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Doug Wright Awards, Friday August 8th

Updated August 6, 2008


Come out to the 2008 Doug Wright Awards this Friday night in Toronto. D+Q nominees include Julie Doucet (365 Days), Joe Matt (Spent), Laurence Hyde (Southern Cross), Julie Morstad (Milk Teeth) and Chris Von Szombathy (Fire Away).

Doug Wright Awards
August 8, 7:00 pm (doors @ 6:30)
Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St
 
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Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Joe Matt
Laurence Hyde

           Featured products

Southern Cross
Spent
365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet




  SOUTHERN CROSS, WHITE RAPIDS reviewed by The Globe and Mail

Updated December 17, 2007


We always knew politics was a comic affair
In the season's harvest of graphic novels, Nathalie Atkinson finds that the personal is political (and vice versa)
NATHALIE ATKINSON
GLOBE AND MAIL
December 15, 2007

Earnest and largely political, this format had its heyday in the 1920s and '30s, usually dealing with the oppressed underclass. The one Canadian offering, Southern Cross, is from 1951, and while the concerns are different - Pacific island atom bomb tests - the earnestness remains. Great publishing minds think alike, and Drawn & Quarterly has published Southern Cross (255 pages, $27.95) in a beautiful facsimile edition, reproducing the 118 wood engravings in their original 4- by 3-inch format.


Québécois cartoonist Pascal Blanchet chronicles the creation and closing of a company town in White Rapids (Drawn & Quarterly, unpaginated, $27.95). Beginning on a snowy Montreal evening, the story settles in on the boardroom of the Shawinigan Water & Power Company in the late 1920s, with the board members casting long, ominous shadows.

To house the hydroelectric dam workers (and eventually their families), they create the town of Rapide Blanc on the St. Maurice River in northern Quebec. It's a self-contained community accessible only by train and, although it is remote, several generations lead an idyllic life there: beaches and fishing in the summer, hunting in the winter and dances all year round.

In the 1960s, when the province takes control of the dam and installs automation by way of a remote monitoring station, the town is shut down, much to the chagrin of the residents. Blanchet unfolds the story of how large resource projects affect our lives, using an amalgam of storybook and comics, with a two-tone palette of orange and brown (recalling vintage sepia photography) and in a style that progresses with the narrative from art deco to a Modernist 1950s style.

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Featured artists

Laurence Hyde
Pascal Blanchet

           Featured products

Southern Cross
White Rapids




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.
 
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Rutu Modan
Laurence Hyde

           Featured products

Exit Wounds
Southern Cross
Shortcomings (HC)




  SOUTHERN CROSS reviewed by The Honolulu Star Bulletin

Updated December 6, 2007


Graphic news
Two books take a piercing look at current events
By Burl Burlingame
HONOLULU STAR BULLETIN
November 11, 2007

That double-edged phrase "may you live in interesting times" seems, on one hand, to be aimed at artists and entrepreneurs, and on the other hand at the rest of us -- but we all benefit or suffer accordingly.

Also, an "interesting time" in the past simply becomes part of the fabric of the present, as will today's events. It's a long view, this continuum business.

Comic books and graphic stories are all about snapshots, though, slices of interpreted reality linked by the literary device called storytelling. The storytelling process is so ingrained in our psyche -- didn't Mom tell you tales when you were a toddler? -- that our brains impose storytelling conventions on random images. That's what dreaming is. More than any other medium, the graphic/comic story has stretched these embedded conventions, and mostly, we're able to go along for the ride.

And so it's interesting to look at two recently published graphic novels, both of which take a lacerating, insightful look at current events, and do so in very different styles and mediums -- and are separated by more than half a century.

"Southern Cross," by Laurence Hyde (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95), is actually a facsimile publication of Hyde's 1951 work. It is a story told entirely in woodcuts -- there was an artistic subgenre in the mid-20th century drawn to the notion of telling stories entirely through pictures, and through classical mass-production techniques like woodcutting, so that small numbers could be "printed" -- and relies on the reader (viewer?) being able to impose a story line on the sequential images. Whether it succeeds is due entirely to the graphic-narrative abilities of the artist.

Absorbing "Southern Cross" is a timeless, rather dreamlike experience. It actually takes more work than reading. The imagination has to be set in gear.

