It was safer to put your head down

Named for the suburb of southwestern Sydney, Australia, where his family settled after having fled their war-torn homeland of Vietnam, a black and white autobiographical comic from Matt Huynh called “Cabramatta” draws on the artist’s experience as the son of refugees and a childhood spent near an open-air drug market.

Pencil and paper, drawing and writing

At PRINT magazine, Steven Heller talks to Washington University American Culture Studies professor and illustrator DB Dowd, whose ongoing illustrated journal of graphic nonfiction Spartan Holiday has just seen the publication of its third issue.

From Heller:

This is #3 of Spartan Holiday. What is your rationale for these “zines”? And why is it Spartan?

Above all, drawing is a kind of sense-making for me, a strategy to remain sane. As you have plainly noticed, judging from some of your recent posts, we are living through a plague of bad faith. What is true? What can I be sure of? I can use my senses. The observed world has come to seem quite urgent. Listen. Look. Make marks. Describe first, interpret second. That’s what’s “Spartan” about the “holiday.” Pencil and paper. Drawing and writing.

As for the zine itself, the fact that I am a writer and curious about other places guarantees me interesting subjects to report on. So I go here and there, near or far, and take on the role of correspondent, both verbal and visual. (I am also interested in visual journalism for publications. Trials, conventions, sports, day-in-the-life, etc. Spartan is proof-of-concept in certain respects.)

Spartan Holiday‘s third issue is focused on France: As Dowd writes at his blog, “French Lesson tells the story of a visit to Paris, woven into a reflection on Massillon, Ohio, the town I grew up in.”

Read Heller’s interview with Dowd at PRINT. Buy Spartan Holiday.


A notorious mind-weirding origin story

Cultural journalist, author, and all-around nice guy Jesse Jarnow has a new column at Aquarium Drunkard—in its debut installment, he has some characteristically smart stuff to say about cartoonist Brian Blomerth and his vibrant graphic novel Bicycle Day:

The most accessible of the new batch of psychedelic books–and surely the most gleeful–is Brian Blomerth’s Bicycle Day (Anthology Editions, $30.00). A gorgeous graphic novel, it depicts the most notorious mind-weirding origin story of them all—Albert Hofmann’s 1943 lab accident that unleashed a world-changing technicolor superpower. Blomerth’s rendering Hofmann’s invention of LSD in Basel, Switzerland in the years surrounding World War II is lush and overflowing, a welcoming color-swirl that will almost surely beckon repeat dives. A stunning visual rendering of Hofmann’s discovery, Bicycle Day winks to R. Crumb, Yellow Submarine, the Grateful Dead, and numerous comix conventions, unfortunately including a hyper-buxom depiction of Hofmann’s assistant, Susi Ramstein, the first woman to take LSD.

Read Jarnow’s whole column here. And as Jesse and I share a great deal of common interests, I reviewed Blomerth’s new comic for The Los Angeles Times in June.

Sue Coe’s incisive political art

Activist and graphic artist Sue Coe has been producing some fierce political art for The Nation magazine. Last year, I wrote about a solo exhibition of hers at Long Island City’s MoMA PS1 that encompassed prints, newspaper illustrations, large-scale collage works, and more aimed at a number of ills, each demonstrative of the social reform element long at the center of Coe’s work. Visit her archive at The Nation.

sue coe political art

Image © 2019 Sue Coe via The Nation. Visit Sue Coe’s website.