Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers Published in 2018 by Siver Sprocket.

These are short pieces about race and more. In the introduction Passmore writes: “I know you picked this book up thinking you were gonna read a whole lot of wokeness…I am not really that type of SJW…I’m conscious of a pronounced self-satisfied mentality that people (myself included) approach these types of ‘political works’ with.”

Passmore works to undermine our expectations saying that it’s about “how to be dangerous, how to be a failure, and how to laugh in the face of a world that wants to crush us.” He contemplates the issues that Black Lives Matter has been raising all along, and really is doing what many of us white people want which is telling us about Black experience and suggesting what we can do. Some other pieces just go off into places in Passmore’s imagination where it is not always easy for me to follow him. But give him a chance. Take the ride. His drawing is sometimes clear and sharp, other times unfinished and suggestive, but he moves you along with him.

In a one page chapter, “No Justice, Just Us!”, he writes: “I’ve seen a lot of preference of performance over substance, lately…Maybe a lot of revisionist thinking around the Civil Rights movement has people thinking that nice speeches will shake the dust of the brokers of power and make them fix everything? The reality is that the history of change in the US is a story of communities acting autonomously and the state playing catch up.” and in “Take ‘Em Down!”: which is about taking down confederate statues, “in the future it would be nice to see our country celebrate the people who were really responsible for our freedoms. in the meantime, it’s up to us to be our own symbols of liberation.”

He celebrates individuals and their actions when they are good and not so good, but all the time human.

https://www.npr.org/2018/05/03/605001927/your-black-friend-is-back-with-plenty-to-say

Sports is Hell by Ben Passmore

Koyama Press (2020)

From the title on, Passmore is aiming to unsettle. Sports meets Black Lives Matter. Black pain meets white do-gooders meets white militias. The first words are “Bomb out.” Spoken by a child playing, inside real conflict. The last words are, “I don’t understand!” screamed out across the cityscape.

A cheer rises from the football stadium. A police cruiser drives through the neighbourhood. Some kids are playing soldiers with a water-soaker and a wooden gun, when an older man stops them and asks, “Where are the bullets? Where is the clip?. The boy responds, “I emptied it on the pig…” We see the speech bubble of the older man, who continues speaking out of frame speaking over an image of two white policemen standing by their cruiser talking to two young black men. “You don’t play with them. If you point something at them make sure it’s real. Go play with your friends.”

The book follows several people. Each in the own group. The football fans start a fight over whether there should have been a call for grabbing a face mask when the Birds’ star Collins scored the winning touchdown. At the same time, a protest is building non-violent revolutionaries and street-fighters clash as the football fans take over the streets. And we end up in a convenience store when the white militia move in and kill a white man who is trying to help his Black neighbours, but who was uncomfortable with the violence. Everyone is deciding who is on their team, who the other teams are and responding to each other. Seinfeld has a joke about supporting a sports team is like “cheering for laundry” because the players change so often. Passmore has us doing this in life. Even in the fear and chaos of street battles over the results of a football game and civil rights. No one wins when we are all on different teams. “Sports celebration turned to to riot to the formation of hundreds of armed factions.”

Passmore succeeds in jolting the status quos that allow us to sit back and let things happen. How we have fallen apart unable to talk outside our groups, groups that we work so hard to define, unable to hear what the others have to say? And outside forces try to keep us fighting so that we root for them against the others, and at the same time they lie to us that we can all pull together, but we can’t pull together, not because we are on different teams, but because we have real differences in belief systems, financial and physical circumstance, cultures and individuality. The problem with teams is that there are differences across the team. We need to look at our world. Figure out what is wrong and try to fix it. In everchanging combinations, with love not hate.

BEN PASSMORE is a Philadelphia, PA based cartoonist and illustrator best known for his award-winning comic Your Black Friend (Silver Sprocket), which deftly tackles issues of racism, identity and alienation, and was adapted into a short animated film. His political cartooning appears in The Nib, and he is the cartoonist behind the post-apocalyptic series Daygloahole (Silver Sprocket). He will be partnering with Ezra Claytan Daniels (Upgrade Soul) to bring the body horrific BTTM FDRS (Fantagraphics). 

Wimbledon Green by Seth

Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World:
A Story from the Sketchbook of the Cartoonist “Seth”.

This is my first review of a book by Seth (a pen name for Canadian comic book artist Gregory Gallant.) And if you haven’t you read him, you need to. Everything about the man and his work is reminiscent of days of ties and tweed suits. It’s modern day work that brings to life the history of graphic literature. from the 1930s on. Is there 21st century ironic detachment there? Maybe.

He also did the cover for Aimee Mann’s album Lost in Space

The book is inspired in part by Seth’s reading of A Gentle Madness Nicholas A. Basbanes’ book about bibliophiles and also inspired by Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware and David Heatley, Wimbledon Green is revealed in a series of separate comics that build into the fuller story.

