The lowdown on the local comics scene

October 7, 2008 14:21
2 minute read.

Connoisseurs used to have to rely on private orders, but now that there¹s a broader Israeli comics-reading public several stores have opened that cater specifically to it. d'ash checked out Comikaza in Tel-Aviv's downtown Dizengoff Center and spoke to Shay Brog and Daniel Shacham, who were on duty that day. When did Israel¹s comic-book industry really get going? The pioneers of the Israeli comic scene from the '40s through the '60s frequently focused on Zionist historical content. Then came the classics from the fathers of the contemporary comic, Giora Rotman, Dudu Geva and Michel Kishka. American comics of the super-hero genre developed an enthusiastic following, but still Israel had few mainstream comics of its own, one exception being the ultra-patriotic Uri On created by American immigrant Michael Netzer. Uri Fink's parody Sabraman was even more successful. In the early '80s, Fink produced his zany irreverent teenage series Zbeng. It was the first Israeli comic to provide a full-time living for its creator. The Penguin Deviations of the 1990s are considered the Golden Age of the Israeli comic, though in theme they belong largely to the underground-alternative category. Israeli comics have really evolved in reverse order from what's common elsewhere. The norm is for mainstream comics to branch out into the alternative mode. Here, the conventional middle-of-the-road comic is the late-comer. Do Israeli comics have universal appeal? Several publications by contemporary artists, as well as from 'old-timers' like Uri Fink, have come out in English and French. Shay Charka has specialized in comics for religious kids while the twins Asaf and Tomer Hanuka have published comics in America and France. Rutu Modan's latest work Exit Wounds, a personal graphic novel, won the highest honor in the comics world, this year's Eisner Award for the Best New Graphic Novel. The book was written in English and is only now coming out in Hebrew. Young creator Dorit Maya Gur, the first-ever Israeli graduate of the Joe Kubert School of Comics in the US, is scoring a hit with her parody super-hero Falafelman. Many comics have Judaism and Kabala themes while others are Mossad-inspired spy stories. Then again, Israeli society is very political and that translates into our comics: Uri Fink has put out a comic about the Second Lebanon War. How do Israeli comics measure up to American artistic standards? The drawing and inking qualities in some local comics are very high, but we aren¹t quite there yet. Remember that American comics are mass-produced on real assembly lines: Some staffers sketch, others ink, others write the text. Yet another crew puts the plot together. In contrast, most Israeli comics are a single-person production. The writer plots, sketches, inks and composes the text. So, if you have a good sketcher who can't ink, he ruins his own work. And while local comics are now printed at regular commercial presses, they're independent ventures that generally can't afford a slick, glossy finish.

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