Hey !! Kids Comics: Carlos Nine and Nina Bunjevac edition

by John Holbo on January 19, 2018

Academic political science blog?

Never had I seen a clearer bat signal lighted to the effect that I am letting down the side in terms of comicsblogging.

(I was going to post something about political science, but screw that noise!)

I’ve got a pair of picks that are, I think, likely to be unfamiliar to most CT readers but, within the right circles, both are big names: Carlos Nine and Nina Bunjevac. (So if you are, like, duh! then I’m not arguing.)

Carlos Nine died – I was going to say last year; hell, time keeps passing (which sort of pisses me off sometimes.) It was late 2016. He was huge in his native Argentina and big as well in Europe, in band dessignee circles. His English wikipedia page is practically a stub, which I take as an index that he never made it in America.

Google image gets you this kind of stuff, quite a bit of it NSFW. How to describe it? It’s kind of like a mash-up of Botero and Claire Wendling. (But Wendling is even less known than Nine, maybe.) It’s kind of like he keeps holding a caricature candle to life, and melting it. But it’s really action-packed. I mean, everyone’s really bouncing around in a good, slapstick-staging way. Everything is foreshortened, funhouse-mirrored.

I’m honestly not sure what tools he uses. Some of it looks like colored pencils, which is a bit unusual. Some of it is ink and some watercolor, too.

If you are like me, you like comics but your damn shelves are full. I read comics digitally when I can. I was happy and a bit surprised to find several Nine books available on Kindle. I bought ‘em all and like ‘em all! I think the style is just amazing. They aren’t in English but who needs words, really, when you get right down to it? Also, maybe you are, like, multilingual? Nine is a fantasist and a fetishist, which ain’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I think he’s just an amazing stylist. He gives me ideas. Even a few wholesome ones.

Nina Bunjevac is another amazing stylist. She is definitely the Serbo-Canadian queen of the persistent stipple [Google image search results semi-NSFW]. Accept no substitutes, if that’s what you are in the market for. I greatly admire such dedication in the manugraphic placement of small dots close to other small dots. That is a good thing, and what the world needs now, is more small dots close to other small dots, sweet dots. Here’s her homepage. I think her best yet-published stuff, considered strictly from a graphics angle, may be the Heartless stuff. A crazy, louche take on the Mickey-Mouse-slash-Felix-the-Cat look. Her new book – still in progress – looks amazing. But her newest published book, Fatherland, is really great. And not just for the art. And it’s available on Kindle, if that is as convenient for you as it is for me.

Fatherland is autobiographical comics, which is a category that has, rightly, garnered a lot of critical acclaim the last couple decades: you’ve got Maus, Fun Home and Persepolis. Those are the top three. (When you figure that Chris Ware kind of is Jimmy Corrigan – more’s the pity – that makes four.) Fatherland is up there. Before I praise the content, let me quibble with the art just a bit. That cover image is amazing. A lot of the portraiture is amazing, inside. I admire that. But Bunjevac seems to me to have a tendency to stiffen up with her figures. Sometimes they look like posed dolls. And her paneling is a bit stiff, sometimes. Somehow the caricature in Heartless loosens her in a way I like. I guess she likes her figures the way they are. I don’t deny the style suits the story. Let me just get on to saying why the story is so good.

All I know about Bunjevac’s life I learned from Fatherland. I take it it’s autobiography, not semi-fictionalized. She’s won awards; it was a best-seller. I haven’t seen anyone say it’s semi-fiction or embellished. So I’ll talk like it’s all true. She is, as I said, Serbo-Canadian. Her family – as of 1945 – consisted, rather unusually, of ethnic Serbs living in what is now Croatia, with an American connection. Her great-grandfather worked as a miner in Indiana (I think it was), sending home money to support everyone in the old country. Anyway, as you probably know, the political history of the former Yugoslavia is rather a crazy mess, and such a family as this would be in the nasty thick of it. And they were. But it’s one of those cases where the divisions ended up coming right down the middle of the family itself. Her grandma was a communist Partisan, fighting the Nazis, starving in the hills. Her dad was a Serbian would-be royalist terrorist bomber in Canada, a dead-ender Chetnik sympathizer. Bunjevac’s mother ends up … you know what? You can read it if you want. It’s an unusual family story and, I take it, it took the author herself some work to piece it all back together, years later.

I don’t want to say that you’ll understand Yugoslavia’s peculiarities when you’re done. You won’t. But Yugoslavia – kicked out of the Soviet bloc, ethnically divided – is peculiar. And that’s interesting.



James Grimmer 01.19.18 at 2:14 pm

Oh merde, les lapins! This Carlos Nine book teaches anyone, any parent or teacher, or aunt or uncle, or social worker, or any other concerned bystander, temporarily to affirm both la merde et les lapins. Because everybody knows what a rabbit wants to do is just fish: “Shit,” says one of the rabbits in the deepest of a lazy drowse, “I haven’t got a bite all day!” Where were we? Yes, at the innocence of becoming lassitudinally oneself.


John Holbo 01.20.18 at 1:39 am

No one comments on these posts because everyone is ashamed of their deep love of comics.


John Holbo 01.20.18 at 1:39 am

Except you, James, you’re alright.


Alan White 01.20.18 at 5:28 am

@2 JH

Not so! It’s a function of ignorance. Who other than I dedicated a poem about a comic to you! In this entire post the only thing I am familiar with is Maus–otherwise you are so far over my head that I can’t say anything useful–other than to say that I can’t say anything useful. But still I read, even if I don’t always click.

Nope–comics always have been, and shall always be, my friend. Just old friends apparently, whom you also know.