Wimbledon Green is the story a sad world, of a sad man who finds joy in small moments. As does Seth. A sad man whose small moments are his comics. But this sad man is revealed to us in conflicting narratives, by unreliable and ill-informed narrators: comic collectors, comic bookstore owners and critics and researchers, all of whom try and fail to identify Wimbledon Green, and how he came to posses the much sought-after Wilbur R Webb collection. We are also given pages of choice items from Wimbledon’s collection. Extracts from actual comics. All simply but expressively drawn.

Wimbledon Green is not liked by anyone as far as we can see. The warmest interactions he has are transient when he is buying books or comics. The final sequence we might finally find the protagonist as he narrates the story of his lonely upbringing, or is this another fantasy inspired by his comics. There’s a harshness, and sadness that permeates each frame. Seth takes time to tell a story, and

In his introduction Seth tells us that these are sketches and rough drawings that were never meant to be published. The comic was drawn in the spirit of “good enough,: and the of character designs are “gross and rubbery” mad up of “balloons and tire tubes. Seth writes in his introduction, even I find some the characters ugly. My apologies for all of this”

The Magic of Reading

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Inventor and writer Lin Yutang on the magic of reading:

“Compare the difference between the life of a man who does no reading and that of a man who does. The man who has not the habit of reading is imprisoned in his immediate world, in respect to time and space. His life falls into a set routine; he is limited to contact and conversation with a few friends and acquaintances, and he sees only what happens in his immediate neighborhood. From this prison there is no escape.

But the moment he takes up a book, he immediately enters a different world, and if it is a good book, he is immediately put in touch with one of the best talkers of the world. This talker leads him on and carries him into a different country or a different age, or unburdens to him some of his personal regrets, or discusses with him some special line or aspect of life that the reader knows nothing about. An ancient author puts him in communion with a dead spirit of long ago, and as he reads along, he begins to imagine what that ancient author looked like and what type of person he was…

Now to be able to live two hours out of twelve in a different world and take one’s thoughts off the claims of the immediate present is, of course, a privilege to be envied by people shut up in their bodily prison.”

Source: The Importance of Living

NYTimes: Ali Smith’s ‘Summer’ Ends a Funny, Political, Very Up-to-Date Quartet

“Smith is from Scotland. I’ve compared the shambolic intelligence and left-of-the-dial vision of her recent novels to the work of the film director Mike Leigh (whose name has become synonymous with “a bit tatty,” as in “this van you’re living in is a bit Mike Leigh”) and the art-music collective known as The Mekons.”

Ali Smith’s ‘Summer’ Ends a Funny, Political, Very Up-to-Date Quartet https://nyti.ms/3kQCNyN

Football Books from Rory Smith

There was a lot of well-earned love, in particular, for

David Winner’s “Brilliant Orange,”

Sid Lowe’s “Fear and Loathing in La Liga” and

Joe McGinniss’s “Miracle of Castel di Sangro.”

“The Far Corner,” Harry Pearson’s wonderfully funny assessment of soccer in the North East of England, as much as I do. That would make fine lockdown reading, I think.

Bill Buford’s “Among the Thugs,”

“Fathers of Football,” by Keith Baker, and

Paul Watson’s “Up Pohnpei!”

“1312,” a book by the reporter James Montague

“This Love Is Not For Cowards,” by Robert Andrew Powell,

“Football Against the Enemy,” by Simon Kuper,

Jonathan Wilson’s “Inverting the Pyramid”

Ian Hawkey’s “Feet of the Chameleon,”

“Futebol,” by Alex Bellos;

Michael Calvin’s “Family”

“The Numbers Game,” by Chris Anderson and David Sally,

“Mister” is very good. Even the ones who haven’t read it.

Jeré Longman’s “The Girls of Summer,”

Paul Brown’s “Ruhleben Football Association,”

“The Barcelona Legacy,” another of Wilson’s.

Are You Listening by Tillie Walden

Texas. Raining. Traffic everywhere. The whole world is dark.  Shades of red and blue and purple. Bea decides not to get on the bus home, and instead, finds herself in Lucy’s Gas and Food, where Lou recognizes her. Lou offers to drive Bea where she’s going, knowing the Bea is on the run. They head west. They pull off the road and go into Big Spring, TX, pop. 50. Bea finds a cat. Its tag says it is from West, West Texas. They decide to take it home.  West is not on any map. They ask around. None of the directions are that helpful. Bea is 18. Lou is 27.  A mechanic.

They are running from their pain. There is a disturbing story that is driving Bea. It snows suddenly. Becoming friends. Lou teaches Bea to drive. Bea comes out to Lou, who never came out to her mother before she died. Two men, from the Office of Road Enquiry, are following them, and they want the cat. The women run from them several times. When they finally find West, there’s nothing at the place where the cat’s house would be. Suddenly, the world changes. Buildings and roads appear. They figure out what is going on. You will too. Walden introduces characters you want the best for—she is compassionate with their failings and foibles. You somehow see the world through their eyes. As the epigram from Adrienne Rich says, “All maps are fiction.” And fiction takes you places that you can’t find on a map, that you didn’t know you were going to, and when you get there, you have changed. Fiction is the map.