Poland’s Centrala Books has been publishing an impressive range of graphic novels since 2007 out of Poznań, but has now brought some of its titles to the UK, with more to come later this year. The initial range offers an intriguing look at Eastern European talent and offers another platfomr for creators worldwide through open projects.
Central Europe Comics Art Centrala describes itself as a project which aims to present the power of comics in Eastern Europe. Through a presentation of various initiatives, magazines and publications devoted to comics activity, Polish comic fans have had the opportunityto become acquainted with a comics achievements of their Central European neighbours – and now that project is extending its reach to Britain.
The first titles offered include the hugely enjoyable Blacky: Four of Us, the latest work of Mateusz Skutnik, co-founder of Pastel Games and creator of several acclaimed point-and-click flash games.
Blacky might seem to be just a regular guy but there is something very special about the way he looks at the world. Seen through his eyes, daily routines and things that tend to go unnoticed in a busy everyday life serve as triggers for reflection. I really enjoyed this – its funny bittersweet observational humour enhanced by terrific art. There’s a wonderful relationship, too, between the eponymous Blacky and his daughter that’s positively joyous.
There’s a wonderful simplicity of line and storytelling to the award-winning The Lonely Matador by Jay Wright and an inventiveness to the book’s format, combing comic storytelling with extras like special postcards and posters to accompany the tale. Some may balk at the idea of reading the story of retired matador Juan Belmonte who was, and still is considered to be one of the most revolutionary bullfighters of all time, but the story – one week in his life – is beautifully told, with a poignancy that should resonate with many.
Despite his shy and insecure personality Belmonte was an accomplished and rambunctious man. He overcame the disability of deformed legs to create a superior technique as a bullfighter. Belmonte introduced the technique where he would stand firm on his feet, and with skilful cape work divert the bull’s charge so that the horns barely missed him.
After years of injuries, wine, cigars and countless affairs with women, a doctor advised him to give it all up – but Juan decided he would rather die. He took one last ride around his ranch on his horse, then shot himself in the head.
The book offers a fictional take on his retirement, in the days leading up to his suicide.
Over 300 works where received for the 2012 Silence competition during the third international comics culture festival, “Ligatura”. Silence 2012: An Anthology Without Words anthology includes 89 works by artists from a huge range of countries including Argentina, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom.
The variety of talent is impressive but if there’s one fault to this weighty tome it’s its small physical size, which makes many of the strips hard to follow, particularly those with intricate artwork. It’s a shame, because there’s plenty to enjoy. Let’s hope they reconsider the format for future editions.
The initial releases round out with the offbeat Cykle by Małgorzata Dmitruk, offering numerous tales drawn in the style of children’s art but with an uneasy, often disturbing take that only an adult could bring to such storytelling. I’ll confess it’s not my favourite of these releases, with stories relating the story of story of Małgorzata’s grandparents, tales of Church Fairs and love.
Overall, I’m impressed by Centrala’s books and the range looks like it will rapidly expand in the coming months and I’d certainly recommend Blacky: Four of Us, in particular as well worth tracking down. It may be that you’ll find some titles hard to find in bookshops, so check out their catalogue on their web site for the latest information. I think many of you will find the range of talent on offer very appealing.