to be a good story.

Van Gogh wrote in one of his letters: “I exaggerate, I sometimes change a motif, but in the end I don't invent the whole painting. Instead I find it ready made in nature, though I still have to extract it.” I copied this sentence and glued it above my desk, because it represents so well what I try to do in my stories.

NRAMA: What are you working on next?

RM: I am now working on a serialized comic for the “Funny Pages” of The New York Times Magazine: “The Murder of the Terminal Patient”. The story location is an Israeli hospital—the same hospital my parents worked at, and where we lived. There was a small neighborhood in the hospital area for the staff to live in, which is quite strange to think of now, and, come to think of it, might have affected my art.
I am still not sure what my next project will be—maybe another serial for another magazine, or starting a new graphic novel like Exit Wounds. Anyway it is going to involved writing and drawing—I really feel terribly lucky to be able to do both and call it my day job.

Jamilti and Other Stories will be released in September. More information is available at Drawn and Quarterly.

click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Jamilti and Other Stories




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by 2theadvocate.com

Updated August 4, 2008


The Comic Book Oscars
A Review of the Eisner Winning Comics
By PATRICK RILLS
2theadvocate.com
Published: Aug 1, 2008 - UPDATED: 3:50 p.m.

"Comics books, like other entertainment media, is not without its own self-congratulatory, over-hyped annual awards. The Eisner Awards are given annually in the spotlight of the comic industry’s biggest stage, Comic-Con International, to the works of the past year that best exemplify the medium as a legitimate art form, something comics have had troubling doing since “Batman” movies had budgets under $1 million.

The Eisner Awards, affectionately known as the “Oscars of Comics,” are named for legendary cartoonist Will Eisner (“The Spirit”), who did more single-handedly to progress comics as art than all of the Eisner Award shows ever conducted. But because of the award’s association with this comic legend, the Eisners still remain relevant and prestigious, even if their lack of celebrity gossip, opportunistic fashion designers and monstrous egos keep them under most people’s radar.

This past weekend, the 2008 Eisner Awards were presented at Comic-Con in San Diego. Awards are given in more than 25 different categories, including individual awards for best writer and artist. Below is an in-depth look at “Exit Wounds” by Rutu Modan winner of Best Graphic Novel – New and “Justice League No. 11” by Brad Meltzer and Gene Ha, winner of Best Single Issue. You can see the complete list of winners on their official Web site.

“Exit Wounds” by Rutu Modan
2008 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Novel – New
http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/shopCatalogLong.php?item=a451165f22c05b

Life is rarely normal in Tel Aviv, Israel -- at least by American standards. Senseless bombings are so common that the characters in “Exit Wounds” have trouble keeping them straight. But despite living a somewhat normal and mundane life, even young cab driver Koby Franco cannot escape the effects of Israel’s struggles with terrorism.

When Koby is contacted by a female solider named Numi, who suspects that Koby’s father was the unidentified victim of a suicide bombing, he embarks on a mission to collect clues of the last day of his estranged father’s life to confirm the possibility. The challenge of tracking a man he hardly knew combined with the emotional weight of the memories of his father’s emotional abandonment complicates Koby’s search for a man who has been distant and elusive since the death of Koby’s mother.

Koby is not even sure what kind of person his father really was, and after learning about his father’s relationship with Numi, who is close to Koby’s age, he isn’t sure if he even wants to find him. But Numi’s memory of his father is a stark contrast to everything Koby remembers about him, and he clings to the notion that maybe his father was a different person.

However, as their search unfolds, each new piece discovered by Koby only reinforces the tarred image of his father. His journey of anxious discovery leads to unfulfilling reaffirmation, leaving Koby more uncertain of his father’s identity than before.

Rutu Modan crafts this emotionally complex story with precise subtlety. Her simplistic illustration style may seem inadequate at first, but it allows the emotion of the scenes to take precedence and puts the focus on the characters’ expressions, mannerisms and dialogue. “Exit Wounds” is a perfect example of art facilitating the story instead of obscuring it.

“Exit Wounds” displays the nuances and personalities that make Israel unlike the United States. Modan doesn’t shy away from exposing the reader to the social issues of modern Israel that come with being a country controlled by religious traditionalists. However, it is Koby’s story that dominates the pages and leaves the lasting impression."
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  D+Q At San Diego Comic-con Lynda! Adrian! Rutu!

Updated July 7, 2008


Don't miss D+Q at the San Diego Comic-con with 3 special guests! Adrian Tomine, Lynda Barry and Rutu Modan! Oh Yes!
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Rutu Modan
Lynda Barry

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Shortcomings (HC)
What It Is




RUTU MODAN in New York Times Magazine

Updated July 2, 2008


A series of Rutu Modan panels published on the NYT Magazine website!
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  RUTU MODAN interviewed by Joe Sacco

Updated February 21, 2008


An Interview with Rutu Modan (excerpt)
Written by Joe Sacco
Friday, 15 February 2008

American followers of alternative comics probably first became aware of Rutu Modan with the publication in 1999 of Jet Lag, an Eisner-nominated anthology of work by the comics collective Actus Tragicus, founded by Modan with fellow Israeli Yirmi Pinkus. She had already been recognized as a national treasure in her home country, having been named the Young Artist of the Year by the Israel Minister of Culture in 1997. She went on to win four Best Illustrated Children's Book Awards in Israel, and today, at age 41, there's no denying that Modan has fulfilled her early promise with the publication in 2007 of Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly), a graphic novel of crystal-clear cartooning that transforms current events — turbulence in the Middle East, suicide bombings — into an intimate tale of human longing, self-deception and resilience.

Numbered among her fans is award-winning comics journalist Joe Sacco (Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde), who seemed like the ideal person to talk to Modan about the intersection between cartooning and reality in the Middle East. Luckily, both were able to find the time in their busy schedules to make this interview happen.
— MD

I conducted this interview with Rutu Modan (who is currently living in Sheffield, Great Britain with her husband and two children) by e-mail. Full disclosure: I wrote a favorable blurb for Modan's book Exit Wounds before being asked to do this interview; I agreed to interview Modan because I believe Exit Wounds is a truly remarkable, insightful work of comics that deserves significant attention.
— JS

Joe Sacco:
Exit Wounds is your first book-length comic. If you don't mind my simplifying the plot, it's about a somewhat awkward young woman, Numi, who believes the unidentified victim of a suicide bombing is her elderly lover, Gabriel. She tracks down Gabriel's estranged son, Koby, and he reluctantly gets involved in her effort to prove the body is Gabriel's. This certainly seems like the sort of story that could be based on a real incident. Was it?

Rutu Modan:
The main plot is based on an actual event, a body that was destroyed in a terror attack on a bus. This has happened before, unfortunately, but this time no one claimed the body. It seems it was a body of someone no one missed. A wonderful documentary was done on this event (No. 17 by David Ofek). The director tried to find the identity of the body. I saw the film and it was so strong. We would like to think that if we disappeared at least someone would notice — a relative, a neighbor, at least the vendor at our local shop. Although I've not experienced a terror attack myself, it was happening a lot around me a few years ago, and it did affect my everyday life and feelings. But sudden, brutal deaths are actually around all of us, anywhere, anytime, not just in Israel. (Every death feels sudden and brutal, even those called "natural.") I tried to describe this in Exit Wounds, and not just the dramatic side of it, but also the matter-of-factness of death and the everyday aspect of it.

Another experience contributed to the plot: Many years ago I dated a guy, and he did not call me afterwards. After a week, I came to the conclusion this guy must be dead: Why else didn't he call me? I could not think of any other reason. Worried, I called him — he was perfectly all right. (Now I can be happy about it.) That gave me the idea of this girl who prefers to believe her lover was killed rather than thinking he abandoned her.

The characters, the love story, everything is invented, but I did use a lot of events, anecdotes that happened to me or people I know. For example, when Koby goes to his father's apartment (his childhood home) after it was sold, the new owner tells him about the flea-market people who emptied the place. I based that on my own experience after my parents had died. I was there when the flea-market people came, so I could identify with Koby's emotions about the experience. Or the relationship between Numi and her mother: That's based on a friend I had in my childhood. Her mother was a very beautiful woman who married a short, bald millionaire, and my friend looked more like her father (though she wasn't bald). Her mother couldn't stand it. She made her life miserable. She forced her to have a nose job when she was 16 and a few years later made her marry her first boyfriend. The mother convinced her daughter that no one would be interested in her besides him. Actually, I had to reduce the abuse from reality for the story. Numi is not really my friend from school. But using her history made it easier to give Numi a feeling of a real person (to me and hopefully to the reader).

Exit Wounds is also a rather grim portrayal of a society almost inured to violence. Suicide attacks are discussed without much emotion or sympathy for the victims. The forensics people make jokes and in one scene a family member who retrieves the body of a loved one is particularly callous.

When the reality around you is so complicated or too frightening, people tend to detach themselves from it. We cannot live our lives fearing what's going to happen next; we have to protect ourselves. Ignoring it is one way. Macabre humor is another. It is like a shield you build around yourself. The problem is this shield becomes part of your personality eventually. You can't take it on and off like a shirt. Koby, who was hurt by his father, by the death of his mother, by living in such a violent country, becomes an untouchable person. He fears getting close to people. As an opposite to him, there is this girl, Numi. Maybe because she is younger, she lets herself be more vulnerable, which is dangerous but also, I believe, rewarding in the end.

What's interesting, too, is Palestinians are never even mentioned. It's as if the attacks have become such a part of life that their context is no longer of interest. Am I on the right track? How much of this jibes with your own experience?

I know it seems strange that the Palestinians are not mentioned in the story. You are right. Israelis prefer not to think about the context of the terror. For most of them the Palestinians are those bad people living far away who try to kill Israelis just for the fun of it. (The common belief is that "they are crazy.") It is too complicated to think of the context (the context depends on who you ask) and depressing, too. At the time of the Oslo agreement, things were different. Israelis had hope and were more willing to be politically active. There was a feeling that peace was near. Since the Second Intifada and the assassination of Rabin, people lost hope in finding a solution or at least understanding the political situation. So they refer to it as if it were some bad destiny that you just try to live with somehow with as little contact as your fortune allows. This is a very sad and dangerous situation. It is also not so comfortable to think about the context. It is difficult for us (Israelis) to stop seeing ourselves as the innocent victims, a role that we love so much and are such experts at being. (To be just, I will mention that historically we are not completely responsible for becoming such experts in being the ultimate victims.) We would have to see that we have responsibility, and then we would feel that we should — God forbid — do something about it! No, we much prefer to go and have coffee with friends, or do some comics.

Forgetting the context is very human. For example, when a beggar asks for some change many people think — "Why can't he work like I do?" — and keep going, ignoring him. They don't think of the whole economic system that put this man on the street. Having said that, it is strange how much Israelis ignore thinking about the Palestinians and the Palestinian problem. There are huge political forces that make sure to detach Palestinians and Arabs from the Jewish Israeli population. It is amazing that in such a small area, where 20 percent of the population are Arabs (not including the occupied areas) — and without any laws [causing] it — there is a complete separation between the societies. Mixed marriages are rare. We live in different cities and areas. You can live your whole life and not have one single acquaintance, not to mention friend, who is Arab.

In Exit Wounds I tried to reflect this reality, not explain it or say what I think should be — just to show it. As Susan Sontag once said: Art should tell truth not opinions.

Is there a Hebrew-language edition of Exit Wounds?

I am ashamed to say there is still not a Hebrew edition and it is completely my fault. The book was commissioned by Drawn & Quarterly, therefore, even though I wrote the script in Hebrew and had it translated (which was done wonderfully by Noah Stollman), I "made the drawing in English" — which means from left to right. Hebrew, like Japanese, is read from right to left. For the Hebrew edition I have to flip all the pages. That wouldn't be such trouble if I didn't make my main character a taxi driver. If I flip the pages he drives on the wrong side. In a realistic story that takes place in Israel, I think it could be quite irritating for the readers. And I have 150 frames where Koby drives his taxi! I have to draw many frames again, and it is quite boring to do so. For me this project is finished, and it is difficult to go back to it.

What's been the reaction to it in Israel? The book seems to scratch at a number of Israel's sore spots.

There is an Israeli publisher for Exit Wounds and probably, hopefully, the Hebrew edition will be published sometime next year. I hope it will be well received, but I do know that when people are close to the subject they can tend to be more critical.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by The Gazette

Updated February 14, 2008


A father disappears
Novel works best as visual art
B. GLEN ROTCHIN, Freelance
Saturday, February 09
THE GAZETTE

I've always felt that the term "graphic novel" was something of a misnomer. It puts too heavy a burden on the form.

My experience as an occasional reader and reviewer of graphic novels indicates that they tend to be more successful as visual art than as novels. This is also true of Israeli Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds, a compelling, multi-layered book that does, in fact, possess a depth that approaches literature.
Modan tells the story of taxi driver Koby Franco, whose father, from whom he is estranged, has apparently disappeared. Koby meets a young woman serving in the army, Numi Herman, who tells him that his father might have been the unidentified victim of a recent terrorist attack. Numi turns out to be Koby's father's ex-lover, and together they set out to track down the truth behind the father's disappearance.

This might have been a conventional tale of a son searching for his father and finding himself in the process. But there is much more to this story because of one significant difference: the setting is Israel. Political and social echoes are at play. Modan's story penetrates deep into the heart of Israeli society, where issues of absence are pervasive; sons and daughters regularly go off to war, citizens are killed in terrorist attacks, and families disintegrate from the ongoing social tension.

Modan succeeds in portraying Koby's simmering, melancholic anger, the residue of his sense of having been abandoned, not just by his father, but also by his deceased mother. Numi is also convincing as the awkwardly large, disappointed rich girl seeking approval from a father figure. However, the romance that develops between Koby and Numi as they hit one dead end after another struck me as a bit too predictable to be completely captivating.

Where Exit Wounds truly triumphs is in Modan's illustrations. Her masterful use of precise line and colour is to be savoured. There is no shading at all, and yet her panels achieve a remarkable richness that belies their flatness, counterpoint to a story that does indeed have depth.

Modan excels in detailed depictions of Tel Aviv streets and architecture. Her muted palette of ochres, teals and grayish-blues captures perfectly Israel's matte interior and lustrous exterior light.
She's just as good with nature. The waves froth and roll when Koby and Numi go swimming in the Mediterranean, their bodies are almost transparent as they are subsumed in the blue. Modan handles an explicit sexual encounter between the pair with a surprising amount of silent tenderness and uses framing in interesting ways. Be warned, this is not a book for kids.

A scene at the morgue achieves exactly the right cold, indifferent mood with solid blocks of greens. Montreal's Drawn & Quarterly, the book's publisher, should be commended for their expert reproduction.

The story's ending seems just right, resolving the matter of the father's whereabouts but providing very little in the way of closure, and generating many more unanswered questions.

Only because this is tagged a "graphic novel," I'll ask the unfair question: Could a similar story have been told more compellingly in a conventional novel? Perhaps, but that's probably beside the point. There is so much to cherish about this beautifully executed book. In the age of digital reproduction and mass distribution, graphic novels like this one may ultimately safeguard the integrity and dignity of the book as an objet d'art.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS in World Literature Today

Updated January 17, 2008


Exit Wounds
Celayo, Armando
1 January 2008
World Literature Today

Rutu Modan. Exit Wounds

In her first full-length graphic novel, award-winning Israeli illustrator and comic book artist Rutu Modan tells the story of an apathetic young man who, while searching for his estranged father, discovers some kind of meaning in his life. Koby Franco, an Israeli taxi driver living and working with his elderly aunt and uncle, receives word one day that his father might have been killed in a recent suicide bombing in Hadera. Numi, his father's young and insecure lover, asks Koby to take a blood test to identify the body. Because the body has been recently buried, Koby and Numi search the train station where the suicide bombing took place, questioning anybody who might have been there if they had seen Koby's father. Their investigation leads them to discover that Koby's father carried on multiple affairs, something that Koby already suspected but Numi was unaware of. As the trail leading to Koby's father becomes colder and colder, Koby and Numi become close to each other. It isn't until they go their separate ways that Koby, going back to his mundane life, realizes that his feelings for Numi are genuine.

While the story might not be the most original, it comes alive in the subtle details in the background of the story and art. Through these two aspects of the graphic novel, Modan is able to portray life in Israel as an ongoing effort to combat terrorism, and its potential to paralyze society, with an unrelenting spirit to survive. A shopkeeper at a train station where the explosion went off is chipper in his persistent petitioning for independent shops; a small cafe stays open in the same station, even after the owner loses her husband in the bombing. Terrorism seems to be a common (yet tragic) occurrence: the bombing in Hadera is often confused with another bombing that happened a day later in Haifa. Life never stops moving in Israel, but death is nevertheless remembered by the vigils placed at each bombing site.

Modan's art is clean and minimal, in its own way supplementing the controlled atmosphere of Israel. While the story in the foreground might not be brilliant, it is Rutu Modan's journalistic eye for detail and her sympathy for her characters that recommends Exit Wounds in its attempt to understand life in Israel.

Modan is able to portray life in Israel as an ongoing effort to combat terrorism, and its potential to paralyze society, with an unrelenting spirit to survive.

In her first full-length graphic novel, award-winning Israeli illustrator and comic book artist Rutu Modan tells the story of an apathetic young man who, while searching for his estranged father, discovers some kind of meaning in his life. Through these two aspects of the graphic novel, Modan is able to portray life in Israel as an ongoing effort to combat terrorism, and its potential to paralyze society, with an unrelenting spirit to survive.

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS in The North Adams Transcript

Updated January 11, 2008


Devils and other demons
By John E. Mitchell
North Adams Transcript
01/10/2008


'Exit Wounds' offers psychological suspense and a slice of life tale with modern day Israel as...
Thursday, January 10
Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Drawn and Quarterly)
With so much fiction that takes place in Israel, there is a tendency to focus on Jewish identity — no surprise there — and the country's place and legacy in its region. With the graphic novel "Exit Wounds," acclaimed Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan has taken a different approach, allowing the well-trod circumstances to function as the backdrop for a more personal story to unfold.

Koby is a young guy without a nuclear family — his mother is dead, his sister has moved to America and his father is at best a phantom in his life. He passes his time with his aunt and uncle, sharing their cab as a means of income and generally stewing in the anger that his life has fostered. One day, a young woman tells him that his father was possibly killed in a bombing and though Koby rejects her concern, the mystery of the possible death begins to bubble within him.

Koby soon finds himself searching for the truth — did his father die in the bombing or is he still alive somewhere — as pushed along by the woman, Numi, who seems to have been dating Koby's father. What becomes apparent is that as the two lost souls

Advertisement

investigate the whereabouts of the man who links them, they are also learning more about themselves, discovering an alternate secret history to the incidents of their own lives and creating a connection with each other that may well herald a welcome new phase to each other's existence.
In Modan's Israel, terrorism is not a bombastic disruption of daily reality, but part of that routine, and it's striking how a mound of dead bodies can be dismissed more casually than a misdirected comment said in a negative tone by someone sitting next to you in a car. The reality is that the terrorism becomes a bad part of life, but not a disruption — it's part of the larger world and people adapt to that. It's all the personal stuff that trips you up, regardless of your station in life or the political situation in your country. What hurts you is not someone attacking your country, but someone attacking you, because that is a weapon that crawls under your skin and festers.

"Exit Wounds" is as concerned with the quiet moments of the hunt as it is with any resolution. The mystery unfolds and the mystery eventually shifts — you become less concerned whether Koby and Numi will find the father, and more interested in how they will make peace with each other and their pasts. As the mystery resolves itself and Modan allows life to go on, the idea that one must rectify the past and step into the future — and that it's best if you have a partner in this forward movement — take center stage and "Exit Wounds" becomes a powerful endorsement for not letting history permanently ravage you anymore than a terrorist attack should.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by San Jose Mercury News

Updated January 11, 2008


'Persepolis' curries interest in other literary graphic novels
By Randy Myers
01/11/2008
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

The acclaimed "Persepolis" -- the movie -- might just be the film that convinces hold-outs on America's graphic novel craze that reading a comic book might be worth their while. For those willing to take that plunge, here are a few literary-minded graphic novels -- or long-form comics -- worth adding to your bookshelf next to "The Kite Runner" and "Atonement."

...

Exit Wounds" by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95). It's hard to imagine that Modan's book is fiction. Everything about the Israeli cartoonist's work rings authentic, from the scenes in an ethnically divided cemetery to a blood-splattered hospital. But Modan's story keeps "Wounds" quite human, even hopeful. She weaves a compelling narrative about a Tel Aviv taxi driver's attempt to find out if his father was a victim in a suicide bomb attack. Surprises abound in Modan's long-form comic, which depicts damaged people healing from their own and other's wounds. It's my favorite graphic novel of 2007.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




AYA, EXIT WOUNDS on The Washington Post's A list

Updated January 10, 2008


The A List
WASHINGTON POST
January 2008

Aya By Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95

Exit Wounds By Rutu Modan, Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya
Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS, SHORTCOMINGS on The Oklahoman's top ten list

Updated January 10, 2008


WORD BALLOONS
WEEKEND LOOK I
2007's Top 10 graphic novels present wide array of characters
Matthew Price
4 January 2008
THE OKLAHOMAN

Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Drawn and Quarterly)

Israeli cab driver Koby Franco is drawn into a mystery when his father's ex-girlfriend Nuni contacts him. She wants to search for Koby's father, who she says may have been killed in a terrorist attack. Koby's search for his father becomes a search for himself, as Motan examines modern Israel in this graphic novel.

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (Drawn and Quarterly)

Ben Tanaka is an abrasive San Francisco theater owner who obsesses over white girls; this doesn't help his relationship with his Asian-American activist girlfriend Miko. An interesting look at race and sex through the lens of an intimate graphic novel.


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Shortcomings (HC)




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by ComicMix

Updated January 10, 2008


Wed Dec 26, 2007
Andrew Wheeler
Exit Wounds Review
COMICMIX.COM

Love, religion and bombing in Tel Aviv


Here’s another example of how international the world of comics is – a nearly two-hundred page graphic novel by an Israeli writer/artist little-known here. It’s published on this continent by Drawn & Quarterly, a smaller publisher from Montreal that specializes in stories that don’t have people flying around in their underwear.

Koby Franco is a cab driver in Tel Aviv, a young man whose mother died a few years back and whose father Gabriel has been out of touch nearly as long. A female soldier, Numi, gets in touch with him to tell him that she thinks his father was killed in a bombing the month before. There was one body left unidentified, and Numi saw a scarf she knitted for Gabriel lying on the street during the TV coverage.

Koby and Numi investigate, tracing the unidentified body from the morgue to a “John Doe” grave and back to the blast site. Along the way, Koby learns things he didn’t expect about his father – not to mention about Numi and himself.

Exit Wounds is a mostly quiet story about people, despite the bombing at the center of the plot. The important moments are nearly all of people talking to each other, and the dialogue is excellent. It’s a carefully crafted story, told well, with a fine, appropriate ending.

