English Striprecensie Strips

Review: Killing and Dying

Killing and Dying is a collection of six wonderful short stories by Californian comic book artist Adrian Tomine. Six emotional, well-crafted slices of life, though predominantly the more gloomy slices.

killing-and-dying-tomine-coIn ‘A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture’ a gardener invents a new art form: large sculptures with plants in them. He thinks it’s going to be big. Too bad nobody else thinks the same way. Even though his wife tries to support her husband’s dream in the end he becomes so obsessed with it, their family life suffers.

killing-dying-hortisculptureIn ‘Amber Sweet’ a student’s life takes a turn for the worse when she gets mistaken for porno star Amber Sweet, whom she resembles.

‘Go Owls’ deals with a relationship between a woman and a self-absorbed man with a shady past called Dennis Barry. In the beginning he seems like a nice guy who tries to help her out, but soon the dark side of his personality surfaces.

‘Killing and Dying’ is about how a father tries to protect his daughter from failure and embarrassment. She wants to be a stand-up comedian. To her father this is just another one of her whims while her mother is really supportive. Tomine offers a great study of the father-daughter dynamic. The father is trying his best at parenting, but isn’t a very subtle communicator. The killing and dying refers to being a stand-up: you either kill the room by making the audience laugh their butts off, or you’re dying inside when they don’t laugh at your jokes.

killing and dying stand-up

Adrian Tomine is a great cartoonist and also a wonderful writer: it’s through their dialogue and their inner thoughts that his characters seem most alive. Every story is a slice of life and a character study. Tomine’s characters are all tragic and flawed in some way, making them not only recognizable, but also very real. These are the people living next door. Heck, they could even be us.

Although, one wishes never to become a Dennis Barry or the main character in ‘Intruders’. By chance this soldier gets the hold of the keys to an old apartment, and after the current occupant leaves for work, he goes into his former home to spend his day. All of Tomine’s characters seem to have suffered some sort of loss or need to learn to let go of something whether it’s to stop pursuing a dream or letting go of a memory. The tone of the stories might be a bit gloomy, but it never gets too depressing. The six vignettes fit more within the ‘dark humor’ category.

Tomine gives every story its own characteristics and isn’t afraid of experimentation. ‘A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture’ comes in the form of a newspaper comic, with every episode ending on a funny note. ‘Translated, from the Japanese,’ reads like a mother’s memoir, illustrated with colorful still images. In all comics Tomine uses a very clean drawing style, a bit similar to ligne claire (Clear Line). (The artwork is reminiscent of the comics of Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes, comic book artists who also deal with black humor and hapless characters.) The story ‘Intruders’ Tomine seems to have inked in a looser way with thicker lines. Because the panels also lack inked borders, the visualization is in tune with the subjective storytelling.

From: 'Go Owls'
From: ‘Go Owls’

I very much enjoyed reading Killing and Dying and I’d like to heartily recommend this collection of six stories to anyone wanting to read good comics.

This review was written for and published on the wonderful blog of the American Book Center.

Boeken English Striprecensie Strips

Review: New York Drawings by Adrian Tomine

Could one fall in love with a girl in a drawing?

subwaygirl_tomineThat’s the question I asked myself when a sketch of a young woman standing in a crowded subway carriage caught my eye. She is framed by two Wall Street guys and can’t help overhearing one of them explaining his plan for scoring with his ex-girlfriend when she comes to visit, but I only know this last bit because the notes under the sketch tell me so. Just looking at the woman’s contemplating face, she could be thinking about anything, her mind floating somewhere far away from her mundane surroundings. It’s a striking portrait of a very attractive woman whose beauty has a natural girl-next-door quality. And with that last sentence I guess I just answered my own question. Yes, one can fall in love with a girl in a drawing, especially when the artist conveys some of her aura and at the same time leaves enough to one’s imagination to fill in the blanks with one’s own romantic musings.

The portrait is printed in New York Drawings, a wonderful collection of Adrian Tomine’s illustrations, covers and comics for The New Yorker magazine, and other illustrations inspired by the Big Apple, such as album covers, book jackets and sketches. Comic book artist and illustrator Tomine (Sacramento, 1974) moved from California to New York in 2004. He acquainted himself with his unfamiliar surroundings by compulsively drawing the people around him. ‘I started doing a lot of very quick, observational drawing in sketchbooks. I think I was looking for a reprieve from the rigid drawing style of the book I was working on at the time [Shortcomings], and I was also just spending a lot of time exploring the city on my own, and sketching was a way for me to still feel somewhat productive in the process,’ Tomine explains in the book.


The illustrations are accompanied by the original publication date. Their titles are derived from the original article with which they originally paired in The New Yorker. The notes at the back of the book explain the image’s background, but I prefer to read the illustrations without them, so I can make up my own story about what the image conveys.

Tomine’s art and especially his clean-line style look similar to the likes of Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware. In an interview with The Comics Journal #205 Tomine mentioned Clowes and Jaime Hernandez as being major influences on his work. Although I love the stillness of his illustration-work, I have a slight preference towards Tomine’s sketches, which naturally have more spontaneous line-work and lively hand colouring, as opposed to the Photoshop-like colouring of the commissioned illustrations.

ny_drawingsFunnily enough, the book opens with a comic strip about Tomine’s first Christmas party hosted by The New Yorker. Typically for his comic book persona the artist presents himself as an introverted, somewhat neurotic newcomer, feeling out of place at the high-class party attended by celebrities such as Steve Martin and Philip Roth. Trying to find a comfortable pose he asks random people where he can find a coat rack while he treats the reader to a neurotic internal dialogue, not deprived of self-mockery I might add, explaining how he got to work for The New Yorker in the first place.

New York Drawings is an interesting way to see one of the greatest cities on earth through the eyes of a well-accomplished draughtsman.

This review was published on the wonderful blog of the American Book Center.