Whirlwind Wonderland by Rina Ayuyang
I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time: Rina Ayuyang’s meditations on places, acacia wood carvings, an out-of-business diner, Murder She Wrote, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a trip to the town of Lapog, in the Philippines, for a funeral, and expecting a child all explore the meaning of communities, be they sports fans, co-workers, or family. Whatever the situation, Rina handles it with passion, patience, and imagination - three attributes that make for rewarding reading too!
In Whirlwind Wonderland, we see Ayuyang employ a wide range of drawing techniques, including re-using old monthly planner paper and colored pencils in a bright spontaneous style that sparks and crackles against the gray tones and washes she uses in the other strips.
No matter the medium, Rina’s storytelling skills keep all the pieces focused, compelling, and funny. Her eye for detail packs nearly every panel with background.
In one of my favorite stories from the book, Crack ‘O’ Dawn, she documents one of the world’s most spectacular commutes from the East Bay to San Francisco. On the way there is a traffic jam and Rina’s characteristic eye catches road debris which transforms into imaginative flotsam and jetsam before she winds up dancing with Brad Pitt.
Another high point is the story of a (sort of) family reunion at her aunt’s luncheon and the awkwardness of not knowing Ilocano (the language of the older relatives). Rina’s comics are disarming as they usher the reader into her life with little exposition.
The books ends with pages and pages of really hilarious and touching conversations on the phone with her Dad. Whirlwind Wonderland leaves you feeling warm and sweet, like staying indoors and watching TV on a cold day.
Two mini comics everyone should read:
I Still Live - A Biography of a Spiritualist - by Annie Murphy
Annie Murphy tells both the story of 18th century spiritualist Acsha Sprague’s life and that of Murphy’s own obsession with Sprague’s life. In doing so, she uses two different drawing and lettering styles which start out separately but ultimately weave together at the end. For Sprague’s voice, Murphy uses cursive hand-writing and a mystifying ink wash technique. When Murphy is narrating she uses block lettering and simple black-and-white. At the end, Acsha Sprague’s writing speaks directly to Annie Murphy and it literally sends chills down my spine when I read the words at the end, “The nearer thou dost come to us, the nearer we shall come to thee.”
I Still Live offers historical context and political meaning for both the Second Great Awakening and Modern Spiritualism in the United States. It’s a great book to use in history classroom, and any other classroom. I’ve had my high school student read excerpts and they seem pretty into it. It was also funded by a Xeric grant, printed by Eberhardt Press, and Murphy worked on it at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont.
Nine Gallons by Susie Cagle
This is an entertaining study of the characters that make up a typical cast of servers and customers at Food Not Bombs. Susie Cagle not only tells the reader what a typical day of serving at Food Not Bombs is like, but also exposes the sometimes self-serving agendas driven by server’s egos and appetites. She includes history, recipes, and ways to get involved.
Other stuff that caught my eye:
Looking for Calvin and Hobbes - The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip by Nevin Martell
The Comic Journal No. 300
TCJ 300 features conversations between cartoonists like Art S. and Kevin H. but of course Art does all the talking. THis issue has eleven of such conversations including David Mazzuchelli with Dash Shaw and Jaime Hernandaz with Zak Sally.
Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green
Strange Tales #3
ST3 has Nick Bertozzi (of the Salon and Rubbernecker) drawing villains in jail, Stan Sakai drawing the Hulk, Corey Lewis and Dylan McCrae drawing Longshot fighting a Sentinel, Jeffrey Brown drawing the Fantastic Four (he draws a great Thing), Max Cannon drawing Spiderman, Peter Bagge drawing The Incorrigible Hulk, Micheal Kupperman drawing the Avengers, and Paul Hornschemeier drawing Nightcrawler meeting Molecule Man.