But the art is more problematic – Modan is telling a story about people, and she needs to tell it through their expressions and poses. Her style has dot eyes for nearly all of the characters, though, and those are mostly inexpressive. (The few who have pupils in rounded eyes look perpetually startled or inappropriately perky.) Her faces are otherwise pretty mobile, but those eyes leave a blankness at the center. Some of her secondary characters also seem to mug at the “camera” a lot, particularly Numi’s family. That sometimes works as characterization, but sometimes is jarring and breaks the flow of the story.

I’m also not entirely convinced that the general art style – black lines reproduced on top of the color art, with a few bright colors (and some dull ones) over a mostly dull background. It all adds up to a style that’s a bit too stylized for the story, one that distances these characters from the reader.

Exit Wounds is a fine graphic novel, with real emotional force. But it might have been that much better if Modan wrote it and gave it to another illustrator to draw (or used a more realistic style herself).
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by PLAYBACK:stl

Updated January 10, 2008


Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly)
Written by Steve Higgins
Friday, 04 January 2008
PLAYBACK:stl

A young Israeli hunts for the truth about his estranged father with the help of his father's last girlfriend in this excellent, in-depth character study.

172 pgs. Full Color; $19.95
(W / A: Rutu Modan)

Critics from Time to Entertainment Weekly to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have lauded Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds as one of the best (if not THE best) graphic novels of 2007, and had I read it a few weeks earlier, it would surely have ended up on my list of best comics of the year as well. As it is, I can only add my voice to the chorus of those who sing the praises of this book.

Set in present-day Israel, the book's central character is Koby, a young man who lives with his aunt and uncle while trying to scrape by on the meager wages he earns as a cab driver. One day his life takes a strange turn when he meets Numi, a girl who has been dating Koby's estranged father Gabriel. Gabriel has recently disappeared, and Numi believes he might have been a victim of a recent bombing in a bus station. Her request for Koby's help in identifying the body turns into a quest of sorts, as the two work to piece together the clues of what happened to Gabriel.

That description might lead you to believe Modan emphasizes mystery and intrigue, when that couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, Exit Wounds is less about finding out what happened to Gabriel than it is a character piece about two complete strangers linked by their relationships to the same man. From their first meeting, Koby and Numi are at odds, clashing over their different ideas of how to handle the situation, and this conflict between them is a direct result of how they connected, or failed to connect, with Gabriel himself.

Comics such as Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis or the works of Joe Sacco have been designed to give readers an insight into another culture, and from that summary you might be fooled into thinking that this book's purpose is similarly informative. But Exit Wounds is about people in general, not just Israelis. The book is more universal because it doesn't emphasize the details of the plot or setting and instead focuses on the strained relationship between Gabriel and Koby, between a father and son, which anyone can relate to no matter their nationality.

Yet in a way, the book does subtly show the Israeli experience; it treats the setting as a background element that not only drives the plot but also impacts the behavior of the characters. Koby meets Numi while she's serving her mandatory service in the army, and her indecision about what to do next with her life is a driving force for her character. Gabriel's behavior at Koby's bar mitzvah is mentioned as an example of the trouble in their relationship. From the location of the unidentified victim's burial plot to the nonchalance with which several characters treat the news of the bombing itself, every aspect of this story is affected by Israeli life in some way, like Israel is the elephant in the room. No one discusses Israel directly but everyone feels the influence of this country in every aspect of their lives.

Like many other aspects of Exit Wounds, the art too is deceptive. Modan's drawing style is very European, at times reminiscent of Herge's Tintin, and at first glance she tricks the reader into thinking there is very little to the art. People's faces are the simplest arrangements of dots and lines you can imagine, but the beauty of Modan's artwork is how expressive she makes those lines become. The emotions they show are palpable, especially the varied shades of anger that Koby expresses. In one panel he might merely be feeling mild annoyance and in the next outrage, yet the nuances of Modan's art illustrate the differences in his moods perfectly.

Exit Wounds has all the technical elements an excellent comic should contain: art that is minimalist yet incredibly expressive, colors which seem to adjust from muted to vibrant with the tone of the scenes, and panel layouts that guide the reader through the story at a perfect pace without ever feeling the need to overly spell things out. Beyond all that is a great story, a gripping read that holds your interest through a twisting plot, an intriguing setting, and subtle character development. All of those details add up to a truly brilliant graphic novel that deserves all the praise it has received.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS on Comics Worth Reading's best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


Best of 2007
Johanna Draper Carlson
January 4, 2008 at 6:57
COMICS WORTH READING

5. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
A quiet exploration of family in the face of Tel Aviv terrorism told through deceptively simple styling. The most “novelistic” of the books on this list.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS, SHORTCOMINGS, SPENT, AYA on Panels and Pixels Best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


Overall, 2007 could be called a banner year for comics as the medium continued to garner mainstream traction.

The death of Captain America won major newspaper headlines, Naruto dominated the best-seller landscape, and Stephen King and Buffy the Vampire Slayer attracted scores of people who had never set foot in a comic shop before.

It was also a great year for high-quality books. Here’s a list of some of my own personal favorites:

Best Graphic Novel of the Year: “Exit Wounds” by Rutu Modan. Few books this year had the emotional heft and warmth that Modan’s story of romance and estranged family set in Israel did.

Runners Up: “Shortcomings” by Adrian Tomine; “Laika” by Nick Abadazis; “Alias the Cat” by Kim Deitch.

Best Nonfiction Comic: A tie between Bryan Talbot’s “Alice in Sunderland” and Larry Gonick’s “The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part One.”

Runners-up: “Red Eye, Black Eye” by K. Thor Jensen; “Spent” by Joe Matt; “American Elf Book Two” by James Kochalka.

Best European book: “Aya” by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie. An African expatriate and a Parisian artist tell charming slice-of-life story set in the Ivory Coast.

click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya
Exit Wounds
Shortcomings (HC)




EXIT WOUNDS named Entertainment Weekly's best comic of the year

Updated January 10, 2008


Best and Worst; BOOKS
FICTION OF THE YEAR
REESE, JENNIFER
28 December 2007
Entertainment Weekly

Best Comic of the Year Rutu Modan's 'Exit Wounds'
 

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS mentioned in The Business Standard

Updated January 10, 2008


2007: The year in fiction
SPEAKING VOLUMES
Nilanjana S Roy / New Delhi
BUSINESS STANDARD
December 25, 2007


Two different but equally brilliant examinations of war came from the graphic novel genre. Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly) made Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis look like a comic book for kids. Modan’s protagonist is an Israeli taxi driver who wants to know if his father was killed in a suicide bombing; his father’s much younger lover, Numi, has her own games to play.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




DOGS AND WATER, SHORTCOMINGS, EXIT WOUNDS in Mercury top 10

Updated January 10, 2008


RANDY MYERS: GRAPHICS DETAIL
Best of 2007: Graphic novels
Contra Costa Times
MERCURY NEWS
12/23/2007

If you wanted to be cool in 2007, you wrote a graphic novel.
If you wanted to make a hit film, you bought the rights to a comic and made a movie out of it.
Publishers caught on to this trend and started releasing lines of graphic novels.
But did this sudden comics explosion result in quality, not just quantity? Surprisingly, yes.

For that reason, keeping a list of the best graphic novels of the year to a mere 10 was a tough task.

Here, then, are my favorite graphic novels from 2007.

4. "Dogs & Water," by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): A nameless man embarks on a lonely odyssey through a desolate, temperamental world. This haunting and episodic story has been permanently lodged in my psyche since I read it last spring. Nilsen is a comics poet, writing a story that perfectly captures moods, feelings and metaphors. Do read this man.

2. "Shortcomings," by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): Say you've created a mini-comic and framed it around a cantankerous lead character who is not only smug, but a bit unlikable. How in the heck, then, do you make readers care? For the answer, dive into Tomine's "Shortcomings," an on-target look at the disintegration of a oxygen-deprived relationship. The lead -- Ben Tanaka -- deserves to go down as one of the most intriguing and well-written characters encountered in literature. But other supporting characters are equally unforgettable. Made me dying to seek out Tomine's "Optic Nerve" minicomics.

1. "Exit Wounds," by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): Darn that "Persepolis." Nearly every publisher scurried around in 2007, trying to mirror the success of Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical work. Appearances would seem to suggest that "Exit Wounds" would be a sort-of Israeli version of Satrapi's book That would be wrong. Modan defies those expectations with an elegant -- and fictional - story that rotates around a Tel Aviv taxi cab driver trying to find out if his dad was killed in a suicide bombing. Beckoning him to uncover the truth is his father's complex younger lover, Numi. You assume you know where Modan is headed with the story -- which vividly depicts everyday life in Israel. But you will be wrong. This is an assured book that speaks quietly whenever you expect it to shout its demands. You'll instantly want to reread it, not only to better appreciate its grace, but to see how effortlessly Modan pulls off such a delicately balanced story arc.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Anders Nilsen
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Shortcomings (HC)




  SHORTCOMINGS, EXIT WOUNDS and SPENT in The Star Tribune

Updated December 21, 2007


STAR TRIBUNE
December 10, 2007
Drawing outside the box

Standouts among this year's graphic novels -- starting with Adrian Tomine's "Shortcomings" -- nicely depart from the autobiographical themes that have overtaken the genre.

By ERIC M. HANSON, Star Tribune

Last update: December 21, 2007 - 10:41 AM

Writing recently in this year's edition of the "Best American Comics" anthology, cartooning cult god Chris Ware noted that there has been a backlash against the navel-gazing and self-indulgence that, some people say, rule comics today.

"Admittedly," he wrote politely, "a preponderance of autobiographical work has accrued" lately, as a legacy of such indie pioneers as Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar.

In general, I'd agree, but it's not the case when looking at the best of what's published, at least this year.

Leading that pack is Adrian Tomine's "Shortcomings" (Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pages, $19.95), probably the best work of this great writer/artist's career.

With the feel of a particularly good talky dramedy, the book tells the story of a Japanese-American couple in their early 30s whose relationship has hit a post-collegiate milestone: live together and idle, evolve or die on the vine.

Lead character Ben Tanaka is one of the year's great literary creations: negative and perpetually unsatisfied, cynical and not overly ambitious, too soft for real work and too smart to commit to a career, and too real to be wholly unsympathetic.

He's adrift and stiflingly critical of everyone around him, including his lovely girlfriend, Miko, whose tolerance for Ben's b.s. is mysteriously long-lasting and might have reached its limit as she prepares to leave California for an internship in New York City.

Ben has a thing for blond white girls, which Miko discovers when she finds a porn stash in a desk drawer. It's one of many ways Tomine uses the book's spare plot to explore racial and sexual dynamics subtly without breaking narrative stride.

"Look," Ben says. "Let's not make a big deal out of this. If it bothers you, I'll throw [the movies] out. I got them a long time ago, and. ... "

"Well, the thing that kind of bothers me is that all the girls are white," Miko says.

"That's not true," Ben says. "Look ... there's a, uh, Latina girl in this one ..."

Says Miko: "How would you like it if I was obsessed with pictures of big, muscular African-American men?"

"Yeah, right. ... " Ben says. "You reach for your pepper-spray the minute you see a black guy walking towards you on the street!"

Ben's friend, Alice Kim, provides a measure of caustic comedic relief to his soul-numbing ennui. Born in Korea, a lesbian and the daughter of conservative immigrants, Alice brings Ben to a wedding even though his ancestry is Japanese and her family despises Japanese people because of World War II.

"Still," she says, "I'm sure my family would rather see me with a Japanese boy than a Korean girl."

"So rapists and pillagers are preferable to homos," he says dryly.

"Everything is preferable to homos," she says.

Plotwise, not much happens in "Shortcomings," beyond people moving in and out of each other's lives, which in the end is what defines a lot of single people's lives in their 20s and 30s: just so many people come and gone, each day a door opening slowly on change.

"Shortcomings" is Tomine's richest and most rewarding read, packed with the most human characters he has ever created. The art is spare and meticulous, more refined than ever. Some might find it a little too stiff, the compositions of each panel too much the same from one to the next. But I think it's the perfect, uncluttered complement to the fine writing it illustrates.

War and beasts

• Also terrific this year from Canadian comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly is Israeli writer/artist Rutu Modan's "Exit Wounds" (172 pages, $19.95). It's the story of two people drawn together in contemporary Tel Aviv to check into the disappearance of a man who led separate identities as a father, ex-husband and lover.

• This summer, D&Q published Joe Matt's brave and weird book, "Spent" (124 pages, $19.95). It's the story of a porn-addicted chronic masturbator and misanthrope (named Joe Matt) who lives in a rooming house and is so lazy he chooses to pee into empty bottles rather than making the trip down the hall. I can't say I really liked "Spent," but (considering the author is known for doing brutally autobiographical work) I admired its naked honesty.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Spent
Shortcomings (HC)




EXIT WOUNDS, SHORTCOMINGS make Entertainment Weekly's Best Of list

Updated December 21, 2007


KEN TUCKER'S TOP 5
Entertainment Weekly

1. Exit Wounds
Rutu Modan
(Drawn & Quarterly)
The Tel Aviv-based artist and writer Modan tells a tale of contemporary Israel through two characters: Koby, a young taxi driver, and Numi, an Israeli soldier. They are linked by the fact that Koby's father, presumed dead in a suicide-bomb attack, was romantically involved with Numi. There is no heavy-handed dissection of the Israel-Palestine conflict here; rather, Modan is interested in crafting a short story about the everyday possibilities of violence, and about the way terror becomes a grinding, constant presence of its own. Her figures are pasty, often pudgy people — intentionally non-comic-strip-heroic-looking — and humans and their background settings (the inside of a cab, small shops, and cramped living quarters) are rendered with minimal lines, inked with pale, fading tints. The result is a triumphant book about not-so-quiet desperation.

4. Shortcomings
Adrian Tomine
(Drawn & Quarterly)
Maybe it's because I enjoyed writer-artist Tomine's critique of a certain kind of contemporary personality — so much clever sarcasm, so much self-absorption, so little engagement with the workaday world — that I was immediately taken with his portrait of Ben Tanaka. Tomine draws Ben the way he does most of his protagonists, with a serenely smooth line and delicate worry lines. Ben is smart, he's a horndog, and he's lonely, which makes him a quietly formidable man. Tomine raises questions of race by having others suggest that his Asian protagonist is more interested in dating non-Asian women, which proves a novel (for a graphic novel, at least) way to provide conflict. But this is not, ultimately, what Shortcomings is about. Look at the title: This is a poignant, dryly funny story of people grappling with their flaws, bending them into strengths, with occasional outbursts of emotions all the more effective for the contrast they offer to the artist's tidy drawings.

 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Shortcomings (HC)




  EXIT WOUNDS in The Edmonton Journal

Updated December 21, 2007


EDMONTON JOURNAL
Wednesday, December 12

WHAT: Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds graphic novel
WHERE: Greenwoods' Bookshoppe, Audreys Books
HOW MUCH: $21.95
For the comic nerd on your list: Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds by Canada's Drawn and Quarterly Press. Modan, one of Israel's top cartoonists, has created a rare triple threat of a book. Exit Wounds boasts superior, ligne-claire-style (clear line) drawings harnessed to some top-notch writing (a young Israeli struggles to unravel the mystery that is his estranged father - a man who may or may not have been killed in a recent suicide bombing), then wrapped in a high-veracity narrative steeped in letter-perfect socio-political/psychological detail. Truly, it's an adult comic book that's all that and a four-colour bag of chips. -Gilbert A. Bouchard
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS and MOOMIN 2 in The VIllage Voice

Updated December 21, 2007


A Year in Comics and Graphic Novels
Criminal masterminds, shoehorn worshippers, President McCain
by R.C. Baker
December 18th, 2007

Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds (D&Q, 168 pp., $19.95) is a quieter take on Middle East carnage. A ne'er-do-well father may or may not have died in a suicide bombing; his younger girlfriend and his son traverse Israel seeking clues, fall in love, and find that the missing old man looms between them. Deft artwork and the theme of loss partially regained make this one of the most poignant books of the year.
...
Seemingly gentler, but pungent in their own right, are Tove Jansson's 1950s Moomin strips, gathered into a beautiful, oversize volume (D&Q, 96 pp., $19.95). The happy family of hippo-like Moomins outwits self-absorbed jocks and uptight neighbors with aplomb; what gives the strip edge are its insouciant figures, expressive areas of rich black, and judicious sweeps of Zip-a-tone.

 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Tove Jansson
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book Two




  EXIT WOUNDS on Time's best of list

Updated December 10, 2007


Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007
#8. Exit Wounds
Written by Rutu Modan
TIME.COM


An Israeli taxi driver is approached out of the blue by a young woman, a soldier, who tells him that she has been having an affair with his estranged father, and that his father may (or may not) have been the victim of a suicide bombing. This psychically fraught setup, and the question of whether or not the older man truly is dead, drive the fleet-footed, high-spirited plot of Exit Wounds, which is laid out in eloquent, perfectly composed matte panels. The calm clarity of the artwork is at odds with the story's heavy psychological burden: everyone inside those neat squares and rectangles has been wounded in some way, either by the violence of the Middle East or the more universal hazards of family and romantic life.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS in NY Mag's Best of 2007 lits

Updated December 10, 2007


Best Comics of 2007
By Dan Kois
NY MAG

2. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
A Tel Aviv cabdriver picks up—and falls for— a soldier with a secret.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS, SHORTCOMINGS and SOUTHERN CROSS in The Boston Globe

Updated December 10, 2007


Total recall
With drawings and text, these graphic novels conjure vivid moments in public and personal history
By Carlo Wolff
THE BOSTON GLOBE
December 9, 2007

Inquiries into history and outsider status spark a striking sampling of recent graphic literature. Nick Abadzis's homage to the first dog in space is largely traditional in its blend of image and word. Similarly, Ann Marie Fleming's reconstruction of the story of her great-grandfather, Rutu Modan's edgy walk along the personal-political border, and Adrian Tomine's finely drawn analysis of young, overintellectualized love hew to lesser and greater degrees of relative conventionality. A history of Students for a Democratic Society resembles author Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor" series in its deadpan realism but transcends the expected by virtue of its many voices. Laurence Hyde's offering is a replica of a 1951 "novel of the South Seas" told in wood engravings. It is a stunning narrative in which the visuals, some tortured but all transcendent, do all the talking necessary.

Modan's "Exit Wounds" (Drawn & Quarterly, 172 pp., $19.95) also is about coming to terms with family. Economical of line but vivid in its use of color to denote emotion, it's the story of Koby Franco, a Tel Aviv taxi driver who learns that his estranged father, Gabriel, may have died in a suicide bombing. Consumed by his hostility toward Gabriel, he tangles with Numi, a rich girl who had an affair with him. Modan crafts a meditation on identity in which representatives of various generations intermingle, sex is a weapon, and politics nearly conquers love. Modan, who has worked with Etgar Keret, another piquant Israeli graphic novelist and member of the Actus collective, doesn't always like what she sees in her native land. But she'll never turn a blind eye.

Tomine's narrowly focused "Shortcomings" (Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pp., $19.95) pits brittle Ben Tanaka against sensitive, sensual Miko Hayashi, the girlfriend he still wants. Ben is possessive and unfaithful, while Miko has wanderlust and a healthy sense of privacy. Tomine plays his feelings close to the vest, presenting simultaneously spare and spacious pages that allow the moods of his tightly wound characters to flicker and flare. A cutting portrayal of losers beautiful and otherwise, "Shortcomings" is a sophisticated designer downer, intelligently framed by Tomine to convey charged situations that don't resolve easily. Graphic novels are rarely this disquieting and subtle.

Hyde's "Southern Cross: A Novel of the South Seas" (Drawn & Quarterly, 255 pp., $24.95) is a work of protest about the atomic-bomb testing the United States conducted in the South Pacific after World War II. It traverses an idyllic South Pacific island visited by the American military, which plants an atomic bomb under the sea, forcing the islanders to evacuate. A US soldier's rape of an island woman prompts the woman's husband to kill the American; it's a frightening sequence and apt symbol of that other violation, the bomb implantation itself. Some of Hyde's images are so packed they're hard to make out, let alone bear. But the message - pacifist, angry, pure - is unmistakable. A timely reissue indeed.

Carlo Wolff, a freelance writer and author of "Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories," regularly reviews graphic novels for the Globe.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Rutu Modan
Laurence Hyde

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Southern Cross
Shortcomings (HC)




EXIT WOUNDS in Juneau Empire

Updated December 7, 2007


JUNEAU EMPIRE
December 7, 2007

"Exit Wounds," by Rutu Modan. Koby Franco's estranged father has been killed in a suicide bomb attack in Hadera - or has he? Contacted by Gabriel's young lover, Numi, Koby begins to unravel his father's life, but everywhere he turns he finds more puzzles. Stymied in his attempt to use a DNA test to match his father's name to an unidentified corpse, Koby begins tracing Gabriel's steps backwards and discovers that his father may well still be alive, albeit even more removed from his family's life than ever before. Modan has been lauded as one of Israel's finest cartoonists and this, her first graphic novel, has been acclaimed for both its illustrations and for its depiction of modern Israeli life.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by Comics Worth Reading

Updated December 6, 2007


Exit Wounds
Posted by Johanna
December 5, 2007
COMICS WORTH READING

Exit Wounds uses a Tintin-like “clear line” style to tell a modern story of the effects of terrorism and the search for a life of one’s own. In Tel Aviv, Koby drives a taxi cab. He’s been estranged from his father, so he’s not sure how to feel when a soldier tells him his father might be the unidentified victim of a cafeteria suicide bombing.


Exit Wounds
Buy this book
The soldier, Numi, tries to talk Koby first into a DNA test to confirm her guess, and then into exhuming the body to know for sure. Koby’s resistant, but the two end up investigating further what happened and who might have seen the victims that day.

The contrast between the horrifying event and the reportorial presentation matches the hero’s attitude. Like any human living in an intolerable situation, his world has become one of mundanities. He doesn’t like to think about his relationships; he’d rather ignore them. It’s the only way to get past the loss of those close to you, and to live on in the face of daily life-threatening risks.

People cling to small tokens of those they thought they’d see again, like the scarf that moves from person to person. They’d almost rather someone be taken from them than realize the alternative: that they’ve been left behind mentally, that the person they cared about can get along fine without them. Being forced to confront how forgettable some people are reminds us of our own mortality. During one of their trips, Numi asks Koby the key question of the book: “Do you think that every time we meet a person we should treat it like it was the last time we ever were going to see them?”

This astoundingly thought-provoking book is one of the best of the year, demonstrating the full power of the comic medium.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




MOOMIN, EXIT WOUNDS and SHORTCOMINGS in The St Louis Post-Dispatch

Updated December 4, 2007


The Fun Never Stops!
12/02/2007
ST LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Exit Wounds

By Rutu Modan

(Drawn and Quarterly, 172 pages, $19.95)

An Israeli, Modan tells a story that initially appears political in nature — identifying a man killed in a suicide bombing — but quickly mutates into something more personal: an account of a severed family bond and a growing romantic connection.



King-Cat Classix

By John Porcellino

(Drawn and Quarterly, 384 pages, $29.95)

This beefy collection of Porcellino's mini-comics provides a revealing sampler of his work, which deftly mixes whimsy and biography, sharp observation and poetic musing.



