Book Review: Trash Market by Tadao Tsuge


After President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima today seventy-one years after the bombing, you may be surprised to learn that many young Americans and Japanese do not realize that the United States and Japan were not allies in World War II. American historian Carol Gluck explains these conflicting memories of Hiroshima and WWII in “Ghosts,” the May 20th episode of On the Media. And to explore the post WWII narratives of Japan, consider reading Tadao Tsuge’s Trash Market.

Tsuge is known as a pioneer of alternative manga with a cartooning style that doesn’t shy away from the gruesome. Born in 1941 and growing up in the slums of Tokyo, Tsuge has been a prolific cartoonist who made ends meet by working at an “ooze-for-booze” blood bank from a young age. His stories are inspired by the people he knew and observed and the tensions of poverty and post traumatic stress.


Drawn & Quarterly‘s collection of six Tsuge comics is followed by excerpts of Tsuge’s autobiographical writings and an essay by editor and translator Ryan Holmberg, who is an art historian specializing in Japanese work. The title, Trash Market refers to Tsuge’s harsh, although not unsympathetic, assessment of the “trash people” selling their blood and bodies in the slums and red light districts of his youth.

Holmberg writes, “as the creations of an artist who had the luxury of only momentary respites from the blue-collar grind, Tadao’s comics offer an opportunity to imagine what it was actually like to live as a man inside the human trash market of postwar Japan.”

In the same way that a sketch is often more compelling than a polished piece, Tsuge’s work unravels as a collection of loose impressions that do more to capture a feeling than a tightly wound comic would. Holmberg writes, “He begins drawing with only a rough beginning, middle, and end in mind, with no script or breakdowns. ‘Part of the excitement of making comics,’ [Tsuge] says ‘is seeing how things will turn out.'”


If you plan to read this collection, remember that while Tsuge’s comics are dark, these postwar narratives do not lack optimism.





Book Review: Pachyderme by Frederik Peeters


The maroon binding of Pachyderme has called to me from many a Graphic Novel section shelf. After years of picking it up, flipping through it and thinking, “another time,” I finally got around to reading a copy from the San Francisco Public Library.

I knew this graphic novel by Swiss cartoonist Frederik Peeters was not going to be a casual read. The woman suspended in air on the front cover portends the ominous suspended reality this book explores. There is a foreword written by the accomplished French cartoonist Jean Giraud (AKA Moebius 1938 – 2012) that says everything anyone could ever hope to say about the quality of Peeters’ story and illustrations.

Giraud writes, “Pachyderme is the perfect example of a vivid and poetic graphic novel that succeeds in conveying a sense of the unconscious, of true master. I have the feeling Pachyderme remains mysterious even to its author, who let his tale wander where his pen took it, live its own life, while paying close attention to storytelling and the quality of his art.”


Much like the space between waking and dreaming, the story and art range from hyper realistic to completely nonsensical. Giraud uses the word, “oneric,” or dreamlike to describe this oscillation. This is a new word for me and I am excited to have it as a part of my vocabulary now!

The only problem with Giraud’s foreword is that it gives too much of the story away. So I suggest reading it after you have finished the book. I don’t want to review the plot or characters in detail because this book is best experienced firsthand and without any foreknowledge.

All you need to know is that the story is set in French speaking Switzerland in 1951 and that a woman is the central character.

Here are some of my favorite panels:




Save Pachyderme for a quiet day to yourself.




Books, KQED

Book Review: God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls by Jaime Hernandez

For a fan of comics, I have not always felt welcome in the comic book store. A bad experience actually inspired me to write an article in 2014 for KQED Arts called, “No Girls Allowed? Braving the Comic Bookstore.


I start by writing: “Five years ago I went into a comic bookstore in the South Bay and emerged from its shadowy depths with a sexist Lois Lane comic book from the ’60s and the sense that I was definitely underrepresented and unwelcome.”

If only I had found Jaime Hernandez’s 2012 Ti-Girls first! Although Jaime is in fact a man, his representation of women is so dynamic, I never would have guessed. He is best known for the “Love & Rockets” series. Created with his brother Gilbert Hernandez, Love & Rockets follows primarily Latina teenagers in the 1970s California punk scene.


With the Ti-Girls, Jaime clearly draws inspiration from his love of female wrestlers. His characters span different cultures, ages and classes. And while each character is pretty damn sexy, they are all drawn to be so in different and equally powerful ways.

We first learn about the Ti-Girls adventures from comic enthusiast Maggie who shares old issues with her friend Angel. What Maggie doesn’t know is that Angel knows all about superheroes, because she has just discovered her own super powers.

While sneaking out as her alter-ego “Boot Angel” she runs into the mysterious Russian woman living in her apartment complex better known as “Alarma” of “The Fenomenons.

But not everyone is so lucky to have super powers and belong to an all-star lady squad. Maggie’s other friend, Penny Century, stirs up some intergalactic trouble when she tries to achieve superdom by any means.


Three generations of female superheroes come to the rescue and Boot Angel learns more about her own powers from each.

When the young and inexperienced Zolar Bratz fail, and the exclusive Fenomenons refuse to get their outfits dirty, it is up to the aging Ti-Girls to come out of retirement to set things straight.

The best part of this comic, is the rewriting of the superhero canon. Unlike male superheroes Angel’s mother explains that “all women are born with it, but most lose it at a really early age. It’s too subtle to notice because most blossom when much older,”  she continues, “Guys don’t get it. They gotta go out an’ have lab accidents and other stuff to get their cojones but we got it born right in us.”DSC_0401.jpg

Check out this book if you’re a fan of super ladies!


Personal, Photography

The Sunset


“Even bros like sunsets” observed comedian TJ Miller. That must have been what San Francisco city developers were thinking when they renamed the “Outside Lands” the Sunset District.

Bounded by Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach, this suburban development within San Francisco is the city’s largest district. But before there were ticky-tacky houses, sand dunes and shrubs were the first to greet the Pacific Ocean.

As a resident of the Sunset District, I have been struck by the way the sun passes over my house and sinks into Ocean Beach every night. It feels like the days are slipping away. In an attempt to capture this unique beach town, I have been venturing out of the house with my camera during the “Golden Hour,” when the sun is low on the horizon and casts everything in a golden glow.

I will be posting some of these photos on Instagram @adrienneblaine under the hashtag #sunsetdistrict. But to see all of my photos in this series, follow this blog on!