One thing is clear: Hyde's moral outrage. The book is a reaction to American atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific, and the tale concerns some prehistoric Pacific islanders caught up in this peculiarly hellish 20th-century technology. Although it doesn't end well, Hyde leaves the finish conclusionless. That is, he forces the reader to draw their own conclusions, to project their own denouement.

A Canadian artist who worked for the government film board and designed postage stamps, Hyde was hugely influenced by that crusty Yankee lefty artist Rockwell Kent -- Kent's illustrated edition of "Moby Dick" was a prized book of my youth -- and was among those dedicated artists of that era who valued their social conscience. If he had been American, Hyde would likely have created public art with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during the 1930s, works of lasting value that remind us of our duties as citizens.
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Featured artist

Laurence Hyde

           Featured product

Southern Cross




SOUTHERN CROSS in The Observer

Updated December 4, 2007


Observer Review Books Pages
The mating call of a Wessex girl...: [ GRAPHIC NOVELS ]: Posy Simmonds updates Hardy while Nick Abadzis is drawn to a high-flying dog
ROGER SABIN
25 November 2007
THE OBSERVER


ALTHOUGH MUCH has been written about the pleasures of seeing how the words and pictures interact in a comic, less has been said about other reading techniques, such as the joys of inspection - of scanning and contemplation. In today's graphic novels, detailed imagery can do more than provide a 'Where's Wally?' effect for adults, and can add layers to a narrative and help pace a story.

...

Another facet of the Cold War is covered in Laurence Hyde's Southern Cross: A Novel of the South Seas (Drawn & Quarterly pounds 18.95, pp256) , a reprint of a woodcut novel from 1951 about the testing of an atomic bomb in the Bikini Atoll. In 118 painstakingly engraved and virtually wordless pages, the idyllic life of the Polynesian islanders is shattered as they are evacuated and then have to deal with the ecological consequences of the explosion. Alas, the thousands of hours of work that must have gone into the book were wasted on a well-meaning but facile piece of agit-prop. A pretty picture of a dying fish does not a convincing polemic make.
 

Featured artist

Laurence Hyde

           Featured product

Southern Cross




  SOUTHERN CROSS reviewed by The Montreal Mirror

Updated November 23, 2007


Southen Cross
MONTREAL MIRROR
by Juliet Waters
November 11, 2007

I read too much. So every once in a while I detox my brain the way some people detox their bodies. For a week, I deprive myself of as much reading as I can: newspapers, e-mail, cereal boxes. After a week of no new ideas, I’m back in touch with friends, listening to music again, busting through household clutter, feeling the sun on my face…

It was during a reading deprivation week that I came across Southern Cross: ANovel of the South Seas by Laurence Hyde, a wordless novel told entirely in 118 wood engravings. Doing my best to maintain my regime, I skipped the introduction and started with the first exquisitely detailed etchings.

Dark clouds frame a South Seas island. Lightning cracks. A fisherman herds his small family into a grass hut. Fears are calmed; the storm passes. The sun carves deep rays into the gloom. This is how Southern Cross opens, but somehow it’s obvious that the calm after the storm is unlikely to last through the next 100 etchings.

Wood engraving is so labour intensive, it’s difficult to tell a story without making generous use of negative space. No matter how ideal the setting, darkness inevitably looms on the horizon. This explains why wood engravings tend to be used for telling dark battles between good and evil. I learned this after finishing Hyde’s deeply tragic novel, and immediately blowing off reading deprivation week so I could read Hyde’s history of the medium.

Hyde first published this book in 1951 as a response to nuclear testing in the South Pacific. (It’s been recently re-published by Drawn & Quarterly.) He turns out to be as charming a writer as he is an artist. Block books, he explains, emerged somewhere around the same time as the Gutenberg press and were ancestors to comic books. The most popular block book of all time, running into 20 editions, is an early Middle Age brochure called Ars Moriendi.

“A somewhat amusing text book (amusing only to us in the twentieth century, I can assure you) on how to die in a proper state of grace, made because priests, who usually officiated at the bedside, were so terribly overworked during the great plague years of the Middle Ages that the stricken had to usher themselves out of this world and into the next.”