Shortcomings

By Adrian Tomine

(Drawn and Quarterly, 108 pages, $19.95)

Graphic literature's most gifted realist, Tomine pointedly explores ethnic identity in a fiercely honest story of a relationship undone by the toxic combination of too much self-obsession and too little self-awareness.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Tove Jansson
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Shortcomings (HC)
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book Two




  EXIT WOUNDS in The New York Times

Updated December 4, 2007


HOLIDAY BOOKS
Comics
DOUGLAS WOLK
December 2, 2007
NEW YORK TIMES

Rutu Modan’s EXIT WOUNDS (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95) isn’t directly concerned with politics, as such, but the political culture and social stratification of modern-day Israel are intimately connected to the emotional violence its characters inflict on one another. Numi, an Israeli soldier, contacts a young Tel Aviv taxi driver named Koby to tell him that an unidentified body from a suicide bombing may have been his long-absent father, Gabriel. This isn’t an official notification, though: Gabriel had been Numi’s lover, and she needs Koby’s help to find out if he really is dead or has simply abandoned her. As the two of them investigate Gabriel’s disappearance, everything Koby learns compounds the stack of lies that made up his father’s life. Ultimately, he finds himself in an impossible position, so fenced in by emotional violence that no course of action seems defensible or even prudent.

Modan helped found the Actus Tragicus collective of Israeli cartoonists, and the plot of her first graphic novel is shrewdly constructed, feinting at obvious twists (like the inevitable romance between the rich girl and the poor boy who’ve been bickering for most of the story) and then swerving away from them. But the real glory of “Exit Wounds” is Modan’s artwork. Her characters’ body language and facial expressions, rendered in the gestural “clear line” style of Hergé’s Tintin books, are so precisely observed, they practically tell the story by themselves. Numi, for instance, spends most of the story slouching a little, as if she’s trying to hide her height; you can tell she’s got her guard down when she straightens up. And Modan’s Israeli landscapes, colored in flat, solid tones, capture the look of the country with spare precision: a few fluid lines describe a dingy bus-station cafeteria or a scrubby beach, echoing the book’s treacherous interpersonal terrain, where everything and everyone has sustained collateral damage.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




RUTU MODAN interviewed by The Daily Crosshatch

Updated November 16, 2007


Interview: Rutu Modan Pt. 1
October 22, 2007 at 8:07 am | In Interviews |


A co-founder of the art collective, Actus Tragicus, Rutu Modan has been a fixture in the Israeli comics scene since the mid-90s, receiving all manner of praise for her work in that medium and for the magazine work that she has been producing for more than 15 years. Released earlier this year, her first graphic novel, Exit Wounds, has been translated into several languages (including English, thankfully) and has garnered her nearly universal acclaim, helping to land her a gig blogging for the New York Times.

I had the opportunity to it down with Modan at SPX, last weekend. I had plenty of serious topics I was hoping to broach over the course of our conversation, including the ways in which the Isreali identity and Jewish religion play roles in her work.

And then there was the fact that Modan helped run the short-lived Israeli version of Mad Magazine. Naturally, we had to tackle that one first—a blog’s gotta have priorities, after all.


How long are you in the States for?

Two weeks.

What are you doing to promote the book?

It’s my first book tour. From here, I’m going to Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francicso, which I’ve never been to. So it’s really exciting.

Have you been to the States before?

Yes, many times, but just to the east coast—I’ve been to New York. I’m going to New York [on this tour], but only for two and a half days.

Where else will you be going? Europe?

My book was published in Italian, so I went to Italy and Spain. It’s been fun. It’s the bright side of making comics, going to places and meeting people.

How well known is your work in Israel?

Well. Israel is so small that the comics scene is really tiny, and I’ve been doing illustrations for magazines for 15 years now.

You were at Mad for a while.

Yeah…it’s really funny that people know that—I didn’t know that it would be so important in my biography. Here it sounds very impressive, but the truth is that it’s not really that impressive. It was in the middle of the 90s and Mad was over its peak, so they started selling rights all over the world to publish local editions. The format was supposed to be 75-percent American material, and 25-pecent original local material. I was just out of art school at the time, and the publisher suggested that I edit it.

Afterwards, we co-founded the comics group, Actus. The great side of it was that we could use any material from the history of Mad Magazine. We could use things from the 50s. We asked them to send a lot of old magazines, and we were reading them and choosing what we really liked for the magazine. It was a lot of fun.

It must have been tough translating the Mad sensibility for a different culture, especially content from the 50s. Were you focused on what you thought the readers would like?

We were trying to think about what would be relevant. There were all of these parodies of TV shows, and you have to know the show to understand it. But we were more interested in alternative comics, for the original comics, we asked all of our friends from the alternative scene to contribute. It was a chance to get paid for doing their comics. We also got a hip designer, so we completely changed the design of Mad Magazine. The result was that people who liked Mad Magazine hated the material. They thought it was terrible. And people who like alternative comics hated the Mad part.

So, nobody was happy.

Yeah. Nobody was happy and everyone criticized it. Nobody bought it. We did it for a year, and learned a lot from it. Then it closed down.

There’s no Mad Magazine in Israel, right now?

No, no. But then we understood that, if we were going to lose money, we’d better lose it with something that we liked to do. So we founded Actus, and started self-publishing.

How many people are involved in Actus?

Five—there’s actually a very funny story involving Mad—we had to send the American publisher the cover. Just the cover. They wanted to see it, because we had to use Alfred E. Newman. So, one of the covers we did was by an artist who drew Alfred E. Newman like a skinhead. It was cancelled. They didn’t let us publish it, because they said that hurt Jewish people’s feelings.

There certain neo-Nazi connotations to aspects of the skinhead culture.

Yeah, but we didn’t have the connotation because in Israel, there are no Nazis. But they didn’t understand that, so we had to use a different cover.

A renowned graphic artist, illustrator of children’s book, and cofounder of the collective, Actus Tragicus, Rutu Modan has been a well-known fixture in Israel’s relatively tightly-knit comics scene for several years now.

Released earlier this year on Drawn & Quarterly in the States, her first full-length graphic novel, Exit Wounds, has largely been lauded as one of the year’s best works in the medium, exploring difficult questions about family, identity, and politics, in a war-torn Tel Aviv.

In the first part of our interview with Modan, conducted at SPX, a few weeks back, we discussed the artist’s work as one of the founders of the ill-fated Israeli incarnation of Mad Magazine. This time out, things take a bit of a turn for the serious, addressing some of the questions of Jewish and Israeli identities that are proposed in Modan’s powerful book. That and more, after the jump.
When the majority of people in Israel are Jewish, how large of a role does that aspect play in the larger Israeli identity?

It’s very important in certain ways, and now people are trying to go back to it, because, suddenly the Israeli identity became much more complex. When I was in my teens, people would say that they felt much more Isreali than Jewish. But now it’s become fashionable to feel more Jewish than being Israeli, because suddenly being an Israeli is very politically complicated.

The one point in which the Jewish identity comes to the forefront in the book is the scene in which they’re burying the bodies. It’s one of the most powerful moments, when they’re separating people based on religion.

It’s crazy. It’s crazy that the Jews are doing it. I wasn’t aware of it, until a few years ago. Most of the cemeteries in Israel are religious. They have state cemeteries—if you are a citizen, you are allowed to have a grave in the state cemetery, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Most of the people are buried there. There are very few private cemeteries.

All of the state cemeteries are run by religious management. It’s part of the deal. They made the decision years ago, to have control over death and marriages. There are many problems with that—people are fighting to change it.

Are all of the state cemeteries Jewish?

No, there are Islamic cemeteries, and other religions run by the state. It’s the same cemetery, but a different section in the same cemetery. I didn’t know about this, until I heard about a soldier. He died in action. He wasn’t Jewish—he was Russian. He immigrated to Israel—he was a citizen, but he wasn’t Jewish. He was killed defending the country, and hi family wanted him buried in the state cemetery, but they wouldn’t allow it. It was a big scandal. So the question arose.

The book was based on a documentary—a real thing that happened. There was an attack in a bus station, and one body wasn’t identified, which happens, sometimes, when there’s a bomb. Nobody came to claim the body. It was a body that no one missed.

This was the idea for the book—how can it be that there’s a body that nobody misses? So, the director made a film about trying the find the identity. Because they didn’t know if the body was Jewish or not, they buried him in the cemetery of the non-Jews, because they didn’t want to take the risk. This is really extreme. It was likely that he was a Jew, but they didn’t want to take the risk, because they weren’t sure if he was a tourist or foreign worker.

It made me understand what a crazy place it is, where you can’t even die peacefully. Many questions arose about being Jewish and being Israeli and this ghetto that people built. They were trying to free themselves, but they built another ghetto.

So I put it in the book. Numi and Koby are not deeply concerned about it. This is the attitude of most people, as long as its not their relatives. It was a way to point out, not just what’s unjust about Israel, but how people react to political issues.

What about that documentary made you want to base your first book on it?

It seemed like it could be a detective story—an investigatation. And it was very emotional. The director was trying to find the identity, so he put an ad in the newspaper, so if someone was missing one of their relatives, they could come forward. And then some people called. A man who didn’t see his son for a few years.

It was very short—maybe 20 seconds in the film, because it wasn’t actually him. But I know where my children are, and I hope I always know where they are. So it’s about this feeling about someone who is supposed to be very close, but is a stranger. There are so many people who can’t communitcate with their parents. I thought it would be very strong to use that for the film.

When I reviewed the book, I off-handedly made a comment about the father being important in these characters lives, but someone pointed out to me that he wasn’t really that important, which I think is very pertinent. In many ways, it’s a book about absence. He should be important, but he’s not around.

He is important. He’s important to them, but I’m not so sure that they are important to him, at least not in the way that they think they think are important to him, or they think they think they should be important to him. It’s a one-way relationship.

I mention in the book that his father is planning to run a cab with him. The father probably has some story. I this happens a lot, where we have a relationship with somebody, and we have this conversation in our head and we’re sure that, from the other direction it’s something, but it’s really just in our head.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  SHORTCOMINGS, EXIT WOUNDS and AYA make PW's Best of List

Updated November 16, 2007


Comics
Shortcomings
Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly)
A lacerating, falling-out-of-love story that profiles Ben Tanaka, a crabby know-it-all with an eye for white girls; his Asian-American activist girlfriend Miko; and the dissolution of their relationship.
Alice in Sunderland
Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
The history of Sunderland, an obscure British city and a haunt of Lewis Carroll's, provides the metaphor for a dizzying survey of the ways ideas and people have connected over the centuries.
Exit Wounds
Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
While searching for his father, a young Israeli taxi driver discovers unexpected truths about himself and contemporary Israel.
All-Star Superman
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)
A glorious postmodern return to what made Superman super, as the man from Krypton deals with supernovas and his own conventions.
I Killed Adolf Hitler
Jason (Fantagraphics)
Hard-boiled hit men, a time machine and a quest to save the world add up to a story about the permanence of love in this darkly humorous tale.
Laika
Nick Abadzis (Roaring Brook/First Second)
The story of the first dog in space is a known tragedy, here rendered with an eye to historic fact and without sentimentality.
The Salon
Nick Bertozzi (St. Martin's)
A period fantasy involving Picasso, Braque, Satie, Gertrude Stein and a potent brand of absinthe offers a dizzying tour de force of art styles.
Aya
Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly)
The charming story of a smart teenage girl and her boy-crazy friends, set in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, during a period of peace in the 1970s.
Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni)
Our slacker hero is still playing in a band, still dating the mysterious Ramona Flowers—and dealing with her seven evil ex-boyfriends—but he decides to get a job!
Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White
Taiyo Matsumoto (Viz)
Two street urchins—one called Black and the other White—with unusual powers take on the police, the yakuza and the citizens of Treasure Town in this poignant, experimentalist manga.
MW
Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
A young boy who survives a horrific military accident develops into both a powerful businessman and a warped murderous psychopath in an exploration of the modern reality of evil.
MPD-Psycho, Volume 1
Eiji Otsuka and Sho-u Tajima (Dark Horse)
A police detective tracking a serial killer descends into multiple-personality syndrome after his wife is found murdered and mutilated in this psychologically disturbing manga.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya
Exit Wounds
Shortcomings (HC)




EXIT WOUNDS, AYA reviewed by The Guardian

Updated November 1, 2007



Graphic novels
A sketch of life
Craig Taylor
Saturday October 27, 2007
The Guardian

Aya
by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (Jonathan Cape, Ł14.99)

Marguerite Abouet's comic tells of a lost age, a time in the late 1970s when the Ivory Coast was basking in the glow of an economic boom, when disco seeped from the open air clubs in Abidjan and teenage girls such as Aya, Adjoua and Bintou were able to enjoy one last flirtatious summer before adulthood. Free from stereotypical African imagery of emaciated Aids victims and bloated famine kids, her slice of history reads like a familar coming of age tale. The young women sneak out at night to the Thousand Star Hotel, aka the market square, and make furtive romantic moves when they can find the right person in the moonlight.

Article continues
Clément Oubrerie paints his panels with warm washes of pink skies over the dusty roads. His portraiture contains touches of cartoonish humour - such as the green shade of a young man's face when he admits to impregnating a girl. The tones match the wry humour of the writing, particularly when Abouet brings the working-class residents into contact with the richer neighbourhoods of the city. "It's like Dallas," remarks Adjoua's father, wide-eyed, as he sits in the house of a nouveau riche. The real star is the backdrop, the city itself, its marketplaces, foods and customs. Abouet's is a gentle, nostalgic account of the lives it held for a brief, optimistic time.

Exit Wounds
by Rutu Modan (Jonathan Cape, Ł14.99)

A bomb goes off in a bus station in Israel, leaving a few bodies, including one that can't be identified. Later a cab-driver named Koby is approached by Numi, a young woman serving in the Israeli army. That dead man, she tells him, is your estranged father and I was his lover. And so the mysteries of a parent are slowly revealed in Rutu Modan's excellent, searching examination of modern Israeli life; and she doesn't shy away from moments of black humour as the unlikely duo search through morgues and markets and graveyards. Drawing her characters' faces with minimal detail - two black dots represent most eyes - Modan is too smart to simply parade the violence of Israeli life for its own sake. Each incident connects to the central mystery and leads to a satisfying and very human end, leaving both Numi and Koby uncertain about the man they thought they knew and the way they feel towards each other.
 

Featured artists

Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya
Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by Jewish Quarterly

Updated October 25, 2007


Thurs, October 25th 2007
Exit Wounds
Ariel Kahn on Israeli graphic novelist Rutu Modan’s searing new work
JEWISH QUARTERLY
Autumn 2007 - Number 207




There is an image in Rutu Modan’s new graphic novel, Exit Wounds, which sums up her vision of Israel today: a makeshift memorial to the victims of a Tel Aviv bus bombing is made out of a Coca-Cola stand and placed in front of violent graffiti. In this single frame she highlights an uneasy fusion of American culture, brutal violence and traditional Judaism.

‘To draw allows you to think and see very slowly, to rediscover the strangeness of a cosmopolitan city with an army base at its centre,’ stated Modan, in an interview at the ICA, describing Exit Wounds as ‘a homage to the way I see my city’.

Exit Wounds is the story of a young man’s search for his father’s corpse after a bus is blown up by a suicide bomber. Koby’s journey takes him across the social and religious divides of Israeli society, accompanied by his father’s young lover. He discovers on his quest commonalities of loss and longing and, despite all disappointments, an insistent hope. After numerous encounters and a visit to a morgue he learns that his father, Gabriel, is not dead, merely absent.

The search for his absent father shapes the narrative, becoming a search for all that is lost in both self and society. It also becomes a quest for love, something which Modan’s Israel has in short supply.

‘For me,’ Modan commented, ‘the drama is always behind the words. No one mentions the word “love” in the novel, even though it is a central focus for all of them.’ Indeed, love shapes the journey of both major and minor characters, as the promise of something endlessly withheld, only occasionally experienced. Why is it never spoken? Modan suggests that in the fraught society of contemporary Israel, a sense of detachment is required to survive, making love even more problematic.

The connection between Koby and Numi, Gabriel’s lover, unfolds slowly. Modan’s own creative process and her gradual involvement with her characters is similarly tentative: ‘The novel changed a great deal, as although I had story-boards for the whole work, I didn’t know how it would end or who the characters really were. I didn’t know at the outset if they would be together or not.’ For Modan, the most difficult section of the novel, both to draw and to imagine, was a moment of sexual intimacy between Koby and Numi. ‘I wanted to make it real. Not pornographic but still sexy – involving, not ironic or detached. So I left this scene until late in the novel, when I felt I would be able to engage with it.’

She depicts the characters with their eyes closed, as if even close up they are unable to see each other. This scene runs wet with the tears that flow throughout the whole book and the world it depicts. ‘Ultimately everyone cries for themselves,’ says Modan.

In her interview with Maisoneuve, Modan said, ‘I was looking for elements of a story and I saw this documentary film – a wonderful documentary called No. 17 (2003) by David Ofek. Ofek’s film is about a suicide bombing on a bus, in which seventeen people were killed. However, only sixteen of the seventeen bodies were identified. One body was completely destroyed and could not be identified. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time that a body had been burnt beyond recognition. What was special in this case is that no one came forward to claim it.’

If Exit Wounds dramatises the silences that shape our speech, it also captures the way we use language to define each other. The graphic novel is unique in its ability to replicate simultaneous speech. In one double spread, four people conduct simultaneous, parallel conversations that circle around their common loss, interweaving and shaping each other. Modan is clear: we need others to help us define ourselves.

The relationship to death and the dead is central to the novel. Israeli society distances itself from death, dehumanising it even at the morgue where corpses are kept out of sight and relatives identify their deceased through televised images of body parts.

Modan argues for the need to include the invisible foreign worker and the Palestinian – the normative Other in Israeli political discourse – in Israel’s self-definition. This is a challenging task for as exclusivist an ideology as Zionism, but Modan suggests that it is vital to the state’s continuing vitality. She goes further by suggesting that it is the living outsiders within Israeli society, the unseen and invisible, rather than the dead, that reflect the absence at its heart. In a particularly uncomfortable scene, Koby tries to speak to a Filipino cleaner. He follows her into the toilets and witnesses her invisibility: men urinate, oblivious to her, leaving dirty footprints on her clean floors.

'Even superman flopped here!' Modan once said about the lack of any comics tradition in Israel. Introduced to them by a teacher at Bezalel School of Fine Arts, she soon realized that this was what she wanted to create. Together with her classmate Yirmi Pinkus, she founded Actus Tragicus, a fertile comics co-operative that has produced outstanding themed anthologies. The next book, also focusing on the theme of love, is due out later this year. They made the conscious choice to produce their work in English to appeal to both a local and international audience.

This has created problems for the forthcoming Israeli edition of Exit Wounds from publisher Am Oved; if the pages are simply flipped, as they are in Japanese comics in translation, Koby will appear to be driving on the wrong side of the road. Modan will have to redraw much of the novel. 'I actually hate drawing cars,' she says. 'So why did I make my main character a taxi driver? I finally found an old Renault that I loved drawing, but wasn’t sure whether it was realistic to use as a taxi in Tel Aviv. Then one day in Tel Aviv I was picked up by a driver in exactly this car. I went on at length about how much I loved his car. He must have thought I was crazy.'

This realistic approach is a crucial part of her technique: 'I take photographs of everything and always work from them. The imagination needs these tiny details in order to believe in the world I create.'

The influence of two significant graphic novelists is evident in Modan’s style: Hergé (Tintin) and Windsor McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland). The first is a celebrated proponent of the Ligne Claire, the clearly drawn line with no shading that represents a clear moral universe. Modan is a gifted expositor of the Ligne Claire, but the clarity of her line is set against the realistic, morally ambiguous adult world of her characters. McCay’s magical world – 'too powerful a shaping force on me simply to be called an influence' (Modan) – is the world of dreams more real than life.

In her collaboration with Etgar Keret, Nobody said it was Going to be Fu and other earlier work, 'my line was thick, almost grotesque, to reflect my subject matter.' Exit Wounds, according to Modan, reflects her maturation both as a person and an artist:

'The innocent quality of the drawings creates a haunting contrast with the content that they depict. My line holds the melodrama at bay, creates a certain distance from the events I depict for the reader to inhabit. Someone once told me something attributed to Stanislavsky that resonated for me: when the actor cries on the stage, the audience doesn’t cry. The audience can only cry when the actor refuses to.'

Similarly, Modan directs the reader’s eye to the emotional centre of each image but allows him to experience the emotion for himself. She adapts Herge’s brilliant sense of page construction using key colours to create a musical rhythm across each double spread that underscores the emotional dynamics it portrays.

Modan’s tender evocation of these characters involves us deeply in their fate leading us to an evaluation of the wounds of the society of which they are so clearly a part.

Ariel Kahn is a lecturer in creative writing at Roehampton, and currently collaborating on an exhibition of Israeli graphic artists to coincide with LJBW next year. He is also a contributor to The Jewish Graphic Novel, published by Brandeis UP next year.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




Robert Murray reviews D+Q books bought at SPX

Updated October 19, 2007


SPX 2007: A to Z Reviews
By Robert Murray

The Small Press Expo has now completed its 13th show, revealing once again that the independent comic is still alive and kicking. This year’s show was among the best I have attended, with big guests aplenty: Jeff Smith, Bill Griffith, Gilbert Hernandez, Matt Wagner, and Kim Deitch, just to name a few. Also, I was introduced to some major league talents I was unfamiliar with, such as Rutu Modan and Joshua Cotter. Yes, the Marriott Bethesda North was bursting with comic creativity this weekend, and it’s my sworn duty to present some of that magic to you. I came to the show this weekend with $400 and a mission: To buy as representative a sampling as I could of the show’s best comics. So, as I did last year, I’m pointing out SPX highlights from A to Z, only this year I’m including my personal review of each item. I will have much more detailed reviews for some of these books later. Right now, I want to give you a sampling of the show as well as an approximation of the excitement and wonder of this fast and furious convention. And now, it is my pleasure to present SPX A to Z.

A - Aya by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie:
This was an entertaining slice of African life that we rarely see in our American fiction, one filled with positive energy versus the militias and famine we’re used to viewing. The colorful world of the Ivory Coast circa 1978 is brought to vivid life thanks to the lively writing of Abouet and the cartoon-like artwork of Oubrerie (who writes children’s books for a living). In an almost Western fashion, Aya, with her friends Adjoua and Bintou, experience teenage romance, family conflicts, and goofy hi-jinks that would put a CW show to shame. The warmth of the entire package is well worth the price of admission, as is Abouet’s energy in detailing this peaceful period in the Ivory Coast’s history. Great first graphic novel by this team!

B - Big Questions #10 by Anders Nilsen:
This 41-page tale looks simple enough, but it is a complex blend of elements set within infuriating vagueness and a basically blank stage. It’s an easy enough plot at first glance: Two men are marooned near a fighter plane crash, one looking like some escaped mental patient, the other obviously the pilot of the plane. Crows watch as tensions build among the group of birds, mainly over a pile of doughnuts and loyalty to the group. Violence erupts. Yet, like much of Nilsen’s work, this description of Big Questions #10 does no justice, missing his fine panel constructions, the moments of quiet tension, and his ability to challenge readers using the simplest of lines and settings.

