Canada’s Conundrum Press, publisher of such fine graphic novels as Photobooth, the works of Joe Ollman and much more, is rolling out its spring list over on their blog. Since the company will be 20 years old in 2016, they’s announced an anniversary anthology, as well as a book by up and coming CCS grad Rebecca Roher and, perhaps most intriguingly, a collection of work by Henriette Valium, an underground comics pioneer some think is the greatest French-Canadian cartoonist of all. More books are coming this month; well point to them as they roll out.
The Palace of Champions
10×14 inches, 64 pages
full colour, hardcover, $25
Includes an interview and introduction by Mathieu Beauséjour
Henriette Valium has been called the greatest French-Canadian cartoonist of all time. He’s one of underground comic’s elder statesmen. Over the past three decades his creations have been widely dispersed in numerous anthologies, fanzines, self-published oversized silkscreened comics, and various mixed-media collaborations. He’s become a regular in almost every independent zine, compilation and catalogue in North America and Europe. Yet he has never had an original graphic novel published in English, until now!
The heavy black lines and psychotic detailing of Valium’s comics demand attention, weeding out any casual readers. His style is like the bastard love child of S. Clay Wilson and Derf Backderf as raised by French avant-garde collective Le Dernier Cri.
In his peculiar way, Valium explores decay, as in the rotting urban environments he obsessively renders, and his fascination with the various corruptions of the human body and mind, our illness and madness. His comics rant on subjects like “Science” or “Crisis,” horrifically, sometimes nonsensically, often hilariously exposing our culture’s fears and hypocrisies.
The Palace of Champions is a historical document, finally bringing to light this underground legend. It includes an introduction and interview to give context for Valium’s long career and expansive body of work.
Bird in a Cage
64 pages, b/w, trade paperback, $12
Once a sharp, strong-willed and independent woman, Roher’s grandmother’s life took an unexpected turn when an accident left her with a brain injury, leading to early onset dementia. An unlikely protagonist, grandma was an elderly woman trapped by her deteriorating mind, aging body and the walls around her. This story illuminates the often overlooked narrative of a senior, her complicated history and inner life. Loveable and tragic, she is determined to get back to a familiar place, to be home again. Roher digs deep into her grandmother’s personal history, learns to manage her escapes, and tries to create a safe environment for her. Exploring memory, the idea of place, and the power of song to transcend dementia, Bird In a Cage will tell the story of one woman’s search for home and the strength of family to try and bring her back.
Rebecca Roher is a cartoonist, illustrator and educator. Her work has been published on the Nib, Bitch Media, New York Times Now, GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine, Seven Days Alt-Weelky, Symbolia, the Media Co-opand Briarpatch. She’s also a co-publisher of the West Dublin Monitor and recently completed an MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. Her comic Mom Body was nominated for an Ignatz Award and the minicomic version of Bird in a Cage won an Expozine Award. She lives in Toronto.
…and here’s a few pages of the Valium to pique your interest.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.