Friday, October 2, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #2: Tuff Ladies

Till Lukat won the Ligatura Pitch Prize, giving him an opportunity to get his book published by Polish (by way of England) publisher Centrala. This is a book about a variety of women from history who weren't necessarily virtuous, but were tough in a variety of ways. The format of the book is a single-page illustration of a subject, followed by a short comic strip and explanatory text. In some ways, this book reminds me a bit of a NoBrow production, with that mix of illustration and comics along with the color scheme and high production values. 

The blend of subjects is certainly strange. Some of the women were noble (like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai), some were criminals (Ma Barker, Belle Starr, and Ulrike Meinhof) and some where victims or tragic figures (Ellen West and Linda Lovelace). With several interstitial sections explaining things like the Inquisition and slavery in the U.S., there's a weird Young Adult book vibe to this project. I'm not quite sure who the target audience for this book is, but it's a bit grisly and violent for the average YA reader but it's not sophisticated enough for the average adult reader. Perhaps it's simply aimed at the average European reader unfamiliar with US history?

Regardless of the book's odd tone, the execution is pleasantly quirky.. Lukat brings a delightfully ragged line to the table, as he manages to capture the essence of each subject's story whether that anecdote is direct (like Tubman's story) or oblique (Meinhof's story just has a strip about a building that she blew up). The best part about the book are the strips for each subject, as Lukat has an ear for the most interesting anecdotes for each one, drawn in a rubbery but sketchy style that left me wanting more. Tuff Ladies is a fascinating, if fragmented, first work.

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