H - Laurence Hyde:
His woodcut graphic novel Southern Cross is presented in a fine facsimile edition by Drawn & Quarterly. This is a work of art originally published in 1951, featuring a tale completely told with 118 wordless woodcuts. It is a bold, powerful statement on war, life, and the effects of atomic bomb testing on South Pacific residents. These panels should be in an art museum somewhere!

M - Moomin: Book Two by Tove Jansson:
This is a collection of Tove Jansson’s comic strip that ran in the London Evening News during the 1950s, and are they visually clever! Moomin is a strange world that reminds me of “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” in regards to style. The simple emotions displayed on the wildly cartoonish characters are wildly expressive and affecting, carrying a mood that compares favorably with great comic strips such as Peanuts. Child-like innocence and intellectual sophistication combine to provide a witty comic that will warm your heart.

R - Rutu Modan (Exit Wounds):
Her first graphic novel is a spectacular accomplishment worthy of this high rating. Influenced by Windsor McCay and her own experiences of Tel Aviv, Modan tells a story of heartbreaking loss, redemption, and the never-ending mystery of life. The level of humanity present in the characters of Koby and Numi is staggering. This is the way you should make a dramatic graphic novel, and Modan proves here that she is an artist we will be hearing about for years to come.

X - As in x-factor, or a book that blew me away with its power and ingenuity.
This year, it was Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow by Anders Nilsen. I think this is one of the few graphic novels that has brought me to tears. Nilsen gets really personal in this book, combining real letters, photographs, and shocking illustrated pages to tell a tale of love and tragedy that has to be real. I don’t know how he gathered the strength to put this book together, but I’m glad he did, because this is probably the best memorial to Cheryl Weaver’s life that he could put together. This was, without a doubt, the most emotionally moving graphic work I have seen in a long time.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Tove Jansson
Rutu Modan
Laurence Hyde

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Southern Cross
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book Two




  EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by The National Post

Updated October 18, 2007


Question Mark
National Post
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Page: AL2
Section: Arts & Life
Byline: Ben Kaplan
Source: National Post


During the run-up to the release of 30 Days of Night, a big budget adaptation of the Steve Niles graphic novel, we asked the staff at The Beguiling, headquarters of all things cool and comic in Toronto, to give us their Top 5 picks for other graphic novels deserving of a $100-million Hollywood makeover.

5. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan "This book is about someone trying to determine if an unidentified corpse from a suicide bombing was his father or not. It would be like one of those films up for the best foreign language Oscar that everyone knows is better than whatever was up for the main award."

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by The Charlotte Observer

Updated October 18, 2007


Short Takes
GRAPHIC NOVEL
EXIT WOUNDS

By Rutu Modan
Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan makes her U.S. debut with a dramatic graphic novel that follows the unlikely pairing of an estranged son and his father's young mistress as they investigate a disappearance following a suicide bombing. "Exit Wounds" offers a glimpse into everyday life and broken family connections in today's Tel Aviv through mystery and realistic romance. There's no juicy pay off to the mystery really, but the book is left open-ended enough to pick up later and the characters are likable enough to keep readers engaged and coming back. (Drawn and Quarterly, 168 pages, $19.95.) -- Courtney Devores, for the Observer
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS, MOOMIN 2 reviewed by the NY Press

Updated October 18, 2007


COMIC TIMING
Graphic picks: from suicide bombings to Finnish hippo beasts
By Brian Heater
NEW YORK PRESS

Whether you’re into heartfelt autobiography or silly plotlines and sarcastic one-liners, the guys and gals putting out graphic novels and comic strips continue to astound in their visual versatility and intelligent insight. We check in with a few recent and upcoming releases to make sure you didn’t miss the latest and greatest the genre has to offer.

Exit Wounds
By Rutu Modan, Drawn & Quarterly
Israeli artist Rutu Modan is no Joe Sacco—and thankfully she never tries to be. Exit Wounds is more of a frank examination of human life during wartime than a frontline, bullet-dodging adrenaline rush of a book. While suicide bombings are a fact of life in Tel Aviv—as well as the catalyst that first brings the book’s protagonists together—they become just another daily challenge amongst characters dealing with life, love, abandonment and any number of other emotions that cut across national boundaries. In the end, Modan’s Exit Wounds is less concerned with ways to die than it is with what it really means to be alive.
Oct. 21, Rutu Modan will be at JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. (at 76th St.), 646-505-4444; 6, free.

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip - Book Two
By Tove Jansson, Drawn & Quarterly
The most unfortunate aspect of this second volume in the collected output of Tove Jansson’s beloved Moomin strip is the knowledge of the magic that we’ve been missing out on for decades. Following the adventures of a family of hippo-like trolls, Moomin has near-Disney status in its home of Finland, with theme parks, TV shows, museums and passenger planes erected in its image. A cursory glance at this whimsical 1954-75 strip shows why. Jansson’s opus possesses all of the warmth, wonder and whimsy of the best children’s literature. Drawn & Quarterly does the series right, with a hardbound collection that might be worthy of framing, were one not so tempted to share it with kids and adults alike.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Tove Jansson
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book Two




RUTU MODAN event blogged by Warren Peace

Updated October 18, 2007


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rutu Modan will soon be a household name, mark my words!
Ah, I don't know about that, but her book Exit Wounds is excellent. Tonight, I went into Chicago to an event featuring Ms. Modan talking about her book, and it was very informative. As befits my unprofessional nature, I neglected to bring any note-taking materials, so all of the following thoughts come from my memory. Take them with as many grains of salt as you wish.

Ms. Modan definitely showed a love of comics, talking about how she got into making them herself. She's from Israel, which she said is just about the only country on earth where neither Superman nor Tintin ever became popular. So she was fairly unfamiliar with comics until she was introduced to the underground alternative comics of the 80s, like Raw. She was especially influenced by the works of Art Spiegelman and Charles Burns, and she said that after half an hour of reading these comics, she knew that was what she wanted to do with her life. She began by self-publishing anthologies along with other Israeli artists, and Exit Wounds is her first full-length book. It came about when Drawn & Quarterly approached her to write a book-length graphic novel. She was trepidatious about the idea at first, since she had previously only done shorter works, but she accepted. She had second thoughts though, because she was worried that they were expecting an Israeli Persepolis, but D&Q's publisher Chris Oliveros assured her that she could write whatever story she liked, as long as it was uniquely Israeli, and not something that could happen just anywhere (I think she certainly succeeded on that front).

She said that the inspirations for the story were a date that she went on after which the guy never called her, and she was worried that something had happened to him. Also, she had heard reports of a bombing in which one of the victims was unidentifiable, and nobody came forward to "claim" him, making her wonder what sort of person wouldn't have anybody that missed them.

When questioned about the (non)inclusion of political material in the book, she stated that while she has political opinions (as does everybody), she does not like to include them in her work, because most people's political opinions are not very interesting (she's definitely not American!). Rather, she tries to present experiences from a particular point of view, which is something interesting that everyone has.

When asked about feminism, she stated that in fiction written by men, she thinks the main female characters tend to be "the most beautiful woman in the world". But when written by women, the most beautiful woman is usually a secondary character like the sister or best friend. She tries to present her female characters in a non-traditionally beautiful manner, as exemplified by the character of Numi in Exit Wounds.

I asked her about her influences, since she said Tintin was not popular in Israel, but her art seems to be influenced by Tintin and the European "Clear Line" style. She said that the professor who taught her about comics was Belgian, and he was from that school of art, and it was also the style that fit her best. But since comics don't have much of a history in Israel, it was remarkably freeing for her to be able to choose any direction in which to develop.

After the question-answer session, she stayed to sign books for people, breaking out her art materials. She did a nice sketch in my copy, with paints and everything, but my scanner is acting up, so I can't show it off right now. I might update tomorrow if/when I get it working.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS, SPENT and SHORTCOMINGS in the Georgia Straight

Updated October 18, 2007


Georgia Straight
October 11, 2007

Exit Wounds
(By Rutu Modan. Drawn & Quarterly, 172 pp, $21.95)
Koby Franco has a poor relationship with his father, but when his dad's girlfriend shares her fear that he's been blown up in a terrorist explosion outside Tel Aviv, Koby consents to help her solve the mystery: is his father's the one unidentified corpse? (The story comes from Israeli filmmaker David Ofek's 2003 doc No. 17.) Rutu Modan's detailed panels–filled with average people going about their affairs (why are so many comics told as though the protagonist is the only person in the world?) and conveyed in the desaturated hues of despair–speak of a country where death is a constant presence and kindnesses can't be counted on. Bonus: the ending, though not the one you might expect, is a happy one.

Shortcomings
(By Adrian Tomine. Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pp, $22.95)
Adrian Tomine is the reigning king of comic ennui, and with Shortcomings, which collects issues 9 to 11 of his Optic Nerve, he continues his wonderfully misanthropic rule. The story centres on Ben Tanaka, a typically maladjusted Tomine character with poor social skills and corrosive envy. The aimlessness of modern life, a distrust of ambition, and an interest in surveillance are all vintage, but Shortcomings is Tomine's most explicitly racial book yet, using Tanaka's relationship with a fellow Japanese American and his sexual yearnings for white women to explore issues of assimilation and self-hatred. Shortcomings isn't the happiest book you'll ever read, but it's eerily familiar, like something shared in a midnight call to your last friend on Earth. (Tomine makes a rare Vancouver appearance on November 13; for info, contact Sophia Books at 604-684-0484.)

Spent
(By Joe Matt. Drawn & Quarterly, 124 pp, $22.95)
Joe Matt returns with the latest bound collection of his ongoing series, Peepshow. Here, issues 11 to 14 document the cartoon version of Matt compulsively collecting and editing porn footage; we're treated to several pages of his alter ego lining up and dubbing just the right frames. "God help me, I don't wanna end upa sex-crazed old man, living all alone in a basement somewhere," he tells himself, but unless his–only–friends Chester Brown and Seth (real-life cartoonist buddies) can pull him out of himself, it seems he's already holding his hermit-perv destiny in his own oily hands. The clean lines and flat duo tones put Matt squarely in line with powerhouses Seth and Brown.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Spent
Shortcomings (HC)




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by The Chicago Tribune

Updated October 18, 2007


Amid the chaos, a fragile beauty blossoms
Julia Keller | CULTURAL CRITIC
October 14, 2007

For a weary world whose inhabitants always think they know what's going to happen next -- and chances are, it will be bad -- we officially recommend the following: Go stand in the woods. The day should be chilly. Not cold enough to require hairstyle-imperiling headgear or notification of probable whereabouts to your next of kin, but nippy enough to keep you attentive.

Lean forward. Cup a hand behind your ear. Now: Listen.

What you hear will be the sound beneath the sound. The surface noise -- the distant hiss of running water from a creek or a stream, the crunchy footfall of a lively squirrel -- is there, of course, but the subterranean notes are what matter. Sounds you don't quite recognize but that seem familiar, all the same. Sounds that baffle. Sounds that intrigue.

And so it is with Rutu Modan's "Exit Wounds" (Drawn & Quarterly, 2007), a graphic novel set amid the chaos and despair of the Middle East that somehow, even in that contested place, achieves a kind of radiant calm. It's a love story. But it's a love story that emerges in a region so beset by the agonies of war that simple human affection -- the ordinary, boy-meets-girl story repeated around the world about a thousand times an hour -- might seem beside the point.

In Modan's hands, it isn't. Her tale reveals the sound beneath the sound: the love that can flourish just one layer down from the blood and destruction.

"I wanted to make a story that deals with the Israeli reality as I see it," Modan said in a recent interview from her home in Sheffield, England, where she has lived for the last year with her husband and two children. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Modan, 41, is part of a new generation of comics artists who combine eccentric drawing styles with a willingness to engage intensely topical issues. The comics of old -- filled with chesty superheroes and cackling supernatural creatures -- are still around, if that's what you want, but if you want a genuine story, complete with real-seeming characters and plausible dialogue, then works such as "Exit Wounds" do the job.

"When you hear about Tel Aviv, all you hear about are dramatic and extreme events -- and it's surprising to read that it's also a place where people just decide what flavor of ice cream they want," said Modan, who will visit Chicago this week, the fourth stop on her first American book tour. "The trivial is always mixed in with life. That's what I wanted to show. I didn't want to deal with the dramatic -- I wanted to deal with real life.

"Some people say, 'This is too realistic for comics. Comics are fantasy.' But this is how I best express myself," Modan declared. "This is how I tell my story."

In "Exit Wounds," that story is about a cabdriver in Tel Aviv who finds his father may have been killed in a marketplace bombing. Koby Franco and his father weren't close; the son's search for his father's fate is motivated more by curiosity than grief. Along the way, Koby teams up with Numi, a quirky, passionate young woman whose attachment to his father is curious and unsettling. As the relationship between Koby and Numi deepens, they both must let go of old assumptions, old habits of mind.

The visual style of "Exit Wounds" is authentic, and sometimes painfully so. Koby is lumpy and dumpy, with mousy brown hair and a fondness for wrinkled sweat shirts and baggy trousers. Numi is a large woman with a prickly defensiveness about the fact that she's not supermodel material.

Still, they click, and they click in a place where that sound is usually associated with the detonation of a bomb. In fact, one of the quiet wonders of "Exit Wounds" is how thoroughly it begins to inhabit the reader's consciousness, so that after a while, a trip to the morgue to identify what may potentially be one's parent fails to seem remarkable or excruciating. It just seems like another item on a to-do list. Thus does a world of violence and rage come to appear normal, and bearable.

As a young girl, Modan hadn't been much of a comics fan. "It was boring for me. As a girl, the mainstream stuff, the superhero stuff, didn't do anything for me." In her early 20s, though, she saw Raw magazine, the legendary anthology published from 1980 to '91 that featured the provocative and genre-busting work of, among others, Art Spiegelman.

"It was a perfect combination -- telling stories with pictures," Modan recalled. "Not just superhero stories. Not just children's stories. All stories. It was like falling in love. I will always remember it."

Following art school in Jerusalem, Modan began working as an illustrator for publications such as the Israeli version of Mad magazine. She self-published graphic short stories. "The idea of a longer book -- that was in the future," she said.

The future arrived when Drawn & Quarterly, an innovative Montreal-based publisher of graphic novels, contacted her about writing and illustrating a novel. It took her two arduous years to complete "Exit Wounds," Modan recalled. "I was a magazine illustrator. I was used to making an illustration and publishing it the next day. It's so fast. This was not the same -- but it was very rewarding."

Initially, her parents winced at her decision to become an artist -- and, of all things, a comics artist -- Modan said. "The resistance came early. They are all doctors and scientists. When I went to art school, my father said, 'What a pity you didn't study plastic surgery -- with those hands!' Anything other than a doctor or a lawyer did not make him happy."

But she knew what she wanted to do: tell stories with words and pictures. She wanted to explain her world to others -- not in a narrow sociological sense, but in a larger way that encompassed daily activities as well as peak emotional moments, she said. "I didn't want to make a story to explain Israel to the United States," Modan said. Instead, her goal was to show how life is lived by real people on the streets of Tel Aviv. Sometimes, that means identifying the remains of murdered friends -- and Modan has mourned the loss of several people who died violent deaths, she has said -- and sometimes, that means eating an ice-cream cone or going for a quick, spontaneous swim.

Modan just finished a limited-run comics series for The New York Times' Web site, and she's working on an illustrated short story for an anthology. It all goes back to her discovery -- earth-shattering, mind-altering, career-solidifying -- that comics could be a channel for stories about the real world. "Comics," she declared, "changed my life."
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  RUTU MODAN in The Philadelphia City Paper

Updated October 18, 2007


ARTS . Arts Picks
Rutu Modan
Sun., Oct. 14, 2 p.m., free, Free Library, Central Branch, 1901 Vine St., 215-567-4341.
by Sam Adams
Published: Oct 10, 2007

Koby Franco is used to not having his father around. So when a young female soldier named Numi shows up at his taxi stand and tells him his long-estranged father may have been the victim of a suicide bombing, he's not quite sure what he's lost. Reluctant to give blood that might prove his link to a corpse blasted beyond recognition, he starts piecing together the last several years of his father's life, never sure if the man he's assembling bit by bit is alive or dead.

Drawn with simple strokes and a bright, soft palette, Rutu Modan's graphic novel, Exit Wounds (Drawn and Quarterly), dwells on the in-between moments of Koby's search, a personal drama unfolding silently beneath the larger turmoil of the second intifada. Even the bombing that may have killed his father is overshadowed by another, larger, bombing that took place at the same time. But Koby's life, and his evolving relationship with Numi (who turns out to have had her own equally complicated relationship with Koby's father) proceed at their own pace, winding in and out of the larger world. Perfectly melding the personal and the political, Exit Wounds creates a sense of a life lived in a time of war but never quite dominated by it.

Sun., Oct. 14, 2 p.m., free, Free Library, Central Branch, 1901 Vine St., 215-567-4341.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




Rutu Modan in The Washington City Paper

Updated October 18, 2007


Rutu Modan
Thursday, Oct. 11, at the Washington District of Columbia Jewish Community Center
By Nick Green
Posted: October 3, 2007

In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, cartoonist Rutu Modan threw the pressures facing the still-nascent Israeli comics movement in sharp relief: “People expect me to make the Middle East situation clear in my comics, but it’s something I cannot do—it’s too complicated.” Of course, the al-Aqsa Intifada looms large in Modan’s graphic novel Exit Wounds, which details an encounter between a cab driver and a female soldier and their search to uncover information about the unidentified victim of a suicide bombing. Despite Modan’s reservations about acting as a mouthpiece, her somber meditation on death, numbing violence, and identity speaks volumes about the social fallout from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Modan’s artwork, a slightly more stylized take on Belgian master Hergé’s clean line approach in his Tintin series, is expressive and eye-popping throughout. When words fail—or rather, when Modan resists igniting the narrative’s political spark—her depictions of cafes, graveyards, and street scenes create a vivid portrait of a culture that’s still alien in the eyes of the Western world. Modan discusses and signs copies of her work at 7:30 p.m. at the Washington District of Columbia’s Jewish Community Center, 1519 16th St. NW. $8. (202) 777-3250; in conjunction with the “Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival.”
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS in New Voices

Updated October 5, 2007


NEW VOICES
click here to download the PDF (160.56 KB)


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by Jog the Blog

Updated September 27, 2007


9/23/2007

Defensive Maneuvers
Exit Wounds

I've had this book, a color Drawn & Quarterly hardcover priced at $19.95, since around the time it was released. Which was over four months ago, if I recall correctly. Unfortunately, enough review-worthy comics are released these days at a fast enough clip that certain books tend to slip through my grasp, even when I like them. I just don't have enough time to adequately cover as many works as I wish I could, especially on an 'as they arrive' basis.

Still, sometimes I can catch up a little. Bookshelf-ready hardcovers are supposed to have a long life, after all, and coverage can rise again as clusters of readers discover works months after they debut in a particular market. Just in the last few weeks, Brian Michael Bendis deemed this particular book his favorite summer read and "a shoo-in for graphic novel of the year," while Jeff Lester posted a laudatory review at some website. So let me add to the revived conversation, as it is.

Initially released in 2006 by Coconino Press under the title Unknown/Sconosciuto (Unknown/Disowned), Exit Wounds is the first book-length comics project from writer/artist Rutu Modan, co-founder of the famed Actus Tragicus comics collective and a much-acclaimed figure of Israel's comics and illustration scene (more detail here). As you can see from this sample, her visual approach to the book owes a lot to the 'clear line' of Hergé, although her subject matter quickly indicates that she's appropriating the style for ironic and political effect in the tradition of artists ranging from Joost Swarte to Yves Chaland to Rian Hughes.

Note how Modan pops her foreground characters and items by setting their bold and varied colors against one or more monochrome background hues or patterns - apart from adding distinction to the primary action of each panel, this technique conveys the book's theme in purely visual terms. The democracy of lines employed by the clear line style, foreground and background equally assertive in thickness (if not blackness), insures that Modan's lightly cartooned characters inhabit the same world as her detailed environments, but the colors act as a separating force, detaching the characters (and whatever is in their immediate grasp) from their broad surroundings. And indeed, these people are broken away from the many things that make up their home.

The plot of Exit Wounds concerns Koby, a taxi driver in Tel Aviv, who is persuaded by a wealthy young woman named Numi to embark on an investigation as to the whereabouts of his absentee father. It seems that Numi, despite being a young woman fresh out of compulsory military service, had been enjoying a love affair with the old man, and now fears that he's been killed in a recent market bombing. Koby can't stand his father, and expects the irresponsible coot has pulled one of his famous disappearing acts, yet gradually finds himself more and more involved in cutting through the thatch of aloof resentment that's surrounded his life:

"I thought I would never want to see him again as long as I lived. But now I realized that I was always sure we would meet again, sometime in the distant future. We'd finish the fight we'd been having our whole lives and then he would finally apologize."

Needless to say, it's what Koby and Numi realize about themselves that forms the heart of the book. There's some obvious notions of class at play; wealthy Numi's family tries to raise her 'American,' holding the tall and eccentric girl to a supermodel's standard of beauty, leading to her falling in with a less-privileged, much older man whom she believes will treasure her.

Violence (or the threat thereof) also exists as part of that flat background; characters often confuse larger bombings with smaller ones, there's so damn many of them, and the requirement of military service stands as much as a coming-of-age marker as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Koby's family situation manages to frustrate his pride in both of them, which is part of Modan's point - the background noise that is daily violence externally represents the smashed bonds of family in Koby's and Numi's lives, so prevalent that they're easy to just accept, nonetheless causing the young folk to emotionally separate from their surroundings. The 'Exit Wounds' of the English title.

The beauty of Modan's work comes from how many variations on these themes she concocts among minor characters and small interactions. Koby's father gets around, and has left more than one lie in his wake. There's suspense in waiting to find out what's really going on, but Modan's true focus is on the curt, back-to-business manner of a cafeteria owner who lost her husband in a bombing, or a man who uses the same explosion as leverage in support of a local petition, or the quiet commonalities between diverse Koby and Numi, owing to their experiences with that elusive father of one and lover of another.

It's these personal observations that carry the book through its more formulaic moments (I don't think you need to ask if romantic tension develops between our protagonists), and imbue it with a delicate, introspective tone that calmly disarms any potential for suspense thriller resolution. Modan realizes that the structures of mystery can't afford an easy solution to her real story, though they can suggest a means of betterment. As such, the work's ambiguous finale seems fairly won, and eloquent even in its obvious symbolism and pat romantic flourish. Who can say when things might vanish, and where their absence might take us?
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  Rutu Modan in Heeb 100

Updated September 21, 2007


rutu modan
COMIC ARTIST, EXIT WOUNDS

Comic artist Rutu Modan doesn't mean to humanize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it just comes naturally. Earlier this year, the acclaimed Israeli comic artist and the former editor of the country's version of Mad Magazine published her North American graphic novel debut, Exit Wounds, to rave reviews. In panel after panel of elegantly simple drawings, she sends her characters wandering through Tel Aviv in search of a suicide bombing victim. Their emotional struggles are the story's central drama, but as the novel progresses, Modan manages to subtly illuminate the existential confusion that hangs heavy over life in a war zone. REBECCA WIENER
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




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)
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Gabrielle Bell
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Lucky (hardcover)
Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by Newsarama

Updated September 20, 2007


Exit Wounds
Written & Illustrated by Rutu Modan
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

Is it too early to pick the best comic of 2007? I hope ot, because I’m proclaiming a winner.

Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds is the sort of emotionally moving, humanely relevant and gorgeously illustrated book that should be hanging on the gateway between the “outside world” and the “comicsverse.” Koby Franco is a young Israeli who hasn’t talked to his father, Gabriel, in two years. When Numi, a young woman and soldier, seeks Koby out with information that his father may have died in a café bombing, Koby and Numi, who until recently was Gabriel’s lolita lover, set out to learn the truth – which comes in many forms.

Modan’s characters are so rich and so palpable that I dare any reader to NOT get caught up in her story. Koby and Numi are two outwardly different people pulled together by completely opposing reactions to the only common factor in their lives, and everything – the language, the bodies, the facial expressions – supports the confusion and then slowly blooming awakening, friendship and insight that each gains during Exit Wounds’ 170-some pages.

Koby and Numi’s developing friendship has plenty of missteps, a believable patter of teasing and tension, and a great assemblage of supporting players who provide obstacles, bits of mutually unknown information about dad Gabriel, and humorous complications. The odyssey of a scarf – which Numi had knitted for Gabriel – pulls out the depth of the characters emotions. It draws out anger and fear when Numi finds it with a man who’d witnessed the bombing, as it later brings comfort, and then release when the scarf finally finds its final home. And no, I won’t tell if Gabriel is alive or not – he never actually appears (except in pictures), but his presence in Koby and Numi’s lives is massive.

The flat coloring and simple cartoons support the power of the narrative. Each of Modan’s lines carries significant weight. The characters’ subtlest emotions are readily readable, but the outlines remain loose enough that it’s easy to recognize yourself or your friends in the faces of the characters. Warm, gentle colors invite the reader in, snaring the reader in a gripping family drama.

It’s a story about two people searching for a third, and it ends with each of them finding him or herself. It’s human drama, and it’s the most realized depiction of life that comics has produced this year. Exit Wounds comes with my highest recommendation.

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS, IT'S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON'T WEAKEN reviewed by the Daily Telegraph

Updated September 13, 2007


Graphic novels
Reviews by Sam Leith
28 July 2007
The Daily Telegraph

Exit Wounds
by Rutu Modan

Koby, a young taxi-driver in Tel Aviv, is approached y a stranger. She tells him that she's convinced a body, burned beyond identification in a recent suicide bombing, is that of her lover, his estranged father. Uneasily, they set out to investigate what happened. Their search, and its conclusions, surprise them both.

Rutu Modan's panels are restrained, her palette warm, her lines clean and the faces of her characters at once diagrammatic - in a sort of Julian Opie way - and expressive. The pages look simple, but the story is not. The economical-but-expressive quality of her drawing is echoed by the narrative, which intermixes political tension, private complexity, and the texture of daily life.

Exit Wounds is the real thing. Modan brings you a world entire. The final panel of this tender and strange story offers an image half-hopeful, suspended in air. A wonderful book, and beautifully published to boot.

It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken
by Seth

The hero of this "picture novella'' is called Seth. He is a cartoonist, rather depressive and neurotic, who affects round glasses and a fedora and hates modern life. He tends to push women away. He imagines that he'd have been happier in the 1940s or 1950s, but then catches himself imagining it and realises how absurd the idea is.

Seth's brushwork (or nib-work) consciously harks back to the old-style New Yorker cartoonists, and his strips are in retro-style, two-colour format with a blue tone. This tells the story of his infatuation with, and quest to find out more about, an obscure gag cartoonist called Kalo, whose style resembles his own, after spotting one of his drawings in a 1951 New Yorker.

This is classic modern comics hipster stuff: downbeat, introverted, but exquisite of its kind.
 

Featured artists

Seth
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken (PB)
Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS in The Santa Fe New Mexican

Updated September 13, 2007


PANELHEAD: IDENTITY AND TRYING TO LIVE WITH IT
BRANDON GARCIA
26 August 2007
The Santa Fe New Mexican


ONE CARTOONIST DIVES DEEP INTO QUESTION, ANOTHER SKIMS IT

The only definition of post-modernism that carries any weight with me came from a professor of mine. Modernism, she explained, is life gone awry as people lost long-held faith in institutions such as government and religion. All we had left, she said, was faith in ourselves. Post-modernism, by contrast, is identity gone awry.

You can see how shifts in identity affects characters in two recently published graphic novels, Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Drawn and Quarterly, 172 pages, $19.95) and Stop Forgetting to Remember by Peter Kuper (Crown, 208 pages, $19.95).

Modan's book is set in Tel-Aviv, a place where frequent suicide bombings can rattle or break more than nearby windows. When Kobe Franco's father goes missing after a restaurant bombing, many think he was the single unidentified victim.

As the story unfolds, Franco learns more about his estranged father through an Israeli soldier connected to him. It's strange to imagine learning about someone who is expected to be close to you from a total stranger, and it is startling to see how that affects Franco.

But in Israel, where families appear to be close-knit survivors, we see the burden that can also have. Modan seems to be saying that people are more than their parents' children and certainly more than their nationality or faith. Indeed, one parent's identity often has little to do with the life of their children.

Franco doesn't seem particularly tied to Judaism or Israel, although his faith and nation's effect upon his life also appears profound, if mundane. Modan's portrayal of a colorful, metropolitan Tel-Aviv belies a quiet soberness, the recognition that much of it can come crashing down at any point.

Likewise, her art appears intentionally two-dimensional, perhaps a way to examine Franco's limitations in life. He has no companion, drives a taxi and spends much of his time looking after elderly relatives. Franco might also represent his nation, limited by frequent violence and struggling to retain humanity under abnormal conditions.

...

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by the Savage Critic

Updated September 13, 2007


Friday, September 07, 2007
More like Chekhov's Seagull than Steven's Seagal: Jeff reviews Exit Wounds.
posted by: Jeff Lester @ 12:33 PM

Let me cut straight to the chase: Rutu Modan's EXIT WOUNDS is one of the best graphic novels I've read this year and I'm kinda surprised it hasn't gotten more online coverage. I'm trying to think why that might be--perhaps some perfect storm of unfamiliar creator, pricey packaging and lousy title? (Thanks to the miracle that is Steven Seagal, I was instantly put off by this title. Those of you working on the indy graphic novels "Fire Down Below," "Today You Die," and "Half Past Dead," take warning.) I can see why that might be the case, although it's deceptive in all particulars: Rutu Modan, although not a household name over here, has a long career over in Israel and is working at the top level of craft; although $19.95 isn't a price that encourages impulse purchasing, it's a good deal for a 172 page color hardcover; and despite the title that sounds like a generic action flick, Exit Wounds is in fact simultaneously a mystery, a romance, and a meditation on identity, both personal and cultural.

The nickel tour: Koby Franco is a taxi driver in modern-day Tel Aviv, who lives with his aunt and uncle and is estranged from his father. He and his cab are summoned to a military base where Numi, a female soldier, suggests that his father may have died in a recent suicide bombing. Although still angry with his father for any number of slights and offenses, Koby tries to check in on his father and is unable to locate him anywhere. Working with Numi while trying to discern what relationship she had with his father, Koby chases down one lead after another, trying to discover whether his father is dead or not, until finally Koby's father, like some quantum ghost, seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once.

Initially, I wanted to compare Exit Wounds to Allison Bechdel's Fun Home--not only because both novels are about protagonists struggling to come to terms with the influence of absent fathers, but because both novels are highly literary, deeply satisfying at the expert level with which they draw together their themes and motifs. But whereas the literary tradition is one of the themes of Fun Home, Exit Wounds reminds me more of the classic City of Glass in the way the theme of the novel provides the answers (or explains why there are no answers) to the novel's plot. I hate to perpetuate the snobbery outside reviewers frequently fall prey to when reviewing graphic novels in the New York Times Book Review, but I finished Exit Wounds feeling like I'd read a "real" novel. What's great is Exit Wounds is able to do this without feeling pretentious or "important": it's first and foremost an enjoyable, gripping read

That's not to say the charms of Exit Wounds is purely literary: Modan's work reminds me a bit of Hergé or Joost Swarte in the way the knowing use of color helps reinforce the solidity of the supple linework, yet also brings a depth of focus the unvarying lines might otherwise lack. (If it wasn't so sophisticated in its palette, the color would be like that of Marvel Comics from the Shooter years where, in order to make the foreground figures pop, a blob of unvarying color was laid onto the background.) Unlike Swarte or Hergé, however, Modan's faces are more crude, more broadly exaggerated, which can occasionally be detrimental--the faces can look unfinished or even badly drawn--but frequently give the work a caricaturist's vigor.

Yet, while I dug the art, it was the dialogue I most admired. As Koby and Numi spend more and more time together in the search for his father, Numi's warm-heartedness gets Koby to open up and drop his guard but it's done bit by bit, and the tone of their conversations changes mercurially from banter to arguing, from inquisitiveness to manipulation, and back again depending on how each reacts to what the other says. Even though he suggested the book's title (which, sadly, is too generic to be effective), Noah Stollman does a truly commendable job with the translation.

Writing laudable reviews can be difficult, particularly when the joy of discovering a new creator and a new work can be found, at least in some small part, in the joy of discovery itself, and I would not want to strip any of that joy from you. So I hope I've convinced you to seek out the work without marring the pleasure you'll get when you do so. I also worry about the similar dangers in overhyping a work to the point where the reader is let down when they try it for themselves. And yet, I still cannot shake my conviction that Exit Wounds is in the top echelon of graphic novels released this year, and very much worth your time and money to get a copy. It's a truly enjoyable and EXCELLENT piece of work.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by Boldtype

Updated August 29, 2007


Review
BOLDTYPE
September 2007

Despite Rutu Modan's modest style, Exit Wounds is an unmistakably cerebral work whose subtle union of graphic and textual language is leagues ahead of more well-known strips. This may come as little surprise to those already familiar with Modan's work — whether as a celebrated children's book illustrator, Israeli Mad magazine editor, or the founder of Actus Tragicus, a collective of cartoonists that has been holding down a brilliant alt-comics culture in Tel-Aviv since 1995.

The novel follows a young Israeli taxi driver, Koby Franco, in a search for his estranged father, who may or may not have been killed in a suicide bombing. Modan's vivid watercolor and innocent illustrations mitigate the darkness of her tale — engendering a universe built on an edifice of pitch-perfect visual irony. Of course, Koby's quest for the truth is totally convoluted — in particular by his grudge-steeled reluctance to look for his father at all, and by a hopeless surplus of violence so commonplace that Koby can scarcely distinguish his father's explosion from other horrific disasters. In this world, whether Koby's father is still alive is no longer the real question. To bother searching at all becomes the point.

It's clear from frame one of Modan's story that her graphic simplicity is of the best variety: that is, loaded with meaning. The book opens at 9am on a bustling Tel-Aviv morning. The foreground is a confused intersection with vibrantly inked figures moving haphazardly across a featureless gray tarmac. Behind this are two solid sheets of color: first, an intricate depot existing in an earthy wash of warm pink; then, in the distance, a cool layer of sea green, containing a geometrically complicated Modernist tower and the morning sky. Whether Modan is merely channeling a hazy metropolis waking up or something more — a tired world of layered realities and divided perspectives, governed by a precise schedule of mutability — it's a testament to what a graphic novel, at its finest, can achieve.
- Stephen Dougherty
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by E!Online

Updated August 29, 2007


Missing Links: The Mysteries of Exit Wounds
Categories: graphic novel, awesomeness
E!ONLINE
Erik Pedersen
August 28, 2007

Think The Bourne Ultimatum is the only thriller with characters you actually care about? Pick up Exit Wounds.

This terrific graphic novel by Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan combines family dramas, interrupted love affairs and the fallout from a suicide bombing into a sleek, gripping tale.

With a clean illustration style that recalls Hergé’s Tintin adventures, Modan’s streamlined narrative concerns a surly Tel Aviv taxi driver who learns that his estranged father has gone missing after a bomb blast and a strange young woman wants his help to find out what happened.

Deftly combining realistic family portraits, a compelling mystery and a vivid sense of life in modern Israel, Exit Wounds is as plausible as it is unpredictable—and it’s impossible to put down.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS, KING-CAT CLASSIX and SPENT reviewed by The Patriot News

Updated August 24, 2007


GRAPHIC LIT
Israeli artist shares her stellar new 'Wounds'
Friday, August 24, 2007
PATRIOT NEWS
Chris Mautner

Young Tel Aviv taxi driver Koby Franco is coasting through his life when a female soldier shows up by his car one day and says "We need to talk."

"Remember that suicide bombing in Hadera three weeks ago," she asks? "Remember that body that was so badly burned it couldn't be identified? Well, she says, I think it was your father."

That's the start to "Exit Wounds," the stellar new graphic novel from Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan.


The story's locale and references to terrorism suggest an overt political tome. Modan, however, wisely keeps such themes in the background, instead creating a wise and warm romantic drama.

You see, Koby has been estranged from his dad for a number of years and would prefer to keep things that way rather than risk any further disappointment. He's not eager to find out if this poor, unclaimed soul is really his father, and he knows his dad well enough to suspect that it's not.

But Numi, the female soldier, had been romantically involved with Koby's dad prior to the bombing and will not be stopped in her quest to uncover the truth.

Thus, she drags the reluctant Koby around the country, talking to eyewitnesses and digging desperately at long-shot clues. Slowly, the father's identity and whereabouts start to take shape, while Numi and Koby begin to forge a relationship of their own.

Never a household name even among the indie crowd, Modan is probably best known as a member of the Actus Tragicus, an Israeli comics collective (she's also illustrated a number of children's books). "Exit Wounds," however, pretty much establishes her as a top-tier artist worthy of notice.

Modan adopts a simple "clear line" art style with little shading or variance in width. Instead she uses flat, warm colors to suggest depth or feeling.

Warm, funny and touching, "Exit Wounds" is specific enough in its look at modern Israeli life to seem unique, but universal enough in its characters and themes to be easily recognizable. It's one of the best books you'll read this year.
Also from Drawn and Quarterly:

"King-Cat Classix" by John Porcellino, 384 pages, $29.95.

Porcellino is one of the stalwarts of the indie-comic scene, having self-published his "King-Cat" comics for almost 20 years now.


"King-Cat Classix" compiles the best of the early years in one handsome hardcover volume. The stories included here suggest a young artist attempting to find his way, trying a variety of different methods and styles before settling down into the contemplative, minimalist style he uses to great effect today.

For fans of his work, "Classix" provides a great look at Porcellino's growth and development. The uninitiated might feel a bit lost here however. For them, I would recommend tracking down "Perfect Example" instead.

"Spent" by Joe Matt, 120 pages, $19.95.

For several years now, and at a glacial pace to boot, Joe Matt has cast a devastating, caustic eye on his own life, such as it is, documenting his failed relationships, nerdy childhood and ugly personality traits in excruciating detail.

"Spent" reaches a new high (or low as the case may be) as it documents his devastating addiction to pornography.

But for a book about such a salacious subject, there's surprisingly no nudity or sex involved; Matt emphasizes dialogue instead, with lots of narrow panels of talking heads, emphasizing the claustrophobic feeling of the book.

It sounds like a depressing and dull topic for a book, but Matt is a gifted storyteller, boasting a likable, thick-lined style, and he knows how to break down a lengthy monologue into readable chunks. "Spent" might be the comic book equivalent of rubbernecking, but all the same you won't be able to tear yourself away from it.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Joe Matt
John Porcellino
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

King-Cat Classix
Exit Wounds
Spent




Rutu Modan interviewed by the BBC

Updated August 22, 2007


Rutu Modan
BBC
June 21, 07

Like many of us, Rutu Modan’s first exposure to comics was in the antiseptic limbo of a dentist’s waiting room, this early contact inspiring her to start drawing strips about her kindergarten friends. Comics were pretty thin on the ground in 70s Israel, however, and it took an exhibition of alternative titles several years later to rekindle her passion. With a group of like-minded friends, Modan founded the collective Actus Tragicus, whose publications kick-started the Israeli indie scene.

“The reaction was variable, because the culture is very crowded,” she says. “Every step you’re making is like you’re stepping on someone’s leg. At the same time, it inspired many people to start their own small publishing houses.”

After a decade of shorter works with Actus, Drawn And Quarterly commissioned Modan’s first full-length, solo graphic novel. Published here by Jonathan Cape, Exit Wounds follows Koby, an aimless Tel Aviv taxi driver who is corralled by a woman named Numi into a quest to discover whether the unidentified victim of a recent suicide bombing is actually his estranged father — Numi’s lover. It’s a subtle, naturalistic work, where characters heavy with emotional baggage move awkwardly through a Hergé-influenced world of clean lines and moody palettes. The twin inspirations are David Ofek’s documentary No. 17, about a nameless bombing victim whom nobody seemed to be missing, and Modan’s own experience of when a past boyfriend stopped phoning her and she began to wonder if he was dead.

True to this more personal hurt, Exit Wounds refuses to make any big statements about Middle Eastern unrest. Instead, from the chirpy banter of mortuary assistants to others’ resigned shrugs, the unpredictable threat of death only highlights characters’ isolation. “People build shields around them, and part of that shield is black humour. It’s like you are unreachable,” Modan says. “The people in my book are so concerned with their own problems that they don’t pay attention to people around them.”

Whilst Koby’s unresolved relationship with his dad dominates his thoughts, each of the other characters is trapped in their own sticky web of family misfortunes. “The family is like a lab for human relations. Something is very tense and extreme, and I think society is like the family on a larger scale.”

Yet Exit Wounds draws to a tentatively hopeful end, as Koby and Numi both learn to, as Modan puts it, “Stop looking for solutions, stop looking for closure. Stop looking for who is right and who is wrong and what is in the past. If there is any political statement in the book, I think this is it.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS and SPENT in The Vancouver Courier

Updated August 2, 2007


Readable Wounds details life in Tel Aviv; Graphic novel shows what's possible with comics
Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Shawn Conner


EXIT WOUNDS

By Rutu Modan

Drawn & Quarterly

Like Guy Delisle's Pyongyang, Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds is one of those graphic novels defenders of the form will immediately press upon friends, as if to say, "Look at what's possible in comics!"

In modern-day Tel Aviv, a young man named Koby Franco receives an urgent call from a female soldier named Numi. Learning his estranged father may have been a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera, Koby reluctantly joins Numi in searching for clues. Their twisty, unpredictable quest reveals as much about the two of them, and life in modern-day Israel, as it does about the missing dad.

Drawn in a clean-line, Tintin-type of style, Exit Wounds is the second graphic novel by Tel Aviv illustrator Modan, who has worked as a co-editor
of the Israeli version (who knew?) of Mad magazine. It's immensely readable, beautifully coloured, and richly detailed, but Modan's real triumph is her treatment of the characters. Complicated and moody, Numi and Koby are complete human beings, and Modan never loses sight of their likability, even when they're being complete jerks to each other.

--Shawn Conner

SPENT

By Joe Matt

Drawn & Quarterly

The back cover cartoon says it all. In a store, two fashionable young women spy a table full of hardbacks. Seeing the title Spent one of them says, "it's probably about a shopaholic who can't stop spending every last dime on clothes!" They begin flipping through a copy--only to discover it's actually a graphic novel illustrating the non-adventures of a chronic masturbator addicted to porn. "Eww! Gross!" says the brunette. "Joe Matt, wherever you are--you're the world's biggest, ugliest loser."
"Haha!" says her friend, a feathered blonde. "Let's go look at shoes!" Cut to a lonely, tearful Matt, sitting nearby, alone at his "meet the author" table.

Matt has made a name for himself in the alternative comic universe for his unflinchingly autobiographical title Peepshow, four issues of which are collected here. How much of the story is true and how much exaggerated for effect is difficult to tell, but the American expat (originally from Illinois, now in L.A., Matt was living in Toronto when the action in Peepshow/Spent takes place) sure likes to wallow in unsavory details.

He shares his pathological cheapness (he saves money on rent by living in a house with a shared bathroom), his questionable habits (he urinates in a jar to avoid said bathroom), and his hobbies (dubbing favourite scenes from porn tapes to make his own)--then whines about not having a girlfriend.

In the dedication, Matt acknowledges his debt to Robert Crumb, the original warts 'n' all comics memoirist, and Spent is certainly in the Crumb tradition of letting all psychic ills hang out. It's also vastly entertaining, beautifully rendered (Matt has a fluid, pleasing style), and is in its own way reassuring. If you think you have problems, just read Spent.

--SC

Featured artists

Joe Matt
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Spent




Christopher Allen reviews EXIT WOUNDS

Updated August 2, 2007


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Review: Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds
By Rutu Modan
Published by Drawn & Quarterly. $19.95 USD

Exit Wounds is a romance, and a welcome one. Sure, it takes place in Tel Aviv and a suicide bombing puts the plot in motion, but it's not political and doesn't strive to make any points. It's just about a thirtysomething but still angry and immature man named Koby who is confronted by a female soldier named Numi about his estranged father having gone missing. Reluctantly, Koby gets involved, perhaps subconsciously because he and his father had left things on bad terms, but also because he doesn't have much else going on in his life. As he follows leads with the willful Numi, he learns about her, his father, and ultimately, himself. Modan has a wide-appeal, clean line and her storytelling is compact and clear. The action unfolds in panels more like a TV drama than a movie--only about every twentieth panel is there silence or a pulling back to show the scenery. Modan's concern is her characters and how they relate to each other, through dialogue and gesture and how they fill their personal spaces--Numi proud and determined, Koby agitated, hunched, put-upon, woeful...and eventually her determination rubs off on him and his posture subtly changes. This graphic novel didn't tear up my hearts (sic), as a back cover blurb promised, but it's a convincing, involving love story in an unusual setting, told with intelligence and great artistic skill, and that's plenty.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS and IT'S A GOOD LIFE in The Telegraph UK

Updated August 2, 2007


Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan

Koby, a young taxi-driver in Tel Aviv, is approached by a stranger. She tells him that she's convinced a body, burned beyond identification in a recent suicide bombing, is that of her lover, his estranged father. Uneasily, they set out to investigate what happened. Their search, and its conclusions, surprise them both.

Rutu Modan's panels are restrained, her palette warm, her lines clean and the faces of her characters at once diagrammatic - in a sort of Julian Opie way - and expressive. The pages look simple, but the story is not. The economical-but-expressive quality of her drawing is echoed by the narrative, which intermixes political tension, private complexity, and the texture of daily life.

Exit Wounds is the real thing. Modan brings you a world entire. The final panel of this tender and strange story offers an image half-hopeful, suspended in air. A wonderful book, and beautifully published to boot.