More lightly amusing is Hyde’s anecdote of trying to get Southern Cross published. “Soon the chief editor came bounding out... ‘After glancing through your book,’ he barked, ‘I gather it is made up entirely of pictures. I can assure you that Mr. K—would look askance at any substitute for the written word.’” Hyde assures us with wry indignation, “This is meant to be no substitute for the written word. Indeed no more difficult way of telling a story could be found, I am sure, than by cutting it out on little individual blocks of wood. Take it from me.”

If fear of words being replaced by illustrations sounds bizarre, consider the fame (at the time) of Rockwell Kent, who writes an introduction to Southern Cross. An illustrated Random House edition of Moby Dick had to be recalled because Kent’s name was so prominently featured, they forgot to include Herman Melville’s. In fact, Moby Dick was a largely forgotten novel until Kent’s illustrations brought it back into print.

At its heart, Southern Cross is a story about tension between technologies. The overt story is the one between nuclear technology and simple rural technology. Reading it today, it serves as a poignant reminder of how poorly we’ve progressed in protecting nature from modern technology. But reading between the novel’s beautiful lines, there’s another story: the tension between visual representation and the written word. It’s a tension that’s been going on for longer than we realize. And that will, hopefully, continue for longer than we will.

Southern Cross: A Novel of the South Seas
by Laurence Hyde, Drawn & Quarterly,
HC, 259PP, $24.95


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Featured artist

Laurence Hyde

           Featured product

Southern Cross




WHITE RAPIDS, SOUTHERN CROSS in The Vancouver Courier

Updated November 16, 2007


VANCOUVER COURIER
More than meets the eye in latest batch of graphic novels; Quebec company towns, atomic bomb test fallout, post-Rapture sinners
Friday, November 9, 2007
Byline: Shawn Conner
WHITE RAPIDS
SOUTHERN CROSS


Drawn & Quarterly has earned a reputation as one of the world's most innovative comics publishers. Both of these recent selections not only uphold the Montreal company's well-earned status, but the books also demonstrate the wide range of storytelling options that vaguely fall under the loosely defined term "graphic novels."

With a minimum of words, White Rapids depicts an all-but-forgotten (at least by Western Canada) piece of Quebec history. In 1928, the Shawinigan Water and Power Company decided to erect the Rapide Blanc power plant on the St. Maurice River. To entice workers to the area, accessible only by rail, the private utility commissioned a town "on par with Montreal's most stylish neighbourhoods."

The rapid rise of the town, and its eventual obsolescence that follows with the nationalization of power, is the subject of White Rapids. It's a basic enough story, but the way in which 27-year-old Quebec artist Pascal Blanchet tells it is astonishing. In sepia browns and rusty oranges, with Art Deco shapes and '50s Modernist design, each page looks as though it could be the cover of a classic jazz album. The images are strikingly inventive, and so is Blanchet's integration of text with pictures--he incorporates narration to look like a movie's end credits, and puts the words in unobtrusive spaces like the back of a motorcycle jacket or the side of a desk. White Rapids has both humour--for instance, in the form of "the General," a legendary local pike that defies all attempts to catch him--and heartbreak amidst its gorgeous array of pictures. Blanchet's first book, La Fugue, won a 2005 award for best Quebec comic of the year, and White Rapids should have no trouble reaping similar awards for 2007.

If White Rapids has a problem, it's that the main character is the town, and lacks a human protagonist to carry the story through. That's not the case with Southern Cross, a narrative in woodcuts originally published in 1951. Outraged at the U.S. army's post-war testing of atomic bombs, Laurence Hyde took tools in hand to craft a depiction of its human toll. The tale is completely wordless, but the stark beauty of Hyde's work and his clearcut (pardon the pun) storytelling simply and effectively conveys the tragic complications that follow when American troops clear the inhabitants of a Pacific idyll from their island. This is a long-forgotten gem of a work, and deserves its second life. One caveat: avoid, if you can, artist Rockwell Kent's spoiler-filled introduction.
 

