By investing a majority of his creative lifeblood into print, be it illustration, editions and publishing or art direction, Joel Speasmaker, aka Forest, has built up quite a library of his own. As much for mental stability as aesthetic cleanliness, he categorises his books into their specific fields. These include design theory, philosophy, zines and artists’ books, plus your standard literature. For his selection Joel has pulled out five comics worthy of note from their designated shelves, but he admits: “If you’d ask me on a different day I might have chosen something else entirely…”
The Incal: Classic Collection Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky
There’s a reason this is often spoken of as one of the best examples of the [comic] art form, and at the end of last year, Humanoids released a beautiful slipcased hard-cover edition limited to only 750 copies. With a storyline set in a sprawling science fiction universe (written by filmmaker Jodorowsky), The Incal deals with complex themes through a simple, almost moronic character named John DiFool, and a powerful crystal known as the Incal. All of my major doubts in humanity are explored and eventually conquered, while visually articulating feelings and thoughts I frequently have through the unparalleled artwork of Moebius. A standard edition was recently released, and I highly recommend it, along with any English-translated work of Moebius you might be lucky enough to find.
Garden Yuichi Yokoyama
A characteristic I look for frequently when reading comics is a feeling of place. I want a strong sense of location, of the environment the characters live in and are interacting with. I want a completely fantastic and imaginary world to feel real. Garden is the newest English translation from manga master Yuichi Yokoyama (published by PictureBox), and I can’t think of a better example of this feeling. Hundreds of unnamed characters enter and travel through a garden-like place, speaking to each other in the most matter-of-fact ways (“It is a T intersection. Which way shall we go?”) as they discover new landscapes and even stranger situations. Like most of his comic works, there is a big influence of imaginative architecture (some of the structures the characters encounter are impossible, yet so weirdly familiar), and the stark black and white is utilised to its fullest (though if you are interested in going further, please take a look at Yokoyama’s vividly colored, and equally masterful, paintings).
Pamplemoussi Geneviève Castrée
I think this came out almost seven years ago, but it remains one of the most prized items that I own. It’s part 12" LP and part 68-page book, with a wonderful silkscreened cover and delicate and intricate black and white drawings and paintings throughout. Geneviève is so thoughtful and her work embodies this strong sense of purpose — that everything is so important. Not on a scale of better or worse than others, but that there is so much beauty in the creation of anything, and it deserves this much attention when being made. I love that when you see her perform, you venture back to the recording with a huge new appreciation for what was done before, just like when you see her paintings up close, you realise the thought and incredible detail gone into each and return with a whole new perspective of her work.
Buddha, Volumes 1-8 Osama Tezuka
I could choose to share any of the unbelievable amount of volume work that Osama Tezuka created (Black Jack, Dororo, and Apollo’s Song to name a few), but Buddha stands as my favorite. Taking a popular figure in history and translating real ideas into comic form is a difficult task, and instead of doing so in a straight-forward manner, Tezuka wasn’t afraid to both accentuate the story with characters of his own creation nor add a light-hearted and humorous touch (something I appreciate in all of his work). Yet you are still left with a strong feeling of an appealing philosophy, without quite realising how. This is a good thing. Additionally, Tezuka’s traditional “cartoonish” style is so well done and strong, the pacing is perfect, and at times the panels will expand and astonish you with their artistic greatness.
Elvis Road Elvis Studio
At first glance it’s a beautifully designed hard-bound book, but then you open it up and reveal a collaborative drawing that folds out to more than 20 feet long, filled with the amazing work of Helge Reumann and Xavier Robel, otherwise known as Elvis Studio. It’s not necessarily comics, but its beautiful and intriguing and sometimes disturbing. Every time I’ve opened this up I find different scenes I didn’t notice before. I’ve even had the chance to see the original work in its full stretched out glory and still probably haven’t digested half of it. I’m not sure it’s necessary to mention that in my opinion Helge and Xavier are two of the most exciting visual artists alive today, but I will. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to keep up with them in the States, or even on the internet, for that matter. But it’s worth the effort.