It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken by Seth

The hero of this "picture novella" is called Seth. He is a cartoonist, rather depressive and neurotic, who affects round glasses and a fedora and hates modern life. He tends to push women away. He imagines that he'd have been happier in the 1940s or 1950s, but then catches himself imagining it and realises how absurd the idea is.

Seth's brushwork (or nib-work) consciously harks back to the old-style New Yorker cartoonists, and his strips are in retro-style, two-colour format with a blue tone. This tells the story of his infatuation with, and quest to find out more about, an obscure gag cartoonist called Kalo, whose style resembles his own, after spotting one of his drawings in a 1951 New Yorker.

This is classic modern comics hipster stuff: downbeat, introverted, but exquisite of its kind.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Seth
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken (PB)
Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS reviewed by Pop Matters

Updated July 31, 2007


Exit Wounds
by Rutu Modan
Drawn and Quarterly
June 2007, 168 pages, $19.95
by Bradford R. Pilcher

There is a panel in Rutu Modan’s graphic novel, Exit Wounds, that depicts a woman cleaning up a public bathroom. As she mops the tiled floors, men walk past her leaving only darkened footprints behind. The panel fixes in on the checkered tile, the woman’s mop, and the footprints. Men walk along the barren landscape, paying no mind to what they leave behind, to what must be cleaned up. They see no connection to those who must mop up behind them, ignorant to the connectedness between them, the connection etched like grout in the bathroom tiles.

The whole book can be read just this way. Tel Aviv-based Modan’s first graphic novel for an American audience is a journey amidst a disconnected people tied together by the chaos they make. The narrative plays out in all too stark a detail for its simple lines and flattened colors.

The characters are simple enough. Koby Franco is a young taxi driver, as damaged as they come by an absentee father and a dead mother. Nuni is an Israeli soldier, a bit too frumpy, a bit less beautiful than her mother would prefer. She too is damaged, by those who treat her as less than she is because she isn’t as pretty, and by the sudden end to her relationship with Koby’s father.

She is convinced he is an unidentified victim of a suicide bombing, and she finds Koby to enlist his help in identifying the remains. Thus begins the plot, which seems simple enough, but meanders instead across the scarred psyches of its protagonists and the equally scarred landscape of Israel. The conclusions reached by the end of the book are messy and painful, but that doesn’t stop Modan from creating a hopeful denouement.

It’s a bit, forgive me for saying this, Jewish of her. Or perhaps it’s a bit Israeli. To be honest, it’s hard not to read the intensely personal story of Koby and Nuni as something other than a parable for the Israeli (or Jewish) plight. That so many of the characters have been wronged is less significant than their refusal to let go of their victimhood and get on with their lives. The lesson of the parable can be summed up thusly: “How long can you wait, alone in the dark? How long can you put off living until all your unfinished business is resolved?”

Bravo there. It’s a cliché, of course, but in Modan’s hands it is rendered with such tension and sincerity that it comes across as a plea worth listening to. The unfinished business will never really be resolved, will it?

That Modan pulls off this little parable without once invoking the Arab-Israeli conflict directly is even more impressive. One panel, fleetingly tucked into a three-month montage, shows Koby apparently cursing a group of left-wing protestors against the Israeli occupation. That’s as close as the story ever gets to a Palestinian, Arab or anything remotely related to the central conflict of Israel’s history. If you’re reading Koby as symbolic of Israel’s refusal to get beyond the sins inflicted upon it, the panel becomes a subtle and clever jab. More heavy-handed storytellers wouldn’t have been able to pull off the trick.

Even the art displays the fine tension motivating the characters. It’s a colorful bombast, but rendered in flat, untextured shades and minimalist lines. You might read it as hopeful vibrancy set against a bleak reality, if you’re into such interpretations. Who’s to say if that was Modan’s intention, or just her style? The effect remains the same.

This isn’t to say the art is simple line drawing. It’s hard to go more than a couple pages without noticing a rather brilliant bit of detail emerging out of the otherwise simple images. Fans of the independent comics will be more apt to appreciate the style. Superhero followers of the cult of Marvel (or the disciples of DC) may chafe at the plain strokes of Modan’s pen. Both camps should put aside their preferences and recognize instead how effectively the art services the story in Exit Wounds.

Of course, the reader would be missing a larger point if they mistook Modan’s work as mere parable for a larger conflict. Her characters come very much alive, and in so doing, they remind us that the world is largely not about the great conflicts and large figures who animate them. As much as Koby can be seen as an archetypal victim, unable to move forward until those things inflicted upon him are resolved, he is still just a man who struggles to trust, to care. Nuni is the ugly duckling, of course, but she’s also just a girl trying to maintain a sense of dignity and pride in the face of humiliation.

That these two figures can heal each other, even a little, and find something worthwhile in each other, is enough of a story for any reader. It is, in fact, the only story that really matters in life. So kudos again must go to Modan for giving us the parable and a reminder that the parable isn’t the thing. Our cake is before us. We can eat it too.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS in The Sacramento Bee

Updated July 17, 2007


The To-Do List; Have some spare minutes and an itch for something new? Add
these items to your to-do list.
Rachel Leibrock
26 June 2007
The Sacramento Bee

Painful lessons: Tel Aviv-based graphic novelist Rutu Modan explores the concepts of family and identity in "Exit Wounds" (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95, 172 pages), which chronicles the story of Koby Franco's search for his father after learning he may have been the victim of a suicide bombing. As he tries to piece together his father's last months, Franco also discovers bits of his own history -- and possible future. Modan's art, like her writing, is technically sparse but emotionally rich.

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS in The Washington Post

Updated July 17, 2007


Media Mix
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Evan Narcisse
WASHINGTON POST

After learning that his father may have been a victim of a bombing, Tel Aviv cabdriver Koby Franco begrudgingly helps his dad's lover find out whether the elder Franco has died.

"I thought I would never want to see him again as long as I lived. But now I realized that I was always sure we would meet again sometime in the distant future."
— Koby grapples with the fact that his father may be gone

Modan's spare, affecting lines and charged dialogue add up to a tragicomic take on family and identity.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS in The Star Tribune

Updated July 17, 2007


Books: Seeking closure, finding complications
By Eric M. Hanson
Star Tribune
July 13, 2007
EXIT WOUNDS

GRAPHIC NOVEL A young cabdriver in Tel Aviv gets summoned by a young woman in army fatigues, who thinks she might know something about his absentee father.

Review: A soulful, arresting depiction of Israeli life that explores family and love against the backdrop of political violence. (Contains images and themes for a mature audience.)

In "Exit Wounds," Israeli writer and artist Rutu Modan depicts two people drawn together in contemporary Tel Aviv to investigate the "disappearance" of a single man who has led multiple, separate identities as a father, ex-husband and lover.

Shabby, aimless cabdriver Koby Franco has seen his father just five times in three years. One day while driving, he is summoned to a military station by a young woman in army fatigues who tells him she suspects his father is a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera. Something at the scene that was recorded in TV images is a clue that the father is among the dead, she tells Koby.

The woman is Numi, roughly Koby's age, tall and plain-looking. She wants Koby to get a blood test, so Koby's DNA can be compared with that of a John Doe victim from the bombing. Complications make it difficult, bringing Koby and Numi together in an investigation into the life (lives) of the man Koby and Numi think they know.

Modan's writing is nuanced. The Arab-Jewish conflict is a violent but nearly unverbalized backdrop to the small personal drama that unfolds. She leaves it to the reader to explain why Koby is so resistant to the idea that his father is dead while Numi is so insistent, gathering evidence in an attempt to bring some kind of explanatory closure to the distant man's disappearance.

Modan's drawing is both fine and lumpen. Buildings, palm trees, stoplights and the splashing of ocean water are rendered in lovely detail and brilliant color, while the faces of people are rough cartoons with dots for eyes and mouths that often are conveyed with just one simple stroke.

The combination of styles is enthralling; the story is a mysterious journey that feels weighted with genuine regret and hope, and the whole makes for a beguiling introduction (to American readers, at least) to an artist at the peak of the form.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS and SPENT in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Updated July 10, 2007


It's a cornucopia of comics for adults
By Cliff Froehlich
SPECIAL TO THE POST-DISPATCH
07/08/2007


EXIT WOUNDS:

"The narrative keeps taking surprising but believable turns, and Modan avoids both melodramatic confrontations and tidy resolutions..."

SPENT:

"Matt's work, because of his deceptively charming cartooning, looks innocent enough, but the story chronicles, with unflinching frankness, his addiction to pornography. In certain passages — an extended sequence in which three cartoonists gab at a restaurant — it can be argued that he's mimicking the numbing sameness of porno, but Matt's always funny and brilliantly self-aware."
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Joe Matt
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Spent




  EXIT WOUNDS in Maisonneuve Magazine

Updated July 3, 2007


CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN COLOUR
TEL AVIV PROVIDES THE MUTED BACKDROP TO A GRAPHIC NOVEL COLOURED BY LOVE AND LOSS.
By Deborah Ostrovsky
June 29, 2007
MAISONNEUVE MAGAZINE


"Do you think that every time we meet a person we should treat it like it was the last time we ever were going to see them?” asks Numi. A young soldier and the female protagonist of Exit Wounds—Rutu Modan's gripping debut graphic novel about love and loss in contemporary Israel—Numi is talking to Koby Franco, a Tel-Aviv taxi driver and the estranged son of her much older lover, Gabriel. The two meet for the first time when a body, burnt beyond recognition, is found at the site of a suicide bombing. So far no one has claimed it. Recognizing a scarf she knitted for Gabriel amidst the debris of the bombing's aftermath, Numi fears the worst.

What unfolds after Koby and Numi’s catalytic rendezvous is a deeply moving story about father - son relationships and reconciliation with the past: themes that hold extraordinary weight set against the backdrop of violent political conflict.

Modan's characters are drawn in bright hues, while the moodiness of their surroundings is expressed in muted browns, yellows and lilac. This contrast creates a powerful sense of distance and depth—both psychological and physical—between the characters and the political and urban landscapes of Tel-Aviv. The drawings and dialogue are often playful, infused with irony and dark humour. They also portray a startlingly candid range of emotions as Koby uncovers his father's secrets in a country where everyday life is tinged with uncertainty.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




Rutu Modan interviewed by Maisonneuve Magazine

Updated July 3, 2007


An interview with Rutu Modan
By Deborah Ostrovsky
MAISONNEUVE MAGAZINE
June 29, 2007


Maisonneuve Magazine: Tell us about comic book culture in Israel?

Rutu Modan: Actually, there is no real comic tradition in Israel. When I was growing up there were no comics at all, perhaps with the exception of a comic strip for children that advertised milk. There was some effort to translate comics like Tintin, Popeye, and Superman—and I remember reading Superman at my dentist's office as a child—but Israel is the one place in the world where Tintin and Superman were a commercial failure. In fact, I think I made comics before I read comics. By the time I was a teenager there were a few comic artists, but you can't really speak about a comic 'scene' or industry.

There was one famous comic strip artist, Dudu Geva (1950-2005), who died recently. Geva had a weekly comic strip, which was mostly influenced by the American underground comics style inspired by Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman. Geva's work was very successful.

MM: Are comics and graphic novels becoming more popular in Israel, as they have been in Europe and North America?

RM: When I started, there were no comic strips in newspapers. While I was studying in Jerusalem at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, I was looking for a job while I studied, and I published comic strips in the local newspaper, which was easy to do, as there wasn't very much competition!

During my third year at the Academy in the 90s, I had a professor from Belgium who taught a course on comic art. This was the first time that Bezalel had a course like this, and there were only six students in the class. Because this professor was from Europe he introduced us to comic artists from the Continent and many others that we had never seen or heard of before—Jacques Tardi, [Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly's] RAW magazine, Spiegelman's MAUS, Asterix, and all the alternative comics coming out at that time. It was like a culture shock for me to realize there was more than just the mainstream comic art I had been exposed to, and that comic books could be so diverse . . . they could be anything.

MM: You co-founded, along with Yirmi Pinkus, Actus Tragicus Comics Collective. Can you tell us a little bit more about why you started this collective?

RM: In Israel in 1995, Actus Tragicus started self-publishing in English and distributing our work abroad. We are all illustrators; we were already in our 30s and 40s, and established artists, and we started up with our own money. Founding a collective made it easier for us to work financially as well as fostering encouragement amongst ourselves for our artistic work.

You could say that Actus Tragicus triggered a wave of development and more international attention [for Israeli comic art], because we started attending independent festivals and events as well as having our work sold locally at the few comic bookshops in Tel-Aviv and Haifa. Before we started, large bookshops in Israel were still not selling comics, and no one was really publishing them. But now the scene is really starting and there are other groups, like Dimona Comix Group producing their own work as well.

MM: What inspired your new graphic novel, Exit Wounds?

RM: I was looking for elements of a story, and I saw this documentary film—a wonderful documentary called No. 17 (2003) by David Ofek. Ofek's film is about a suicide bombing on a bus, in which seventeen people were killed. However, only sixteen of the seventeen bodies were identified. One body was completely destroyed and could not be identified. Unfortunately, this wasn't the first time that a body had been burnt beyond recognition. What was special in this case is that no one came forward to claim it. This was unusual. Most of the time, family members get worried and come forward but in this case, no one did. The director decided to find the identity of this body and to determine whether it perhaps belonged to a foreign worker or a tourist. The film primarily revolves around this search.

Ofek put an ad in a newspaper hoping that someone would come forward and claim it. What I found really interesting, and very sad, was that a few people started calling, including a father who had completely lost contact with his son and did not know where he was. It was really sad, that it could have been his son, but that the father had lost touch for so long that he would not have even known whether he was dead or not.

Also, I remember when I was in my twenties I once dated a guy who never called me back. After a few days, I decided that he was probably dead. I couldn't understand why he hadn't called me. Eventually I called him, and of course he was still alive. But this situation was sort of like the character Numi’s situation in Exit Wounds. She preferred to believe that Gabriel, her ex-lover, was killed in the suicide bombing than that he had left her.

I also wanted Exit Wounds to be structured like a detective story, but I wanted to explore the theme of confronting death. We live with death everyday, but sometimes in extreme political situations, you cannot ignore death, or the fear of death, anymore. It has to be confronted. But you also develop ways of dealing with it, including irony and dark humour and simply closing yourself off. For example, the character Numi explains that usually when she sees footage of suicide bombings she just switches off the TV.

This happens in Israel. People close themselves off from the political situation in order to cope. But in the process of hermetically sealing yourself off, you do so—not because of a choice you make—because you just do it. Israelis don't speak much about politics. I used to, but I stopped. It feels useless. People just stop thinking about it, but as much as you try to ignore it, it increasingly becomes part of your private life.

People find ways of rationalizing things. For example, when there were small suicide attacks, less than five people or if there was an attack in the settlements (communities in territory that came under Israel's control as a result of the Six Day War in 1967), you say to yourself that it happens somewhere else, far away. You find ways to distance yourself and explain why it did not happen to you. I tried to make Exit Wounds reflect some of these aspects of life.

MM: You've mentioned elsewhere that Exit Wounds was a different experience than your previous work. What were the challenges of writing a full-length graphic novel?

RM: [Producing] Exit Wounds was completely different to writing short stories. The longest stories I had written before were thirty pages. But my approach here was obviously more like that of a novel. In a shorter story, the focus is more about the idea and the situation. But when writing Exit Wounds, I had to focus on the protagonists and what happens to them, what makes them interesting. And in terms of how long it took me to complete, it took me two years, during which I spent one day per week teaching. But I left all my freelance work to focus on the book. It was a real commitment to work and finish this one project, which required a lot of patience and dedication.

An illustrator is used to short projects. But this was great and I learned so much about writing. I also found that while you are writing you start to really feel like you get to know your protagonists, like Koby. I actually identify with him. Here is a guy who thinks he is untouchable but who really has been hurt a lot. On the other hand, Numi is sweet but she is one of those people who are used to getting things her way. She's a rich girl, and she has the traits you find in rich people—they think they deserve everything.

MM: Does your relationship to the drawings change in a longer work?

RM: Usually when I start writing, I basically know I am going to draw it. But this time, because this was such a larger project, I had to learn how to draw certain things for the book. I had to rely more on photographs of people, posters, buildings, both in order to establish continuity of the illustrations and also because there are so many frames. I also did not want certain things to get in the way. For instance, cars were an issue: I don't like drawing cars but Koby drives a cab. I found an old car, a Peugeot that I really liked to draw. However, I did not know if these types of Peugeots were used as taxis in Tel-Aviv and so I wasn't sure if using it would be realistic. I was lucky. One day I hailed a cab in Tel-Aviv and it was the Peugeot that I liked to draw. I told the cab driver that I loved his car with such enthusiasm that he thought I was crazy.

MM: Exit Wounds was first commissioned to be published in English by Drawn & Quarterly (Canada). Can you tell us about the process of modifying Exit Wounds for a translated version into Hebrew, with an alphabet that reads from right to left?

RM: I found an Israeli publisher, Am Oved. I am happy about the quality of their printing, which is important for a graphic novel. Exit Wounds was drawn for an English publication, and I wrote it in Hebrew but it was translated into English. However, in order to publish Exit Wounds in Hebrew which has an alphabet that reads left to right, I will have to flip the pages. Since the protagonist, Koby, is a taxi driver, I will have to change many of the frames so that he is not driving on the wrong side of the road.

I think there will be some other interesting—and frightening—things about publishing Exit Wounds in Israel. First because people there are familiar with all the places I describe. It's such a small place. Also, it's a story about an estranged father and son. The idea of family is very strong in Israel; it's an institution. It is very common, even as you approach your forties, to see your family frequently, and see your aunts, uncles, and have close relationships with them. Of course there are exceptions to this but the estrangement of Koby and his father in Exit Wounds is more extreme in the Israeli context.

MM: In Newsarama you describe the story of Exit Wounds as a few "parallel journeys": it is a detective story about the search for the true identity of a destroyed body after a suicide bombing. It is also about the relationship between Koby and his estranged father, Gabriel, whom he searches for with Numi, the young soldier. Isn't Exit Wounds also a love story?

RM: Yes, of course, it's mainly a love story. But I did not think I had to say it or expose this aspect of the story. One reviewer, the comic book artist Matt Madden, called Exit Wounds a 'romantic comedy'. It's true that it has the structure of a romantic comedy: Koby and Numi don't get along at first and then they gradually start falling in love during their search.

I deliberately chose to explore this theme in such an extreme atmosphere to show how all these feelings—love, anger, and romance—keep going. Your life keeps going despite the political situation. This is so, because this is how people are. Everything keeps going, and in a way this is sad and in a way it simply gives us the strength to cope with a terrible reality. You can get used to anything. You just keep moving.

MM: Exit Wounds deals with a suicide bombing, an aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which most readers are familiar with. But the story concentrates more on the effects of tragedy and loss at a personal level, not on politics. Did you deliberately refrain from talking about larger political issues?

RM: I wanted to write a story that takes the perspective of everyday life. Art is not for telling your opinions. Art is not good for this. Usually when someone tells you their opinion, it's not very interesting. But almost anyone can tell you about their personal life, and most of the time it will be interesting. I wanted to tell the truth, but I did not want to talk about my opinion of a situation that I am not capable of explaining. Not that I don't have opinions, but I did not want to share them here.

Stories and art should be truthful to life, and usually life is more complicated. And this is what I describe in my book. I also wanted to explore an aspect of personal life beyond the labels we assign to others, particularly in political situations, such as "Father", "Son", "Lover", "Soldier", "Bad" or "Good". I wanted to look beyond these one-dimensional labels, and explore how these roles become more complex.

MM: You've mentioned elsewhere that the 'goal' of Exit Wounds was not intended to 'send a message about life in Israel' but to tell a story. However, can you tell us how you think the Israeli reality affects artistic life?

RM: I think Israel is a very interesting place. It's full of tension, when you live in such an extreme situation. In some ways these extremes help you see life a little more clearly. This feeling also happened when my mother passed away a few years ago. Dealing with adversity helps you understand things.

But sometimes the political situation makes it hard, it becomes possible to doubt art's importance, something that is felt by other Israeli artists. You can start to feel 'selfish' by focusing on artistic pursuits in the face of all that is going on. I think this is true for every society. There is always some kind of pressing political situation that calls the values and motives of artistic work into question.

Usually I don't feel this way. I feel art is important, and people should do what they want. Art is a necessity. It's not just ornamentation. But it's not that I am doing what I do because other people need it. I need it.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  Comic Book Resources reviews EXIT WOUNDS

Updated June 21, 2007


So many comics clogging up the queue!
Greg Burgas
June 20th, 2007
COMIC BOOK RESOURCES

Exit Wounds

Finally (phew!) we get to a book that will probably be on my short list for best graphic novel of the year: Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, published by Drawn and Quarterly. It’s 20 dollars, but it’s excellent.

Exit Wounds tells the story of a young Israeli, Koby Franco, who drives a cab in Tel Aviv. He gets a call for a fare who turns out to be a young soldier. Her name is Numi, and she tells Koby that she thinks his father was killed in a bus station cafeteria bombing. One of the bodies was burned beyond recognition, but Numi claims she saw something that tipped her off. She’s evasive about her hunch, and Koby wants nothing to do with her. He’s estranged from his father and doesn’t care to know what he’s been doing. However, he can’t reach his father on the phone, and his apartment doesn’t appear to have been lived in for a while. So he returns to Numi, and the two begin to investigate.

As Koby and Numi try to find out what happened to Gabriel (Koby’s father), the story becomes much more than a simple mystery. It becomes a story about family and about father-son relationships, but not in a traditional way. Gabriel remains an enigmatic figure, as we learn more and more about his seemingly contradictory life. He was a poor father, but he cared about Numi. However, he also cheated on her. He “got” religion but still doesn’t contact his son. He loved a gift Numi gave him, so much that he gave it to another woman. And the question remains: is he dead? And if he’s not dead, what happened to him?

Numi and Koby go through a great deal, as well. Numi is confronted with the fact that the man she thought she loved was cheating on her. Koby has had years to come to terms with his father’s nature, but he still feels cheated when he realizes that Gabriel was closer to relative strangers than he was to his own family. Koby and Numi begin a romance, and it’s a wonderfully real courtship with all the attendant bumps in the road. Numi is not attractive, and early on, Koby reacts angrily whenever someone asks if she’s his girlfriend. She knows she’s not pretty, and this just reinforces it. Then, when she finds out Gabriel was cheating on her (with an elderly woman, no less), she becomes even more upset. Koby has come to realize how kind she is, and they have sex, but it ends awkwardly. It’s a beautiful relationship the two have, because it’s uncomfortable at times and always has the specter of his father hanging over them. In true relationship fashion, one of them does something wrong but the other is made to feel guilty. Isn’t that always the way?

I won’t ruin the ending, because the final chapter is a very nice resolution that allows Koby to put his ghosts to rest and come to some kind of understanding about his father. It also allows him to see Numi again, and the last page is a wonderful wordless summation of what it means to be in a relationship and how sometimes you just have to trust the other person. It’s an uplifting and even spiritual ending, and we realize that both Koby and Numi are free of their past with Gabriel.