J-D 01.20.18 at 7:11 am

If you are like me, you like comics but your damn shelves are full.

Then clearly I am not like you. But surely that’s a good thing? If we were all alike it would make the world a dull place.

No one comments on these posts because everyone is ashamed of their deep love of comics.

I am not ashamed of liking the comics I like; but I am also not ashamed of not being interested in the comics I am not interested in.


John Holbo 01.20.18 at 7:40 am

What I really meant was: why don’t more people comment on my comments posts. Alan hints it has something to do with ignorance . But I post about stuff that people are totally stone cold ignorant about, but that doesn’t stop them from clogging up those threads with ignorant comments. What gives?


John Holbo 01.20.18 at 7:42 am

It seems like, given human nature, people who are ignorant of these comics – and/or, honestly, not that interested – should still take the time out of their busy schedules to tell me I’m a bad person and wrong for saying these things. Am I not even worth trolling, when I turn to comics? How embarrassing!


John Holbo 01.20.18 at 7:45 am

It’s like at the start of Euthyphro where Socrates points out that if the gods get in fights it’s probably about justice and right and wrong and beauty and that stuff. Well, I say that if Zeus exists, he should argue with Hera about which comics are any good. Not just whether it’s ok for him to rape mortals.


Layman 01.20.18 at 10:24 am

@JH, whereas I can offer ignorant comments about politics with some ease, I lack the basic skills and background to effectively post ignorant comments about comics. I do read the posts, though.


John Holbo 01.20.18 at 10:34 am

“I lack the basic skills and background to effectively post ignorant comments about comics.”

Hmmm, this suggests there might be a competency waiting to be met. There must be people who are the same boat as you, but about politics. The not-ready-for-trolling crowd. Trolling for dummies. How to fool people into think you are at least one of those Russian bots that actually fool some people.

For the record: I don’t think you are a troll, Layman, and I don’t actually mind if people don’t comment on the comics posts. I quite understand it’s a niche thing. I just like pretending to shout at all the damn kids to get on my lawn.


Anders 01.20.18 at 3:30 pm

Ignorance doesn’t stop people commenting on most posts, perhaps b/c their moral priors mean they quickly form a strong view and pick an argument. I don’t see any analogue to the moral priors when it comes to posts with an aesthetic angle. Chris B doesn’t get many comments on his photoblogging posts either, but I enjoy yours and his and and follow them religiously.

If other visitors are like me, they’re also somewhat humbled at your deep knowledge on such a variety of non-academic topics.


Jim Fett 01.20.18 at 3:30 pm

I like the look of Bunjevac’s art. I haven’t really read any new comics in a long time. I have enjoyed Saga and something called East of West, but I get behind and have a hard time catching up. I meant to get Archie vs. Predator, but I never did. A friend gave me a collection by Milo Manara (definitely NSFW). It’s not really my thing. Oh, I almost forgot, Henry and Glenn Forever is everything it should be.

At work, we don’t have much. We just got Jerusalem by Delisle and I think we have some kind of biblical adaptation by R. Crumb. And a box full of Chick tracts (fun fact: Fantagraphics publishes a bibliography of them). If you haven’t seen them, google the Cthulhu Chick tract parodies; they’re a hoot!


Ingrid Robeyns 01.20.18 at 10:07 pm

Since I have no skills for trolling, I’ll say something serious.

I have a friend, who took me to Belgrade when there were anti-government/pro-democracy civil protests (1996? 1997?). We got there by bus and train (that’s how we travelled in the last century, as students), and were staying at a women’s center/shelter.

My friend also did some field work there and in other parts of Eastern Europe, and also visited Iran ten years ago. She introduced me to Persepolis.

I have never heard of Nina Bunjevac, but it will make for an excellent present for her next birthday. So thanks, John.


John Holbo 01.20.18 at 11:54 pm

Thanks, everyone, there I got you talking! “Saga” is great! Everyone should read “Saga”. “East of West”? Didn’t quite do it for me. Glad to suggest a gift option, Ingrid.

A good option for people who are comics curious but not especially dedicated or knowledgeable at the present time is Comixology Unlimited. Which is kind of a Netflix style read-what-you-like option on Comixology. There’s a lot. No DC but a lot of old Marvel stuff. Some totally crazy stuff. Some really good stuff. I just caught up on several issues of “Giant Days”, which is a great slice of life series. And I read several volumes of Jason’s weird stuff. And Richard Sala’s weird stuff. Great kind of Edward Gorey whimsy thing going on there. And then, after a month, if you don’g think this life is for you, you cancel your Comixology Unlimited account for another year. You could be like a bear. You gorge yourself on salmon and sleep all winter. You could read 150 comics in a month and then give it a rest for a season. (Just a thought.)


James Grimmer 01.21.18 at 7:08 am

I am weirdly earnest, and glad you think I’m alright.

I did love the references in this post, and I teach many of them too. One can, e.g., place the Chris Ware book gently down on a table, as you’re about to pass the book out to each student, this Chris Ware/Jimmy Corrigan block of a book. It is a gesture of sorts–Ware’s book is one heavy and compact block of a book–and, well, you make jokes about one’s name being “Jimmy.” At least I can, given my name.

What’s interesting and more substantive is that the students want to know stuff about these various media and what they can teach you about how both to think and to work through the things you ought to be thinking about.

Carlos Nine, by the way, his work, I feel compelled to bring it up again. It is remarkable, and there is a whole tradition of Argentine writers and artists making their way away from Argentina to France (or England) and back to Argentina–or somewhere else. Think of Cortazar or Borges or the Ocampos, mother or daughter, or . . .

Comments on this entry are closed.