By Guy Delisle
Kinsey, these may be the comic books for people who don’t really like comic books. They are really more travel journals that use the illustrated panels to give atmosphere in a way written descriptions can’t quite capture.
The author is an animator who gets sent to various sites to oversee the outsourced animation, so in addition to the interesting locales, he also throws in a few details about the animation business, which is equally interesting to me.
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea was published in 2005. A couple of pages in, I realize that this is Eloise for adults! He lives out of a hotel for the entire trip, and has a guide and translator who serve as nannies for him, escorting him anywhere he travels outside of the hotel. The atmosphere he describes in North Korea also sounds very similar to that in Eloise in Moscow, first published in 1959.
Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China, published in 2006, is a disconcerting contrast to Pyongyang, still very foreign, but in an almost diametrically opposite way. After being immersed in the very communist North Korea, every mention of Rolexes and Gold’s Gyms comes as a bit of a shock.
At the beginning of Shenzhen, Delisle says that he has trouble starting the writing/drawing process, and I have to say that it shows. It is much more a collection of vignettes and is a little disconcertingly random, while Pyongyang has a much tighter story narrative. I think that Delisle found his stay in Pyongyang not more enjoyable, exactly, but more interesting, just due to the foreignness of it all. He finds Shenzhen a bit of a grind, and it shows. I would recommend reading both back to back like I did, since I think they are good companion pieces, but if you are only going to read one, go with Pyongyang.
(From my quick amazon.com research, he has also done graphic chronicles of Jerusalem and Burma, both of which I very much look forward to reading.)
I am super fascinated by North Korea. If anything was ever going to get me to read a comic book, it would be that.
Yay! Can I lend it to you? If you still don’t like it, then I think we can settle that comic books and graphic novels aren’t your thing.
I knew pretty much nothing about North Korea until I read this, but it is really interesting; I kept reading little excerpts to Thomas.