Featured artists

Laurence Hyde
Pascal Blanchet

           Featured products

Southern Cross
White Rapids




  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.
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Featured artists

Tove Jansson
Rutu Modan
Laurence Hyde

           Featured products

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




SOUTHERN CROSS reviewed by Art Blog By Bob

Updated October 18, 2007


Wednesday, October 10, 2007
The Destruction of Paradise
ART BLOG BY BOB

When the United States began testing nuclear weapons in 1946 on the Bikini Atoll, the artist Laurence Hyde saw it as “a microcosm of the world-to-be if civilized humanity, for the last time, failed to live up to its name. It would appear that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not enough.” Inspired to do something through his woodcut art, Hyde worked from 1948 through 1951 on the series of woodcuts that became the wordless graphic novel, Southern Cross, which Drawn & Quarterly now reissued in a beautiful facsimile edition of the original 1951 hardback. Hyde’s work literally explodes off of the page, most graphically, of course, in his rendition of the detonation itself (above), but also emotionally in his simple story of a native family displaced and ultimately destroyed by the invading force that uses their island paradise as a testing ground for nuclear death.

Born in England in 1914, Hyde moved to Canada in 1926 and studied the art of woodcut legends such as Lynd Ward and Rockwell Kent, who also provided an introduction to Southern Cross reproduced in this new edition. Hyde’s art shows the same transcendent, almost Transcendental link with nature that Kent’s best images do. While setting the stage before the introduction of the invaders, Hyde presents life on the island as a harmonious paradise stretching beyond the land to the depths of the surrounding sea. These breathtaking marine life pictures teem with detail and vibrancy. You almost feel the currents surrounding the shark (above) as it coexists with the other sea creatures, a peaceable kingdom beneath the waves.

Hyde offers one last image of spiritual calm in the fireside dance and celebration of the natives (above) before the search planes zoom overhead and the landing crafts mount upon the beaches. One tragically beautiful woodcut shows the spiky silhouette of a battleship disrupting the natural lines of the horizon at sunrise. The “family values” and heartfelt communal religion of the natives contrast starkly with the disingenuous soldiers who assist in the relocation and bring the brutish side of civilization to the allegedly uncivilized islanders. Hyde achieves wonderfully effective textures in his woodcuts, mimicking even coarse chest hair on one drunken sailor, portraying him as more animal than man. A fight between this drunken sailor and one native defending his wife throbs with intensity as Hyde uses unusual cropping and angles to generate a sense of chaos, confusion, and ultimately death. Drawn & Quarterly’s facsimile edition beautifully bound in simple black and red and printed on heavy stock engenders a seriousness to the book in keeping with its subject. Just by looking at and picking up Southern Cross, you know it’s important.

The native husband and father takes his wife and child away, hiding from the military as the evacuation concludes. Hyde carves their faces like a new Adam and Eve cast from Eden. We see the navy then lower the bomb to the ocean floor, which Hyde juxtaposes with an image of the sword of Damocles dangling perilously by a thread—a symbol of the threat of annihilation facing both the island family and those toying with weapons of mass destruction. After the bomb explodes, the father and then the mother die (above). “The child alone survives,” Kent writes in his introduction. “God only knows his fate.” Hyde leaves the door open as to that child’s fate, symbolizing the uncertain future in a world gone mad with the potential to destroy.

Southern Cross silently tells a timeless story of innocence stolen and paradise lost. Hyde’s images speak eloquently where mere words fail. Kent comes close to stating in words Hyde’s message: “The old remember peace. The children of today, the young, the middle-aged, know only war. We live in fear. And living so, we act as frightened people will: We shut our eyes.” Hyde calls for all people to open their eyes and fully recognize the futility of war and their responsibility to thwart those who pursue war. Although half a century old, Laurence Hyde’s Southern Cross seems timely today in its call to fear nothing but fear itself and to find the courage to live with rather than to destroy one another.
 
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Featured artist

Laurence Hyde

           Featured product

Southern Cross




  SOUTHERN CROSS on Newsarama.com

Updated June 18, 2007


THE HISTORY OF SOUTHERN CROSS
by Michael C Lorah

In August 1945, the United States of America ended the Pacific-rim portion of World War II by dropping atomic warheads on the Japanese cities Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Nearly 160,000 people were killed instantly by the two attacks, and countless hundreds of thousands more died and suffered in the bombs’ aftermath.

In the years following the holocaust, spurred by the Cold War with the USSR, the United States continued to develop atomic weapons, frequently testing the explosive power of the weapons on miniscule southern Pacific islands. 1963’s Partial Test Ban Treaty finally limited atomic testing to underground trials.