Modan’s art is nice, as well. She keeps the reality of Israel and its troubles in the forefront without beating us over the head with it. These are characters who speak rather casually of bombings yet are still upset by the deaths these bombings cause. Numi and Koby are drawn wonderfully as well - Numi really is ugly, but we can see her kindness and the spark that attracts Koby to her, and when she’s happy, her face lights up. Dave Lartigue calls the art “Tintin-esque,” and that’s as good a description as I can give it. That might be strange in a book like this, but it works.

Exit Wounds is brilliant. I can’t recommend it enough.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS in The Oregonian

Updated June 18, 2007


Exit Wounds
Posted by Steve Duin
June 13, 2007
Categories: Graphic Novels
THE OREGONIAN

In Monday night's memorable dinner with Jerry Weist, Mike Britt and Dick Wald, I picked up the check ... a reality check, at least. Early in the evening, I asked these three guys -- fans of the comics' medium for 40 years or more -- if they'd read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. The best graphic novel of 2006. Time magazine's book-of-the-year.

And none of 'em had ever heard of it.

My dilemma, then, is this: If Fun Home is still unread, unappreciated, unrecognized, what's to be done with a graphic novel like Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds? A good chunk of the readers of this blog, I suspect, have yet to take the plunge on graphic novels. If they are finally ready to invest $19.95 in this uncharted territory, is Exit Wounds -- for all its merits -- where I'd suggest they begin? No. Not even close. I'd suggest Fun Home, of course, and Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville, Craig Thompson's Good-Bye, Chunky Rice, Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese and a few Alan Moore adventures, and only then, when they're familiar with the landscape, would I suggest an evening with Modan and this Drawn & Quarterly production.

Exit Wounds is the first graphic novel for Modan, a 40-year-old Israeli writer and artist who has won four Best Illustrated Children's Book awards from Jerusalem's Israel Museum. (Her March Newsarama interview is here.) As the tale opens, Koby Franco, a Tel Aviv cab driver, is approached by a female Israeli soldier named Numi, who says, "We need to talk."

"Remember that suicide bombing in Hadera three weeks ago ... The one in the bus station cafeteria? One of the ... bodies was so badly burned that they still don't know who it was. No one came to identify it. No relatives, no friends, nobody. Doesn't that seem strange to you? Someone disappears and no one gives a damn?"

Koby is stifling a yawn when Numi adds, "Anyway, it was probably your father."

How would Numi know? Well, she was sleeping with ol' Gabriel, news that Koby takes almost as well as the report of his estranged father's passing. But it isn't long before Koby and Numi hit the road, trying to determine if the reports -- make that non-reports -- of Gabriel's death are exaggerated. It's a disastrous trip. They quarrel incessantly, even as they fight to track the footprints he left in so many different gardens. All the while they are shadowed by the bittersweet uncertainty over whether they ever want to reach the road's end.

Modan presents what may be the lumpiest cast of characters ever seen in a graphic novel. Because she labors to present those characters at odd angles and in the most unflattering light, Modan and her readers must work overtime to find the interior decorating that redeems them. The effort is both exhausting and rewarding. Exit Wounds bristles with the discomforting candor and dysfunctional family drama you find in the back-page column of The New York Times' Sunday Magazine. You're on your own in deciding if that's to your taste.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  Pop Candy reviews EXIT WOUNDS and KING-CAT CLASSIX

Updated June 18, 2007


Pop Candy
By Whitney Matheson
June 14, 2007

Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95). This Tel-Aviv-set mystery comes from the award-winning female Israeli cartoonist, and I inhaled it in one sitting. Without giving too much away, it follows a guy who believes his estranged father may have been killed in a suicide bombing. He meets a woman who claims to have ties to his dad and tries to piece together what really happened.

King-Cat Classix by John Porcellino (Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95). If you're a fan of 'zines and minicomics, then you've probably come across Porcellino's King-Cat Comics and Stories, which he has been self-publishing since 1989. This thick volume collects his greatest hits from the early years, many involving sex, dreams, cats and any combination of the three. The crudely drawn comix may not serve as a master class in drawing, but that's not the point; they swell with passion and heart.
click here to read more


Featured artists

John Porcellino
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

King-Cat Classix
Exit Wounds




The National Post recommends EXIT WOUNDS

Updated June 18, 2007


THE NATIONAL POST
Saturday, June 09, 2007

THE BIG PICTURE The printed word is not the only way to tell a meaningful story. Highly topical graphic novels such as Persepolis (Pantheon; $16) by Marjane Satrapi remain some of the strongest sellers at The Beguiling books and art store in Toronto. Owner Peter Birkemoe says Israeli illustrator Rutu Modan's new book, Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly; $21.95), will be a big summer hit in this tradition. The story follows a young taxi driver in Tel Aviv as he searches for his father, who may have been killed in a suicide bomb attack. "This is one of the most subtly crafted stories I have ever read," Birkemoe says. "Her scenes on a beach perfectly capture the thrill of an impromptu ocean dip, making this ideal summer reading."
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS recommended in the National Post

Updated June 15, 2007


NATIONAL POST
June 9, 2007

BRIGHT SUN, WARM BREEZE, HOT READS
Henry James thought the words 'summer afternoon' were the most beautiful in the English language. We'd add 'book' to the mix

Brianna Goldberg
Weekend Post

Saturday, June 09, 2007

On the threshold of summer -- and as members of the publishing world gather in Toronto this weekend for their annual trade show, BookExpo Canada -- we asked booksellers across the country for their picks for the hot books this season. From lifeguard love to the inevitable Harry Potter, they put together a stellar list for those long languid days ahead.

[D+Q excerpt:]

THE BIG PICTURE

The printed word is not the only way to tell a meaningful
story. Highly topical graphic novels such as Persepolis (Pantheon; $16) by Marjane Satrapi remain some of the strongest sellers at The Beguiling books and art store in Toronto. Owner Peter Birkemoe says Israeli illustrator Rutu Modan's new book, Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly; $21.95), will be a big summer hit in this tradition. The story follows a young taxi driver in Tel Aviv as he searches for his father, who may have been killed in a suicide bomb attack. "This is one of the most subtly crafted stories I have ever read," Birkemoe says. "Her scenes on a beach perfectly capture the thrill of an impromptu ocean dip, making this ideal summer reading."

Birkemoe is also excited about Fantagraphic's re-release of early stories from Love and Rockets ($19.95) by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, which makes the series more affordable for readers looking to acquaint themselves with classics such as Maggie the Mechanic and Heartbreak Soup.

And action fans can take heart: "For a more stylish and intelligent take on the traditional escapist comic book, the super-spy genre you used to devour on summer vacation is back," Birkemoe adds. Casanova (Image Comics; $27) by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba traces the adventures of Casanova Quinn, a kind of James Bond meets Nick Fury, and sexes it up a few notches.

[article continues]

click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




SETH and RUTU MODAN in the Independent [UK]

Updated June 5, 2007


THE NEW REVIEW
It’s a weird life
Tim Martin

3 June 2007
Independent On Sunday


THE NEW REVIEW | Tim Martin finds current masters of the graphic novel tackling everyday life and death in Israel, returning to the golden age of comics in Canada and tracing the wildest imaginings of a disordered mind

It’s a good time to be writing comic books. Not only is the form finally and blessedly free of the theorising over its seriousness and validity that has persisted since the term graphic novel was coined, but it’s also a relatively young discipline, unhampered at its best by generic cliché and offering genuinely original narrative possibilities to writers willing to experiment. Publishers seem to be catching on, too; heaven knows how well these things sell, but three striking new examples demonstrate serious investment in the kind of production and design that allow a cartoonist’s art to sing.

It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken proves once again that the Canadian cartoonist Seth’s is a talent to be treasured. Like last year’s Wimbledon Green (also published, rather beautifully, by Cape) this is a quietly sardonic story about comic geekery and the bachelorish pleasures of collecting things, as well as a tribute to the golden age of comic cartooning exemplified by The New Yorker under Harold Ross. Set in the mid-1980s, in semi-rural Ontario and Toronto, it’s the story of Seth’s growing obsession with a minor cartoonist from the 1940s and 1950s called Kalo, and of the miniature quest he undertakes to establish why Kalo published so little and stopped drawing so soon.

This is an introspective, nostalgic little tale, endearingly brisk in its delineation of character and with a sly, self-condemning sense of humour – the Seth of the book is made to seem tryingly old-womanish in his habits and self-preoccupations. It’s A Good Life ... is also wonderfully designed and drawn, with Seth’s deftly stylised sepiatone drawings in the service of a genuinely astute grasp of pace and narrative. It’s a small triumph for the form.

Also from Cape is Exit Wounds, the second graphic novel from the Israeli illustrator Rutu Modan. It’s the story of Koby, a young cab driver in Tel Aviv, and Numi, the girl who contacts him to tell him that his estranged father – her lover – may have been the victim of a recent suicide bombing in Hadera. Off they go in his taxi to find out, discovering on a sequence of cross-country forays that neither of them knew the missing man, or themselves, as well as they thought.

Produced in lavish full colour, Exit Wounds is an enormously attractive book, and Modan’s striking talent for scenic arrangement, her distinctive jolie laide humans and her snappy grasp of dialogue give an absolutely cogent picture of the weirdness of life in contemporary Israel . “Look at those poor bastards,” says one character, leafing through a picture spread of bomb casualties. “Oh, they’re from the Haifa bombing,” responds the other, gloriously missing the point, “nothing to do with us.” Modan’s vision of Israel isn’t as explicitly surreal as that of her contemporary and sometime collaborator Etgar Keret, but it’s just as compelling in its portrayal of the country’s many faces, from desolate countryside to teeming city, from frontline political violence to Americanised consumer fastness. It’s an intriguing, percipient, unsentimental piece of work that deserves a decent audience.


‘It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken’ by Seth and ‘Exit Wounds’ by Rutu Modan are both published by Cape at Ł14.99. To buy discounted copies (free p&, contact Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897

Further browsing Read more about graphic novels at http://www.drawnandquarterly.com
 

Featured artists

Seth
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken (PB)
Exit Wounds




  BOOKFORUM reviews Exit Wounds

Updated June 5, 2007


June/July/August 2007
Matt Madden on Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds
By Matt Madden

Exit Wounds
by Rutu Modan
$19.95 List Price


In the graphic novel Exit Wounds, Israeli taxi driver Koby Franco finds himself on a reluctant quest to discover the fate of his estranged father after being contacted by a young female soldier who believes the elder Franco has died in a suicide bombing. Nothing is quite as it seems in this offbeat romantic comedy from Rutu Modan, one of the best artists to emerge from the vibrant Tel Aviv cartooning scene of the past decade. The story of her first booklength work moves along at a brisk clip, urged on by a series of small but jolting revelations, starting with Koby’s discovery that Numi, the awkward woman who sought him out, is his father’s girlfriend.

Modan’s art is a pleasure, her deadweight yet idiosyncratic line work dividing up fields of saturated, mottled color. In addition to the texture it gives the pages, her color acts as a powerful narrative tool, guiding us from panel to panel and signaling moods and emotions. The backgrounds often fall back in monochromatic cool blues and earthy browns, tones that are slightly muddied to suggest a sense of depth, in turn allowing the brighter hues in which the characters are drawn to stand out. These details create a powerful sense of place, economically portraying the modernist architecture and open, flat spaces of Tel Aviv and its environs.

Modan’s storytelling is likewise rich with subtle detail and nuance. The inevitable themes of politics, religion, and identity are addressed only obliquely; those looking for a grand statement on contemporary Israel are likely to be disappointed. Modan’s tack instead is to concentrate on the mundanities of life as experienced by Israelis, life beyond the familiar images of young sol- diers, peace activists, and the continual threat of violence. She reveals an Israeli daily life not unlike that in the United States—a point ironically underscored by the occasional but prominent appearance of American corporate logos throughout the book. (One of Exit Wound’s most poignant images, a makeshift shrine to the victims of a suicide bombing, is made faintly surreal by the fact that the shrine is made from an unused Coca-Cola display unit.) The appearance in the story’s margins of Romanian and Filipino immigrants also suggests a more complex societal structure than the Arab/Jew binary that typically makes its way into American media.

Yet from behind Modan’s bright colors and low-key but witty repartee emerges a rather bleak view of human relationships and of men in particular (although women, such as Numi’s status-obsessed mother, hardly escape unscathed). Most of the male characters in the book are self-centered, womanizing boors, and the few exceptions are emasculated losers like Koby’s feeble uncle Aryeh and the comically unsuspecting cuckold who greets Koby and Numi at his door wearing a flower-print apron. This depressing choice of role models seems to be what has frozen Koby in a state of bitter, prolonged adolescence, and it is his struggle to break free of this stasis, even more than Numi’s search for closure, that is the true soul and motivating force of this modest but affecting work.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS in The Observer [UK]

Updated June 5, 2007


Illustrator Rutu Modan acclaimed new book was prompted by a suicide attack in Tel Aviv - yet her fellow Israelis have yet to see it

Rachel Cooke
Sunday June 3, 2007
The Observer

Rutu Modan, an Israeli cartoonist and illustrator, was casting around for an idea for a graphic novel when she happened to see the documentary No. 17. David Ofek's 2003 film is about a suicide attack on a bus near Tel Aviv in which 17 people died; only 16 of the victims, however, were identified by the police. 'It was very striking,' she says. 'Usually, people hear about a bomb, they worry, they come forward to claim their relatives. But no one came forward to claim this one. So the director decided to try and find out who number 17 was. He put an ad in a newspaper and a few people called him. One of them was a father who didn't know where his son was. It seemed to me that this man wanted his son to have been in the attack not because he wanted him to be dead, but because he needed an answer - a solution.'

This got her thinking. It reminded her of a time before she was married, when a guy she was dating suddenly stopped calling her. 'It happens to every girl, but I couldn't understand it and, at a certain point, I thought: well, maybe he's dead.' She laughs. 'Then I called him and, of course, he wasn't dead at all. This was the beginning of the idea - of a girl who imagines that her boyfriend is dead rather than believe that he has dumped her.'

The result is Exit Wounds, the most gripping graphic novel of the year. It tells the story of Koby, a Tel Aviv taxi driver whose estranged father, Gabriel, has disappeared, and Numi, a woman who, unbeknown to him, was formerly his father's lover. Numi tries to convince Koby that Gabriel died in suicide attack in a Hadera bus station - she has seen a scarf she knitted for him in the news coverage - and, together, they set out to discover the uncomfortable truth.

The book has already been widely acclaimed. 'There's no question that Exit Wounds places Rutu Modan in the top tier of cartoonists working today,' says Joe Sacco, cartoonist of Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde. 'A story that will tear up your hearts,' says Israeli writer Etgar Keret. That Keret is praising the book is just a little ironic; Exit Wounds is not yet on sale in Israel. Commissioned first by a Canadian publisher, it was subsequently sold to Spain, Italy and Britain. But Hebrew books read right to left rather than left to right, and Modan has not yet had time to flip her drawings (some will need completely redrawing).

'If I don't, it will look as if my taxi driver is always on the wrong side of the road,' she says. 'I think that might be irritating for the Israeli reader.' Is there a comic book culture in Israel? 'Not really. It's the only country in the world where Superman was a flop.'

Modan wanted to write a book that dealt with the 'everyday matter' of death. Like Ofek's documentary, Exit Wounds is a critique of the detachment that develops in people who have given up hope of there ever being an end to violence. The novel is full of black jokes about terror and peopled with characters who have become inured to violence. In the mortuary, the gabby woman at the front desk explains that she had to bury the body that might or might not be Gabriel's quickly because eight more corpses are about to arrive.

'Another suicide bombing?' asks Koby. 'No, construction accident. Romanian workers,' she replies. 'Oh,' says Koby, flatly. Modan's point is that people adjust to fear unnervingly easily. 'After the intifada, there were attacks every day,' she says. 'You really felt the danger. But you adjusted. I remember taking my daughter to kindergarten. I was late. On the way, I met a friend who told me that terrorists had taken over Tel Aviv bus station and that there was shooting. "Oh, that's interesting," I said. "But I'm running! I'm late! I'll call you later." It's insane, your priorities. That was what I wanted to capture in this book.'

But she has also produced a luscious work of art. Her drawings are heavily influenced by Herge - 'I like the way he arranges a page; there are so many frames, but it's still so clear' - though her work is more muted; dusks are lilac, the insides of shops and cafes a buttery yellow. Has she always drawn? 'I was writing and illustrating stories from when I was five, but I never imagined that illustration could be a profession. My parents were scientists. My father was shocked when I went to art school; he wanted me to be a plastic surgeon because I had good hands.'

As well as working as an illustrator for the New Yorker and Le Monde, Modan is a co-founder of Actus Tragicus, a collective of comic artists, and she teaches at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Her books for children have won several prizes. 'I'm not a writer,' she says. 'The way I observe the world is visual. But if people describe the drawings in Exit Wounds as beautiful, they're missing the point. It's not a story with illustrations; you have to read the illustrations. The drawings are the words.'

Israel, she tells me, is an inspirational place for artists: 'It's so tense and it changes all the time.' But for the time being, she is having to learn to work in unusual peace and quiet. She is living in Sheffield, while her husband is a postgraduate at the university. She can't quite get used to it, this chance to breathe freely. 'I thought I'd be on the internet all the time, but it's nice to be so far from everything. Last summer was terrible. That stupid war [with Lebanon]. A fiasco and yet they're already talking about the next war.' She can't remember the last time the political situation felt so desperate, and Exit Wounds, for all its life and humanity, is a product of this.

'More and more, people think only about their own lives. People only demonstrate if they feel they have the power to change things. If they don't, they stay home and drink coffee. I can't represent Israelis, but I will say that I find it strange that we keep going the same way, always more violence. My book starts like a detective story: whose is this body? But, in the end, that's not what matters. In the end, it's about Koby's relationship with his father and with this girl and his ability to leave the past behind. It's political: who's right, who's wrong ... just leave it, and get on with living.'

· Exit Wounds is published by Jonathan Cape, Ł14.99. To order a copy for Ł13.99 with free UK p&p, go to observer.co.uk/bookshop or call 0870 836 0885. Rutu Modan will be speaking at the ICA, London SW1, on 15 June at 7pm (box office 0207 930 3647)
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  The Comics Reporter reviews EXIT WOUNDS

Updated June 4, 2007


June 1, 2007

CR Review: Exit Wounds

Creators: Rutu Modan
Publishing Information: Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 168 pages, June 10 2007, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1897299060 (ISBN10), 9781897299067 (ISBN13)

Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds tells the story of a young man in Tel Aviv who starts out investigating the possible death of his father by suicide bomb and ends up taking a much more nuanced but equally dramatic look at his own life and its many dissatisfactions. Getting from the first place to the second would be daunting for a work three times as long, but Modan judiciously keeps her various tools for dramatic impact in line: the story is kept at ground level and focuses on communicating an unfolding series of events, the art conveys mood within a scene and a general sense of place throughout, dialog between individuals defines their personal space, and the character work adds pathos to past discoveries. Exit Wounds is a very assured story, with very little muss or fuss that spills out along the way. It's as cohesive a statement from any artist that I've seen from comics in years.

What makes this noteworthy is that none of the lessons facing Koby Franco prove to be easy ones. Modan seems to be gently exposing the degree of general disconnect with which Franco has built a live as none of the revelations he unearths comes without underlying doubt, or implications that are as troubling in their way as the question that has just been answered. Franco is always denied a clean break. His father's removal from his life isn't cathartic. His discovery of his father's other relationships only causes him to speculate on a bigger, closer to home, mystery. Instead of creating their own space, his attempts to forge a relationship with his father's girlfriend merely reinforces the number of ways in which their bond is dependent on and informed by their older connections. It's tempting to see the story's final moment as a testament to trust, a nod in the direction of blind faith as a determinant of life's happiness. What's not entirely clear is how this decision is any different at its heart than the half-dozen or so made before it. Has Koby Franco embraced faith and trust merely become inured to the utility of expectation? Is he leaping towards something or merely allowing himself to fall?

If there's any one shortcoming to this fine, short comics novel, it's that the keenness of the psychological exploration on display far outstrips the poignancy of cultural insight provided. A lot of that comes outside in, as accrued detailed, give voice through characters and situation that exist outside of the story's firmest course. Then again, in the ways that matter most, in the uneasy critique of certainty that pervades everything, psychology and place might be one and the same.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS and AYA nominated for the Quill Awards

Updated June 4, 2007


Two D+Q titles nominated for The Quill Awards. In the graphic novel category, we have:

Exit Wounds
Rutu Modan
Drawn & Quarterly

Aya
Marguerite Abouet, illustrated by Clement Oubrerie
Drawn & Quarterly

Making Comics
Scott McCloud
HarperCollins

Ode to Kirihito
Osamu Tezuka
Vertical

Alice in Sunderland
Bryan Talbot
Dark Horse


"The Quill Awards are the only book awards to pair a populist sensibility with Hollywood-style glitz. They are the first literary prizes to reflect the tastes of all the groups that matter most in publishing--readers, booksellers and librarians.

NBC is the official broadcast partner for the The Quills. The Quill Awards are the only televised literary prizes."
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Rutu Modan
Abouet & Oubrerie

           Featured products

Aya
Exit Wounds




  KING-CAT CLASSIX and EXIT WOUNDS in Wizard

Updated May 24, 2007


WIZARD
June 2007
click here to download the PDF (450.46 KB)


Featured artists

John Porcellino
Rutu Modan

           Featured products

King-Cat Classix
Exit Wounds




Rutu Modan in Publishers Weekly

Updated May 23, 2007


Love and Death in Israelby Wil Moss,
PW Comics Week
Publishers Weekly,
5/22/2007

Rutu Modan is an award-winning Israeli cartoonist best known to North American readers for her work with Actus Tragicus, an Israeli comics collective that has had several collections published in the U.S. by Top Shelf. Now she has created her first full-length graphic novel, Exit Wounds, out in June from Drawn & Quarterly.

It's the story of Koby, a Tel Aviv cab driver trying to find out if his estranged and suddenly missing father was the victim of a suicide bombing. In his search for clues to his father's disappearance, Koby meets Numi, a young female Israeli soldier romantically involved with his father. Koby reluctantly teams up with her in an effort to find his father, and in portraying their search and budding relationship, Exit Wounds surveys the shifting nature of personal identity, love and romantic betrayal against the vividly portrayed backdrop of Israeli daily life.

Modan lives in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two children. In an interview with PWCW she discussed her jump from writing short works to creating a full-length graphic novel, the creation of Exit Wounds and the new online comics strip she is creating for the New York Times.

PW Comics Week: How did you first get interested in comics in Israel, and later in creating them?

Rutu Modan: When I grew up, there were almost no comics available in Israel. For some reason, comics were never successful in this country, so I couldn't be picky. There was one strip in a kids' magazine, encouraging kids to drink milk, which I read regularly, and in my dentist's waiting room I used to read old translated Popeye comics. I can honestly say that I started making comics before I started reading them. Inventing stories and drawing them is something that I did naturally since I was four years old. In my teens, there were already a few active Israeli cartoonists and even two or three comics artists doing mostly political stuff, which I did not understand, but felt the power of the medium anyhow.

