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Now that the holidays are over it’s time to settle back and do some reading I enjoyed.

     Now that the holidays are over it’s time to settle back and do some reading I enjoyed. During the dark days of January, I enjoyed two books, very different in style and content but both entertaining.


By: Steven Appleby

Publisher: Jonathan Cape, part of the Penguin Random House Group

Price:  French Edition – 24.90 Euros, Dutch edition – 29.99 Euros, UK - £18.99, Amazon US -$36.11, Kindle eBook US - $14.99 

     Steven Appleby is no stranger to anyone who follows the art world.  The multitalented Appleby is a painter, cartoonist, and creator of the Captain Star television series. Most recently he has worked with his cousin Linda McCarthy on a series of stop motion animated films based on his country house cartoon strip Small Birds Singing.

   Now he has published his first long-form graphic thriller, Dragman, which is inspired by the superhero comics that he read in his teens and informed by his own life as a transvestite. The superhero of the graphic novel is August Crimp who has a secret life. He is a man who likes to dress like a woman and when he puts on a dress he becomes Dragman and can fly. He is confused by his obsession with female clothing and afraid of ridicule and scorn and has told no one, not even his wife about his secret life.

  With his crime-fighting partner, Dog Girl, who has the power to sniff out a person who does not have a soul, the crime-fighting duo flies the skies looking for evildoers. When a series of transvestite murders plague the city it takes all of Dragman and Dog Girl’s powers to unmask the killer.

  Dragman is full of quirky humor and wonderful drawings artwork that any lover of graphic novels will appreciate.  The underlying message of the book is a serious one – don’t be afraid to be yourself. As Steven says “Surely there don’t need to be any rules”.

   As of this writing, Dragman was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in France.  It has also been shortlisted for the France Television Prize.

  The English language UK edition, as well as the French and Dutch edition, is available in your favorite book store. In the US it is published by Metropolitan and can be found in bookstores and on US Amazon.  A German edition will be available in early summer. It is also available as a Kindle eBook but I recommend that you get the book version because the textured front cover of the hardback edition is a pleasure to touch, the black and white and colored illustrations are pure delight, and it is a graphic novel you will want to visit over and over again.  The 336 pages of Dragman will brighten up anyone’s grey winter day.

A Moving Subject

By: Giannalberto Bendazzi

Publisher: CRC Press

Price: 49.50 Euros, $60.00

Ordering Information:

     A new book from the renowned animation historian and researcher Giannalberto Bendazzi is always an important event in the animation community.  His latest book, A Moving Subject, brings together under one cover eleven of his thought-provoking essays.  Although most of them have been previously published in other publications this is the first time they have been collected into one 129 page volume.

  From an in-depth look into the life of Alexander Alexeieff to an insightful look at the state of African animation, Giannalberto’s vast knowledge of animation history is conveyed in a writing style that keeps the reader thoroughly engaged.

  As well as giving me much food for thought, A Moving Subject introduced me to many little-known facts about La rosa di Bagdad (The rose of Bagdad) directed by Anton Gino Domenighini in 1949. It was the first animated feature film made in Italy as well as the first long feature Italian color film.

  Having been a friend of Alexander Alexeieff and his wife Claire Parker, Giannalberto is able to give us personal insights into their lives and work.  One chapter of A Moving Subject is devoted to the pair's 1933 first pinscreen animation, A Night on Bald Mountain, which they created to Mussorgsky’s composition. Before his death in 1982 Alexeieff gave Bendazzi a collection of reviews that appeared in the press at the time of the film’s initial release. These reviews give an interesting perspective on the mixed reviews that the film received.  It was not performed with a live symphony orchestra as was intended until 1986.

One of my favorite antidotes in the book is Claire Parker’s telling of a visit by Orson Wells to the couple’s Paris studio.  He commissioned them to make a pinscreen prologue for Well’s adaptation of The Trial, his film based on the Franz Kafka novel. Wells later said that the only thing good about the movie was the pinscreen prologue and that it should have been done completely by Alexeieff and Parker on their pinscreen.

  A Moving Subject is a must-read for anyone who loves animation history and wants a deeper understanding of the global animation connection.  It also contains a thorough index as well as copious footnotes.  Like all of Bendazzi’s other books, it is an excellent reference book to add to your animation shelf.