Laurence Hyde is well known in Canada and throughout the world for his woodcut illustrations, his work with the National Film Board of Canada and designing many of Canada’s postage stamps in the middle part of the 20th century. Hyde, furious with the death toll in Japan and the continued proliferation of atomic weapons, crafted 108 woodcut illustrations to show the quality of life enjoyed by the civilizations who lived innocently in the south seas of the Pacific region.

That was 1951. Fifty-six years later, two decades after its author’s passing, Hyde’s political and social work is being brought back to the public, with a new facsimile edition from Drawn & Quarterly.

We asked Chris Oliveros, Drawn & Quarterly’s publisher, about it.

NRAMA: Chris, how did you discover Southern Cross: A Novel of the South Seas?

Chris Oliveros: Peter Birkemoe, owner of the great Toronto comic store The Beguiling, heard that we were interested in publishing facsimile editions of early 20th century woodcut novels. He happened to have a copy of the original 1951 edition of Southern Cross, and he sent a copy to me. The book, of course, is beautiful, and I immediately started to inquire about the rights to reprint it.

NRAMA: And how did D+Q obtain the rights to reprint it?

CO: We discovered that the material itself is now public domain, however we still sought out contact with the artist’s family. David Beronä (the woodcut novel historian and author of the introduction to our edition) tracked down Laurence Hyde’s son, who is living today in Ottawa, Canada.

NRAMA: I saw that Southern Cross is also going to be a part of Firefly Books’ edition of Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels, coming in September. Is there a potential conflict there?

CO: No, I contacted the editor of that book and we came to an agreement. It sounds like their treatment of the book will be somewhat different and to a degree both of our companies have different markets. But it is a pretty funny coincidence that after 56 years two publishers decided to publish it within a month of each other.

NRAMA: The odds are unlikely to say the least! Laurence Hyde had a very full life as an illustrator – with woodcut books, his nearly three-decade association with the National Film Board of Canada, and apparently even designing postage stamps for the Canadian Postal System. He passed away in 1987, but there are two essays that he wrote in this edition, correct? Were they part of the original book?

CO: Yes, the original book is presented here in its entirety, including those two essays.

NRAMA: Hyde was very critical of the United States’ decision to continue atomic bomb testing in the south pacific. Does the book tackle this dissatisfaction from a political angle, a humanistic one, or some other manner? And it’s obviously an important historical work, a commentary on the society and politics of the time, and that alone gives it plenty of value, but do you feel that Southern Cross has relevance to today’s readers?

CO: The book is a very powerful political statement, and it remains as relevant and timely today as it was when it was first published over a half century ago. Artistically it is an important work because it precedes literary graphic novels by about three decades. In both its content and approach, it is as current and timeless as the best work being produced today.

NRAMA: There is also a description of the woodcut process included in this edition. Woodcut is a relatively unusual illustrative style, and only a few comics artists use it. Can you give a short preview of how challenging the working process is?

CO: Each woodcut image is very labor-intensive, so one of the reasons why the woodcut novel never became very viable is that each book would likely have taken years to produce. If readers want to find a good example of a contemporary artist working with woodcut, wordless novels I would highly recommend Eric Drooker, whose books Blood Song and Flood! are excellent examples of this approach.

NRAMA: I’d second those recommendations. Did you have any problems finding useable artwork for the creation of this volume?

CO: According to Hyde’s son, the artwork no longer exists so we had to scan directly from the book. However, we are getting near-perfect results and I’m confident it will look almost as good as the original.

NRAMA: It’s described as a facsimile of the original printing, but it also has a new introduction by David A. Beronä. How close is it to Hyde’s original book? How does it compare in cover, dimensions, printing quality?

CO: With the exception of Beronä’s added introduction and a flap around the cover (which can be removed), everything else is the same.

NRAMA: This is yet another early graphic novel from the middle part of the 20th century. How exciting is it for you to be a part of preserving this part of comics’ legacy?

CO: D+Q is very proud to be re-introducing some of the very best comics and graphic work from this period. Other comic strip collections and facsimile artbooks we have published in recent years include Frank King’s Walt & Skeezix, Clare Briggs’ Oh Skin-nay!, and Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip.
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Featured artist

Laurence Hyde

           Featured product

Southern Cross





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