By then I was already exposed to imported material (which was also not popular in Israel and very hard to find) such as Superman, etc., but I did not find it interesting—it was "boy stuff." It was only in art school during the late '80s that I saw [Art Spiegelman and Francois Mouly's comics anthology] RAW Magazine for the first time and it was like—boom!—I fell in love with this medium, deciding this is what I want to do in my life.

PWCW: Has the story idea for Exit Wounds been in your head for a while or was it something you came up with after Drawn & Quarterly contacted you?

RM: I was self-publishing my comics for years, so I always limited my comics to short novellas that I could afford producing. When I got the offer to create a book for Drawn & Quarterly, I was terrified at first by the fact that I needed to write a long story, a real novel. I searched for a story for a few months, actually, before starting to write it.

There is a great difference between a short novella and a long one, not just in length but also in form. The short story is based on one strong idea, usually using some kind of a punch line. In a novel the main thing is creating the protagonists, and following whatever happens to them.

PWCW: Are parts of Exit Wounds based on your own life?

RM: Not really parts, but I did use my life experiences or anecdotes, and based characters on people I know. For example, Numi. the girl, and her relationship with her mother are based on a friend I had in high school. Her mother was, like Numi's mother, a model who married a millionaire. Their daughter, my friend, turned out to look like her unattractive dad. The mother couldn't stand it. She made my friend's life miserable, made her go through plastic surgery at age 16 and forced her to marry her first boyfriend by convincing her that no other man would be interested in her since she was ugly. Her mother used to call her "Cinderella"—the Hebrew version of the name means "Dirty Girl." Numi is not at all like this girl, but I stole part of my friend's history to create Numi.

PWCW: Was your goal with this graphic novel to send a message about life in Israel or just to tell a story plain and simple?

RM: Samuel Goldwin once said, "If you have a message, send a telegram." As a reader I don't like books with "a goal," so I did not want to write one. I wanted to tell a story and try to make it interesting. However, I could only describe what I know well—the Israeli reality—so in reading Exit Wounds, I hope the reader can understand a little, at least my point of view on Israel as well as on other subjects like family relations, love, etc.

PWCW: Was it taxing writing a story that dealt with suicide bombers or were you able to distance yourself from it a little?

RM: For me writing is the opposite of distancing. It is dealing with chaos and fears. Suicide bombers are only a particular instance of a much larger-scale, terrible phenomenon called Death. I have, unfortunately, experienced the loss of close people, and it always felt sudden and brutal, even if the death was expected for a long time. The truth we try to avoid is that we all are in constant danger of death; writing the story was, partly, dealing with this notion.

PWCW: Who do you draw upon as influences, from comics and from other fields?

RM: One of my greatest influences was a pile of cartoon softcovers my mother bought when she lived in the States as a student during the '60s. Through these books I was exposed to great American cartoonists like Jimmy Hatlo [They'll Do It Every Time], Charles Schulz [Peanuts] and Charles Addams [The Addams Family].

Later, I was influenced by European comics artists like Hergé [Tintin] and American alternative comics artists like Charles Burns, Art Spiegelman and Dan Clowes. Nonetheless, I get influenced by films and literature, for example, Hitchcock movies and authors like Natalia Ginzburg [Italy] and Haruki Murakami [Japan]. Art is another resource, and in general I try to be influenced by anything good I bump into.

PWCW: What is the status of Actus Tragicus?

RM: For the last couple of years each of us worked on separate projects, not necessarily comics—I made Exit Wounds, Yirmi Pinkus wrote a novel, Batia Kolton dedicated herself to picture books—but Actus as a group is still active. During this time we kept being involved in each other's projects. We are now working on a new anthology, which will be published in September. The theme is love. We'll publish it in Israel, but since it is going to be in English, it will be distributed in North America and Europe in 2008.

PWCW: Will you be doing more solo works such as Exit Wounds now?

RM: Exit Wounds was difficult but such fun to do that I really want to start a new graphic novel immediately. Actually, I have started research and will probably start writing the script in few months. Now I am working on an illustrated column that is going to be published monthly on the New York Times Web site.

PWCW: What is the column [called "Mixed Emotions" and running each Wednesday] going to be about?

RM: It is going to be a series of six columns, personal stories combined with illustrations and comics. The first one [online now] is about my first trip to New York City. I went there with my control-freak dad and with a secret agenda: trying to find this guy who dumped me and moved to the city.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXITS WOUNDS in Entertainment Weekly

Updated May 22, 2007


THE REVIEWS: BOOKS; What's New in...Comics
TREACHEROUS SKETCHES
Tucker, Ken; Wolk, Douglas; Gopalan, Nisha; Jensen, Jeff
25 May 2007
Entertainment Weekly


EXIT WOUNDS EW PICK Rutu Modan (hardcover) A young Israeli man searches for his father, who may have died in a suicide bombing in Hadera. Along the way, he meets a soldier--a woman who'd been romantically involved with his father--and falls for her himself. For Fans of... Harvey Pekar's American Splendor comics; David Grossman's novels. Does It Deliver? Modan's elegantly simple line drawings match her dialogue, resulting in a heart-piercing, tough-minded love story. A-

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




EXIT WOUNDS on nymag.com

Updated May 22, 2007


Exclusive Comics Excerpt: ‘Exit Wounds’
The Comics Page
5/21/07
NYMAG.COM

Koby Franco, an Israeli cabdriver, picks up a soldier with a secret. Her revelation opens up a mystery involving a suicide bombing and the father he's tried to forget for years.

All week on the Comics Page, we're excerpting Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds, a gritty, stunning graphic novel set in modern-day Tel Aviv, where terror and love brush against each other every day. Exit Wounds will be published June 12 by Drawn & Quarterly.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  EXIT WOUNDS in the Library Journal

Updated May 9, 2007


LIBRARY JOURNAL
April 17, 2007



Modan, Rutu. Exit Wounds. Drawn & Quarterly. May 2007. 160p. ISBN 978-1-897299-06-7. $19.95. F

Caught up in the family taxi business in modern Tel Aviv, Koby Franco receives a peculiar dispatch to Army Spokesman Headquarters. There he meets Numi, a female soldier who has reason to believe that one of the victims of a suicide bombing of a bus station cafeteria in Hadera was Koby's father, Gabriel. Her only rationale is a glimpse on television of a handmade scarf at the attack scene that might have been Gabriel's. With the father/son relationship already estranged, Koby shrugs off the suggestion, denying the grim reality and reinforcing his apathy. Reluctantly, however, Koby joins Numi in hunting for clues that would explain more than just his father's abandoned apartment and go so far as to piece together the last months of all their lives and provide an unintended lesson in trust. Award-winning Israeli magazine and children's illustrator Modan delivers her debut with thin, controlled lines and bulky human figures that seem to be constantly moving in fluid yet lumbering anticipation of the next frame; it all recalls Winsor McCay's early animated shorts. Exit Wounds is a realistic urban mystery with engaging characters who end up being their own biggest clues. While the galley proofs are in black and white and softbound, the final version will be a full-color hardcover. A few instances of language and nudity and a sex scene that lasts for several pages make this appropriate for older teens and mature audiences. A promising debut from an author who knows how to employ emotion.—David Garza, AWBERC Lib. U.S. EPA, Cincinnati
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




The Jewish Chronicle reviews Exit Wounds

Updated March 20, 2007


Vivid pictures of violent street life
23 February 2007
The Jewish Chronicle

Brownsville, by Neil Kleid and Jake Allen, dramatises the history of Jewish gangsters in New York City from the 1920s to the 1950s. Exit Wounds, the first graphic novel from award-winning Israeli artist Rutu Modan, depicts how a bombing up-ends the life of a Tel Aviv taxi driver. Both graphic novels explore family connections, especially relationships between fathers and sons.

[D+Q excerpt:]

Rutu Modan’s book, Exit Wounds is also about families, but set in contemporary Israel. It focuses on a son’s search for his missing father.

Koby Franco is told by a female soldier that his estranged father may have been the victim of a bombing in Hadera: a body remains unclaimed and unidentified since the incident.

Moved into contacting his father after a silence of many years, Koby finds his father’s phone line disconnected and his apartment empty. As Koby then tries to discover whether or not the badly burned body could be his father, his search reveals his father’s proclivity for detachment and disappearance.

Ultimately, it changes how Koby views his father, his background, and his own identity. Modan creates a portrait of a dispersed, dysfunctional family, and, at the same time, one of modern Israel — a place where violence and political events disrupt and transform the lives of individuals.

Modan has said that Natalia Ginzburg inspired the way that she tells stories and Ginzburg’s influence is certainly evident in Exit Wounds.

This is a satisfying graphic novel of suspense and mystery containing stories of love and families, one beginning as another ends.
 

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  Rutu Modan interviewed by Newsarama

Updated March 16, 2007


RUTU MODAN ON EXIT WOUNDS
by Michael Lorah
03-08-2007

Comics are taking over the world. We’ve all seen the cultural inroads being made by American comics into pop consciousness, and the explosion of Asian comics onto the world map needs no more press. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Virgin Comics is building up the Indian presence, the European scene is as strong as ever, with trans-Atlantic hits like Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat and more, and Marjane Satrapi has even managed to land Iran on the comics map. Well, don’t look now, but Israel is making a play to get into the game.

If you’ve been paying attention, the Israeli comic scene has been lurking on the fringes of the American comic market for a few years now. Actus Tragicus, a collective of the Israeli artists Rutu Modan, Itzik Rennert, Mira Friedmann, Batia Kolton and Yirmi Pinkus, has placed several projects with Top Shelf comics, including Jetlag, Happy End, and The Actus Box: Five Graphic Novellas.

Actus co-founder Rutu Modan has also worked with writers Tamar Bergman and Etgar Keret on two well-received children’s books, and she’s won Israeli several awards, including “Young Artist of the Year” and “Best Illustrated Children’s Book.” Now she’s about to step out of the band and take the spotlight on by herself.

In her first full-length graphic novel, Modan tells of Koby Franco, a young Israeli man who receives a call from a female soldier and learns that his estranged father may have been the victim of a suicide bomber. Tackling the harsh realities of senseless death and familial destruction, Modan’s Exit Wounds promises to give readers a more personal insight into the state of modern Israel than is found on most evening newscasts.

We had the chance to speak with Modan about her story.

NRAMA: I think that most Americans know a little bit about the Israeli political landscape, but probably less so about the day-to-day culture. What sort of comic book industry and community do you have in Israel? What other types of comics are published in Israel?

Rutu Modan: In fact, there is no comics industry at all in Israel: no comics publishers and distributors, no funnies on weekends, not even translated Superman and Batman comics. There were a few publishers in the past that tried to translate Tin-Tin, Tex, etc., but it always turned out to be a commercial failure, so they stopped trying years ago. Comics fans are used to self-importing comics they like.

As for original Israeli stuff, until 15 years ago (about the time I started working) there were only three active comics artists. One of them could be described as a mainstream artist who did stuff for kids, and the other two were more influenced by the American comics of the 70s (Crumb, etc.). Doing comics and consuming comics was considered a strange, personal obsession.

This was the situation when we established Actus 11 years ago. Since then, things have changed slightly: there are a few comics shops (so far only in Tel-Aviv) and small comics events, and the scene is growing all the time. There are more people doing comics nowadays, but it is mainly fanzines or self-published Xerox comics. This is quite typical to Israeli culture—that the underground scene is bigger than the mainstream scene. Just not enough people for developing mainstream rich industries. It is the same with the music and film industries.

NRAMA: Can you tell our readers a brief preview of the story and tone of Exit Wounds?

RM: Exit Wounds describes three parallel journeys. The first is kind of a detective one: looking for the true identity of a destroyed body. The second is the story of the relationship between Koby (the main protagonist) and his missing father, which occurs mainly inside Koby's head since he has not seen his father in a couple years. The third is a journey in the Israel of today—a place were the aggressive political reality is mixing with personal life on a daily basis—meeting all kinds of characters that are affected with this reality.

NRAMA: All of your previous work that has been published in the United States has been short form, under 40 pages. Exit Wounds is over 170 pages. What compelled you to tackle such an emotionally challenging subject in such an ambitious format?

RM: Since Israeli publishers refused to publish comics books, I was self-publishing my stories for many years. So it was mainly for economic reasons that I published only short stories in anthologies with my Actus partners. When Chris Oliveros approached me to do a book for D+Q, at first I was so terrified by the new challenge I wrote to him saying I doubt if I could do it, but of course, in the end, I couldn't resist. After all, creating a "real" graphic novel was my life-long dream.

Writing and drawing 170 pages is a completely different experience than creating a short comics story. Short stories are based more on an idea and a punch line. A novel is based more on the process your characters are going through. You find yourself involved in deep relationships with the people you invented. This is very weird sometimes.
And devoting yourself to one project for such a long time is also not easy. I wasn't used to it as a comics artist or as an illustrator.

NRAMA: Has your work been published in Israel first and translated into English. Exit Wounds is being published in English first, and I’m wondering why you’re bring this book directly to the American audience?

RM: Maybe it sounds weird, but most of my comics books were all published first in English. Because of the Israeli comics market being so small (if existing at all), Actus was always publishing in English so that we could get a larger audience. Israeli comics fans are used to reading in English anyway. After awhile, when we started distributing our books and got some attention, we found it was also fun being a part of the international scene. Some of our more successful books we translated later to Hebrew.

Exit Wounds was a commissioned book by D+Q... If Chris Oliveros wouldn't have asked me, I think it would have taken me a few more years to write it. One reason, as I already mentioned, is that I couldn't publish it myself or get an Israeli publisher to invest in it. There is another reason, though: writing and drawing a graphic novel takes so much time and effort that you are alone in your studio for days and months, and you don't even know if anyone would be interested in what you are doing. Most of the time, you think they won't. It is easier to do it if you have someone who believes in you enough to publish it when you finish.

NRAMA: Your sense of color seems to be a huge element of your work. Do you always work in color, and what do you feel that you’ve been able to bring to your work through your colors?

RM: Since I have started as a newspaper comic columnist, for the first years of my career I was working almost only in black and white. When I started working in color, I struggled hard with the color concept, because I did not want color to be just a fill-in between the black lines. Color can give atmosphere of place and space, represent time and weather, and the mood of the story and characters.

In Exit Wounds, I use color to establish a new scene as well. By changing the palette at the end of every scene, I was trying to create the feeling of a "cut" in a film. New place, new time=new color system.

What I found out color cannot do, is turning a lousy composition into a better one. When the composition of the frame is not good, no bright, beautiful color combination can solve it.

NRAMA: Exit Wounds deals with the one aspect of Israeli life that everybody around the world seems to recognize. Was choosing the topic of suicide bombings and family loss intentional? Or simply unavoidable?

RM: A few years ago, suicide bombing in Israel happened on such a daily basis that I felt it could happen to me any time I went out of the house. I remember being afraid to sit in restaurants and I stopped riding buses. At the same time, being close to death made life seem clearer somehow. There was a hectic energy in the air. That is why many people like going to funerals—it makes you feel very alive.

In fact, we are all (not only Israelis) on the verge of death all our lives. We are going to die and we don't know when or how, so we pretend death is something that will never happen to us.

Every death is violent and sudden. Death is like a bomb, even when someone is dying slowly: one moment he is still there and the next second he disappears forever. I find it strange and tragic. Both my parents died from "natural causes," but for me there was nothing natural about their deaths. On the other hand, death for political reasons is a personal experience like any natural death. The loss is the same.

So, picking up the subject of suicide bombing was a personal need to deal with death surrounding us all.

The trigger for the story of Exit Wounds came from a wonderful documentary I saw called No.17 by director David Ofek. It is about a terror attack in a bus, and one of the bodies is so much destroyed that it can't be identified. Well actually, that happens a lot in bomb attacks—what is less ordinary is the fact that no one comes to claim the body. It seems to be the body of someone nobody misses. The director is trying to find the identity, so he publishes an ad in the newspaper, asking if anyone knows someone who suddenly disappeared. I remember one man shows up there who did not know where his son was for a long period (in the end, it turns out that it wasn't him after all). That made me think, there can be certain cases we would prefer to think someone is dead than to believe he just doesn't want any contact with us.

Once, years ago, I was waiting for a telephone call from a guy I dated. After four miserable days, I came to the conclusion that he must be dead or else he would have called me. (I called him. He wasn't.) Exactly like Numi, in Exit Wounds.


NRAMA: You’ve done many projects with the Actus Tragicus collective. What are the benefits of collaborating with those colleagues?

RM: We founded Actus because we realized it would be easier to print and distribute as a group than as a single artist. Easier both financially and in terms of the time and effort you spend on external work that is not making your art. It was also easier to get publicity attention as a group, and easier to promote a group than to promote yourself (which always makes you feel stupid).

As time passed, the greatest benefit of working in a group became helping each other with our individual projects during the hard process of creating. Making comics is lonesome work, and when it is finished, the last thing you want to hear is bad criticism. But when you are still in the middle of creation, and you can still fix things up, it is so helpful (even if not always pleasant to hear) to have colleagues whose work you appreciate and whose judgment you trust, to tell you where to go when you are lost. I consult my Actus friends in every phrase of my comics, from ideas through script, drawings and coloring. I know I will always get an honest but respectful answer. I am lucky to have them as friends and partners.

NRAMA: What do you feel that each of you brings to the collective Actus team?

RM: We all share a similar taste in comics and illustration, so in general we agree with each other in artistic matters. When we enter a comics shop together (usually when we're abroad) we tend to buy five copies of the same book. On this basis of agreement, the differences and disagreements make Actus more interesting and inspiring.

Yirmi Pinkus, for example, and myself are more into storytelling—we tend to like stories that have a strong storyline, and we are more into the "classic" attitude of comics being a story made of frames and speech bubbles. Batia Kolton hates balloons, because they destroy her compositions, so she finds other ways to combine text and images. She and Yirmi used to have real fights over this matter. Batia was always more avant-garde, and is always very creative and innovative. She enormously influenced my drawings and method of work. Mira Friedmann was an established cartoonist by the time the rest of us came out of art school, and is the final judge of any drawing. She's also a great help if you have problem drawing hands and feet—her expertise. Itzik takes care that we won't take ourselves too seriously—a danger for every artist. He has great sense of humor, but also is in charge of mental breakdowns of Actus' members.

NRAMA: Is it strange to have only your name attached to this book?

RM: Actually it is great. This book was such a huge effort. I worked two years like a slave, from morning till very late at night, day after day, putting my soul in it (and enjoying every minute). So seeing it finished and printed is a delight.

NRAMA: What sort of comics do you read?

RM: I like mostly alternative. My favorites are Seth, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Julie Doucet. I like the Crumb couple. Anders Nilsen is a genius, Charles Burns, Art Spiegelman—of course. I love Mark Beyer, too. Lately I have discovered R. Kikuo Johnson.

I adore the American cartoonists of the beginning-middle of the 20th century. Winsor McCay, Gluyas Williams, McManus, Webster. My parents spent the sixties in America, and my mother had a big collection of cartoon pocket-books. She was a scientist, not an artist, but she liked those books and brought them with her when she came back to Israel. I believe this collection was one of the reasons I became a cartoonist. As a child, I sat for days looking at these books again and again until they fell into pieces. Few survivors are still in my library.

My main problem is that I am detached from any major comics scene. I read what I hear about from friends or from my students, or what I see in shops when I go abroad, but this way I am exposed only to established artists. Another problem is that I read only English, so I cannot read French comics, for instance. This is very sad—I feel I miss a lot.
Lately, I started being interested in alternative Manga, like Maruo or Taniguchi.

NRAMA: What other projects are you working on, either with Actus or alone?

RM: We are now planning a new Actus anthology, to be printed this summer. The subject is love.

I am already writing notes for my next "big book." Hopefully I will start writing the script soon. But the subject is still a secret.

NRAMA: Finally, anything concerning Israel is always going to be a touchy subject for certain factions of the audience. What do you hope that readers are able to take away from Exit Wounds?

RM: In Exit Wounds I tried to express how personal lives are influenced by an aggressive political situation. To look at the situation from a humanist point of view, look through the labels we tend to put on people like "Father," "Son," "Lover," "Widow," "Terrorist." It is amazing how we see ourselves as complicated creatures but at the same time prefer to see "the other," any "other," as a stereotype: bad or good, white or black.

Then, when catastrophe comes, we say to ourselves, "Maybe I could do things differently, maybe I could compromise more." It goes the same way for personal relationships and relationships between nations. Why must we wait until after the catastrophe to understand it?

In Exit Wounds, Numi, who is not much more than a teenager, asks Koby if he thinks we can treat people who are close to us as if every time we meet them is the last one. This is a very naďve question, and of course the answer is no, but I wish we could try more.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




Booklist reviews Rutu Modan

Updated February 14, 2007


BOOKLIST
Modan, Rutu. Exit Wounds. May 2007. 160p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95

Tel Aviv cab driver Koby has been alienated from Gabriel, his father, for years when he is pulled into a search for Gabriel’s body in the wake of a bus station bombing. Koby is irritated with having to consider Gabriel again and with the strange young woman, Numi, apparently Gabriel’s paramour, who insists on Koby’s help. Time and Numi’s unabating energy for tracking induce Koby to reflect on all he doesn’t know about his father’s life, let alone his possible death. The relationship between Koby and Numi builds, as it must given their proximity and the emotional tension each brings to the search. But there are tensions other than father-son, man-woman, and romantic-pragmatic at work. Numi and Koby are of different classes, civic life in Israel is conducted with an unblinking eye for possible terrorism, and Gabriel kept many secrets that become only partially revealed. An excellent storyteller, Modan balances plot and characterization well. Meanwhile, her art is intricate enough to fully evoke physical setting and cultural context. ––Francisca Goldsmith
 

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds




  Publishers Weekly gives Exit Wounds a starred review and high praise

Updated February 14, 2007


PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Exit Wounds
Rutu Modan. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.99 (160p) ISBN 973-1-897299-06-0

*Starred* Tel Aviv-–based Modan gives American comics readers a sharp sense of Israeli life in this brilliant and moving graphic novel. The story follows Koby Franco, a young taxi driver and lost soul, as he searches for his missing father, a man who long ago left the family and may or may not have been killed in a suicide bomb attack. Assisting and prodding him is Nuni, a young soldier who was romantically involved with the missing father. Modan takes her characters across Israel and hrough a variety of different Israeli social strata as the search progresses. Along the way it becomes clear that Koby's father's identity is in flux—he leaves all those that he loves, but touches on everything it means to be an Israeli: family man, soldier, religious practitioner and, perhaps, victim. Modan is a deft and subtle storyteller, and her meditation on Israeli identity and the possibilities of love and trust (between father and son, woman and man) are finely wrought. Her loose, expressive drawing is both tremendously evocative and precise—always enhancing the plot. The stellar combination makes this one of the major graphic novels of 2007. (May)

Featured artist

Rutu Modan

           Featured product

Exit Wounds





copyright ©2010 drawn & quarterly